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Visits and Interviews

What’s the purpose of a school visit?

When a student in very early grades (PK–1) visits a school, teachers are generally looking for basic skills: large and small motor development, social awareness and interactions, politeness, basic kindness, and so forth. Lagging development in one area is generally not a deal-breaker; admission is a holistic process.

If your child is applying to one of these grades, do not be tempted to “coach” him or her. Remember, children are only being assessed on the merits of their peer group; a child who acts like a grown-up is just as likely to raise eyebrows about what instructions he received five minutes before the visit as he is to impress.

For older elementary grades, schools often assess the same kinds of skills and development at age-appropriate levels. There may be some basic academic assessments as well. At these grades it is appropriate to remind children to do their best and to be kind to others, but over-preparation often reveals itself, so use a light touch.

For middle and upper school grades, schools are well aware of their need to appeal to applicants as well as the other way around. Look for a school to provide a “host” student who represents the school well — though of course there can be missed cues and other errors. If a student does not enjoy his or her visit to a school, that’s important information for parents to consider. It is appropriate to remind your child of acceptable behavior in a setting like this, but repeated reminders are likely to provoke anxiety, or a feeling that a child’s parents do not have faith in him or her. Go easy.

Not all schools offer visits to every applicant, and not all schools require a visit for admission. Please check with any individual schools you’re considering.

What should my child wear to a school visit?

Applicants should dress to fit in with the student body; a jacket and tie at a school with no dress code will make a student feel out of place upon walking in the door, as will athletic clothing at a school where the girls all wear plaid skirts. Aim for clothing a bit above the median. Even a very casual school is probably not a good place to try sweat pants and flip-flops when you’re trying to make a good impression.

What do schools ask during a student interview?

Schools do not use interviews to trick students or put them on the spot. Most schools ask about current classes, teachers, friendships, extra-curricular activities, and the old chestnuts about favorite books and challenges students have overcome. There are specific strategies and skills that can be practiced to prepare for interviews, but you’ll have to make an appointment for that.

What do schools ask during a parent interview?

It’s impossible to predict what any given admission officer will ask, but generally schools want to know that parents will behave reasonably, even if they disagree with a school’s approach. If you’re the parent who’s always calling to give the school a piece of your mind about the issue du jour, you might want to rethink that approach while you’re in an interview. Actually, you may want to rethink that idea overall.

Wait — there’s a parent interview?!

’Fraid so.