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Many private schools interview students as part of the admissions process. Especially for middle and high school, you may be asked to come in for at least one interview, either with or without your parents.
Interviews can be an important factor in admissions decisions. Along with transcripts, report cards, tests, essays, and other application materials, they help schools determine whether you’re a good fit.
It’s important, then, to be ready for your private school interview. You’ll want to prepare answers that are specific, detailed, and that reveal who you are and why you’re interested in a school.
On the other hand, avoid “over preparing.” Schools dislike canned or highly rehearsed answers, or answers that look like they’re playing to the audience. They prefer honest and considered answers.
Below, we list some common private school interview questions. For your convenience, you can also print this list of questions. These are organized by category: questions about yourself, your non-school interests, your school interests, your suitability for a school, your beliefs and values, and the school itself.
We also provide tips for answering these questions. While there’s no right or perfect answer to any question, and answers will vary between students, there are some key pointers to keep in mind.
It’s common for private schools to ask you questions about yourself. They want to get a sense of the kind of person you are, and how you see yourself. They want to learn about your strengths and weaknesses, aims, goals, values, and more.
Tips: Your answers should be clear, specific, and detailed. For instance, in describing yourself, don’t just list personality traits, such as confidence, curiosity, and empathy. Instead, give specific examples: “I’ve always been fascinated by space exploration.” And when focusing on challenges, be sure to explain how you’re trying to overcome or work through them.
To get a more complete picture of you, schools may ask about your interests outside of school. They’ll want to learn about your talents, hobbies, and passions, whether in the arts, sports, history, science, or some other area. They may also size up your interest in current events.
Tips: Be prepared to speak about at least one or two interests in earnest. Make sure these interests are, well, interesting: while playing a musical instrument qualifies, watching TV doesn’t. You should also be prepared to speak intelligently about at least one current event.
Your school interests and attitudes may also be covered in the interview. Many schools like to learn about how you view school, in a way that may not come across in report cards, transcripts, or other application materials.
Tips: Give thoughtful and detailed answers. For instance, explain why you like a subject: “I like math, because I enjoy solving difficult problems.” Don’t be overly negative in expressing your dislike of certain aspects of school, and don’t mention specific names of teachers or staff you’ve had problems with.
To determine whether you’re a good fit, you may be asked why you’re interested in attending, how you can benefit from a school, and what you will bring to it.
Tips: Give specific reasons for why you’re a good fit. For instance, “I’ve always been interested in social justice and am excited to take part in your community service program.” Don’t say you’re applying to a school “because your parents want you to.” And avoid ‘bootlicking’: “I've heard your school is the best.”
Many schools like to get a sense of some of your core beliefs and values. They’ll want to learn whether they square with their own.
Tips: Give honest and reflective answers. Avoid non-starters such as “I don’t know.” On the other hand, you don’t want to oversimplify things, with short, curt answers, such as “that’s easy, I wouldn’t let him copy my homework.” Give details: explain why.
Don’t be surprised if you’re asked if you have any questions about a school. This is a common way to gauge your level of interest. It can also reveal what interests you about the school.
Tips: It’s normally a mistake to answer “no.” Be prepared with one or two questions. Ask something that shows you’re really interested in some feature of the school, such as academics, extracurriculars, or student life.