Nailing the Independent School Interview

Interviewing a student
Sarah Powers, Dean of Enrollment


Tips for families to prepare for their admission interviews

Nerves can take over during an independent school admission interview, for both the parent and the child, and the key is, together, to prepare for the interview in advance. First, sit down and ask each other what excites and worries you about the upcoming interview, then work to dispel any concerns in advance of the campus visit. Remind your child that the interview is an excellent opportunity for them to show their personality and discuss points of pride. With a little preparation, your family can make a great impression. 

Practice an introduction. If your child was asked, “Tell me about yourself” or you were asked, “Tell me about your child” would there be common themes? Talk through your responses in front of each other and discuss three to four discussion topics your child can address in the interview. These should be points to highlight your child’s interests and strengths that may not already be known by the school.  

Minimize nervous habits. If your child is a “knee shaker” or “knuckle-cracker”, talk through strategies about how to minimize them during the interview. These nervous habits can be distracting and take away from the conversation. Perhaps holding a pen or notebook would help with a nervous habit. 

Leave technology in the car. Smartphones and watches are temptations that can leave a negative impression on your interviewer or imply a lack of interest. It is best to just leave all technology in the car.

Understand the types of questions. It is normal for your child to be nervous about the questions they will be asked during the interview, and it’s important to know that the interview is intended to be a way to get to know your child better, learn more about their interests and school experience, and answer their questions about the school. Here is a list of questions to share with your child to help them think about responses to commonly asked independent school admission interview questions.

Prepare questions for the interviewer. Interviewers typically leave a couple of minutes for questions. Having a short list of prepared questions will make your child seem interested in the school and demonstrate they have done their homework. Have a few general questions, then a couple of specific questions such as, I read that Govs has a marine science program, and I love marine science.  At what grade can a student start to take marine science classes at Govs?

Do not forget the parent interview. The parent interview is typically 15-20 minutes and is an opportunity for the interviewer to get a sense of your child from your perspective. Interviewers often hear "I hate to brag about my child," but if there is ever a time or place, it is in the parent interview! Typical questions include, what has your child’s academic experience been thus far, what are they like as a sibling, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?🗹 Parents are encouraged to approach these with honesty and optimism.

Follow up with the interviewer. At the end, ask for your interviewer’s business card. That makes it easy for both you and your child to send a thank you note to the right person and for you to follow up with additional questions that arise during the application process. 

Below is a checklist for you to review in advance of the interview. The more you consider and prepare, the smoother your campus visit will go

🗹 Confirm the date, time, and location of your child’s interview. Review directions to the school and its campus map.
🗹 Plan what your child will wear to their interview. Is it conducive to the weather (i.e. rain, shine, cold or hot weather) and similar to the school’s dress code—a rule of thumb is to adhere to a school’s dress code, which helps your child not feel out of place.
🗹 Review the website and admission materials to better understand why the school is a good fit for your child.
🗹 Prepare two to three questions for the interviewer regarding the school or the admission process that are not easily answered on the school’s website or in its admission brochure.

Last, and most importantly, enjoy the experience, BE YOURSELF, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! 

Dean of Enrollment

Author: Sarah Powers, Dean of Enrollment

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