By Jennifer Brozost and Vimmi Shroff.
The Annie orphans said it best: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” This is never truer than when you are interviewing for a private school’s spot—we mean it! Arriving at an interview with a smile on your face makes a great first impression as you greet the admissions staff. The individual who will chat with you has met with hundreds of applicants. Nothing is more welcoming to a busy interviewer than getting to know a happy, smiling candidate who is excited and ready to share information about herself, and is prepared to express why she wishes to be a part of a new school community.
1. Excitement Is Key!
It’s simply not fun to interview someone who is half asleep, or does not seem to want to be there. We know these interviews can be stressful and cause anxiety. Your goal is to develop rapport, be comfortable, and share interesting information. This will occur more naturally if you are genuinely excited by the new school.
Excitement is revealed in many ways. Smile, look directly at the interviewer, and come prepared with interesting stories about yourself. This will convey that you really want one of the few available spots. The admissions interviewer will definitely note this.
2. Do Your Homework
An applicant must do his homework to understand the school’s attributes. This will illustrate his desire to be part of their community.
Mention specifics about the campus noted on the tour, a special program the school offers, or a specific class that seems interesting.
For example, a campus school offers on-site sports. If you are a sports enthusiast, this is an inviting subject to discuss. If the school has a new science lab and you love science, this is a great conversation starter. Find one or two aspects about the curriculum that especially appeal to you.
3. Keep It Personal
Personal stories are the best way to keep an interview interesting. The admissions staff wants to like you and is seeking students who will add to a lively, diverse community. Think about the subjects for which you have a passion, the personal stories you can share which illustrate who you are and how you can add to their community. An interviewer will often say, “Tell me about yourself.” Be prepared to share something that is key to who you are.
One teenager we worked with loved basketball. He was on a very competitive team. He wanted to share this about himself and include the fact that he started his own tutoring program with underprivileged kids that stemmed from his participation on the basketball team. We call this “having stories in your pocket.”
4. No Negatives
If you are applying to middle or high school, you will be changing from one school to another. You may be asked about your current school. Keep anything said about the current school upbeat and positive. You may not have liked some things about your current school: Teachers, some students, sports or lack of sports, too rigorous academics or not rigorous enough, your school felt too big or too small. However, it is better to focus on the good things about the school you are leaving than the negatives. Instead, express excitement to experience a new school with new friends.
5. Ask Questions
We encourage you to ask questions about the school—those that are genuine, and truly important to you. If you have had the chance to tour the school before the interview, this is a great time to think of a few questions about what you have observed. Other questions might involve sports teams, clubs, after-school programs, the language program, and electives. Inquire about student government if this truly interests you.