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The Top 10 Private School Admissions Interview Questions Students Should Expect

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If you are in the process of applying to private schools, you will likely need to interview with a school representative. The very best thing you can do to ace the interview is be yourself. We’re serious! Working with preteens and teenagers might just be our favorite part of the advising work we do, and we’re willing to bet that the person who will be asking you the interview questions shares this affinity. They are rooting for your success. The more authentically you can show up, the better.

All of this being said, it still can’t hurt to come prepared. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the most common interview questions students can anticipate during the private school admissions process.

1. Tell us about yourself.

This one seems super straightforward, but it’s open-ended nature can be intimidating. Our advice? Speak from the heart. What aspects of your identity are important to you? How would your friends and family describe you? What are some passions of yours? What are some traits that you really like about yourself? Your answers to any of these questions are fair game.

2. What do you like to do for fun?

Admissions wants to get to know you, so be honest. You don’t have to say that you find volunteering at your local soup kitchen to be fun if that’s not your truth. Responding by saying you like to watch old slasher films with your cousins is just as valid as describing the work you do at your neighborhood’s food pantry. Besides, admissions can usually sniff out when applicants are telling them what people think they want to hear.

3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is a question that will likely be asked of you several times over your lifetime. It’s a common question asked during job interviews and self-assessments. If you’re struggling to come up with answers, try asking yourself the same question in a different way, like, “What kind of people do I want to emulate? Which of their traits do I feel I already possess? Which of their traits will I need to nurse into existence?” 

4. What’s your favorite subject? (And what is your least favorite?)

Admissions is looking to fill their student body with an eclectic mix of people, so there is no right answer for this prompt. You can’t possibly know whether they’re looking to invite more STEM-focused students to enroll, or if they’re hoping to expand their chorus program. What you do know is that they’re looking for applicants who are passionate about their pursuits.  If you love math, say it. If you love history, explain why. 

As far as your least favorite subject is concerned, we do not recommend that you list every reason why science is your personal academic enemy. Instead, try to identify within yourself why it’s your least favorite subject. Maybe you struggle with learning foreign languages or physical education is just not your jam (you’re just not a physical mover or a shaker, but you’re talented in other ways and that’s okay!). 

5. How do you deal with conflict?

If you’re scratching your head about this one, you’re not alone. This is a tough question for adults to answer, too! You can read a little bit about conflict management styles, or reflect on what has worked well for you in the past. Maybe you’re a natural communicator, and you find it’s best to talk things through right in the moment. Perhaps you like to take some time to process your thoughts and feelings before attempting to work through problems. It’s completely okay to admit that you’re still figuring it out (so is everyone else)!

6. Of which of your accomplishments are you most proud?

It is. Your time. To shine. Don’t be shy! Maybe you’re very proud of the 1964 Mustang you restored with your dad. Perhaps you want to gush about all the friends you made at camp last summer after you faced your social anxiety head-on and put yourself out there. What you decide to talk about doesn’t have to be something tangible (I built this! I won this trophy! I raised X amount of money for charities!), it can also be more abstract (I helped nurse a family member back to health after a serious injury! I developed a meditation practice! I planned a surprise party for my best friend!). Go on about your bad (good!) self! 

7. What will you contribute to our school community?

Some other ways to think about this question: What’s special about you? (I’m a bubbly people-person who will spread joy!) What aspects of the school’s community are you excited about? (That pottery studio won’t know what hit it!) How will you get involved? (The lacrosse team is going to love my team spirit!) If you’re really coming up blank, go to the school’s website and explore their offerings. We’re willing to bet you’ll find some aspect of studenthood that you’re interested in contributing to in your own unique way.

8. How will you benefit from attending our school?

This is another question that will be easier to answer if you’ve done a bit of research on the school in question. That doesn’t mean you should recite the school’s mission statement from memory during your interview. Instead, think about who you want to be, where you want to go, what you want to do — in five months or even five years. Then, work backwards to figure out how attending this school will help you get there.

9. Tell me about a time when you displayed leadership skills.

This can be a difficult question for anyone to answer, especially someone who’s had fewer than eighteen trips around the sun. Think about a formal leadership position you’ve had, like as a camp counselor or the snack bar manager at your community pool club. If you’ve never had a formal leadership position, you can also think about instances where you rose to the occasion and took the reigns. Like that time you were able to use your conflict resolution skills to de-escalate a heated disagreement between opponents on the basketball court. Show admissions that you’re the kind of student who can handle responsibility and lead with empathy and courage.

10. Do you have any questions for me?

That’s right, you will likely have the opportunity to ask your own questions. Remember, the interview is a two-way street! You will likely pinpoint some questions to ask while you explore the school’s website, but it doesn’t hurt to take a minute to think through additional queries. Your questions can be as specific as, “Does your band need an extra tuba player?” or as broad as, “Where do your alumni matriculate to?” Just make sure you’re not asking questions just to ask them — the person conducting your interview wants to know that you’ve taken a sincere interest in the school!

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