Private school interviews are typically part of the application process. To enroll in a private school a student submits an application and participates in an interview. Follow our helpful hints for a successful private school interview.

Many private schools have a student interview and often there is a parent interviewâ€"or at least a conversationâ€" with an admissions officer or other contact during which parents may express their views about their child and the fit between the child and the school as well as ask questions.

Your student may have recommendations from teachers, but parents have a different view of their child - often broader and deeper - and these conversations, whether they are formal interviews or not, give a chance for a parent to express their insights about their child as well as their hopes for his or her future.

Often the interview occurs in the midst of a series of interactions that take place in a school visit, such as a campus tour, a chance to sit in on a class, etc. These other activities may provide a chance for visitors to talk to people and get a feel for the school, and - if they precede the interviewâ€"may make the interview more comfortable. On the other hand, a child who grows more nervous with time may wish to get the interview “over with” first thing.

Interview Etiquette

Interview appointments are sometimes made by phone and sometimes by e-mail. Try to fit your schedule to the times the school offers you. Make sure you're on time for the interview. Look at a map ahead of time and be prepared for the possibility that visitor parking spaces may be full by making a plan B for where you'll park.

Respect the school's dress code, if they have one, in choosing what to wear to the interview. A suit and tie and comparable dress for a young woman are not out of place for some school interviews. In any case, a neat, clean appearance is likely to help, no matter what your personal style is. Bringing along some breath mints may be a good plan.

Schools deal differently with parents - they may or may not be present during student interviews, and you should find out in order to be prepared for either possibility.

Preparing for the Interview(s)

There are often four parts to an interview: introductions; they ask you questions; you ask them questions; conclusion

  • Tell your child what to expect

If a child knows that s/he may be asked about his or her strengths and weaknesses, s/he is less likely to feel put on the spot when it happens. If your child hasn't been in formal situations, it may even be worth practicing introductions and shaking hands. Depending on your child, you may wish to talk about the fact that s/he may become nervous before the interview, that this is true for some people and not for others, and that admissions officers are experienced with this and prepared for either eventuality. Remind your child that the admissions officers want to know who they really are, so they shouldn't feel that they need to project a different persona. For example, if they are naturally funny or smile a lot, they do not need to feel that they have to be serious and can't show that side of themselves.

  • Practice

It's worth practicing the interview - and not just answering questions, but also asking questions, saying thank you, if you feel this will benefit your child. This does not mean that a student should memorize answers as if the interview was an audition (it's not), but just a chance to try out different approaches to likely questions.

Questions will vary depending on the age of the student and whether the school is a day school or residential school. Some possible question include:

  • Why do you want to attend [school name]?
  • What has your schooling been like up to now?
  • What is the most important thing you would like us to know about you?
  • Tell us something about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • If you were admitted, what would you bring to the school community?
  • What would you like to know more about?

Helpful Hints for a Successful Interview: 

  • Not every answer has to be long - answers should fit the detail specified by the question, but if there is additional important information, feel free to add on. 
  • Be honest. But remember that you have choices about how to present things. You could say “one of my weaknesses is . . . ” or you could say “one of the areas in which I'd like to improve is . . . “ 
  • Prepare a list of questions. Having a little list can prevent forgetting things you want to know more about and also having to stop and think. Since this list doesn't take into account the new information the student may receive in the course of the interview, tour, or other events of the day, students may need to add on to this or ask follow-up questions to pursue other points in which they have an interest.

Follow up

If for some reason - whether from stress, illness, or any other cause - your child or you have reason to believe that the interview was unrepresentative, it is worth contacting the school to see whether some kind of follow-up can be arranged, possibly including another visit or interview.