Bruce Perry, registrar at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in NSW, explains what you can expect at your child’s school enrolment interview.
After eight years as a registrar in an independent school, undertaking more than 5,000 enrolment interviews from pre-Kindergarten to Year 12, I’ve seen it all. Here are just a few points to help you and your child prepare for the interview, and hopefully take away some of the stress.
What’s the purpose of the interview?
I believe this is worth knowing as it can frame the way you approach the interview. The purpose can change from system to system and school to school, but the main elements are the same:
1. For the school to assess if the student (and parents, to some extent) is a good fit for the school and vice versa. This can be based on academics, behaviour, ethics and values, commitment to study, commitment to sport and co-curricular.
2. To assess school readiness for Kindergarten entry.
3. To ensure the school can cater for the student’s needs and provide any required learning support.
4. To get to know the student beyond what can be found on an application and school reports.
5. For the school to explain the nuts and bolts of how it works, and to differentiate the distinguishing features they offer.
6. For the parents to find out anything they need to know. The interview is not necessarily the right time to judge whether the school’s values, ethics and atmosphere is the right fit for them – this can be done with research, school tours and open days well before the interview stage.
7. To explain the enrolment process and when the school may be able to offer a place.
Tips for parents
1. Be on time. If you’re running late, phone the school and let them know. Allow plenty of time to travel so you and your child are relaxed and ready for the meeting.
2. Be flexible when arranging the time. The vast majority of interviews occur during school hours.
3. Ensure the school has all relevant information before the interview, including school reports, specialist reports, NAPLAN results, etc. Never hide anything from the school as any non-disclosure could greatly jeopardise not only the future enrolment, but ongoing enrolment once your child is in the school. Remember, schools have the right to ask for all information about your child, and they also have the right to speak to your current or previous school. Schools are legally obligated to cater for any child's needs by making any reasonable adjustments.
4. Do not answer any question directed towards your child. Allow your child to answer questions and be themselves.
5. Make sure you ask any questions you may have, but also listen to the answers and don’t interrupt the interviewer. Never hesitate to ask further questions by email after the interview.
Tips for children
1. Get a good night’s sleep before the interview.
2. Don’t worry if you are nervous – most students are.
3. Dress to impress. Your current school uniform is fine as long as it is worn well. Otherwise, wear good casual clothes. Remember that most private schools have strict uniform codes, including hair length and colour, skirt length, amount of jewellery worn, piercings, make up, etc. Find out the school’s regulations and dress similarly.
4. Be prepared to answer questions. Explain your answers and be calm and articulate, but don’t over-explain.
5. Make sure you know something about the school. The more research the better. Read the prospectus and website, and ask other families you know who have children at the school. Think of a few good questions to ask.
6. Make sure you have a firm handshake and always use eye contact. Good posture makes a strong impression, so sit up tall and don’t slouch, fidget, bite your nails, pull your hail or chew gum.
7. Use your best manners. Say please and thank you to show your appreciation. Call the interviewer Sir or Madam, Mr or Mrs.
8. Never answer your phone or check text messages – I advise parents to make sure all phones are turned off and out of sight.
9. Always be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.
Common Interview Questions
The following are just some examples of questions that may be asked to students enrolling in Years 3 to 11. I advise parents to prepare their child to answer any question that may be thrown at them. Encourage them to answer in an audible and articulate voice. Always try to answer with a full sentence or more, rather than just “yes” or “no”.
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What are your favourite/best subjects?
3. What are your weaknesses? What subjects do you not enjoy? What subjects/work habits require improvement?
4. What do you want to do when you leave school?
5. Why are you interested in our school? What did you like about the school (if they have been on a tour)?
6. Who in your life has been the greatest influence on you?
7. What will you do to contribute to our school?
8. Tell me about a challenge you have overcome?
9. What do you do for fun in your spare time? What are your hobbies/interests? (Mention sport, music, etc)
10. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?
11. Do you believe your school reports truly reflect your ability and effort? Explain.
12. Do you read much? What books do you read? Do you have a favourite author or series? Can you recommend a good book/website/app/game?
13. Is there anything you could have done differently in school?
14. Tell me about your family. Do you have siblings?
15. Have you ever been in major trouble at school, or have you ever been suspended or expelled?
16. Do you have any health needs (this includes mental health)?
17. Have you ever received academic support in school?
18. Have you ever seen a counsellor or psychologist? (Don’t be alarmed by the last four questions. Schools need to know everything about your child in order to best cater for them. If the answers are no, then just say no. Otherwise, give full disclosure.)
For Kindergarten interviews, the main emphasis will be on school readiness. Hence, the child may be asked to:
1. Count to 10.
2. Write their name.
3. Identify some letters and/or numbers.
4. Recognise colours.
5. Draw something.
6. Some interviews include observing the child at play.