Filling out the application is just one part of the process, though. Most independent schools will want some face-to-face time with prospective students. Depending on the age of the child and the school itself, this might be a formal interview or could be something less official. "In terms of the interview itself, it's very much a dialogue," Kenny says, referring specifically to Upper Canada College's interview process. "It's a very open conversation—there are no set questions that really have a yes and no answer, it's about us digging deeper and probing and allowing the students to feel comfortable in the interview process so we can get to know them better."
And while every school will look for something different from the interview, what Kenny says she looks for are several characteristics, including intellectual curiosity and a love of learning, as well a sense that students are interested in getting involved in the community and can both get along with their peers and feel comfortable in the company of adults.
At Upper Canada College, up until Grade 3, Kenny adds, the parents are in the room during the interview - in fact, it's not even called an interview but is instead referred to as a family visit. From Grade 4 on, interviews are held one-on-one.
"They're nervous. It's natural to be nervous," Kenny adds. So what can parents do to help your child prepare for the interview, to maybe take away some of those nerves?
"I would do a bit of rehearsal," says Winberg. "If you have a very young and shy child... you'd better prepare them for it, because that could just cause a kid to clam up and not say a word."
It might help to put that shy child - who may not have experience talking to other adults - in front of a neighbour or family friend who they don't know well, she says, just to get them used to the idea of conversing with a stranger.
And don't be afraid to call the school ahead of time to talk about the interview and what might be asked, Winberg adds. Finally, while practice may be helpful she also suggests knowing when to stop - don't practice to the point where they'll sound rehearsed. "And not to the point of causing them anxiety," she adds.
— Lisa Van de Ven