How to Prepare for Private School Interviews

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Private school interviews can be stressful. You are trying to impress the school and put your best foot forward. But, this doesn't have to be an interaction that makes you lose sleep at night. Here are some tips to make the interview go more smoothly:

Do your research before the interview.

​If you really want to attend a given school, be sure you know some basic information about the school before the interview.

For example, you shouldn’t express surprise that the school doesn’t have a football team during the interview; that's the kind of information that's readily available online. While you will find out more information on the tour and during the actual interview, be sure to read up on the school beforehand. Make it clear that you know something about the school and are eager to attend by making such remarks as, “I know your school has an excellent music program. Can you tell me more about it?”

Prepare for the interview.

Practice makes perfect, and if you've never been interviewed by an adult before, this can be an intimidating experience. It's always a good idea to study potential questions they may ask you. You don't want to have scripted answers, but being comfortable talking off the cuff about given topics will be helpful. Be sure you remember to say thank you and to shake hands with the admission officer at the end of the interview.

Practice good posture and remember to make eye contact with your interviewer, too. 

Older students may also be expected to know about current events, so you might want to be sure that you're keeping up on what's happening in the world. Also be ready to talk about potential books, things that are happening at your current school, why you're considering a new school, and why you want that school in particular.

Younger children may be asked to play with other children on the interview, so parents should be prepared to tell their child ahead of time what to expect and to follow rules for polite behavior. 

Dress appropriately.

Find out what the school dress code is, and be sure to dress in attire that is similar to what the students wear. Many private schools require students to wear button-down shirts, so don’t dress in a tee-shirt, which will look impolite and out-of-place on the day of the interview. If the school has a uniform, just wear something similar; you don't need to go buy a replica. 

Don’t stress out.

This goes for both parents and students. Admissions staff at private schools are far too familiar with the child who is on the brink of tears on interview day because his parents have given him a bit too much advice—and stress—that morning. Parents, be sure to give your child a big hug before the interview and remind him—and yourself—that you are looking for the right school—not one you have to campaign to convince that your child is right for. Students need to remember to just be themselves. If you're the right fit for a school, then everything will come together. If not, then that just means there is a better school out there for you.

 

Be polite on the tour.

When on the tour, be sure to respond to the guide politely. The tour is not the time to voice disagreement or surprise about anything you see—keep your negative thoughts to yourself. While it’s fine to ask questions, don’t make any overt value judgments about the school. Many times, tours are given by students, who may not have all the answers. Save those questions for the admission officer.

Avoid over-coaching.

Private schools have become wary of students who have been coached by professionals for the interview. Applicants should be natural and should not make up interests or talents that aren’t really innate. Don’t feign an interest in reading if you haven’t picked up a pleasure reading book in years. Your insincerity will be quickly discovered and disliked by the admissions staff.

Instead, you should be prepared to speak politely about what interests you—whether it’s basketball or chamber music—and then you will come across as genuine. Schools want to know the real you, not the perfectly poised version of you that you think they want to see. 

Common questions you may be asked on the tour or in the interview:

Tell me a bit about your family.

Describe the members of your family and their interests, but stay away from negative or overly personal stories. Family traditions, favorite family activities, or even vacations are great topics to share. 

Tell me about your interests.

Do not fabricate interests; speak about your true talents and inspirations in a thoughtful and natural way.

Tell me about the last book you read?

Think ahead of time about some books you have read lately and what you liked or didn’t like about them. Avoid statements such as, “I didn’t like this book because it was too hard” and instead speak about the content of the books. 

 

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski

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Grossberg, Blythe. "How to Prepare for Private School Interviews." ThoughtCo, Apr. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/preparing-for-private-school-interviews-2774753. Grossberg, Blythe. (2017, April 21). How to Prepare for Private School Interviews. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/preparing-for-private-school-interviews-2774753 Grossberg, Blythe. "How to Prepare for Private School Interviews." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/preparing-for-private-school-interviews-2774753 (accessed November 19, 2017).