Your son’s junior boarding school interview might be the most pressure-driven conversation of his young life.
Your son is only 10, 11, or 12 years old. He’s never gone to a job interview. He’s never had to impress a date or charm a client over dinner. Most of the adults your son has spoken with have been family or friends, with no particular outcome riding on the conversations.
So for good reason, many boys—and their parents—find the interview to be the most harrowing step in the junior boarding school application process. As the interview approaches, boys feel the crushing weight of their parents’ expectations—real or perceived. Their stomachs churn with the impending prospect of having to win over a complete stranger.
How can you help your son face his interview with confidence—and maybe even a little enthusiasm? Here are a few tips to help you prepare your son for his junior boarding school interview.
1. Reassure him that everything is not riding on his interview.
Junior boarding school admissions officers look at the interview as one opportunity among many to get to know your son. They want to get a feel for his personality. They’re looking for insight on how he sees the world.
Most of all, they’re trying to assess whether your son would be a good fit for their school. And they see it as an opportunity for your son to explore if the school is a good fit for him.
That’s the approach we take at The Fessenden School. We don’t see the interview as a “make-or-break” situation for our applicants. Our admissions team strives to put boys at ease, starting with an ice-breaking tour of the campus before settling into a relaxed talk.
As your son’s interviews get closer, downplay their formality. Think of them as conversations. Your son should expect to be asked about his interests and things that excite him about attending junior boarding school. This is something he can practice by just speaking with your friends and colleagues.
Introduce your son to adults you trust and coach him along as they converse. You’ll probably find that, once he lands on a topic that excites him, it won’t take much prodding to get the words flowing fluently.
2. Make a list of the questions he wants to ask.
The one thing that impresses admissions officers more than a sparkling academic record or glowing recommendations is engagement. Junior boarding schools are looking for applicants who are excited about the opportunities a school offers. They want applicants who have already started thinking about how they fit in there.
One of the best ways for your son to show engagement with a school—on his campus tour as well as during an interview—is to ask relevant questions. These questions should show your son understands (or is trying to understand) the differences between the schools he’s visiting. They should show he knows what he wants from the junior boarding school experience.
In other words, by asking relevant questions aligned with his interests, your son will signal to admissions that he’s not just going through the admissions process because you’re making him. He actually wants to go to junior boarding school.
Help your son prepare a list of questions about the things that interest him about a junior boarding school. If he’s an athlete, maybe his questions are about practice schedules, starting rosters, the coach’s experience, or the team’s record. If he’s an academic star, maybe the questions will be about access to cutting-edge technology, advanced courses, or extracurricular academic clubs.
Or the questions can be more general: What are weekends like on campus? Will I have a roommate? How’s the food? The important thing is to show a genuine interest in his own future and his place within the school community.
(For more ideas of questions both you and your son can ask while visiting a junior boarding school, click here for a free copy of the Junior Boarding School Visit Checklist.)
3. Relax! Don’t over-prepare.
Whether it’s explicitly through the things you say or implied through your mood and tone of voice, children take their cues from their parents. So this tip is for you: Lay off the pressure. As much as you can, don’t stress about the interview and don’t over-prepare.
If you are relaxed and confident about your son’s upcoming interview, there’s a chance your son will be, as well. If you’re jittery and anxious, he might get the wrong idea about how well you expect him to perform.
The truth is, a junior boarding school interview isn’t much like the college interviews you had to go through. And it’s certainly not like a job interview. At a junior boarding school like Fessenden, the interviewer will do everything in his or her power to put your son at ease, to get him to open up so his true personality can shine through.
Our main advice for both you and your son? Show up, be engaged, and be yourselves.
Do you have any tips to share on preparing for a junior boarding school interview? Do you have any questions about what to expect? Please let us know in the comments section below.