Preparing Your Child For Their Admissions Interview

When applying to nursery school or to a private on-going school, parents can expect, just as they’ll be interviewed themselves, that their child will be asked to go through an interview process. For little ones applying to nursery school programs, it’s more likely a “structured playdate” observation situation, whereas slightly older children interviewing for Kindergarten can likely expect to answer some questions from the admissions team as well be observed in play or activities (again, like the parent interview, this process varies from school to school). Here are some sage pieces of advice for preparing your child without pressuring them or causing them anxiety.

1 . Do some practice interviews with your child: “If you’re not sure what an interviewer might ask, that’s okay. Go with basics. Better to prepare your child for the experience with broad questions than not prepare them at all. Things like eye contact, handshakes, poise, and positivity are important and can certainly be practiced at home!” –Elizabeth Carey, Director of Admissions, Grades 7-12, Dwight School

2. Encourage your child to be active in the process: “When a prospective student comes for a shadow day, I always tell them: ‘Don’t feel that we are the ones evaluating you, you should also be checking us out to make sure we are a good fit for you!’ I believe the child needs to have ownership over the process. If a child approaches school with a positive attitude, they will be much more likely to succeed.” –Hope Mueller, Principal, St. Ann, The Personal School

3. Don’t over-prepare: “Please do not ‘hot-house’ or tutor your children—we can spot this a mile-off! This leads to a highly competitive and anxious process and takes the enjoyment out of the whole experience for parents and children alike… We do not expect applicants to nursery school and pre-K—or even Kindergarten—to read fluently or know their numbers to 100.” –Kate Bailey, Head of School, Wetherby-Pembridge School

4. Project a sense of calm to your child: “Remember that children are incredibly sensitive. If you’re anxious about their interview, then they will be too.” –Matt Bateman, Director of Content and Strategy, Polis Montessori World School

5 . Set realistic expectations, but keep it light: “Let the children be themselves, be well-rested, spontaneous, and light. Let them know they’re going to meet new people that day—other parents and adults—but do encourage them to have fun… Keep it simple. Have them come in comfortable clothes and ready to play.” –Martine Lala, Director of Admissions, Lycée Français de New York