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Admission Interview Insights from an Enrollment Professional

Admission interviews are arguably the most important step in the admission process. Along with transcripts, report cards, standardized tests, essays, and other application materials, they help schools determine whether your family is a good fit for the school community.

If you are in the process of evaluating private and independent school options for your child, then you know that most, if not all, schools require parents to sit for an admission interview.

Interviews may take place during your scheduled campus tour. Other times, it may be a standalone event, later in the application process. With social distancing measures put in place due to the pandemic, virtual interviews have become increasingly common. The interviews may be held with the Admission Director or with a member of the school’s admission team.

Regardless of the format, one thing is certain: The admission interview is an important part of the process, and parents may feel anxious about it.

Managing the Process

This anxiety is natural—especially if you or your child has their heart set on a particular school. The admission interview can be seen as a make-or-break moment.

It is important to remember the admission interview isn’t just a chance for the school to evaluate you. It’s also an opportunity for you to evaluate the school, and make sure it is truly the right fit for your family.

Prior to the interview, you’ll want to prepare some specific and detailed answers that reveal who you are and why you’re interested in the school. Importantly, interviews give an insight into a potential family’s personality, interests, values, and personal goals. These conversations allow the school to build an initial, and hopefully, genuine rapport with families.

Avoid “over-preparing.” Schools dislike canned answers, highly rehearsed replies, or responses that look like they’re playing to the audience. They prefer honest and considered answers. In fact, being yourself and injecting a little measured “fun” into the answer may even help.

Bottom line: Be yourselves and strive for authenticity when possible.

It is also critical to ask some questions of your own during the school admission interview. This will show your interest in the school and enable you to be better informed, so you are certain to make the best possible decision about your child’s future.

Below are some common private school interview questions. These are organized by category: questions about yourself, your non-school interests, your school interests, your suitability for a school, your beliefs and values, and the school itself.

Questions About Your Family and Your Child

It’s common for private schools to ask you questions about yourself. They want to get a sense of the kind of person you are, and how you see yourself—specifically learning about your strengths and weaknesses, aims, goals, and values.

Schools may ask about your child’s interests outside of school. They’ll want to know about their talents, hobbies, and passions—whether in the arts, sports, history, science, or some other area.

Some questions you may be asked include:

  • Tell me a bit about your family.
  • What three adjectives best describe your child’s personality?
  • Tell us more about what your child does outside of school.

Tip: Your answers should be clear, specific, and detailed. For instance, in describing your family or your child, don’t list personality traits––such as confidence, curiosity, and empathy. Instead, give specific examples: “My child has always been fascinated by marine life.” Be prepared to speak about at least one or two interests in earnest about your child.

Questions About Your Values and Personal Beliefs

Schools like to get a sense of your personal core beliefs and values. They’ll want to learn whether they align with the school’s mission and values.

Your prospective school might ask these questions during the admission interview:

  • What does it mean to be a good member of a community?
  • How do you see yourself partnering with the school?

Tip: Give honest and reflective answers. Don’t oversimplify things, with short, curt answers. Give details and explain why.

Questions About the School Itself

Don’t be surprised when you’re asked if you have any questions about a school. This is a common way to gauge your level of interest. It also reveals what interests you about the school.

Some questions you may be asked to include:

  • Do you have any questions about our school?
  • Do you have any concerns about our school?

Be prepared with one or two questions. Ask something that illustrates your genuinely interested in some feature of the school, such as academics, extracurriculars, or student life.

Ask questions if you have any concerns or need more information––especially if you think it will help better evaluate your options. Choosing the right school for your child is critical to ensuring their future is as bright and fulfilling as possible.

Above all, remember this isn’t only an opportunity for the school to interview you; it’s an opportunity for you to interview the school.