How to Ace the Interview

It’s the step that your child may have to take alone: the personal interview. Here are a few tips from educators to keep stress down and your child’s spirits up.


Ace interview

Rachel Sitler reads from the book Holes to her third-grade class at Saint Mark Lutheran School. Photo: David Croxford



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. Administrators at Haleakalā Waldorf School say that making sure your child is prepared is the most important thing that you can do for them, as well as reassuring them that there is no right or wrong answer. If the interview is virtual, prepare just as you would if it were in person. Parents sometimes think virtual interviews are less formal appointments, but you should be fully prepared to give each interview, in-person or virtual, the utmost attention.


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 some 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. Some schools focus on a child’s spiritual character, some primarily academics, and others focus on cultural practices, say Mā‘ili Bible School administrators. 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. Carden Academy on Maui and Navy Hale Keiki School require shoes. 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.


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 he or she really is. Don’t hover.


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.