So your child has overcome the first hurdle in passing their Independent School entrance exams. Great job, but now they face the Independent School interview. Well once again, they’ll have to bring their A-game as the private school interview is an essential part of the admissions process.
For many secondary schools, the candidate’s performance in their interview is as important, if not more important, than their test scores and this does make sense. There is much more to a student than a lifeless mark attained and, in this sense, the interview is an effective tool to differentiate between two equally gifted candidates.
However, on a deeper level, it is important to understand that beneath the academic surface of every Independent School is a unique culture that defines them. There is an ethos that represents them, their students and their community.
From this perspective, the interview is more a tool to discern whether or not a child would be a good fit for that particular culture and be able to positively contribute to the school community.
Every Independent School strives to produce talented, well-rounded individuals and this goal translates into the conduct of their interviews. They’ll want to know what drives your child, what motivates your child, and what sparks their intellectual curiosity.
Again, the interview will greatly influence whether or not your child is offered a place, but don’t let this intimidate you. The private school interview is also a great opportunity for your child to express what makes them unique and special. With that in mind, here are 5 steps that, if understood, will ensure your child puts their very best foot forward.
1. Show Interest
Showing interest during the interview is crucial. It goes without saying that interviewers only want students who have a genuine interest in attending their school. The key for students is to focus on sending the correct Verbal and Non-Verbal signals. This will ensure that your child is painting themselves in a positive light in what they both do and say.
Verbally, encourage your child to speak confidently and to be positive when talking about past experiences. If asked about their primary school, candidates should avoid speaking negatively about their current school and their time there. Interviewers want to see that the candidate has a positive outlook on life and education.
In addition, students should try not to converse in a monotone voice, this is a strong signal of disinterest and boredom. Instead, they should aim to speak with passion, expressing themselves freely and confidently.
Non-verbally, students should be mindful of their body language, ensuring they are only sending positive signals to their interviewer. Be sure to maintain open body language by properly facing the interviewer, and avoid distracting behavior like cracking knuckles or fidgeting. Getting this right will show your child is both comfortable and will paint them as a good, attentive listener.
Finally, don’t forget to smile! A genuine, natural smile will put both your child and their interviewer at ease, alleviating the inherent pressure and tension in the room. It is also an easy way for your child to show the interviewer how happy they are to be at their school!
2. Change the frame
The best way to combat the undoubted nerves during the interview is to change the frame of the interview altogether. Despite the importance of the interview in the admission process, it is imperative that your child both understands and believes that the interviewers are not judging them in a negative way.
Try to make clear to your child that they are simply going to engage in a genuine conversation and no interviewer is ‘out to get them’. In reality, these interviewers have taken a significant portion out of their busy days because they are that interested in meeting your child and understanding what makes them unique.
The interviewers are for your child not against them, they want them to do well. They are not trying to trick them or trip them up, so there’s no need to fear them! Rather, students should see the interview as a fantastic opportunity to showcase why they’d be a great fit for their school.
Approaching the interview with this mindset will allow your child to radiate positive energy that will set them apart from other candidates, giving the interviewers something to remember.
3. Think Out Loud
Many private school interviews will be more academic in nature, going further than simply wanting to know more about your child as a person. Candidates may be faced with logic and puzzle-based interview questions, almost similar to aspects of 11+ Verbal Reasoning. Some questions could even draw upon their mental arithmetic.
In situations where your child is faced with a daunting question, a common reaction is complete silence, possibly accompanied by some under-the-breath murmurs and stares into space! Avoid this at all costs. It is imperative to understand that the aim of these questions is not actually to see which candidate can simply output a correct answer!
On the contrary, interviewers are more interested in analysing how your child thinks, particularly under pressure. Even if your child does not know the final answer, encourage them to bring the interviewer along with them as they connect their chains of reasoning. In other words, think out loud.
Again, the interviewers want your child to do well, and often when following your child’s thought process they will either reassure your child that they’re approaching the question correctly or even bring them back on the right track when they’re wrong.
It goes without saying that they cannot offer support to a silent candidate, more reason why students should practice transforming their thought processes into words.
4. Ask Questions
At the end of your interview, your child will almost always be asked if they have any questions about what’s been discussed or anything not mentioned. Students should always aim to ask questions at the end of their interview. This is a great opportunity for students to take the conversation somewhere impressive, allowing them to show further interest in the school.
A deflating “no” is far from the best response!
This is a time for your child to show they have taken time to research and look deeply into the secondary school they claim to want to attend for the next 5 to 7 years of their lives! Perhaps there’s a specific extra-curricular activity your child wants to know more about, or an interesting club that sparks your child’s intellectual curiosity.
There are so many aspects of a school that one could want further insight into that not asking a question, almost shows a complete lack of interest. Students should take time to reflect on what initially drew them to the school, or something that stood out to them during an open day or such.
When it comes to question-specific preparation, there are two sides of the spectrum. On one hand, students shouldn’t overprepare to the point where conversation seems scripted or robotic. Interviewers will usually see straight through disingenuous responses.
On the other hand, it will not be in your child’s best interest to not prepare whatsoever. As with many things, the key here is a balanced approach.
Although students don’t have to crawl through pages of ‘private school interview questions’, scripting an answer for each one, it would be wise to at least create a rough framework for common questions your child will almost always be asked.
Questions such as “Why do you want to go to this school?” or “What is your favourite subject and why?” are interview questions that would be worth thinking about beforehand.
Doing this will allow your child to communicate their answers more confidently and eloquently in the real interview.
Bonus: What to Wear to The Private School Interview
When it comes to clothing, students want to strike the right balance between feeling comfortable but also looking smart and presentable. School uniform usually fulfills both of these requirements.
In addition, being in school uniform puts your child in familiar territory, automatically placing them in the right mindset for a productive conversation!
It’s important to not fear the ‘dreaded private school interview’! If your child has made it this far then that is already a testament to their brilliance.
If your child follows these steps, approaching the interview full of positivity and confidence, then they are surely on their way to a successful interview that will have the teachers excited and talking about them long after they leave!