How to Ace the Interview

Here are a few tips from educators to keep stress down and your child’s spirits up.


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Montessori School of Maui gives students the opportunity to learn about sustainability and environmental awareness through its annual Earth Day celebration. Photo: Courtesy of Montessori School of Maui


You may be accustomed to studying for a test but an interview is different—and preparing your child for it can be intimidating for the whole family. And while some schools only speak with parents, others require those one-on-one chats with kids. 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, keep calm. When parents are stressed, kids can tell. “We want your child to come in relaxed and feeling good about themselves,” says Jennifer Banquil, director of admissions at Island Pacific Academy. “It always helps when students can be themselves and they don’t have to worry about answering all the questions correctly.” There are no right or wrong answers. Many schools offer virtual interviews, which can be less stressful, but you should still prepare just as you would if it were in person. Interviews with younger children may focus more on social readiness, while middle and high schoolers will likely have more focus on academics. 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. Sometimes, younger students will cry when they realize they’re going to be separated from their parents, so the heads-up is vital.


2. Practice with a mock interview. Even the bubbliest kids can get shy when being asked questions by a stranger. Ask a family friend to help with a few practice sessions. But don’t rehearse or script answers.


3. Get to know the school ahead of time. Find out what types of programs it offers so you can ask specific questions. Parents should also prep their child to talk about what the individual private school focuses on so they can tell the interviewer why they want to attend. Be aware of the school’s mission and philosophy.


4. Pay attention to the details of the process. Read through the information the school sends you about the interview and assessments or tests thoroughly so you can tell your child what to expect.


5. On interview day, don’t overdress. Kids should look presentable but be comfortable since they may be asked to play or work during the interview, depending on the age of the child. Look up the school’s dress code and wear something similar.


6. 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. And if the interview is scheduled during your child’s worst time of day, don’t be afraid to ask to reschedule—as long as you give the school enough notice.


7. Let your child speak for him- or herself. Some parents put too much pressure on their kids to answer questions a certain way. The school wants to hear from your keiki and get a better sense of who they really are. Don’t rob them of the opportunity. “The more engaged the student is during the interview, the better,” says Rebekah Kirby, admissions officer at Asia Pacific International School. “One-word answers or responses like ‘I don’t know’ signal that the student isn’t interested in the conversation or school,” so it’s important to be prepared.


8. Don’t count on every interview being the same. Parents will often ask other parents (family members, friends, co-workers, etc.) who are also enrolling their child in the same school, “Hey, what questions did the interviewer ask your child?” But questions may change, so don’t get too wrapped up in someone else’s experience.


9. Prepare 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 limited spots and many different roads to success. A kindergarten rejection is not likely to dictate your child’s future.