Is your middle schooler applying to high school programs? Do you want to ensure that they are prepared for the interview? This might be the first time that your child has had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation about themselves and their hopes and dreams for their high school experience—and that can be nerve wracking. Your child might wonder what the big deal is. Or, your child might be a bundle of nerves—and you might be, too.
The good news? This is going to be a formative experience for your family and, especially, your teen. When you’re on the other side of the admissions process, it will be worth it. This is a wonderful opportunity for your child to learn how to prepare, work through the nerves, put their best foot forward, and find the right school fit. And, when your child applies to colleges, they will already know the ropes!
Share the tips below with your child. Have a conversation and text them a few reminders or print the list out and slip it into their homework folder for further thought!
About the Interview
What the interview is for: An interview is not the time to rattle off accomplishments. Instead, aim to project confidence and be honest. The interviewer will have already read your application. They want to get to know you as a person—what makes you tick, your passions, what experiences have shaped you into the person you are today.
Be open: Even if you are applying to a school that is not your first choice, go into the interview with an open mind. Be positive and curious. You might end up having a great conversation and thinking about the school differently.
Before the Interview
Prepare: Before the interview, pick out one or two things about yourself that you feel are key to understanding who you are. Usually, these are core personality traits that truly matter and define you, that illustrate what makes you tick, and that you can describe with an experience or story.
Think about why you are interested in the school and be able to articulate it. This is also an opportunity to shine a spotlight on something that might not be reflected in your written application.
With a friend, teacher, or parent brainstorm questions that the school might ask to learn more about you. Then, practice how you will answer those questions. Here are a few to get you started:
- What do you do in your free time?
- What do you read outside of school?
- What are your strengths?
- What has been your biggest challenge?
- What is your favorite/least favorite class?
- How would a friend, family member, or teacher describe you?
- Why are you interested in our school?
If you get an unexpected question, don’t sweat it. You can take a minute to collect yourself, and the interviewer will likely appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Be ready with your own questions: Asking questions shows the school that you have done your research and that you have really thought about what you want out of your school experience. Pro tip: don’t ask questions that can already be answered by the materials you’ve read or the school’s website. But, maybe there is a program, club, or team you read about on the website that you’d like to know more about. Remember, you are interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you! Think about what you want your high school experience to be like and formulate questions that will help you determine whether or not a school will be a good fit.
Practice, practice, practice: In the car, at the dinner table, whenever it is convenient. Do at least one practice interview with someone other than your parents and ask for feedback.
What you should wear: Be yourself but step it up a notch. You want to make a good first impression, and what you wear helps convey a positive image. If you are wondering how formal your dress should be, look at how students are dressed on the school’s website—Uniforms? Skirts and blazers? Comfortable clothes? Wear something clean, put together, and you. Your appearance will show that you’re taking the process seriously.
At the Interview
Be on time: Set your clothes out the night before. Set two alarm clocks. Do whatever you need to do to make it on time (or a little bit early).
Battle the nerves: Nerves will be high (yours and your grownup’s). Take care of yourself to help ensure you can work through those feelings. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat your favorite breakfast. Do some journaling or positive self-talk. Breathe deeply. Whatever strategy works best for you, do it!
Put your phone away or better yet, leave it in the car: Don’t bring it out—even once. Read materials while you wait or jot down some notes. You want to show interest, engagement, and enthusiasm.
Be flexible: You may know in advance who will be interviewing you, but you might not—be flexible and go with the flow. You may meet with an athletics coach, counselor, division director, admissions staff member, or teacher. Make eye contact, shake hands, and get the person’s full name.
Avoid one-word answers: It’s the interviewer’s job to keep the conversation going but feel free to expand on your answers a bit to show more of your passions or thinking process.
What not to say: Do not criticize your current school or any other school. Suggesting that the lunch could be better is fine but complaining at length about the quality of the teachers makes you look like a negative person. It may seem like common sense, but indicating to a school that they are a “back-up” school or that you are only there because your parents have required the visit are also very bad ideas. You can always say that you are keeping an open mind and your options open.
Relax and be yourself: Seriously. Schools will be very excited to meet you and get to know you. There is nothing you can say or do that an admissions person hasn’t heard or seen before. The more you can relax and know that you’ll make it through, the more you can be yourself and enjoy it.
After the Interview
Reflect: Take a minute to think about the interview. Think about how you did, what you would do differently next time, and how you think the school did. Is this the school for you? Why or why not?
Say thank you: Write and send a hand-written thank you note. Make sure it has a sentence about something you and the interviewer discussed.