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Who Interviews and Why?

Independent school admissions interviews can apply to every age group from 4+ to sixth form, and some universities use interviews too. There is a real benefit in preparing students to know what to expect, and how to manage themselves on the day.

Some parents query whether children need to prepare for admissions interviews and wonder whether it should it be more natural and spontaneous. However, as your child needs to present the best version of themselves at interview, it is a clear advantage to be familiar with the type of questions they may be asked and the activities they may be asked to perform.

Schools use interviews to decide if a child will complement the culture of the school and the group of children the school is bringing together in the new year group. Schools will be looking for a blend of different personalities and attributes. Whether a child is an extrovert or an introvert, musical or sporty; if they are prepared and relaxed, they will present the best version of themselves in interview situations and find their place.

Being Prepared

Spending time on dedicated interview preparation provides children with the space to think and consider the answers to some basic questions about themselves, and their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Interview practice also allows an opportunity to rehearse the sometimes-tricky skills of maintaining eye contact, a smile and positive body language. For nervous children, supportive interview preparation is particularly important, to familiarise them with what it will be like and what will be expected of them.

JK Educate’s group and individual interview preparations provide valuable preparation and practice for school admissions interviews. We also provide interview preparation support for older students approaching sixth form and university entrance. Our experienced consultants work with individual students to support them in preparing for entrance interviews when aspiring to a new school or college for sixth form and when facing university interviews, including for Oxford and Cambridge.

Individual Interviews

Preparation for individual interviews gives students the confidence and skills they need to create a good impression. JK Educate’s approach is to explain the interview process, give examples of the questions that are asked and help the child consider how they would answer in real interview conditions. Students need to understand that no answer is wrong, if it can be explained and is delivered with confidence, in a clear, strong voice.

It’s also important for them to understand both why they are being interviewed and the interview process itself, so that when they go in, they are fully confident that it doesn’t matter what questions come up!

Key Questions

There are two important questions that come up very regularly for all age groups. These are: “Why do you want to come to my school?” and “Tell me about your hobbies”.

“Why do you want to come to my school?” is designed to reveal whether the child has taken an interest in the school and wants to go there, rather than the parents having chosen the school for them. The student needs to explain what they have found out about or seen at the school, and what they like about it and are looking forward to. It’s important for them to be positive about the new school rather than being negative about their current school, and for them to have genuine reasons for seeking a place at the school. These reasons might be simply hearing about it from a friend who attends there or the sports facilities they were impressed by at an open day, it doesn’t matter as long as it is a genuine reason.

“Tell me about your hobbies” is designed to find out if the applicant is active and how they will contribute to the life of the school. If the student is sporty or into music, then this is the time to talk about that and to go into some detail. For example, if a child is musical, they can be specific and talk about which musical instruments they play, how many times a week they practice, how many times a week they have lessons, and whether they’re a member of an Orchestra or at which grade they are performing. Talking about more unusual hobbies such as collecting geodes or geo-caching will also give an insight into their personality and enthusiasm.

Group Interviews

Group interviews are used from 4+ entrance assessments onwards. Children are often observed interacting and completing tasks in small groups, so they need to be prepared in this type of working. The skills that admissions tutors and head teachers are looking for include listening skills, collaboration, leadership skills, teamwork, general knowledge and the child’s behaviour. Group interview preparation and mock group interviews provide vital practice in working with children they don’t know well and cooperating even when their ideas may not be chosen by the team for a group task.

I’m making a list…

Children – even older teenagers – are often not used to talking about themselves and it’s very good to give them practice in this. Formal interview preparation sessions do this, but parents can also help with the creation of lists of things the child can do, what they are good at and what they like to do. It’s often natural to find it easier to say “I’m not very good at this” or “I’m not very good at that” but that obviously isn’t helpful for interviews. Children need to be able to quickly think of the things they can do well and enjoy.

This means that preparation needs to involve some advanced planning and ideally writing some lists. Parents can help a great deal with this, through conversations at home that can then be used to create helpful lists of key attributes, achievements and enthusiasms.

Answers to questions can and should still be spontaneous on the day of course, and they should always be the child’s ideas and not given to them by adults. However, at least when some thought has been given to the positive attributes they want to talk about, the fear of being put on the spot is calmed.

Preparation is key, for a four-year-old for entrance into reception at a pre-prep school, a teenager wanting to change schools for sixth form, or a student facing an interview at the university of their choice.

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