In this blog Sobia discusses the daunting process of interviewing for a school place, and outlines possible questions asked as well as tips and techniques for success.
So, you have been invited to interview at the school of your dreams, and now you are panicking as the date draws near. Take a deep breath, try to relax, and visualise the outcome as a successful one. It is important that you ensure you are relaxed and confident on the actual day. How to do this? Lots of preparation leading up to the interview!
The best way to prepare is to draw up a list of possible questions and start to look at them quite early on, thinking about what you might say in response. This does not necessarily mean having a perfectly rehearsed answer (which could sound a bit dull and robotic). Rather, it means to start getting your ideas sorted, and get some practise in talking about various topics. This will allow you to get used to the process of answering questions, and trust me, will make things much smoother on the day!
One of the most common private school interview questions is: “Why are you interested in our school?” Therefore it is a good idea to do some research beforehand (have a look at their website, speak to people who have gone there if you can), so that you can give some indication of why you find this school interesting. This is also your chance to demonstrate that you are a good fit for the school – and in the process maybe even mention some of your ambitions and goals that tie in with the school ethos.
Other common questions include: “Tell me about a current event that interests you”, “Tell me about a cultural event you have recently attended”, “What are your interests and pastimes outside of school”, “What subjects do you enjoy at school?”, “Do you enjoy/tell me about your current school?”, “What are you reading at the moment?” and so on.
All these questions give you an opportunity to shine – to demonstrate who you are, what you enjoy, and what you can contribute to the school. Are you well suited to the school? Will you flourish there? What are your individual strengths and weaknesses? Have a careful think about these questions beforehand, with an idea of what you might say in response to them.
Having said all this, it is still important to be honest and true to yourself, and not to make things up. However, it also makes sense to present yourself in a positive light, and showcase your skills and strengths.
For example – you may have a “weakness” of getting stressed out about your academic achievement – but this could be because you are very ambitious about doing well (i.e. your “weakness” is kind of a strength!); or, you may have been a little disorganised in the past, but you have reflected on this and built a new system for being super organised (i.e. you have the ability to reflect on your weaknesses and work on them to improve – bingo!)
In the interview, you should aim to be confident, give a firm handshake, look the interviewer in the eye, smile, and sit up straight. Try not to mumble, speak as clearly as you can and even aim to project your voice through the interviewer and at the wall behind them. This does not mean to shout, but rather, to just project yourself outwards rather than being slumped in your chair. Be confident!
Your actual interview may be part of an activity day at the school, where you will be with other students in small classes or groups, learning things and working on problems together. This is a good chance for you to demonstrate some of those “teamwork” skills. Maybe you are more of an introvert? Thats fine; you might contribute by offering a new approach to solving a problem, or a creative twist to something. You might already have mentioned this aspect of your personality in the interview…
Ahead of interview day, ensure you get a good night’s sleep, and you are well-rested. Hopefully you will be feeling confident because of all that preparation you have done beforehand! It is important to understand that you will naturally feel some nerves – this is not necessarily a bad thing; it is normal to feel a little “nervous” – every successful person feels some of this before an important event. That little bit of adrenaline is what makes you alert and focused, so don’t feel anxious about that. It probably means you are ready!
So hopefully, you are feeling well prepared, you have some good answers up your sleeve, you are dressed appropriately and you are on time. Good. Try to remember – this process is not about catching you out, it is about giving you the opportunity to show who you are.
The teachers interviewing you are interested in finding out about you and they have invited you to interview because they think you may be great fit for their school. You can work with them by demonstrating that this is the case, and the best way to do this is to enjoy the process, participate as much as you can, and be your best self on the day. Good luck!