School Visits and Interviews

School visits and interviews are an integral part of applying to private school. Learn why it's important to visit and what to do if that is not possible. Explore school visit options like open houses and shadowing. Get valuable tips on a successful interview and learn what questions you should be asking.
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The independent school admissions process varies greatly from one school to another. There is, however, one critical requirement that is truly universal--the interview.  Students who apply to an independent school for admission to grades 6-12 are required to meet with an admissions officer in a one-on-one or small group setting.  You worry as a parent that your child simply can’t have the maturity or know-how to converse in the manner required with a strange adult who is lobbing questions at your child.   Yes, this can be anxiety producing for even the most savvy-minded parent.  But, I’d like to help reframe your thinking on the admissions interview.  
 

 
 
A Window into Your Child's Personality

The interview offers an admissions committee a window into your child’s personality--his or her academic and extra-curricular interests, unique passions, and other skills that matter to your son or daughter.  Keep in mind that the interview can be as short as 10 minutes for a younger child and up to 45 for the high school candidate.  The interviewer is focused on evaluating your child’s academic potential and overall personality by engaging them in a guided conversation that centers on your child’s current school experience, particular strengths--academic, as well as, athletic, artistic, service, leadership, and other special interests.
 
It may help to think of the interview as a detailed conversation for your child with a trained teacher.  It is the job of the admissions officer to establish a rapport with your child.  Admissions officers . . .read more
As I have mentioned several times in other articles about choosing and evaluating private schools, you really must set foot on the campus. Those professionally produced videos on the schools' web sites are great. The students' YouTube videos reveal a bit of what life is like at their school. But these presentations are all carefully edited - and rightly so - and designed to encourage you to learn more about their school. After you do your in-depth reading of all the schools' materials, it's time for you to decide which schools to visit.

For example, let's say you had 6 schools which really appear to be a good match for your  requirements and your child's needs. Then you must eliminate 2, preferably 3 schools from that larger list. Especially if you have selected schools located at a distance from where you live. Visiting 6 schools away from home will be both time-consuming and expensive. So, make that short list of 3 schools to actually visit.

The visits will take one of these forms:

Open House
The way an open house works is that the school advertises that it will be open on a specified date and time. For anybody who wants to look around. The admissions staff will be on hand to answer questions. It's a wonderful way to walk around and see the facilities. The downside is that you won't necessarily get to see any classes. Those kind of logistics can
become a bit complicated . . .read more
Most of these suggestions are common sense. But take time to review them well in advance of visiting schools and doing the actual applications.

1. Write a good essay.
"Essay?" " Write?" I can just imagine what you are thinking about what your child will do on this part of the application. However, why not do what you always do: plan ahead. Download the Candidate Statement portion of the school's application. Print out a couple of copies. Then, starting in July or August, though you can do it any time, of course, have your child work the questions and think about the answers. That way, when it comes time in December and January to complete those parts of the application, she'll will be able to write confidently, clearly and concisely.

"But her spelling is atrocious. She texts all the time and doesn't spell or capitalize according to the rules." That is a very real concern that you should have. And it's another reason why she needs to do a couple of dry runs before the real thing. While I don't suggest that you correct her work for content, I strongly suggest that you remind her how important it is to follow the rules of good grammar and syntax. Teach her the skill of mirroring the context or person she is dealing with. It's a valuable life skill as you very well know. Again, don't attempt to write the essay for her. Why? Because when you go for . . .read more
When you and your child visit schools that you are seriously interested in, you will also have an appointment with the admissions staff. Depending on the school, you might even meet with a dean or perhaps the head of school. Obviously when you meet with these people, you will be trying to put your best foot forward. But you will be in unfamiliar surroundings. Relax. Stay calm. Don't let your nerves get the better of you. Follow these tips for a successful admissions interview .
 
1. Don't draw attention to any minor learning issues.
Let test scores and academic records speak for themselves. Blurting out that your son has a slight learning difficulty could nix your chances of his getting in. On the other hand if he has been diagnosed with dyslexia or ADD or some other learning difficulty, then you need to be applying to a school which has qualified staff and programs in place to address those learning issues. But your son's B grade in mathematics or his lack of prowess in fine arts are not deal breakers at most schools.

2. Don't brag about your child's accomplishments.
An oblique reference to your daughter's field hockey abilities is far better than bragging. After all, the admissions staff can read all about her accomplishments in the application. (You did make sure to include all that sort of thing, didn't you?) On the other hand, if she is indeed a very talented athlete, make sure you have her current coach . . .read more
Many applicants live at great distances from the schools which they would like to visit. If you live in Asia or Europe, for example, it is not always financially or logistically possible to visit schools in person. What alternatives exist for those situations? Actually several. Off campus school visits come in a couple of flavors.

 

Admisisons Staff Visits Overseas
Many private schools send their admissions staff overseas to major cities in countries where they have a substantial applicant pool. Ask for details of visits in your area. While you will have to rely on the school's video and web presentations of its school life and activities, at least you will have a live person to whom you can pose questions. If English is not your first language, this meeting with school officials will give you a deadline to meet. After all, you are planning to attend school in a country where English is the instructional language used in most classes. You will be expected to have your interview in English.

 

 

Interviews With Local Alumni
Just like many universities and colleges do, private schools also will arrange an interview with an alumnus or alumna who lives in your local area. This is a quite common practice for meeting candidates who live here in the United States. Remember that most schools are looking for qualified candidates who may not have considered applying because of financial constraints. If you cannot afford to pay the school fees, chances are that you cannot afford to . . .read more
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School Visits and Interviews

School Visits and Interviews

School visits and interviews are an integral part of applying to private school. Learn why it's important to visit and what to do if that is not possible. Explore school visit options like open houses and shadowing. Get valuable tips on a successful interview and learn what questions you should be asking.