5 Things to Avoid at the Admission Interview

Private schools have certain unwritten rules of etiquette to follow

Private school admissions interview
sturti/Getty Images

An admission interview—a crucial part of many private school application processes—can be a nerve-wracking experience for applicants and their families. You want to make a strong first impression in order to secure a spot at the perfect school for your child but you aren't quite sure how to do that. Start with what not to do and avoid these five things during your interview.

Showing up Late

Many private schools book back-to-back admissions interviews during busy times of the year, so avoid throwing off their tight schedule at all costs. If you have a legitimate reason for being late, call the office and notify them of this as soon as you realize you won't make your scheduled time. You can always reschedule but recovering from a tardy arrival is much more difficult. You are likely to lose the respect of the admissions committee if you treat your appointment time as a suggestion. Show that you value your interviewer's time by arriving on schedule, even early, to firmly place yourself in good standing with the school.

Ranking Schools

The admissions staff probably knows that their school is not the only one you are looking at but be civil and unprejudiced no matter where their school ranks on your list. Both you and the admissions committee members are trying to determine whether this is the right school for your child—this process is not a competition.

While you don't want to lie and tell a school that they are your first choice when they are not, you also don't want to tell them exactly where they fall among your other candidates. Your backup schools should not know that they are your backups and you should always express gratitude at having the chance to meet with them. Drawing comparisons is not courteous or productive. Try to be genuine without disclosing too much.

Being Disrespectful or Smug

This should be a given in any situation but behaving as if you are the most knowledgeable person in the room is not wise during an admissions interview. Educating your child involves a three-sided partnership: the school, parents, and child/children. You may ask direct questions about the school and its teaching, make requests, and share what you know without being abrasive or suggesting that you think teachers and staff are unqualified or inferior to you in any way (or that your child is better than all other children).

Be deferential to the people that are meeting with you to discuss your child's future and remember that, while you might know the most about your child, you do not know the most about how to teach or run a school. Many parents make the mistake of acting as if they don't trust educators and administrators to provide their child with a high-quality education and it isn't unheard of for qualified students to be denied admission because of this.

Trying to Impress

Most schools champion diversity and meeting the needs of their students over stacking the parental ranks with wealth and power. Private schools admit students based on their qualifications and many will also seek out students who ordinarily could not afford a private school education and offer them financial help to attend. They do not seek out students based on whether their parents are rich.

Your ability to participate in the school's fundraising efforts may be a bonus but do not try to leverage your affluence to get your child admitted. Do not brag about your money during an interview under any circumstances. A student ultimately needs to be right for the school and a financial donation, no matter how large, will not change an improper fit.

Acting Overly Friendly or Familiar

Even if an interview went well and it is obvious that the committee members liked you and your child, don't get carried away. Be gracious without being effusive throughout the interview, especially as you leave. Suggesting that you and the admissions officer have lunch together sometime or giving them a hug is inappropriate and unprofessional—this is about your child's education and nothing more. A smile and a polite handshake will suffice at the conclusion of an interview and leave a good impression.

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski