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How to Prepare for Private School Interviews

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Private school interviews can be stressful. You are trying to impress the school, as is your child, while in the spotlight. Here are some tips to make the interview go more smoothly:

  1. Do your research before the interview.

    While you will find out more information on the tour, be sure to read up on the school beforehand. While on the tour and in the interview, don’t ask simple questions that show you haven’t done your research. 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?”
  2. Prepare your child.

    Easier said than done, but if your child really wants to attend a given school, be sure he knows some basic information about the school before the interview. For example, he shouldn’t express surprise that the school doesn’t have a football team during the interview. He should also practice some short statements about his interests—academic and extracurricular—before the interview. Older students may also be required to know about current events, so they should read the newspaper for several weeks before the interview takes place. Younger children may be asked to play with other children on the interview, so tell your child ahead of time what to expect and to follow rules for polite behavior. Be sure your child remembers to say thank you and to shake hands at the end of the interview. Shy children may need practice looking their interviewer in the eye.
  3. Dress your child appropriately.

    Find out what the school dress code is, and be sure to dress your child at least as formally as the students. Many private schools require students to wear button-down shirts, so don’t dress your child in a tee-shirt, which will look impolite and out-of-place on the day of the interview.
  4. Don’t stress yourself out—or your child.

    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. 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. If he’s right for the school, they will see it. Just give him a good breakfast and set him confidently on his way on the interview day.
  5. 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.
  6. Avoid preciousness and over-coaching.

    Private schools have become wary of students who have been coached by professionals for the interview. Your child should be natural and should not make up interests or talents that aren’t really innate. Don’t have your child feign an interest in reading if he hasn’t picked up a pleasure reading book in years. His insincerity will be quickly discovered and disliked by the admissions staff. Instead, he should be prepared to speak politely about what interests him—whether it’s basketball or chamber music—and he will come across as genuine.

Common questions your child may be asked on the tour:

  • Tell me a bit about your family:

    Your child should describe the members of the family and their interests but should stay away from negative or overly personal stories.
  • Tell me about your interests:

    The child should not fabricate interests but should speak about his true talents and inspirations in a thoughtful and natural way.
  • What do you think about recent political events:

    Older children should read the newspaper for several weeks before the interview and learn how to speak about recent current events.
  • Tell me about the last book you read:

    The child should think ahead of time about some books he has read lately and what he liked or didn’t like about them. He should avoid statements such as, “I didn’t like this book because it was too hard” and speak about the content of the books.

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