Last Updated On: December 16th, 2014

So you’ve submitted your application and someone from the school of your dreams called back to schedule an interview.  Frightened? Overwhelmed? Don’t be… we’ve broken down the three main areas that admissions officers evaluate when interviewing potential applicants. The majority of private schools have stepped away from the “formal interview” and engage the applicant and his/her family in an informal conversation.  This allows the person conducting the interview to get a more comprehensive sense of the applicant’s actual personality while evaluating the following three topics.

1.       Is the applicant a “good fit”?

Besides academics and test scores, admissions committees look at the applicants to see if they fit in with the school culture.  In other words, they are more likely to be interested in applicants who are familiar with the school, what it offers, and what it excels at.

  • What do you like about the school? If you play a sport, how did the school’s team perform? Remember to have follow up questions! Single questions will sound forced and disingenuous.
  • Dress appropriately – If the school has a dress code, follow it! Although not required, it will show the school that you cared enough to look it up and adhere to it.
  • Be prepared to discuss your extracurricular activities(e.g. sports, music, competitions, leadership roles).  Although your academic performance is important, schools look for students who are not one-sided and are passionate about something.

2.       Does the applicant have a good support system?

Familial support is crucial to any child’s academic success, and schools know it! The interviewer may ask you to talk about your family and its dynamic.

  • No family is perfect; however, you’d probably be better off avoiding overly negative anecdotes.
  • If your parents participate in the interview, look at them when they speak, and don’t look embarrassed.
  • Did your parents help you achieve something or get you those guitar lessons you always wanted? Feel free to brag, but try not to come across as entitled.

3.       Does the applicant possess character and maturity?

Schools prefer students who show a maturity beyond their years.  Usually, this translates to an interest in learning, reading, and other intellectual pursuits.

  • Honesty and genuine curiosity are hard to fake.  Don’t pretend to be interested in the school; instead, be sincere and do your research – find something about the school that actually interests you.  How does the school’s strengths match your interests?
  • Remain calm and try not to stress out! You should try to sleep early the night before and have a good breakfast so that you are not cranky during your interview.
  • Write a thank you email or even use “snail mail”.  Schools will always appreciate the courtesy.
  • Speak clearly / don’t slouch or fidget. This one can be tough, especially if you’re nervous.  Conversational and social skills can show an emotional maturity that schools look for as well.

The entire independent school application process can be daunting; from preparing for the entrance exam (e.g. HSPT, ISEE) to the interview process, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  Academic counselors and tutors are available and can help you decide where to focus your efforts over the course of the application process. For more information, click here, or call 866.60.TUTOR to be matched with your own personal LA Tutor.

Eric Kim

Author Eric Kim

Eric is the Program Director at LA Tutors and has over twenty years experience as a private tutor. He has served as an academic counselor, college counselor to hundreds of students and now uses his experience across all areas of academia to help develop new curricula and programs designed to help students achieve their individual goals.

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