Good private schools understand the importance of having the right people in the right places in order to carry out their stated mission. When they interview a candidate for a job – whether a teacher, administrator, or staff member – they want to ensure that the person’s qualifications, values, and temperament line up with the needs of their school.

The same can be said about the students who are applying to the school. Good private schools aren’t looking just to “fill seats.” They are looking for students who will thrive – both inside and outside of the classroom – and make a contribution to the school community at large. For this reason, Fairmont Schools views a personal interview (with students and their parents) as a vital component of the admissions process.

The idea of an interview may seem daunting – especially for the student, who probably hasn’t had this type of experience before. It can also weigh heavily on the parent because they want the very best for their child and they understand the role that a school can play in achieving that. But here’s the good news: There are several things that you and your child can do to prepare for your private school interview. And armed with this preparation, you can not only mitigate the stress but also turn the experience into something positive and enjoyable.

Tips for Parents:

  • Do your homework and get acquainted with the school beforehand. Spend time on their website and social media channels. If you know someone whose child already attends there, talk with them about their experience.
  • Sit down with your child and ask them questions that are likely to come up during the interview. Some common ones are “Why are you interested in our school?”, “What is your favorite subject and what are your interests?”, “Tell me about a challenge that you have overcome”, “How do you see yourself becoming part of the school community?”
  • Be prepared for questions that the Admissions Director may ask you about your child’s academic record, extracurricular activities, the things you see as their strengths and areas for potential growth, etc.
  • While you want to present your child in a positive light, be sure you are honest and authentic in your answers. Withholding or skewing information is not in anyone’s best interest – especially your child’s.
  • If the school has asked you to provide any information or complete forms, be sure to take care of this prior to the interview. Not only will this demonstrate that you are serious about the school, it will also provide information that will help the Admissions Director tailor the interview to best serve your student.
    When the big day arrives, get there early so your family is relaxed. As the old saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” so be ready for the Admissions Director before they are ready for you.

Tips for Students:

  • Knowing that they will be asked questions by the Admissions Director, students should prepare in advance. As mentioned before, they should talk through possible questions with you and practice, practice, practice their answers. It’s also a good idea for the student to do a mock interview with an adult other than you.
  • Introductions are important. Rehearsing what they will say when they first meet the Admissions Director will allow them to walk in with confidence. Stress making good eye contact, smiling, and if your family is comfortable with it, a handshake.
  • Try to keep the night before the interview low-key, and make sure they get a good night’s sleep.
  • Dress for success! While formal attire is unnecessary (unless the school’s dress code calls for it), students should dress nicely as a way to show respect for and commitment to the interview process.
  • Upon arriving for your appointment, make sure your child leaves their phone in the car. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • The way a student carries themselves (physically) during the interview will leave an impression, one way or the other – so they should maintain good posture and eye contact, and avoid fidgeting.
  • At some point during the interview, children should be prepared to ask the Admissions Director questions of their own. This will demonstrate that they have an interest in the school and are trying to figure out where they can fit in.

Although it’s easier said than done, parents and students should try to relax and just be yourselves. The interview is a time for all parties to get to know each other. It’s a two-way conversation. So think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate that your child would be an asset to their new school community. With a little preparation and practice, this can be a very fruitful and enjoyable experience.