ACE School Interviews


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Choosing a private or independent school for a child can be a daunting task for parents, but with appropriate preparation and investigation, families can find the right fit for their child.

After visiting schools and attending open houses to explore the options for your family, you can begin applying to the schools you would like your child to attend. While each school has different requirements, many independent schools have an interview and testing component to their application process.

"Interviews and testing are a part of the bigger application process to complete the picture of the child. They are not used to screen out children, but to help see if the school is a match for the specific child," says Linda Nelson, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools. Schools typically use many criteria to determine admission in addition to the testing and interview component, such as recommendations, the application and report cards.

Pamela Jamison, director of admissions at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, says the interview helps the school get to know the child, what her interests and strengths are, and what she wants from the school. "Testing provides information on the level of academic achievement reached by a candidate and provides the school with an understanding of the candidate's overall academic experience," Jamison says.

Many schools begin the interview process for children around third and fourth grade, while some also have informal interviews for younger students. Some schools also interview the child's parents as part of the admission process to help make sure that the school is a match for the family's expectations.

What to expect from testing and interviews

Nelson said that students typically meet with two people during the interview process, the admissions director and an academic representative. Often, the student candidate meets with a student from his grade level with whom he will interact if he attends the school. "The interviews are typically more of a focused conversation than an interview," Nelson says. "The school understands that the child is nervous and usually keeps the meeting very casual."

For younger children, the testing portion is often done in a playgroup setting and is very informal. For older children, the testing may be more formal and typically measures critical thinking and application skills. Nelson says that parents should not have their child study or prepare for the test, but simply encourage them to do their best.

Since each school has a different process for testing and interviews, contact the school to find out exactly what your child should expect. Ask how many people he will be meeting with and how long each interview will last. Find out what types of tests your child should expect and how long it will take.

Explaining the process to your child

Sit down with your child before the appointment and tell her that she will talk with someone from the school who wants to get to know her better and that she will also be taking a test. Tell your child what type of tests to expect, who she will meet and how long each portion of the day will last. When you talk to your child about the meeting, be casual and encouraging.

When Urvi Patel's daughter was applying for admission to St. David's School in Raleigh for Kindergarten, she was very low-key about the testing and interview when talking with her daughter. "We told her that she would be going to a playgroup and that they would ask her some questions," Patel says. "We wanted her to go and be herself since we were trying to figure out what school would be the best fit for our family."

Make sure that your child is well-rested and have her eat a healthy meal before heading to the school.  "It is important to feel good physically and mentally when preparing for a test," Jamison says.

After the interview, let your child tell you as much or as little about the day as she wants. Resist the urge to ask lots of questions to figure out how she performed on tests and in the interview. Notice if your child seems enthusiastic about the school after the visit and use her reaction to help decide if this school is the right fit for your child.

"Many parents get caught up in the process and want their child to have every opportunity. Focus on what is best for your child and look it as a process of exploring school options," Nelson says. "By looking for the best match, everyone in your family will feel less pressure and this will yield better results in the end."

Prep For a School Interview

Linda Nelson says that students may be asked the following types of questions during a school interview.

- Tell me about yourself.

- What did you do over the summer?

- What is your favorite class at school?

- Tell me about an important person in your life.

- How would you define a good friend?

- Where are you thinking of going to college? (for high school students)

- Tell me about the books you have read lately.

- What do you like to do for fun?

Jennifer Gregory lives in the Triangle area with her husband, two kids and three dogs.

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