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2017 Hawai‘i Private School Guide

(Sponsored) Find out what sets Hawai‘i private schools apart. Our Private School Guide has become the trusted resource for parents trying to find the best fit for their child’s education. Learn about the unique culture, classes and philosophies of some of Hawai‘i’s schools.


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How to Ace the Interview

The last, and often most dreaded, step of the application process is one that only your child can do: the personal interview.


For parents or guardians, school admissions interviews can be an intimidating mystery. What do schools measure when asking the nebulous question: Is this child a good fit?


Most schools speak of a “good fit,” but what does this mean for your child? Should they know how to read or do advanced mathematics? Play an instrument? Pua Fernandez, director of admissions at Kamehameha Schools’ Kapa–lama campus, and Kelly Monaco, director of admissions at ‘Iolani School, let us in on the thinking behind the interview process.


“Most schools look for students who will be positive contributors to their student body,” says Fernandez, citing character, academics and interests.


Schools examine applicants holistically, with particular attention to youngsters’ abilities and potentials. “We’re not looking for the most advanced kids,” says Monaco, “we don’t expect a child to read or do mathematics, although some can. We are looking for readiness.”


What schools focus on also depends on grade level. “Interviews for applicants to grades six through nine are designed to get to know the applicant, their interests, ideas, communication skills, character, etc.,” says Fernandez.


While interviews with older applicants may explore established characteristics, Fernandez says, “Observations for kindergarten are a little different. We simulate a ‘typical’ kindergarten day and we are looking at social skills, classroom readiness skills, creativity and problem-solving.”


In the end, this is only one part of the application, providing crucial perspective not visible on paper. “It is the only personal contact we have with the applicants in the process,” says Fernandez.



1) Read to your child, as this helps build imagination and vocabulary.


2) Ask lots of questions and let your child respond. This builds communication skills. 


3) Explain to your child what will happen during the interview. Be straightforward with older children that this is an interview, but “for younger children,” such as kindergarten applicants, “we advise parents to simply tell their child that they are going to play games with a teacher to see if this is a good school for them,” says Fernandez. 


4) On interview day, don’t overdress your child in uncomfortable shoes or clothes. “We tell parents that their children should dress neatly, but comfortably,” says Fernandez.


5) As much as possible, have your child get a good night’s sleep.  


6) The day of the interview, be sure your child eats a good breakfast.


7) Your attitude the morning of the interview will affect your child’s stress level, so make the school visit a fun adventure. Keep your own anxiety in check and do not worry your child unnecessarily. “For young children, if it’s a new environment, we encourage parents to bring their child to campus beforehand to get comfortable,” says Ella Browning, director of admissions at Mid-Pacific Institute.


8) Prepare your child—and yourself—for the possibility of rejection. Keep your disappointment in perspective. “The anxiety around applying to schools is very high because parents perceive choices to be limited, but in fact there are many great schools here in Hawai‘i,” says Monaco. Buying into a win/lose mindset can be harmful for you and your child. Remember that there are many different roads to success and a kindergarten rejection is not likely to dictate your child’s future. 


9) If significant changes (i.e., family emergencies, unexpected events) occur, communicate with the admissions office.


10) Tutoring for kindergarten is not recommended; instead, focus on home development. “It’s about the social-emotional readiness. If you can’t work with someone, take directions, or collaborate …” says Browning. In fact, most preschools already cover what admissions committees are measuring in applicants.


11) Be clear on your own family values and do not let the admissions process drive what you do as a family, says Monaco. If in doubt about something, call the admissions office.


12) You should not have to pay for reference reports or recommendation letters. “I have never heard of a teacher or administrator requesting compensation to provide a reference,” says Fernandez.

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A Message From First Hawaiian Bank 


A Message from HAIS’ Executive Director


Re-imagining Schools

Many independent schools in Hawai‘i and across the nation are rejecting traditional teaching styles to focus on new skills and project-based learning. Some parents worry this shift away from standard methods and tests puts students’ chances of getting into good colleges at risk. But educators say today’s constantly changing, technology-driven society requires different skills to survive college and beyond. Here’s how.


Applying to Private School: A Timeline

Thinking about private school for your child? Finding the right school for your child and getting her or him enrolled can take at least a year. Here is a 12-month timeline to make sure you don’t miss a crucial deadline along the way.


Catching Up 

You’ve missed a deadline in the application process; does that mean your child has no chance of getting admitted? Not necessarily. Here’s why there’s still a chance. 


What Does Accreditation Mean for Your Child?

You’ll notice schools claiming accreditation from an alphabet soup of organizations—AACS, ACSI, WASC, WCEA. We explain who these groups are and what their approval means.


What Are You Looking For? 

You and your child will want a clear idea of exactly what you’re looking for in a private school before you begin the search. Here are some general areas you might consider.


How to Ace the Interview 

The last, and often most dreaded, step of the application process is one that only your child can do: the personal interview.


Financial Aid FAQs

Commonly asked questions about financial aid.


Exploring Your Potential New Campus

Get a real sense of your child’s private-school options by digging deep into a campus visit.


Common Myths 

We debunk some of the most common rumors about private school admission with help from the folks in charge of who gets in. 


A Complete Directory to HAIS Independent Schools 

Information on 107 schools and two colleges.


2017 Listings of Private Schools 


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