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. However you will be in unfamiliar surroundings. So, my advice is simply to relax. Stay calm. Above all 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.
I am not for a minute advocating that you cover anything up. Nor I am suggesting that you dissemble. What I am reminding you of is the fact that admissions staff are professionals. They have reviewed hundreds, even thousands of applications over the years. They know how to interpret test scores and transcripts. So let the test scores and academic records speak for themselves. Blurting out that your son has a slight learning difficulty is not going to enhance your chances of his getting into schools. It will not matter much in others. 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 going to be deal breakers at most schools. Much more important is the perception that your son really wants to excel and to be the best he can be in all things.
In this short video, The Private School Lady, Mia Johnstone, explains how an admissions interview works.
2. Don't brag about your child's accomplishments.
We parents are proud by definition. It goes with the territory, doesn't it? We are very proud of your children and their accomplishments. Especially accomplishments which truly are extraordinary. However, in an admissions interview setting 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 call the school to discuss that. It will be one more check in the plus column on your child's file.
Here is some advice from private school recruiters in Canada.
On the other hand, do not hesitate to explain accomplishments and awards which may not be commonly understood. For example, if your child's robotics project earned First Prize out of a field of 500 entries, that is worth noting in the accomplishments section of the application. Furthermore, it will be worth asking about during the interview process. "Can you tell me a bit more about your school's robotics program?" would be an appropriate question.
3. Don't be abrasive.
Sometimes nerves can get the better of us. Sometimes we have many questions which we have prepared to ask during the admissions interview. Be gracious. Be earnest. Remember that asking pointed questions is acceptable, to a point. The interview is your chance to get some answers too. Just be very careful not to come across as too arrogant. Schools look at accepting your child as the beginning of a nice partnership. A partnership of equals. If you come across as the dominant partner, that might not help.
Here are some tips from the consultants TopTestPre.com.
Yes, the admissions interview is much more than a review of your child and her academic accomplishments and future potential. In many ways, the admissions interview is a comprehensive overview of this possible new relationship between you and the school and vice-versa. Far better to position yourself as a good listener, as a parent who is willing to take advice. Schools value that very much as they contemplate a partnership with you for this next chapter of your child's education.
4. Don't offer to write a check to get him in.
Years ago some schools would be influenced by the offer of a large donation ($100,000 or more usually was considered large) in exchange for their accepting little Roderick Jr. Not anymore. Most schools will look askance if you try that sort of thing. Mind you, the offer of a large donation was not as blatant as what I am suggesting although such things have been known to occur. The suggestions will be more oblique.
The fact remains that in the 21st-century diversity is a big deal in schools these days. If diversity is not something with which you want to deal, then look for a school or schools where all the students will be like your child. I am not disparaging. For example, an Orthodox Jewish student would most likely feel uncomfortable in a non-sectarian school. The truth is that you should have sorted out the selection of a school or schools which suit your needs before you got to the admissions interview stage of the game.
Dress modestly and appropriately for the admissions interview. Arriving for your interview in the Bentley, dressed in your Oscar de la Renta suit probably will be seen as ostentatious and out of tune with the school's egalitarian objectives. Being understated and low-key will be quite acceptable and appreciated. The school probably has a very clear idea of your financial circumstances anyway.
5. Don't throw your influence around.
This admonition ties in with the previous one. Telling the admissions staffer that the CEO of a Fortune 100 company is prepared to write a letter of recommendation for Roderick Jr. will come across as a bit heavy-handed, even arrogant. Let the admissions staffer find the letter in your child's dossier themselves. In line with the advice in point 4, schools prize parents who will quietly support the school without drawing attention to themselves. Of course, they will duly note your business, social and financial connections for use by the development office staff after your child has been admitted.
Finally, make the best impression possible by relaxing and just being yourself. You have much to be proud of both personally and professionally. The admissions staff, being the experienced professionals they are, will look at the entire package, and make their final judgment on that basis.
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