A prospective high school student confidently answering a private school interview question.

How to Make a Great Impression in Private School Interviews

January 28, 2021

As an admission officer, I always loved the private school interview process. It’s such a wonderful time to learn about students — who they are, what they hope to do with their lives, and what they are looking for in a school. 

I also understand that interviewing is nerve-racking for students and parents alike. It is probably your child’s first interview experience, and it might be your family’s first time applying to private schools. The following FAQs and advice will help everyone feel comfortable with the process so that your student is ready to make a great first impression.

This article is specific to in-person interviews. If you have any remotely, check out our advice for standing out in virtual private school interviews.

What should my child wear to private school interviews?

The first rule of thumb is to research the school’s dress code on its website and dress accordingly. This adherence shows that you did your research and are sincerely interested in the school, and it helps keep your child from feeling out of place. If this information isn’t available or the school doesn’t have a formal dress code, it’s important to look presentable, so no jeans or leggings. Comfort is also key to prevent distraction and fidgeting, so a coat and tie or formal dress aren’t necessary—unless that’s the student’s comfortable.  

Practice your introduction.

It’s true that you only have one chance to make a great first impression! It may sound silly, but have your child practice shaking hands, making eye contact, and introducing themself. If they have a preferred nickname, mention it during the introduction to make things more personal from the start. Getting comfortable with introductions in advance will make it feel natural when meeting the interviewer. 

What questions are they going to ask?

Your child might be nervous about the questions they’ll receive. This apprehension is normal, but the interview isn’t intended to be intimidating or a test. The interviewer sincerely wants to get to know your child, and as I mentioned above, it’s probably their favorite part of the application process. To alleviate interview anxiety, have your child practice answering questions about themself and their interests.

As a parent, it’s good to encourage your child to be themself and provide thorough answers, but be careful not to coach them on what to say. It’s also okay for the student to stop and reflect when answering a question. Trying to have a perfect interview adds undue pressure. Instead, focus on having an enjoyable conversation. 

As for the actual questions, we asked a couple of private schools what they ask. Check out our article, Practice Questions to Feel Good About Private School Interviews, to see their answers.

Prepare questions for the interviewer.

It’s vital to remember that admission interviews are a two-way street. While the admissions officer is trying to get to know your child, the interview is a golden opportunity for your child to learn about the school and how it might challenge them and offer new experiences. Consider asking about academic requirements and opportunities, extra-curricular activities, residential life, weekend events, and honors programs.  

Have your child treat every school like their first choice by doing their homework on the school and asking specific questions tailored to their interests. There’s no better way to express interest in the school. When it comes time for the admissions committee to make tough enrollment decisions, the excited and engaged student is more likely to get the nod than the one whose interest felt lukewarm. 

What should we bring to the interview?

You typically don’t need to bring anything like a transcript or completed application to school visits. Just make sure to submit all required documentation by the application deadline. That said, it is a good idea for your child to bring a notebook with their questions. Having the notebook helps them remember what to ask if they get nervous, and it shows the interviewer that they are prepared, organized, and care about the interview.

Follow up with a thank-you note.

Don’t forget to have your child send a thank-you note to the interviewer after the visit, and it’s also a nice touch to inquire about contacting your tour guide. While interviewers always appreciate a written card because they are rare, an email makes it easier for them to respond. So when sending a card, do both. 

Make sure to reference aspects of the school that your child learned in the interview and is excited about experiencing in the thank-you note. The follow-up email is also an opportunity to further engage the interviewer by asking additional questions that came up with after visiting.  

Is there anything else to keep in mind?

Yes, have fun and enjoy the experience! It’s exciting to explore new educational opportunities.  Reinforce that your child simply needs to be themself, ask questions, and take it all in as your family considers the possibilities.

Want more tips and resources?

Join Admission Academy, our yearlong event program that supports families step-by-step through the private school admissions process.

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