private school interview questions

Getting accepted to a prestigious private school isn’t just about having stellar grades; it’s about showing the admissions team that you are a good fit for the educational community they want to foster. That means facing down some (potentially tricky) private school interview questions, but don’t fear: Piqosity is here to help!

In this article we will break down what is typically involved in a private school admissions interview, suggest preparation strategies, and examine several of the most common private school interview questions.

How Do You Prepare for a Private School Interview? 

The key to acing your private school admissions interview can be summed up in one word: preparation. No doubt you’re used to preparing for tests in school, but how can you prepare for what is, in essence, just a conversation? Actually, the strategies you already use to prepare for academic evaluations are the same ones you can employ when preparing for a private school interview.

Imagine you are facing a math test that covers everything on the unit you have just completed. You would probably spend time reviewing all of the concepts which are most likely to come up on the test, and you might even do some practice problems and have a teacher or another adult check your work.

Preparing for a private school admissions interview involves exactly the same process. You will want to review the kinds of interview questions that private schools are likely to ask, practice your answers in advance, and possibly ask a trusted adult for feedback on your answers.

What to Expect During an Admissions Interview

As soon as possible, find out as much as you can from the school’s admissions team about what format the interview will take—how long it will last, where it will take place, how many people will be asking questions, if your parents are allowed to be present, etc. The more you know, the less likely you are to be caught off-guard.

Your admissions interview will almost certainly be conducted by one or more members of the school faculty. At least some of the interviewers (if there is more than one) will most likely be on the admissions team. This means that they have probably already read through your application, looked at your grades, and have a sense of who you are, at least on paper.

It’s a good idea to be your authentic self with the people on your interview team. They already know who you are as a student and they want to get to know you as an individual. This helps them determine if you are a good fit for the school’s environment.

How Do You Stand Out in a Private School Interview? 

There are a number of things you can do to make sure an admissions counselor is impressed with how you present yourself. Here are three simple strategies to help you showcase your wonderful personality with confidence:

  1. Maintain eye contact. Don’t let your eyes wander around the room, especially when you are being spoken to. When you reply, speak to the interviewer(s), not at a point over their head, or on the floor. Similarly, try not to fidget. Sitting still in your chair and showing active engagement demonstrates that you know how to conduct yourself in a classroom.
  2. Try to look (and be!) relaxed. Although interviews can feel stressful, try not to show it—if you can come across as at ease, it will make a favorable impression. Try resting your hands on your legs or clasping your hands in your lap (or on the table in front of you), rather than crossing your arms. This will make you look attentive and respectful.
  3. Speak clearly. Don’t mumble! Schools are very impressed with students who can convey their ideas with confidence. Remember that we often speak in unusual ways when we are nervous—if, for instance, you tend to talk too quickly when stressed, remember to slow down.

If you don’t feel confident with any one of these strategies, just practice! Ask an adult you trust, like a parent or grandparent, or practice in front of a mirror. That way, you’ll be able to see your own body language, and hear the clarity of your own voice. It’s unlikely that unconsciously crossing your arms or looking a little nervous will completely make or break your interviewers’ perception of you—it’s all about trying to effectively present your best self to them.

The Most Common Private School Interview Questions

Although every private school admissions team has its own distinct questions, there are some topics which you can safely bet will come up. To start, here are some of the most common questions, with suggestions on how to respond.

  • What is your favorite subject in school? Why?
    Be honest and succinct with your answer—in other words, don’t list every subject. Pick one or two favorites, and explain how mastering those subjects may further a future career, or how taking those courses strengthens your interests.
  • Why do you want to attend our school?
    Have a specific answer ready, based on something about that school that’s important to them. For example, highlight something in their mission statement/values that resonates with you.
  • Where did your parents attend high school and college?
    Knowing these answers proves that you may have a legacy of higher education in your family. It also proves that you have a good memory, and understand the importance of family history. If your parents did not attend college, that’s okay! Your own aspirations are inspiring enough.
  • What do you hope to get out of your education at this school?
    This answer may be a combination of your answers for the first two questions. Another way to look at it: How are you and this school good partners for the future? Or, yet another way of framing it: why this school’s education and not some other’s? Though there are many contributing factors, remember to hone in on just a couple of reasons that made you apply.
  • What clubs or organizations do you plan to participate in at school? Why?
    Your interests will tell the admissions counselor if you are indeed a good fit for their school environment. It’s a good idea to look into what clubs and organizations are actually offered at the school so that your answer is informed. If you have an interest not currently represented at the school, you could also ask about forming a club.
  • Which sports would you like to participate in?
    Similar to the previous question. If you don’t want to play sports in school, highlight another interest, or harken back to clubs and organizations.
  • What sports have you participated in before coming to our school?
    Showing that you have played sports (or participated in clubs) shows that you are committed, and understand the importance of “practice makes perfect.” It’s okay if the answer to this question is “none”—your desire to start participating may be one of the reasons you were drawn to this school!

Other Private School Interview Questions

The questions above may require a little thought to formulate the most concise, thoughtful answers, but the gist of your replies is probably already in your head. But what about some other questions, the kind that dig a little deeper into who you are? Here are some questions similar to those you may be faced with after covering the basics.

  • Where would you like to travel (or travel next)? Why? 
  • (Where) have you traveled previously?
  • What is your favorite book or movie? What do you like about it?
  • Where did your parents grow up? What about your grandparents?
  • How does your family get along? What kinds of things do you do as a family?
  • What is a challenge you faced during the pandemic? How did you overcome that challenge?
  • How did you like online school?

These questions are probably a bit harder to answer, and for good reason: they are far more individual, and the answers to them reveal more about your character, not just your interests. So while it may be intimidating to think of revealing yourself in this way, remember that the admissions team is interested in who you are.

In other words, be honest! There’s not a “right” answer to any of these questions. If your favorite book is one that no one has ever heard of, that’s okay! Explain why you love it, and what you think other people would get out of reading it. You don’t need to pretend to be someone you’re not.

Similarly, you don’t need to overdramatize. If the challenges you have faced in life so far are small, it’s okay to acknowledge that—demonstrating a sense of perspective is also an admirable quality.

Expect the Unexpected!

Although we have offered a fairly comprehensive list of common private school interview questions, It’s still quite likely that you will be asked an unexpected question. Admissions counselors may intentionally ask such questions to see how you handle yourself in unrehearsed and/or unforeseen circumstances. Or, they may just be curious about something you hadn’t anticipated.

Just by anticipating questions that come out of the blue, you’ll seem confident and less frazzled. But if you are asked something for which you don’t have a ready answer, take your time before replying. It’s far better to take a moment to collect your thoughts and answer deliberately than to rush into an unplanned answer and end up somewhere you weren’t expecting.

Private School Admissions Tips For Parents

If you’re the parent of a prospective private school student, you can help them prepare for their interview by going over their answers to the common private school interview questions above. Help them craft answers that are specific and genuine, answers which will help the admissions team see your child’s personality.

It’s also possible that you, as parents, will be asked to take part in an admissions interview (this is more common when your child is younger). If this is the case, you should know that what admissions teams are hoping to gain is a better sense of a child’s personality, their family’s background, and their support system.

Many of the same tips listed above still apply—in particular, showing engagement and answering honestly. Remember that nearly all parents will speak highly of their children in these interviews; the admissions team probably already knows that you think your child is great. So while it’s appropriate to praise them, try to do so in a way which highlights the specific qualities about your child that makes them special.

Additionally, this is the opportunity for you to speak frankly about why you want your child to attend that particular school—perhaps it is their wide range of extracurricular activities, or the importance they place on community service. Show the admissions team that you believe their school is the best place for your child to excel.

Admissions Exams—Prep for the ISEE with Piqosity!

Besides admissions interviews, private school admissions teams look closely at each student’s academic record. In particular, they’ll likely be interested in your ISEE scores. The ISEE exam is an admissions test that many private schools use in admissions—a good score sets you above the fray when applying to private middle and high schools, so make sure to start preparing well ahead of time. For an online course that comes with all you’ll need to adequately prepare for this test, look no further than Piqosity!

Along with our full-length, online ELA and Math courses for grades 6-11, we offer full ISEE prep courses for the ISEE LowerMiddle, and Upper levels. Each course includes several practice exams, dozens of concept lessons, personalized practice software, and more. In fact, we’ve just expanded our offerings from 10 to 12 full-length ISEE pratcice tests per level!

At the very least, we encourage you to take our mini diagnostic ISEE online practice test, available for free after registration with our Community Plan. When you’re ready to upgrade, Piqosity’s year-long accounts start at only $89. Plus, get a 10% off coupon just by signing up for our mailing list!