Updated 20th March 2019 

Tips On Preparing Your Child For Interviews At Top Public Schools 

When working with children to give them the confidence to approach a school interview in the right way, our consultants tend to focus on two areas 

  • How to engage with the interviewer using soft skills and body language 
  • What questions might they ask and how to structure a good answer 

Interview preparation is about giving your child the tools and confidence to think for themselves. It is not about telling a child what to say. An over-prepared child will be obvious to the school you are visiting, so try not to be drawn towards learning answers by rote. It is more about listening to the question and having the tools to think about and give a relevant, well-structured answer. 

Below you will find the key points we tend to focus on when working with children on a one to one basis, to give them the skills and tools required to approach their interview in an engaging way. What we are trying to achieve, is a lasting impression that your child leaves in the interviewers memory. A certain skill or talent, an engaging smile, an ability to make interesting two-way conversation will all leave the interviewer feeling your child will be an asset to their school or boarding house community. 

Presentation and initial meeting 

Practice breathing deeply if your child has a tendency to be nervous. 

Arrive for the interview in plenty of time, as rushing in at the last minute or even late will lead to a nervous start to the interview. Allow them time to compose themselves, but not so much time that they have time to become nervous. 

Make sure that they appear smart, smile, be confident, maintain good eye contact and use a warm greeting such as Good Morning Mr Smith. 

Practice a firm handshake. 

Body Language, personality and the art of conversation 

Practice sitting on a sofa or on a chair looking engaged and interested with good posture, but relaxed. 

Smile often and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. 

Show a bit of personality in the way you answer questions. You need to demonstrate that you are easy to get along with, enthusiastic without being ‘cheesy’ and keen to get fully involved. 

Try to practice the art of conversation. Question responses which give one sentence answers will appear ‘rehearsed’ and will not give as good an impression as an interactive dialogue which results from a question. 

Why would you like to come to THIS senior school? 

Look through the prospectus and website together with your child and write down the things that appeal about the school. 

What are the particular strengths of the school and how do these match the talents or interests of your child? 

Have you heard about its reputation for a certain subject or extra-curricular opportunity from relatives, friends? 

Did dad or grandpa attend and why is it important to follow in their footsteps? Is there a sibling at the school? 

Do the setting, historical features or facilities appeal? 

Is it a single sex/boarding/religious affiliation school and why do you think that this appeals to you in terms of your education? 

What can YOU offer to the school? 

If you are being interviewed by a housemaster/mistress you could research what subject they teach, what sports teams they coach or what their interests/contribution to the extra-curricular programme is. Any common ground of interest will make an engaging conversation easier. 

What academic subjects do you enjoy most? 

What are you currently learning in one or two of these and why does this interest you? 

Are you involved in sport, music, drama, art, design and technology etc and what have you achieved in these? 

What would you like to achieve in the future and what new things would you like to try? 

Do your family have strengths, achievements, contributions to make to the school community? 

Have you raised money for charity, been part of the school food committee or been a prefect or house captain? 

What can you tell me about your current school? 

Size, co-ed/single sex/boarding/day. 

Setting, atmosphere (eg friendly) 

Breadth of subjects and extra-curricular opportunities 

What happens during a typical school day/week/weekend? 

Is there anything you dislike? (briefly, don’t dwell on this) 

What might you change about your current school if you had the opportunity? 

Describe a situation that you have found difficult and how did you resolve it, find a solution? 

What are your hobbies/interests outside school? 

Be prepared to talk in detail about these. E.g. not just naming them but expand on them to tell the interviewer how you are involved, how often and when.  

What is your favourite hobby and why? 

Do you have a favourite book, what is the story about and why do you like it? 

If you had 2 hours of free time, what would you do with it? 

Current Affairs 

Make sure you are aware of the top stories of what is happening in the news at the current time. (UK, Europe and Worldwide). Form an opinion and why have you formed it? 

Do you read a paper? 

Do you listen to the news or watch the news on TV? 

Be prepared to handle and think through the unexpected 

Sometimes you will be asked to read a passage during interview, discuss a painting on the wall, talk about exercise books you have taken with you or a portfolio. 

Practice all of these in advance so you are prepared. Having to think on your feet can make nerves come into play, so rehearse these situations in advance. Practice forming and expressing an opinion about things. Do you like this that or the other and why? 

Do you have any questions? 

While you are looking through the prospectus and website start to make a list of questions about the school and learn these for use in the interview. 

Departure 

Smile, eye contact, firm handshake, polite ‘thank you for the opportunity to come to the school and meet you’. Leave a lasting impression. 

To set up a practice interview for your child as well as advice on choosing a senior school, please contact us. 

For more education articles and for details of our advisory services on school choices, higher education and careers, please visit our website.