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

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



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, keep your anxiety in check. “A common mistake for parents in the admissions process is stressing out their children and projecting their fears regarding the outcome onto their children,” says Pua Fernandez, Kamehameha Schools’ enrollment management and strategy consultant. “Children take their cues from their parents. If you are sad, they will be sad—especially younger children. Your keiki need to know that no matter the outcome of the admissions process to any school, they have your unconditional love and support.”


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. Practice with a mock interview. “Being questioned by a stranger can be stressful, particularly for children who are more introverted or shy, so practice interviews can help to prepare them for that experience,” says Kamehameha Schools’ Fernandez. Try it with a family friend.


5. Let your child speak for him or herself. Several admissions directors mentioned that 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. “It’s OK to say they don’t know,” says Ko‘olau Baptist Academy office manager Joan Sadoyama.


6. 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 many different roads to success and a kindergarten rejection is not likely to dictate your child’s future.


7. Get to know the school ahead of time. Find out what types of programs it offers so your child can say why he or she wants to attend. “We want our students to come with the determination to take advantage of the amazing opportunities we provide here,” says Asia Pacific International School director of admissions Daniel Hwang.


8. Bring questions and know what you’re looking for. 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.