If you’re going through the private school admissions process with your child, you will be aware that your child is likely to have an assessment and an interview with the school. But what is less obvious to first-time applicants is that many private schools also interview the parents. This is an opportunity for the admissions director to get to know your family and understand whether your approach to your child’s education aligns with the school’s vision and values.
It’s common to feel daunted by upcoming parent interviews, but it’s all part of the mutual process of discovering whether a school is a good fit where your child will thrive. Here are our tips for what to expect from your parent interview, and how to ace it.
Read the school’s website and any brochure or prospectus in depth. This will give you a good idea of the school’s ethos and values. Think about how these values align with your family’s values and your approach to education and note down some examples.
You should also make a note of any questions that come to mind that aren’t answered on the school’s materials – see below for ideas for questions to ask.
Of course, you know your child inside out, but what will allow you to shine in the parent interview is articulating this knowledge effectively to someone who doesn’t know them. The best way to do this is to prepare ahead of time instead of hoping to wing it.
Have a brainstorming session about your child’s qualities and achievements. How would you describe their personality? What are their strengths? What do they like to spend their free time on? What unique qualities make your child special? Note down some anecdotes you can share to bring each point to life.
While some private schools will schedule their interview with you for a specific day, others go about this more informally, leaving you with no advance warning that a parent interview is about to take place! At an open day or tour they might invite you to chat with the admissions director on the spot.
So, do your research about the school’s admissions process before you attend a tour. If this information isn’t on the website, contact the admissions office to ask whether there is a parent interview and when it takes place. If you find out that they don’t book interviews in advance, you can make sure you attend the open day having already done the preparation above, so you are ready for any spontaneous conversations with the admissions team.
If you’re applying to multiple schools, arrange to visit/interview with your preferred school last. You’ll have the chance to practice these conversations with the schools that are lower down your priority list, so you can learn from any mistakes or anything you forget to ask or convey. By the time it comes around, you’ll feel more confident and the parent interview with your first choice school will be a breeze.
Easier said than done. But preparation will help, as will remembering that this is not going to be a structured interview that families can ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. Parent interviews are an informal, two-way conversation which gives you the chance to evaluate the school and its fit for your child, just as much (if not more) than the school will be evaluating you. Don’t forget to build rapport with your interviewer and engage in small talk before getting into the topic at hand.
Be ready to follow up on your parent interview with a thank you, whether it’s a traditional handwritten note or an email. This should be warm and genuine, expressing that you enjoyed learning more and reiterating that you are interested in the school. That said, don’t feel pressure to go overboard – sending chocolates or flowers won’t help.
Here are some examples of the kinds of questions you will be asked:
What kind of school would you like your child to attend? What kind of environments does your child thrive in?
What has your child’s school experience been like so far?
Tell me about your child. What are they like as a learner? What do they do in their spare time?
What is most important to you when it comes to your child’s education?
What type of person do you want your child to grow up to be? What would your child like to be when they grow up?
How would you describe your child in three words?
We recommend that you ask questions in the parent interview too. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the school community. However, be careful not to waste time by asking questions that you can find the answers to on the website or brochure.
Some things you may want to ask about are:
What to expect from a typical school day: What is the timetable like? How much downtime do students have?
Approach to technology: How do you incorporate digital skills into the curriculum? What’s your approach to online learning if this becomes necessary again?
What sets the school apart from others: What is different about your ethos? What unique programmes or opportunities do students have access to?
Philosophy: What’s your attitude to homework – how much is there on a nightly basis? How do you approach discipline?
Engagement: What’s the best way for parents to be involved in their child’s education here? How engaged is your parent community, and how do they contribute to the school?
Support: How do you support new pupils to transition into the school, academically and socially? How do you balance academic rigour with wellbeing and social development?
One of the most commonly asked questions from parents with an upcoming private school interview is what they should wear. This is an important part of being prepared and the right outfit will help you feel all the more confident!
Having researched the school, you will have a good idea of its atmosphere. Most private schools maintain a high standard in smart uniforms – dressing smartly yourself will be appreciated and will show that you respect the institution and the process. You don’t have to dress up over-formally but looking polished will help to give the right impression.
Daytime business casual is a good approach: a shirt or blouse with a blazer over the top, paired with chinos. Or a midi dress/pencil skirt and blouse. If you do wear jeans, make sure they are black or a dark wash and well-structured with no rips. Avoid trainers or high heels – instead opt for smart flats, loafers, brogues or boots (polishing your shoes before the interview will go a long way).
Think subtle and play it safe. Avoid anything showy or edgy such as large designer logos, fur, leather, platforms or sequins. Classic, timeless fabrics such as cotton and silk will be your friend, as opposed to anything clingy or sweaty.
For those independent schools that are more artsy and alternative, you have a bit more leeway to be creative with the suggestions above. And you can always add a statement piece of jewellery or scarf to show personality.
If your child is applying to selective independent schools, one-to-one tuition is an invaluable tool to help them prepare for assessment and interview. A good tutor will build your child’s confidence and target any knowledge gaps so they are fully prepared and experience a smooth transition to senior school.
At Atom, we have a hassle-free service to help you find a tutor. Our team of dedicated client managers will talk to you about your child and their needs and goals, matching you with the perfect tutor to help your child achieve their full potential.
One-to-one private tuition with Atom is available for Key Stage 2 core subjects (English, maths and science) and preparation for senior school entrance assessments. You’ll get:
A uniquely personalised and data-driven tutoring service
A carefully-selected tutor who has undergone enhanced DBS checks and has a proven track record for success
Weekly reporting and termly assessments, with 24/7 access to your child’s progress data
Discounted access to our award-winning online platform Atom Nucleus for continuous learning between sessions
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