One might be­lieve that top in­de­pen­dent schools utilise ad­mis­sions in­ter­views as a means to seek out straight-a stu­dents and ex­cep­tional all-rounders. How­ever, ex­plains that there is more to ad­mis­sions in­ter­views than aca­demic cre­den­tials and recita­tion o

Hong Kong Tatler - - Schools Guide | Junior Schools -

n my many con­ver­sa­tions with ad­mis­sions as­sis­tants at both lo­cal and UK in­de­pen­dent schools over the years, the con­sen­sus re­gard­ing prepa­ra­tion for in­de­pen­dent school in­ter­views points to the need for chil­dren to be aware of what an in­ter­view may feel like through prac­tice—but that they should not feel over­bur­dened by mem­o­ris­ing end­less lists of facts about the school or a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject.

There is a sense that ad­mis­sions teams are acutely aware of the dif­fi­culty that fam­i­lies face in tread­ing the fine line be­tween over-in­struct­ing and putting ex­ces­sive pres­sure on their chil­dren, with costly pro­fes­sional prepa­ra­tion of­ten lead­ing to chil­dren han­dling their in­ter­views in an overly self-con­fi­dent and boast­ful man­ner due to lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence un­der their belts.

De­spite the value of do­ing re­search and par­tak­ing in prac­tice in­ter­views, we should be look­ing more to­wards the realms of con­ver­sa­tional com­pe­tence and soft skills—so sadly over­looked in the 21st cen­tury, yet so per­ti­nent when it comes to your child’s in­ter­view. Quite frankly, there is no skill more im­por­tant in the present day than be­ing able to sus­tain co­her­ent and lively con­ver­sa­tion. Chil­dren must be taught that, dur­ing an in­ter­view, they need to be fully present and fo­cused. They can­not mul­ti­task, have their minds on other mat­ters or show signs that they are inat­ten­tive.

It is im­per­a­tive that your child comes across as be­ing in­quis­i­tive, as the in­ter­viewer wants to feel that the school is the child’s dream choice—and not one that has just been se­lected by his or her par­ents. With this in mind, the ques­tions that your child asks could be open-ended to elicit more in­ter­est­ing re­sponses, and give the in­ter­viewer the im­pres­sion that the child has thought deeply about the ap­pli­ca­tion. Con­se­quently, the in­ter­viewer will feel that ques­tions are not just be­ing asked for the sake of ask­ing ques­tions. So, in­stead of ask­ing “Does the sum­mer break last for six weeks?” (a nat­u­ral ques­tion for any stu­dent to ask), your child could be­gin ques­tions us­ing the forms “Could you de­scribe…?” or “Could you tell me why…?”

With re­gard to re­spond­ing to ques­tions, your child may well be asked why he or she would like to at­tend the school. There is lit­tle wrong with tak­ing notes from the school’s web­site or prospec­tus about its strengths, and how these may align with your child’s own in­ter­ests. What about the school’s set­ting? Which fa­cil­i­ties stand out? Is it sin­gle-sex or co-ed­u­ca­tional? In an­swer­ing, it is vi­tal for your child to ap­pre­ci­ate how a wise use of lexis goes a long way. For ex­am­ple, “I am adamant that…” has a more con­fi­dent tone than “I think that…” Force­ful ad­jec­tives and avoid­ance of mod­esty can place your child at the fore.

In­ter­view­ers gen­er­ally try to make chil­dren feel at ease. It is vi­tal that your child un­der­stands that an in­ter­viewer may ask sim­ple ques­tions to build a rap­port so that the in­ter­vie­wee can re­lax im­me­di­ately. In­deed, Caitri­ona Red­ding, head of in­ter­na­tional ad­mis­sions at UK board­ing school Oun­dle School, says: “Once we have es­tab­lished a rap­port, then it is much eas­ier to have a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Red­ding’s ques­tions “avoid re­call, but in­stead en­cour­age chil­dren to think cre­atively.” The im­por­tant point here is for can­di­dates to recog­nise the in­ter­viewer’s at­tempt to es­tab­lish a rap­port at the out­set—and not re­but it as a means of in­ter­ro­ga­tion. It is also pro­duc­tive to do some re­search on the in­ter­viewer, where ap­pro­pri­ate, to es­tab­lish com­mon in­ter­ests that could nat­u­rally lead to a more ful­fill­ing con­ver­sa­tion.

In sum­mary, par­ents should be look­ing at el­e­ments of con­ver­sa­tional com­pe­tence rather than solely de­vel­op­ing sub­ject-based knowl­edge. A can­di­date should avoid giv­ing the im­pres­sion that he or she is weighed down by shy­ness or nerves. Lex­i­cal choice that ex­udes con­fi­dence, as well as open-ended ques­tions and care­ful lis­ten­ing skills, can and should be used to get your child into a top lo­cal or UK in­de­pen­dent school.

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