Test scores and admissions applications do not provide a private school a complete picture of just who an individual student is. That’s why an in-person admission interview is a major part of the total admission process.
For a young student, though, this may be looked at as a daunting first one-one-one meeting with a non-related adult. For the parents, there may be an equal amount of nervousness or even an attempt to “impress” the school officials. But, there are tips to make the process less intimidating and more rewarding.
First schedule you school visit and interview well before the actual date you want to visit. Make sure this is within the school’s admission process dates.
Know who you are meeting with and how much time he, she or they have allocated for your meeting. Most interviews last only 20 minutes to a half-hour. Next, prepare for the actual interview itself by looking at the school’s printed materials and Web site. Also, prepare what you’re going to say.
The Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Mass. notes that there are a few questions that every interviewer will ask, including, “Tell me about yourself.” According to the school, “A thoughtful answer will show you really care about the interview and that you’ve thought about how you want to represent yourself.”
Here are some interview tips for both parents and students:
- Parents, stay in the background and let you child answer questions that are asked of him or her. There will be time during the interview for you to ask your questions.
- Write down your key questions on paper in advance and then bring it to the interview so that you can refer to it. You won’t get answers to your most important questions unless you ask them. Ask the same questions at each school so that you can compare “apples to apples.”
- Never be late. In fact, arrive a few minutes early.
- Turn off all mobile phones while waiting to enter the meeting. Don’t bring any food or beverage into the meeting.
- Dress appropriately, as if for a semi-formal occasion. Be on your best social behavior in terms of language and posture; at the same time, try to not be so formal that your personality doesn’t come through.
- Use titles and last names, such as “Dr.”, “Mr.” or “Ms.”, not first names.
- If you’re asked a question and don’t know the answer, say so. Don’t try to impress the interviewer by making something up. Besides, by promising to get back to the interviewer with the answer, you leave the door open for more contact.
- Parents shouldn’t brag, be arrogant or throw influence around by offering to write a check to guarantee admission.
- Parents and the student should a handwritten thank you note by mail within a day after the interview.
Questions to Ask
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) offers a good guide for parents on what to look for during a school tour and what questions to ask during an admission interview at www.nais.org/parents/index.cfm?ItemNumber=149222&sn.ItemNumber=149258&tn.IntemNumber=149679.
Among things to notice during the tour:
- How do the students act, happy and engaged or stress and indifferent?
- Does the campus seem secure and welcoming?
- Every school has a mission statement, is it reflected in the actual school?
- Is there a community-feel on the campus? Who is interacting with each other—students with students, students with teachers, students with administrators?
Questions during the interview should touch on academics, teachers, administration and school-family relationships. Some interview questions could include:
- Question the curriculum including the hours of weekly homework, the way a student’s achievement is measured, how academic advising works and the type of educational emphasis.
- Make sure to investigate the depth of offerings in your child’s area of interest. How deep are the offerings
- What’s the student-teacher ratio for your child’s grade and the classes they will attend over the years?
- Is the faculty diverse?
- What is the educational background of faculty members and do they have the chance for professional development?
- How is the school administered; are faculty and staff involved; and what is the governance structure?
- Review the counseling and support services.
- Are families encouraged to participate in the school?
- How are school family communications handled? Do parents have direct access to teachers?
- How many students leave the school during the year or do not continue to graduation?
Most importantly look at the school as a whole and make sure it is a good fit for your child. Ask yourself and your child—will my child thrive, grow and learn at this school?