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Interview on getting into school: Maggie Houston-White

Maggie Houston-White, Executive Director of Enrolment Management at Havergal College, shares insights about getting into private school

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Maggie Houston-White is Executive Director of Enrolment Management at Havergal College, an all-girls school in Toronto, Ontario.

We asked her several questions related to the issue of how to get into private school. We covered topics such as what schools look for, interviews, and standardized tests. Here’s what she had to say.

For more expert advice on a wide range of questions related to “getting in,” read our comprehensive guide. For valuable insights on the more general question of choosing the right school, read our in-depth education expert and parent interviews. You can also read our choosing guide.

Q: How can parents and students prepare for the interview? What should they know going in?
A: The interview is an important part of the process. We don’t want students to be over prepared or rehearsed, as we are looking to get to know the girls. The message I’d like the girls to have before they come for an interview is that at Havergal we are looking to discover what their strengths are, what interests them, and what they are passionate about. There are no ‘wrong’ answers. For girls who would feel more comfortable preparing something in advance, I would recommend taking some time to reflect on what they feel their strengths are and what they hope their new school has to offer. At Havergal, it really is a dialogue, with many opportunities for questions on both sides.

Q: How heavily do you weigh entrance exams and tests? How should they be prepared for?
A: The SSAT is only a small piece of the overall picture. We look for correlation with the report card and if there are any discrepancies, then we may do more investigation. If a student hasn’t written a multiple-choice exam prior, we do recommend practising in that format. However, we do not recommend any tutoring.

Q: How heavily are grades weighted? What can students and parents do to prepare for this part of the admissions process?
A: We are not looking for perfection, but rather progress. Is the student working hard? Are they responsible? Do they communicate well with others and work well in a group? Are they interested and engaged in the classroom? Those are the types of things we will look for in a report card.

Q: What do you consider when admitting a student? What should parents consider when applying to a particular school?
A: We look at both the student and her family. Do they understand what Havergal has to offer and does it match what they are looking for? Has the student demonstrated that she can be successful at Havergal? Is being engaged in the school something that works for her? We want to work in partnership with parents, as together, we help their daughter become all that she wants to be.

Q: How can parents help and stay connected throughout the application process?
The best thing parents can be is supportive and authentic. We want to know who their daughter is, and what she and they are looking for in a school. We want families to find the right fit for them and we are here to answer their questions in order to help them find just that.

Q: What advice or words of wisdom would you give students and parents to help them make the most of the application process?
A: Enjoy the process. Don’t make the application year all about what may happen next year. Rather, help your daughter enjoy her current school and grade. Know that admission staff are here to help and we want this to be a positive experience for everyone.

Read our other  "getting in" interviews

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