I wish that during the 15 years I worked in boarding school admissions,I had kept track of how many students I interviewed. I imagine it’s a greater number than I would even guess. I loved to interview students and have that time to really get to know them -- who they are, what they hope to do, what they are looking for, how they might fit in at my school, what they bring with them. Sometimes, it was very clear to me that a student was nervous -- perhaps it was their first time in an interview situation. So I would start with “Are you nervous?” It’s amazing how identifying that fear could somehow easily dissipate it as well. From there we were able to talk comfortably with one another and explore what we wanted to explore.Many of the students I work with in boarding school guidance have not interviewed before this point, which makes sense given their age. I like to guide them beforehand with how they might be more prepared -- both in terms of what they might be asked in an interview and what they might ask, as well as how to make a good impression.
What should I wear?
I’m glad you asked! This is one of the first things I ask my students who are planning their visits! My general rule of thumb is to look neat and clean, and be comfortable. I suggest not wearing jeans, but also not wearing a coat and tie or a dress, unless that is what you are most comfortable in. You should, of course, look presentable, but if you are uncomfortable you will be distracted by that and not as engaged in your interview.
Practice your introduction.
I suggest practicing a handshake with Mom or Dad, or maybe a friend. Look them in the eye, give them a good handshake and introduce yourself. You only have one chance to make a first impression, as they say.
What are they going to ask me?
Scary, right? No. It’s not intended to be intimidating or a test, but a learning opportunity for everyone. The interviewer is trying to get to know more about you and also consider if you might be a good candidate for their school. Likely questions will be about: your academic transcript, perhaps explaining any “rough spots” on there; your extracurricular interests and new ones you might be interested in exploring; how you manage your time; how you have spent summer vacations; what you like to read, maybe a favorite book; why you are interested in boarding school -- and theirs specifically; about family and friends; and any questions you have.
What should I ask?
Great question. One of the important things to remember is that the interview is a two-way street. This is also your opportunity to ask questions in order to learn if this school might be interesting for you, might challenge you and offer you new experiences and opportunities. Some things to consider inquiring about: academic requirements; honors and AP class offerings; the advisor system; extracurricular requirements and opportunities; residential life; study hall and in-dorm hours; weekend activities; how many students stay around on the weekend vs. how many go home; leadership opportunities. You will think of your own questions tailored to your own interests as well, but this is a start. Don’t be afraid to walk into your interview with a notebook or a list of questions to ask. I always loved it when students pulled out their notes; it was clear to me that they were organized and prepared and cared about their interview.
One last thought: Remember that it’s okay to stop and reflect when answering a question. It’s even okay to say “Can we come back to that?” I think that students often get flustered and worry that they have to somehow have the “perfect” interview. It’s the perfect interview when you are just yourself.
Heather Johnson is an educational consultant who works with families in both the boarding school and college admissions processes. Visit: http://www.heatherjohnsonassociates.com