Interview Questions for Private School Admissions

Common Questions Applicants Can Prepare in Advance

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The private school interview is an important part of the application process. In a typical interview for fifth grade and above, the student applicant meets one-on-one with a member of the admissions staff to discuss the student's interests and experiences. The interview adds a personal dimension to the application and helps the admissions staff assess whether the student will be a good fit for the school.

We've outlined below some additional common questions that interviewers at private schools may ask and some potential ways to think about answering the questions.

What is your favorite/least favorite subject and why?

It may be easier to start with the subject you like the best, and there is no right answer to this question. Just be authentic. If you don’t like math and adore art, your transcript and extracurricular activities probably reflect this interest, so be sure to speak genuinely about the subjects you like, and try to explain why you like them.

For example, you might say something along the lines of:

  • “Art gives me the opportunity to build things with my hands, which I enjoy.”
  • “I like solving problems in math.”
  • “I have always been interested in American history since I grew up in a historic town.”

In answering the question about what you like least, you can be honest, but avoid being overly negative. For example, don’t mention specific teachers you don’t like, as it’s the job of a student to learn from all teachers. In addition, avoid statements that express your dislike of work. Instead, you can say something along the lines of:

  • “I have struggled with math in the past, because ... "
  • "History hasn't been the easiest subject for me, but I’m meeting with my teacher and trying to work on it.”

In other words, show that you are working hard in all your subject areas, even if they don’t come naturally to you.

Who are the people you most admire?

This question is asking you about your interests and values, and, again, there is no one right answer. It’s worthwhile to think about this question a bit in advance. Your answer should be consistent with your interests. For example, if you love English, you can speak about the writers you admire. You can also speak about teachers or members of your family you admire, and explain why you admire these people. For example, you can say something along the lines of:

  • “I admire my grandfather, who came from Hong Kong and ran his own business in a new country.”
  • "I admire my dad because he is hard-working but still makes time for me.
  • "I admire my coach because she pushes us, but also explains why we need to do certain things."

Teachers are an important part of private school life, and generally, students in private schools get to know their teachers quite well. You may want to speak about what you most admire in some of your current or previous teachers and reflect a bit about what you think makes a good teacher. That kind of thinking reflects maturity in a potential student.

What questions do you have about our school?

The interviewer may conclude the interview with an opportunity for you to ask questions, and it’s important to think about some potential questions in advance. Try to avoid generic questions such as, “What extracurricular activities do you offer?” Instead, ask questions that show you know the school well and have done your research. Think about what you can add to the school community and how the school can advance and develop your interests. For example, if you are interested in community service, you can ask about the school’s opportunities in this area. The best school for any student is the school that’s the best fit, so while you are researching the school, you can determine whether the school is a place where you will grow. The interview is another opportunity for you to find out more about the school—and for them to find out who you are. That’s why it’s best to be genuine and honest, so you can wind up at a school that’s right for you.