12 December 2018

Tips for a Successful Admissions Interview

Published by Lisa Olinski

Many parents are excited to finalize school applications for their children and progress towards the next step of enrolling their child in a first-choice international school. Before admission, the final step is the assessment or interview, which is the one opportunity for a child to show their fit and readiness for school. 
Many parents feel some anxiety that their child might not perform their best on the day and ruin their only chance to secure a place at their top international school of choice. There is always a risk that a child will do poorly on the day due to nerves, but no one understands this better than the schools themselves. Parents should rest assured that the schools they are applying to are also keenly aware that children will be uneasy in new situations. Don't worry about what might go wrong during the interview, instead read our tips to feel better prepared and look forward to a smooth assessment day.

Here are our six tips to help you prepare your child for a successful admissions interview.

Tip 1: Interview Prep Class – Yes & No

A first instinct might be to do practice interviews or enroll in an interview prep class. For most children, this is not recommended since they will come across as unnatural and coached. However, some children with a lower proficiency in English might benefit from this by getting the help to better recognize question structures and not give into nerves on the day. A common error that many assessors see is the child being so eager to answer they didn’t listen carefully to the question and answer incorrectly. For children with higher proficiency in English, engaging in regular conversation about their interests is sufficient preparation.

Tip 2: Learn about the Interview Format

Another important thing to be aware of when sending your little one for an assessment is that in many schools they aren’t just looking at the answers your child gives but also if they have the level of independence needed for “big kid” school. Most school will expect children to be able to separate from caretakers and can follow simple class routines. In younger grades, many schools will observe this in a group setting rather than a 1:1 interview format.

So what should parents do?

Find out what the school expects: are they looking for English proficiency? Will they assess other languages? What is the interview format, will you be with the child? Will it be 1:1 or a group setting? Knowing what will happen on the day will allow you to prepare your child in a supportive way by explaining beforehand what to expect, such as:

“Today we will go to x and you can play with some new friends. The teacher might ask you to draw something or ask some questions, don’t worry you know the answers well.” Or

“Today you will go to x to meet a nice teacher, you will have to answer some questions and mom can’t come and listen.”

Letting your child know about the interview format takes away the fear of the unknown both for you and the child, and avoid a sudden surprise on the day, which is already stressful enough. Bear in mind, the schools won’t be able to give you the questions but most should provide the format.

Tip 3: Visit the School in Advance

Visit the school with your child, whether it be a visit to the school area or actually a visit inside, building excitement about the school rather than focusing on the interview itself will help create a most positive experience. As a parent, it is also helpful to know the parking and school entrance layouts. Every school is different and you don’t want to be stressed on the day if you realize the entrance is farther than you realized.

Tip 4: Encourage your child to be themselves

Some children are shyer than others, assessors are experienced and used to seeing different types of children. So as a parent it is best to encourage your child to be themselves, it is ok to be shy when speaking to new people. They might feel pressure to give a particular answer, remind them there are no right answers. Just be honest with the assessor and pretend like they are having a conversation with

Tip 5: Dress Appropriately

You want your child to look presentable but remember that they should also feel comfortable, wearing something that makes them feel awkward is going to show in how they act in the interview. Choosing what to wear together will also be a great chance to talk about the interview and see what they might be feeling anxious about.

Tip 6: Don’t forget the basics

Nothing can throw off an interview session more than being hungry and tired. Make sure your child gets enough rest and has something light to eat before the interview.  This might seem like common sense; however, even as adults, it is easy to forget the basics when nervous about something. Following the usual routine of sleep and breakfast will also help reduce your child’s nerves.

These are just a few tips and as a parent, it is also important for you to relax, because your child will pick up on your nerves. At Stamford, we do our best to make the admissions process as stress-free as possible for parents, if you have any questions about our admissions processes and places you can contact us at: admissions@sais.edu.hk. Our experienced admissions team is always happy to help.

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