Admissions interviews play a big role in admissions committees’ decisions for middle and high school placement. Interviewers are experts at getting to know a student and understanding whether their unique personality and strengths are suited for that school’s particular community.
For applicants, admissions interviews can be one of the more stressful parts of the admissions process. Most children haven’t conducted a formal interview before, and they’re not always sure how to respond when an adult asks them questions about themselves. Like anything else, practice makes perfect: we recommend that students and parents rehearse interviews to build students’ comfort and make the process seem more familiar.
If your family is beginning to prepare for admissions interviews this fall, here’s what to focus on before, during, and after the interview:
Preparation is important! Students feel significantly more comfortable in an interview when they’re prepared for what types of questions might be asked. Look into these key areas in advance of an interview:
Research the school. Students should spend a good deal of time poking around the school’s website and social media accounts to get a strong sense of its unique approach to academics, extracurriculars, and community. Students should be prepared with the answers to these three questions:
Prepare answers for common interview questions. Every school conducts admissions interviews a little differently, but there are several common questions that appear in some way across most interviews. These include:
Prepare anecdotes to weave into answers. Students and parents should reflect on a few stories or accomplishments that demonstrate the core characteristics present throughout the student’s application. Students should be prepared to weave these anecdotes into their interview responses.
Prepare unique questions about each school. Students should come to the interview with a few questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the conversation. These questions shouldn’t be factual, like “What extracurriculars does the school offer?” - a good rule of thumb is to avoid questions that can be found directly on the school’s website. Instead, ask deeper questions like “What are the characteristics of students who are successful at this school?” or “How would you describe the school community here?”
Check the tech. In the current virtual interview environment, students need to be prepared with their Zoom setup. Ensure that the computer is working properly, Zoom is installed, and the camera is functional. Check the camera quality, lighting, and Zoom background before the interview to make sure it’s presentable.
There are a few key ways that students can arrive at the interview ready to impress the admissions officer. Note that all of these tips also apply to college interviews, job interviews, and other interview settings - students can grow from this admissions interviewing experience!
Start the interview successfully. First impressions are important! Students should be dressed appropriately and arrive early. They shouldn’t bring any technology (like their phone) with them to the interview; leave it outside the room to eliminate distractions. When the interview begins, students should make direct eye contact, smile, and start off with a confident “Hello!”
Remember these interview tips. As the conversation progresses, students should try to keep these points in mind:
When the interview concludes, the hardest work is done. But there are still ways to continue impressing the admissions committee:
Express gratitude at the end of the interview: Students should sincerely thank the interviewer for their time, and reiterate their appreciation for the opportunity to interview.
Send a personalized thank-you note. Students should write a personalized thank-you note after each interview. Handwritten notes sent in the mail can leave a great impression, but email notes can accomplish most of the same effect (particularly during the pandemic). Mention specifics that were discussed in the interview, and express gratitude once again for the opportunity.
With this playbook, students should have all the tools they need to excel in their admissions interview! If your family needs support in the admissions process, we’re here to help: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.