5 Things to Avoid at the Admission Interview

Choosing a School
Preparing for the Interview. David Fischer/Getty Images

A crucial part of the private school application process, the admission interview can be a nerve-wracking experience for many applicants and their families. You want to make the best impression you can in order to find the perfect school for your child. But how do you do that properly in an admission interview? Be yourself. Want a little more advice? Check out these 5 tips of things you should not do during your admission interview.  

1. Do not be late.

It is such a simple thing, but being late for the admission interview suggests that you are inconsiderate and discourteous (or disorganized, which still isn't good). Many private school admission offices have back to back interviews scheduled at busy times of the year, so throwing off their schedule might not be an option. If you are going to be late, call the office and advise them as soon as you realize it. You can always offer to reschedule the interview, which shows that you value their time and understand that you have made a mistake. If the office allows you to arrive late, make sure that when you finally do arrive, you apologize for being late. Don't waste time making excuses, just thank them for their flexibility and understanding, and move on. Don't draw any further attention to it.

If you're worried about traffic or other unforeseen challenges in arriving on time, call ahead to the admission office and ask if there is a waiting room where you can sit if you're early. Another option would be to check online to see if there's a nearby coffee shop where you can wait if you're more than a few minutes early. This can be especially helpful if the school is a distance from your home or requires traveling busy and unreliable highways which might delay you. 

2. Avoid ranking schools in your conversations.

The admissions staff knows that you are looking at several schools. No matter where their school may be on your list, be cordial and non-committal. The purpose of the visit and interview is for you and the school to scope each other out. You are trying to determine if this is the right school for you or your child. They are doing the same thing. Don't tell every school that they are your first choice, just to make it seem like you're more invested than you might be; and you might want to skip telling your back-up school that they aren't your first choice. Instead, stay more general. It's ok to say that you're looking at and comparing a few schools; if you're comfortable sharing the info, go ahead and tell the admission rep where else you're applying. If you know that a school is truly your first choice and can articulate why, go for it, but be genuine in your comments. Don't tell a school known for athletics that they are your first choice when you know your child won't play sports there.

It's ok to pay homage to a stellar program at the school that caught your attention, like math or sciences, even if it's not the program the school is most well-known for. 

3. Do not be a difficult, demanding parent.

Educating your child is a partnership of three: the school, the parent and the child. Ask pointed questions about the school if you must. But don't be abrasive. Parents are part of the admission process, and it is not unheard of for a qualified student to be denied admission because of the way his or her parents acted during the interview. No matter how terrible the day has turned out before you reach the admission office, put on your best face and be the epitome of graciousness. It also never hurts to let the school know that you are willing to help out when asked; many schools rely on volunteers and involved parents are highly desirable. The school is the deciding factor if your child gets accepted, and pushing them and insisting that you deserve preferential treatment or that your child is better than any other child applying, won't help. 

4. Do not try to impress them with your money and social position.

You may be worth billions. Your ancestors may have come over on the Mayflower. But the reality is that schools champion diversity and finding the right fit over stacking their parental ranks with wealth and power. Schools are proactively going after students who ordinarily could never afford a private school education by offering completely free educations. Regardless of if a school can afford to pass you over simply because they have huge endowment funds or they need to raise millions, schools will admit students based on qualifications first and foremost. Your ability to participate in the school's fundraising efforts may be a bonus, but that alone won't let you in the door. Your child needs to be the right fit for the school, and vice versa, so offering a large donation likely won't help you. Watch out that you don't paint yourself in a negative light, either. Trying to buy your way in, especially if you're denied admission, might make you look like a demanding and difficult parent (see bullet point 3).


5. Do not be overly familiar.

The interview may have gone very well. It may indeed be obvious that they like you and your child. But don't get carried away. Be gracious, not effusive, in your comments. It would be inappropriate to suggest that the admissions staffer have lunch sometime or give her a hug. A smile and a polite handshake is all that is necessary.

Remember: the interview part of the admissions process needs to be handled adroitly. Both you and your child are being examined and assessed in more ways than one.

Finally, don't forget to handwrite a thank you note and send it through the USPS. A "snail mail" thank you note to the admissions staffer who met with you is an old-fashioned social touch much appreciated in private school admission circles.


Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski