Interview Advice for UK Boarding School Admissions

Boarding school interviews are a necessary part of the admissions process to most top UK independent schools. Your immediate thought may be to prepare your child rigorously for the interview so he or she can answer every question perfectly; however, if you have ample time to prepare, you may wish to consider a slower and more refined approach. 

Will your child have to attend an interview for a UK boarding school?

Usually, yes. School staff will want to meet prospective pupils. Most of the top schools hold interviews, including (but not limited to) Eton, Rugby, Winchester and St. Catherine’s

The questions, length and subject matter of each interview will vary depending on the school, but here is roughly what you can expect: 

  • Expect the interview to be around 30 minutes long.
  • The interviewer is likely to be either the headmaster or more likely the prospective housemaster. There may be up to two or three interviewers.
  • The interview will usually be more like a discussion between pupil and teacher rather than the formal job-style interview.
  • The interview is likely to be on an admissions day where your child will spend the day or an afternoon at the school doing various familiarisation activities, possibly including an admissions test and the interview.

With this in mind, how best to prepare?

First of all, preparing answers in advance and having your child memorise them is usually a bad idea. This is because the interviewers will be able to tell, and children without much experience at interviews are likely to be poor at adapting what they have memorised to specific questions.

Which UK boarding school interview questions are common?

Interviews are all different, but some good sample questions to think about might include: 

  • What is something you want to achieve while at this school?
  • Which is your favourite subject and why? 
  • If you could change something about your current school, what would it be? 
  • Do you have any ideas about what you want to do at higher education (university)?
  • What do you like doing in your free time? (Note: this comes up a lot, so have a good, well-rounded answer to this; simply “video games” is not a great answer!)

As stated above, you should not try to memorise perfect answers to these questions. These are just some points to think about. 

Here are some tips to help your child prepare for interviews in the long run:

Make sure your child reads widely.

This doesn’t just mean Harry Potter. You might want to introduce your child to some more classic British literature, perhaps starting with C.S. Lewis, for example. But it is also a good idea to have your child read more on their favourite subjects and topics of interest. For example, if s/he is very keen on maths, it would be a good opportunity to research some of the history and logic behind some mathematical theories. This will help your child demonstrate real passion and knowledge for academia during an interview.

Consider some ideas for 16+ education.

It would be helpful to have some plans for A-Levels and consider what profession/university course might interest your child. This will help show that s/he has some ambition and sense of purpose. This means you should talk it through with him/her.

Considering thoroughly why he/she would like to go to this particular school.

Something like ‘Mum wants me to because lots of people who go here also go to Oxford later’ isn’t really a good reason. The school you’re picking should be one your child likes anyway, so you can go through their reasons with them and establish what they like when it comes to the new school.

Rehearsing the interview with overly prepared answers is not a good idea; however, a few mock interviews and discussions with an experienced advisor may be able to highlight weaknesses and help improve overall confidence and comfort in interviews. Contact us today if you and your child need support through this process.