Sunday, December 16, 2007

Private school parent interview tips

I hate to admit this but the night before our first private school parent interview, I couldn't fall asleep because I was worried about what to wear. Superficial, I know. Jeans—comfortable, most representative of me, but are they too casual? Skirt—fun and cute but way too fancy. I could wear a jean skirt with tights? What about that black sweater? Oh yeah, that has a big moth hole in the sleeve.

Finally, I decided on some gray wool pants and a black sweater that doesn't have a moth hole.

I also worried about what Ryan was going to wear, what I was going to say, what Ryan was going to say. I was treating the situation as if the admissions directors were judges at a dog show, examining our questions, responses, hand movements, facial ticks, and lipstick color.

All I can say is the admissions directors were the farthest thing from that. Rather they were friendly and laid-back. After one of our interviews, Ryan said, "I felt so comfortable with the admissions director that I wanted to hug her when we said goodbye."

I won't go into specifics about each one but I will offer some tips for those of you with upcoming interviews:

1) Don't worry. Don't stress. Be yourself. And wear jeans if that's what you want to wear.

2) Brainstorm some questions to ask the admissions director. I guarantee that you'll be asked, "Do you have any questions about the school?"

3) Be prepared to answer a few questions: Why are you interested in this school? What other schools are you considering? Tell me about your child?

4) Re-read your application essays before the interview. The interviewer might refer to the essays and it's a good way to re-fresh your memory on what you like about the school and why it's a good fit for your child.

5) Talk to your partner about the interview the night before. Make sure you're on the same page—in terms of what you like about the school, your child's strengths, and so on.

6) Don't forget: You're also interviewing them to see if the school is the right fit for your child.

10 comments:

  1. Kate, thanks. And didn't you also have another post up briefly about "thinking outside the box" and Miraloma? I remember seeing that but not having a chance to read it closely, and now it looks like it is gone. Porquois?

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  2. I pulled the post because I thought I sounded smug in it. But I'll consider putting it back up.

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  3. I just reread the "thinking outside the box" post and it seems fine to me. Not at all smug.

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  4. How much do people really think Parent Interviews really matter for admission? Ours was interesting and fine but I get the feeling that they are really a conduit for Admissions directors to just make sure that you are not extremely strange / disturbing and to communicate realistically what the odds of admission are, so that you can plan appropriately. I also think that they are forum for directors to make a pitch for recruiting certain families. If you pass their minimum thresholds, then it really doesn't affect the decision one way or the other. Maybe I'm wrong?

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  5. I know a very impressive girl with a, well, unimpressive mom who applied to private high schools and was rejected -- not waitlisted. I always wondered if a "crazy mom" flag on her file outweighed all her attributes.

    And there was a boy kicked out of a high-end private religious school, supposedly for selling prescription drugs, who landed in my kids' SFUSD middle school (where his new classmates immediately dubbed him the Drug Lord). There was some insider gossip that the drug charges were trumped up because the private school was sick of dealing with his obnoxious dad. I don't know how true that was.

    The good news was that the kid seemed to thrive in the SFUSD middle school. And being widely known as the Drug Lord probably made it difficult for him to do a clandestine business, should he have been so inclined.

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  6. Anyone watch Entourage? When Ari Gold's son didn't get into the posh private school his daughter attended because Ari was considered so difficult? But then Ari offered a job to the admission director's son, and presto! The son was in!

    I heard through the grapevine that one private school BEGGED the owners of one of the hottest restaurants in town to send their child there. (Child and parents could both have been wonderful, however -- just gossip didn't include that info.)

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  7. Anyone watch Entourage? When Ari Gold's son didn't get into the posh private school his daughter attended because Ari was considered so difficult? But then Ari offered a job to the admission director's son, and presto! The son was in!

    I heard through the grapevine that one private school BEGGED the owners of one of the hottest restaurants in town to send their child there. (Child and parents could both have been wonderful, however -- just gossip didn't include that info.)

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  8. From the little I know, most private schools want to (a) be sure applicants' parents (who I suppose are really the applicants) truly understand what the school is about; (b) be sure that the parents are enthusiastic about the school (privates care about the % of offers that are accepted); and (c) avoid potential pain-in-the-ass parents. The school will, in theory, have to deal with these parents for nine years. Not sure about the recruiting side, though it makes sense. Caroline, I bet you're right about the "crazy mom" flag keeping the girl you described from being accepted at private high schools. As for how much the interviews matter, I'm guessing that it depends on the specific interview. I would think that a really bad parent interview could knock a good applicant out of contention while a really phenomenal one could make the difference when looking at two otherwise equally matched applicants. As for all the rest? No idea.

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  9. OK, I teach at one of the high schools a lot of these private schools feed into. (We also have a son entering kindergarten and are going through this process ourselves. It's neat to see so many interested, passionate people here. Private schools are great--I went to public school and am really quite impressed by the quality of the education at the place I teach--but the private-school parent community can be difficult and uncomfortable to be a part of if you don't have a huge house and lots of disposable income and time, so we're looking forward to being among, um, our sort of people at public school.) From more than a decade of personal experience, for one kid the parents aren't a deal-breaker; it really is up to the child. But where it can come back to haunt a family is if there are multiple kids and the parents have really been a nightmare. At that point the school may well...take another look, let's say, and decide that 4 (or 6, or 8, or whatever) years of that family is enough. But you need, at least in what I've seen, to be remarkably nightmarish to make that much of a difference.

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  10. I understand the stress,

    Feeling overwhelmed with making sure your child or students are ready for Kindergarten? The process can be physically and emotionally draining for you and your little one. With Kinder Bound you have the support and resources necessary to help ensure a smooth process from start to finish.

    I am Laura Roach founder and consultant for Kinder Bound. I recieved my M.A. in Teaching Reading and California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. I am a Primary Kindergarten teacher in Northern California. I perform assessments on all incoming Primary Kindergarten and Kindergarten students as well as contribute to admissions decisions. I know all too well how competitive and traumatizing this process can be in the private school sector. Any advantage you (and I) can give your little in preperation for public or private school will ease their transition to Kindergarten. I am here to make the Kindergarten process as stress free as possible for all involved and prepare your child or students for Kindergarten.
    Contact me if you need some help with the process. Best of luck! Laura
    www.kinderbound.com

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