The private high school application process has a lot of important steps, but among the most significant is the personal interview. For many middle school and high school students, this will be the first serious interview they’ve ever done. For that reason, knowing what to expect and practicing accordingly is imperative for all private school applicants.
While private school admissions offices do care about an applicant’s test scores, transcripts, and extracurricular activities, the interview is particularly important. It’s there that admissions officers can really get a sense of an applicant’s personality, interests, values, and aspirations. A great interview can make a huge difference in their decision.
The best way to prepare for an admissions interview is to practice answers to some common questions, so we’ve compiled a list of both typical questions and ways to answer them. There’s no guarantee you won’t get different questions or variations on these, but having a good idea of what you want to say will give you additional confidence and poise.
Below, you can find a list of some of the most common interview questions asked by admissions counselors at private high schools. Knowing how to answer questions like these will ensure that you’re ready for your admission interview!
This a common introductory question because it seems simple but is actually somewhat difficult! Where do you even begin? A good answer to this question is clear and concise. Say what grade you’re in, what you enjoy about school, two or three major extracurricular activities, and why you’re excited about this school. Then, stop!
To answer this question, think about what your teachers and coaches might say about you. Are you a good communicator? A thoughtful problem solver? An effective leader? Then, whichever description you decide on, back it up with specific examples. What are some instances of your leadership or communication skills? Practice a “show, don’t tell” approach as much as you can.
This is actually a common job interview question, and it’s a challenging one! How do you answer honestly without reflecting negatively on yourself? The best way to approach this question is to discuss a real thing upon which you’d like to improve and point to specific ways you’ve already started to work toward that goal. Maybe it’s your note-taking skills, your willingness to participate in class, or your slapshot. Then, pivot toward discussing how you’ve worked on this challenge.
Another question that seems easy but has a few traps! When answering this question, think about what they want to hear: that you’re a good citizen, that you spend time with your friends, that you pursue your hobbies in a creative way. Stay away from TV and video games; focus on ways you have fun with others or on more intellectual or creative activities that you pursue beyond the classroom.
This question actually has two parts: what extracurricular activities do you know well, and how will you continue them at our school? Make sure you discuss things that your intended new high school offers, whether it’s sports or clubs. Do your research ahead of time. For instance, if they don’t have a debate team or a robotics team, don’t mention that!
There is a near-100% chance you will get this question in your admissions interview. After all, this interview is about your desired high school experience! There’s no wrong answer; just be prepared to explain why a subject is your favorite. What do you find so interesting about it? What’s an assignment you especially enjoyed doing? Again, use specific examples as much as you can.
Approach this question the same way you did the one about your overall weaknesses. You should be honest, but don’t be negative about your abilities or use words like “hate” or “suck at” when describing a class. Acknowledge that you need to work harder in this subject, but also highlight that you are learning to do better and finding ways to enjoy it more.
This question offers a chance to show off your skills in problem solving. We all encounter adversity; your high school interviewer wants to know how you handle it. A specific example is probably your best approach here. Think of a time that you were struggling with an assignment or topic. Remember to talk about your own skills (rather than, say, working with a tutor).
Your interviewer isn’t asking you to describe every family member in your household. They want to know how your family has impacted you. Describe some things you do with your family that you enjoy and how your parents and siblings have shaped you. Remember to think about your extended family, too, and any important celebrations or traditions you share.
This is another question where having a specific example in mind can be extremely helpful. Of course, you want to discuss a time when you resolved a conflict, not get bogged down in the details of the issue. Was there a time you helped your peers resolve a fight? Or a time you upset someone but then made things right with them? Be specific and thoughtful.
Again, don’t be negative, but try to think of something that your prospective new high school has that your current school doesn’t. Be sure to acknowledge that not having this thing doesn’t mean your current school is bad or that the teachers don’t do a good job.
This is a question people often overthink—from high school interviews all the way to job interviews! If you have a favorite book that you can speak passionately about, that’s great, but you don’t need to find a book that perfectly encapsulates everything about you. Talking about your favorite book that you read recently shows that you’re an engaged learner.
For this question, the best thing to be is thorough! You don’t need to give them a day-by-day summary, but it’s important to show that you were busy with a few different things over your summer. Be sure to mention any summer camps you attended, athletics in which you participated, and (especially) community service that you did.
Talking about our friends’ good qualities is often easier than talking about our own, so this is a great question to get! Remember, though, that your interviewer is asking to get to know you, not your friend. So make sure you talk about the qualities in your friend you admire and how you’ve tried to incorporate some of those traits into your own life.
Your first instinct might be to pick your biggest accomplishment, but it’s important to think of one that was truly meaningful, even if it was small. In fact, talking about a challenge you overcame or a time you helped someone can show much more maturity and thoughtfulness than going straight to an award, prize, or big game-winning score.
Similar to the last question, you don’t have to talk about your most impressive achievements or roles here. Of course, if you were a captain or president, you should certainly discuss that, but you won’t be at a disadvantage if you weren’t. Instead, talk about times you showed leadership qualities by stepping up to take on extra responsibilities in something.
This question is an opportunity not only to talk about the school at which you’re interviewing, but your broader goals. Don’t say bad things about your public school; emphasize the positives you hope to get from a private school. Talk about the kind of learner you are and how smaller classes, more face time with teachers, and more in-school resources will enable you to excel.
This can be a tricky question, but just stick to concrete items and you’ll be fine. For instance, if you’re going to play on an athletic team or compete on an academic club, talk about that. As much as you can, be specific about the things you want to do at the school and how you will be a good classmate, team member, and peer to other students.
This might seem like the same question as above, but it’s actually quite different. Here, they want to hear you talk about what’s special about their school and why it will be a good fit for you. Do they have a particular approach to learning? Values that matter to you? Opportunities you wouldn’t have elsewhere? Be specific about those factors and how they’ll benefit you.
After a conversation, your interviewer will very likely ask if you’d like to ask them any questions. It’s important that you have some general and specific questions in mind so that you can prove that you are truly interested in attending this school. Plus, asking your own questions gives you the opportunity to learn more about the school, which is important, too!
Be sure you shake hands with confidence and say, “It’s nice to meet you!” Make eye contact when speaking with someone, whether in a formal interview setting or not. Additionally, sit up straight during your interview. Your body language should be confident and welcoming.
Be aware that some interviewing is done during the tour. Some schools will ask for notes on the applicants from the students who give the tours. You should be prepared to answer interview questions on the tour or in casual conversation, e.g., your favorite class or activity.
Be confident! Everyone you talk to wants to get to know you as a person and hear about what you care about most. This is a chance to meet people who might be your future classmates and teachers, so take every opportunity to be outgoing and engage with others.
While the interview can sometimes seem like the most stressful part of the private school admissions process, don’t forget that your interviewer really just wants to hear about you! There are no right or wrong answers. As long as you remember to be yourself, listen to the question, and answer thoughtfully, you’ll do great!
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