5 Tips To A Better Private School Admission Interview

Touring a prep school.I still remember walking into the Director of Admission’s office and sitting down for my own interview for boarding school. I wasn’t really nervous. I felt like I was prepared.

Flash forward twenty-two years and now I’m the Director of Admission and have conducted countless interviews but I often think back to being on the other side of the table. Why wasn’t I nervous? I felt prepared but what did I do?

The admission interview carries a different amount of weight in the admission process at each school to which you will apply but make no mistake, the interview is an important part of determining if you will be accepted to boarding school. Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be guaranteed to have a great interview: Research, Connect, Reverse, Complete, Breathe.

1. Research

I hope it goes without saying that you need to do some research about the school where you will be having your interview: scour their website, “Like” them on Facebook, follow their Twitter feed, and check out their pictures on Flickr. The purpose of research is really two-fold: 1. To give you some background about the school, and 2. Introduce you to the vernacular of the school. Each boarding school will have their own way of referring to buildings, people, and/or events and the more comfortable you are with this “foreign language” the better you will feel during your interview.

2. Connect

Most admission offices assign regions, countries, or territories to each admission counselor. The counselor is then responsible for each applicant from that region. After you request information and conduct some research about the school, I would encourage you to reach out and determine which admission counselor is responsible for the area in which you live and connect with them. The connection could be as simple as an email introducing yourself or engaging through a social media channel monitored by the admission office. Usually, the admission counselor responsible your region will also interview you which will help to alleviate some anxiety.

3. Reverse

The simple idea behind this tip is to reverse places with the person that is going to interview you. Hopefully you were able to determine the counselor responsible for your region and then you can reverse places with them and interview them. Ask a family member to “play” you and you assume the role of the admission counselor. Actually, the reversal could take many different forms and you could have your family member play the role of the admission counselor and you play yourself. The idea behind the role play dress rehearsal is to practice interviewing and being interviewed, which should make your “opening night”, or actually interview, that much easier.

4. Complete

Some people might disagree with this tip but I would recommend completing your application to the school where you are interviewing before your interview. I think this can help for a couple of reasons:

1. After completing the application you will have a general sense of what questions the school finds valuable and some of those questions might be asked during the interview

2. If your admission counselor reads the application prior to your interview it might help you stand out in their minds and make you more memorable.

3. It shows that you are serious about this particular school which again might allow you to stand out in the admission office.

5. Breathe

I hope this isn’t too simplistic or general but remember to breathe. Breathe before you go into the office. Breathe before you sit down. Most importantly, breathe before you answer each question which will make you slow down and think for a second before you begin your answer.

One final piece of advice, I tell all the students that I interview “that there are no right answers, there are no wrong answers, whatever you say is fine. Just be yourself.” I hope that by following these 5 tips you will be supremely prepared for your interview and that you can just be yourself.

I would love to hear if someone has additional tips on preparing for your admission interview. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Brendan J. Schneider is the Director of Admission & Financial Aid at Sewickley Academy. He blogs about social media, technology, inbound marketing, and branding for independent schools at www.SchneiderB.com.
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