How to Have a Successful Prep School Interview

Most prep schools (or college preparatory schools) require an interview from potential candidates. Since every student and every school is different, there is no magical formula for success, but here are a few suggestions you can follow to make the experience more pleasant and more profitable.


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    Dress Nicely. This will show that you care about getting into the school and are professional. Always dress at least semi-formally. Jeans, no matter what top they are paired with, are always a no. Conservatively and classy is always the best way to go.
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    Introduce yourself. Adults love polite teenagers. You should greet the staff and your tour guide (most likely a student), with respect. "Yo! Waddup dawg?" is probably not the best choice of words. A simple "Hello!", followed by a handshake and a smile, should do the trick.
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    Get settled. You will probably be with your Admissions Counselor for anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, so you want to be comfortable. Your Admissions Counselor may think you are disinterested if you constantly fidget. You should also turn off any electronic devices at this time, if you have not done so already. Can you imagine how embarrassed you would be if your cell phone began to screech the tune "American Idiot" as you explained your impressive track record?
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    Listen carefully. Most of the questions asked during an interview are simple questions about the different aspects of your life, especially your school life and your social life; they are not meant to be tricks. As a result, extensive preparation (and excessive stress) is not necessary. Your Admissions Counselor knows his job well; he knows where he wants to take the interview. As long as you are attentive, you should be fine.
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    Stay on topic. You want to be as focused as possible during your entire visit, but especially during your interview. Although one-word answers are not appropriate, you should also avoid elaborate speeches. You should get to the point as soon as possible and answer all questions clearly.
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    Remain calm. Your Admissions Counselor wants to get to know you, so he can decide whether or not you are a good match for the school. Nervousness is normal, hysteria is not. The last thing a highly competitive prep school needs is an emotionally unstable student who is unable to handle stress. An Admissions Counselor is not a type of psychologist. Your interview should not double as a mental therapy session.
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    Speak with confidence. There are enough mediocre people out there. What you need to do is convince your Admissions Counselor that you are the best, and that you deserve the best. You need to sell yourself make them think that you will be a wonderful addition to their school. Tell them all of your achievements but do not brag be humble you do not want to seem arrogant. You want to appear as a well-rounded individual. A variety of extracurricular activities are a real plus. Since each school has a different focus, however, highlight those attributes which you believe are most valuable. For example, if a particular school has a strong science department, emphasize your interest in environmental studies. Tell them about the things that make you different, you want to be unique.
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    Ask questions. Not only is the ability to ask good questions a sign of intelligence, but they also make you seem interested. Schools in general, especially high schools, are full of students who rather be at home in front of the television. Prep schools want motivated students who will do well in a competitive environment. Be interesting, do not be just another applicant that walks through the door. Your interviewer is the only one reviewing your application that has actually met you, you need them to fight for you.
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    Thank the staff. Once again, adults love polite teenagers. Remember to tell your Admissions Counselor how much you enjoyed your visit. Even if you don't feel as if things went too well, you want to leave on a good note. Write your interviewer a thank you note. They will give you their card, send them a note thanking them for their time. MAIL IT! Even though you have their email it looks like you spend more time if you mail it to them. Send it to the school with their name on it it will go into their mailbox.


  • Maintain eye-contact with the faculty. Always treat them with respect
  • You want to be at your best mentally and physically. At least 8 hours of sleep and a nutritious breakfast can work wonders.
  • Last, but surely not least: Enjoy yourself! If you are miserable, people will be able to tell.
  • Think about what you are going to say before you say it.
  • Appropriate attire is suggested. For most traditional prep schools, this includes a suit and tie for boys and a blouse with either dress pants or a skirt for girls. More liberal schools may not require such formal dress, so make sure you inform yourself in advance.
  • Subjects such as politics or finance should be avoided. Your interview is neither the time nor the place to talk about the stock market or the war in Iraq.
  • Your interview is not the only factor in your application. If you mess up, you can always make things up with off-the-chart SSAT/ISEE scores and a creative essay.
  • During interviews always talk in confidence and clearly.
  • Inform your peers and family members who might call ir text you on the phone that you'll be in an interview and that you are either silencing or completely turning off your phone. Your interviewer will not appreciate your phone vibrating or ringing in the middle of the session.


  • Moderation is the key to success. You want to appear interested, but not over-zealous; polite, but not fake.
  • Even if you want to seem like a qualified candidate, you should never lie about your achievements. What comes around, goes around. Seriously.
  • There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. You should be confident in your abilities, yet not outright arrogant.

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Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education