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.


Ace interview

photo: courtesy of carden academy


You can study for a test but preparing a child for an interview can be intimidating—both for the parents and the child. What are schools really looking for during the interview? We asked admissions directors and administrators for the most common mistakes parents make and their tips for making the best impression.


First off, don’t strive for perfection. Schools are not looking for a perfect student. “Admissions officers want to see the real child with their honest answers and responses,” says Christina Yasutomi, Hawai‘i Baptist Academy’s communications and public relations officer. “Some parents can inadvertently place too much pressure on their child, making them nervous, which can hinder the interviewer from encountering the true and wonderful personality of their child.”


Younger children may participate in group interviews or join in on a few activities with teachers. Middle and high schoolers will likely have more focused one-on-one time. Regardless of age, here are nine tips to help you make the most of this meeting.


Interviewing Tips

1. Explain to your child what will happen during the interview. Tell your child that they may be going with and talking to another adult. Linda Kawakami, director of advancement at Trinity Christian School, says sometimes younger students will cry because they didn’t know they would be separated from their parents.


2. On interview day, don’t overdress. Kids should look good but be comfortable. Look up the school’s dress code and wear something similar.


3. As much as possible, have your child get a good night’s sleep. The day of the interview, be sure your child eats a good breakfast.


4. Keep your anxiety in check. “Parents can confuse the interview as a reflection of their parenting,” says Wes Reber Porter, president of Damien Memorial School. “It should not be.” If you’re nervous, your child will feel it. Treat the visit as a fun event.


5. Let your child speak for him or herself. Several admissions directors mentioned that some parents command the interview. The school wants to hear from your keiki and get a better sense of who he or she really is.


6. Prepare your child—and yourself—for the possibility of rejection. Keep your disappointment in perspective. 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.


7. If significant changes (i.e., family emergencies, unexpected events) occur, communicate with the admissions office. “Explain your personal circumstances. Communication is always key!” says Andrew O’Riordan, admissions coordinator at Maui Preparatory Academy.


8. Bring questions and know what you’re looking for. “Think about the things that you like at [your child’s] current school and ask if there are similarities,” says Blanche Yarnell, director of admissions at Pacific Buddhist Academy. Parents should be clear about their own family values so everyone can ensure that the school and child are a good fit. Don’t be afraid to talk about your expectations or ask what the school expects of parents.


9. You should not have to pay for reference reports or recommendation letters.


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