Private high school interview questions

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Just as with college admissions, a private high school's decision about whether or not to admit is based on several factors, including transcripts from past years of school, teacher references, and standardised test scores.

However, at most private schools, an admissions officer will also want to meet with the applicant for a one-on-one interview to assess whether she is a good fit for the school. The candidate should be prepared to answer some straightforward but thought-provoking questions.

"What are your best accomplishments to date?"

Since candidates for high school admissions tend to be young teens, they are not expected to have long resumes of past successes. Nonetheless, the interviewer is likely to want to know how the candidate sees herself in terms of particular accomplishments. This question is aimed at discerning what it is that the applicant considers important. For example, the fact that the applicant started a recycling program at middle school will mean more to an admissions officer than a track medal, because it suggests that the applicant has initiative, energy and an eagerness to make community improvements--priorities that will probably benefit the high school.

"What is your favourite book, and why?"

Many people draw a blank when asked what they've read recently. The applicant must be prepared to talk about books read and go beyond the obvious classics that an admissions officer will know was required school reading. The candidate should have reasons for naming the book stated, explaining how the book was particularly impactful: whether it taught about a particular phase of history, reflected one of the candidate's own life challenges, or introduced a new society.

"What famous figure from the past or the present would you like to meet, and why?"

This question isn't merely to test historical knowledge; it is also meant to test the applicant's ability to synthesise the information learnt in school in a meaningful way.

If the candidate is able to respond using facts and specifics to develop a broader perspective, the admissions officer will get the impression that she has a strong academic and intellectual future ahead. There's no need for the applicant to show off by choosing a particularly arcane historical or political figure. She should just be ready to discuss any difficult decision the particular figure faced, a problem she solved, a conflict he mediated, or something else with depth beyond just historical facts.

"Do you have any questions for me?"

If the applicant has done research ahead of time and paid attention during any visits to or contact with the school prior to the interview, she might believe she already knows all she needs to know about the school. Nonetheless, this is the time to impress your interviewer with a healthy curiosity. If she really doesn't have any remaining questions about the curriculum, campus life, or special programs, she should try to find out what unique perspective the admissions officer might have. Ask the admissions officer what she considers to be the most distinguishing aspect of the school, or how she would describe the ideal student at that school.