If you are facing an interview over the next few days, the following might help.
Boarding schools request interviews as a chance to get to know you as a person. You may be evaluated by the interviewer on things such as your communications skills, ability to articulate your motivation, goals and accomplishments, and interest in the school. The interviewer will assess whether you are a good fit for the school. You should similarly treat your visit to the school as a chance for you to see whether the school is a good fit from your perspective.
General Common Sense:
- Before the interview, make sure you have “done your homework” about the school: go on the school’s website, read any materials they have sent you, talk with any alumni you know who have gone there, or any current students you know.
- Arrive at your interview at least 15 minutes early so that you are not late, and also so you can take a deep breath and relax. Remember to eat something before you arrive.
- Dress appropriately (jacket, tie, nice shirt and pants for boys; suit or dress for girls).
- Don’t chew gum; turn off your cell phone.
- Try to obtain the interviewer’s name prior to meeting him/her (call ahead or ask the admission
- Upon meeting your interviewer: shake hands, make good eye contact, and greet them by name (“It’s
nice to meet you, Mr. Jones”).
- During the interview: sit up straight, don’t fidget, maintain eye contact, speak with good articulation,
focus, enthusiasm and conviction, and avoid casual phrases such as “you know,” “um”, and “like.” When the interviewer asks a question, it is always nice to begin with a confident start such as “sure,” “definitely” or “yes.” (Example: If Mr. Jones asks you “Can you tell me about your academic experience at Aspen Country Day School?” a good response would start with “Sure. I started Aspen Country Day in third grade, and am finishing my 8th grade year. I really enjoyed . .” A not-so-good response would sounds like, “Um, I’m in 8th grade and, you know, I liked Outdoor Ed. We, like, went on hut trips….”). During the interview: be yourself, and be honest when you respond.
- Tell the interviewer about your interests and things that make you unique. Activities, experiences and interests that you may think are ordinary may be unusual within the pool of applicants, particularly in a geographically distant place. (i.e.: dirt biking, skiing, spending summers in Alaska, family in the UK, adjusting to the move from NYC to a small mountain town).
- Be prepared to answer some questions that require you to be introspective on the spot (What difficult situation has your family faced? What would you do if you had a week to do anything you wanted?, If you could choose to be a famous person, who would it be?, etc.) Don’t be afraid to take a minute to formulate an answer to an unexpected question.
- Prepare some questions you would like to ask (but not things easily addressed on the website). Feel free to write them on an index card or bring a pad of paper with you. (Examples of some questions you can ask: Is there anything new on campus this year that you can tell me about?” “What do your students do to balance their school work and sports team commitments?”)
- At the end of the interview: shake hands with the interviewer, make good eye contact, and thank them for the interview. You should also ask for a copy of their business card, and following the interview, send the interviewer a brief thank you note (Example: Dear Mr. Jones, Thank you so much for interviewing me today. I enjoyed my visit to Holderness and our conversation confirmed my interest in attending Holderness. (add any other personal thoughts or things that may have come up during the interviewer to help them remember you). If there is any additional information you need to consider my application, please let me know. Sincerely, ____).
Questions You Might be Asked:
You can think ahead of time about how you might answer questions such as these. You can role-play the questions with someone, or think them to yourself, but don’t overly memorize them and sounds robotic when you answer.
- Why are you applying to boarding school?
- Why are you applying to (Holderness), in particular?
- What do you like about (Holderness)?/What is it specifically about (Holderness) that makes you think it
would be the best fit for you?
- Tell me about your educational experience at Aspen Country Day.
- What are your academic/educational goals for the next 4 years?
- What are your goals, and how are they different from your parents’ goals for you?
- Do you like to learn? Is it cool to be smart at your school?
- What is more important to you: learning, or getting good grades?
- What do you do in your free time?
- What are you passionate about?
- If you had a day to do anything at all, what would you do?
- Can you tell me about a personal achievement?
- Can you tell me about a challenge you overcame? What did you learn?
- What do you feel are your strengths (what are you proud of?) and weaknesses (what do you want to
- If I spoke with your teachers, what would they tell me are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you explain your (low grades; absences; many schools you have attended)?
- What is the most important thing I should know about you?
- What makes you unique?
- How do you plan to contribute to the (Holderness) program?
- What did you do last summer?
- What do you do best?
- Tell me about your family.
- How does your family feel about you attending a boarding school?
- Have you ever been away to camp, or away from your family for a long stretch of time?
- Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself that we haven’t talked about already?
- Do you have any questions?
- Good Lu on the day!
“The UK’s pastoral care of international students is widely regarded as being one of the major strengths of the UK boarding school … however there are concerns that loopholes still do exist”.
Choosing a school for your daughter
Changing SchoolsGirls’ SchoolsOpen Days
Choosing a school for your daughter is one of the most important decisions you will have to make, and can seem daunting! There are many factors to consider and multiple sources of information, so make sure you allow enough time to get a balanced view of what’s available to you, and bear in mind the following tips from our Heads of Juniors…
Talk to other parents with children already settled in a school you are considering. Ask them why they chose that particular school, how the experience is for their child. What do they see as the strengths of the school? Is there anything they would have liked to be different?
Find out about the strengths of the schools you are considering and what additional opportunities they provide. If your child is very young you may not know whether she will be ‘sporty’, musical’, academic’ and so on. Does the school cater for a range of strengths and abilities? Does it offer an all round holistic education or is it more of an academic environment, in which case how would your daughter be tested in preparation for this?
What does the school do beyond the classroom? Are older girls given responsibilities and opportunities for leadership, for example helping with playtimes, the library and so on. Is there a house system to enable a family spirit within a school?
Do parents have access to staff in the mornings or after school to chat about any anxieties or issues? Is there strong communication between Parents and staff overall?
Visit several schools so you can decide where you feel your daughter would be most at home and happy.
During a school tour, talk to the staff and see if the children are actively involved in lessons and happy. Could you imagine your child at that school?
Questions to ask on your visit – what is the turnover of staff, what is included in the fees, parking/transport arrangements, events for parents, subjects covered, assessment and exams, entry procedures?
Ask about the different transition stages through the school and how they are prepared for those; for example the transition between EYFS and Key Stage 1, between Key Stage 1 and 2 and perhaps most significantly between Key Stage 2 and 3. Ensure that you are clear on any entry requirements at each of the different stages.
Remember that on Open Days everything is on show – it is important to see the school on a normal working day in order to get a fuller picture of what the school is all about – so you can observe the pupil rapport with staff, how the uniform looks, the presentation of the work and the pride the pupils take in their work, the manners of the pupils, displays around school.
When on a tour try to talk to pupils as well as the head/staff. The pupils are often the best representatives of a school and visiting on a regular school day will give you an insight into a broader group of pupils, not just those who may have been chosen to act as hosts on open day.
Look beyond the superficial façade of the school and talk to the staff too. These are the people who will be dealing with the girls most directly. It’s the people that make places.
Buying into a school is not unlike buying a house. As soon as you get through the front door you know whether you feel comfortable or not. Don’t be swayed by league tables, swimming pools and glossy pamphlets – If you feel at home then the likelihood is your daughter will feel comfortable too and so she will thrive.
Consider your checklist of priorities so you can compare your options in terms of ethos, fee structure, academic results etc, but also use your intuition. If the school feels right for you and you can imagine your child being happy and enjoying life there, it probably will be the best choice for you. If your daughter is happy she will flourish and learn.
Read the school’s most recent inspection report on either the Independent Schools Inspectorate or OFSTED websites
If you are lucky enough to find two schools you are really happy with then make sure your daughter experiences both schools’ taster days and then let her rank them in order of choice….then respect her choice!
With thanks to the Heads of Juniors at the following schools:
Alderley Edge School for Girls, Derby High School, Shrewsbury High School, Talbot Heath Junior School, The Maynard School, The Prep School of St Albans High School for Girls, The Red Maids’ Junior School
Left scratching your head about the difference between public school, private school and independent school? And where on earth prep schools and boarding schools fit into the picture? Fear not – our at a glance guide will set you straight:
Public schools: historically, the most exclusive – and expensive – of boys’ private (mainly boarding) schools, eg Eton, Harrow and Winchester. Formerly the realm of the upper classes, who are now (with fees topping £30K) Now often co-ed, attended by boys and girls aged 13 to 18.
Boarding schools: schools with facilities for pupils to have a home from home on a termly, often offering superb facilities and a multitude of extracurricular activities. NB most now include a large proportion of day pupils. If you live overseas you will need to appoint a Guardian for your child when the school is closed and to provide a range of services supporting your child.
Independent schools and private schools: essentially the same thing, ranging from grand public schools and highly selective day schools to tiny local ones and everything in between. The common denominator is that they have no state funding but rely on tuition fees, gifts and endowments.
Prep and pre-prep schools: preparatory/pre-preparatory schools – essentially independent primary schools for children aged 3 to 7/8 (pre-preps), or aged 7 to 11/13 (preps). They prepare pupils for entry to mainly independent secondary schools of all types.
Find a schoolIndependent schools, public schools and private schools are essentially the same thing and have history to blame for their different and confusing range of names. Their common denominator is that they charge fees.
Independent schools range from the glorious and great to tiny schools run by parents who want a particular kind of education for their children. They have no state funding; instead they rely on tuition fees, gifts and endowments.
What is a public school?
In the UK, ‘public school’ is now a somewhat archaic term for the oldest, most exclusive and expensive of the boys’ independent secondary boarding schools (some are now at least partly co-educational). The Public Schools Act 1868 gave the following schools independence from the Crown, the established church or the government in favour of management by a board of governors:
Charterhouse, Eton College, Winchester College, Harrow School, Rugby School, Shrewsbury School, and Westminster.
The term ‘public school’ is gradually being abandoned in favour of ‘independent school’. All of the original public schools are still considered top schools (now joined by a number of other leading schools) and all are reviewed by The Good Schools Guide (subscribers should log-in to read the reviews). Some remain all boys schools but many now take girls either in the sixth-form or throughout the school.
Is there a difference between public schools and independent schools?
Public schools are independent schools but not all independent schools are public schools. (Just to confuse matters, public schools in many countries outside England are actually state schools).
In the UK independent schools – as well as being fee paying – are ‘independent’ because of their freedom to operate, to a considerable extent, outside government regulations, though they have, of course, to conform to official standards of education, health and safety etc, are regularly inspected and prepare pupils for the same public exams as state schools.
Are the best independent schools the ones with the greatest names?
Not necessarily; undoubtedly many of the great names remain leaders within the world of education, but the best school is the one that best suits your child. This might be the grandest and greatest of the traditional public schools, or the local Independent school that goes the extra mile to help your child achieve their potential.
Ten reasons why parents choose an independent school
Independent schools charge fees but are favoured by many because:
Greater parental choice – though ultimately the school decides who to admit.
Academic standards are generally high.
Fewer pupils per class – greater individual attention.
Most offer an extensive range of extracurricular activities.
Sport for all is usually encouraged. Most offer a range to ensure there is something for everyone.
Some are in very beautiful buildings and/or surroundings.
Facilities at some of the schools are amongst the finest in the world.
A choice of day, boarding or a mix of the two.
They may provide good networking opportunities.
They may help with entry to top universities.
It used to be the case that the upper crust and those who were themselves privately educated sent their children to independent schools. Nowadays, more than half the children attending fee-paying schools have parents who are first time buyers. However, as school fees rise beyond the rate of inflation and austerity bites, this is showing signs of reversing.
Are independent schools selective?
Yes; though some are more selective than others. For a small number of non-selective schools (mostly in or near to London) the only way to gain a place is to register your child’s birth then head straight to the school and etch their name on the waiting list; most schools now organise admissions so that not all places are nabbed by autumn births. Fortunately at most schools things are not quite so competitive, with many rural prep and senior schools actively recruiting pupils.
Early years selection tends to be via a gentle assessment to see if your child will fit the bill (though even at such a tender age a handful have the hurdles set uncomfortably high). Speech, interaction, play and social skills are the order of the day. If your child has a difficulty in these areas we recommend you consult our extensive SEN section. Many independent schools welcome children with mild special needs, but numbers with the welcome mat out dwindle rapidly as degree of special need increases.
By 7 or 8 expect your child to be examined in maths and English possibly with some form of IQ test to measure potential. Many will invite the child along for the day to see how they fit with other children. Often they are trying to ensure a child is appropriately placed rather than screening. A handful, especially those in the capital, are looking for the brightest and best.
Most senior schools use the 11+ or common entrance exam (or scholarship for top-dogs) to assess whether the proposed pupil meets their academic requirements. Selection should be a two-way process – choosing the right school for your child is of paramount importance, so please get in touch today as have done your research for you and can help every step of the way.
Your personal statement is your chance to give the admissions tutors at the universities that you are applying to a chance to meet the real you – to demonstrate your interest in the course, show what you would bring to the faculty and the university and convince the admissions tutors to offer you a place. You have limited space to express yourself – only 4000 characters or 37 lines in the UCAS box (whichever you reach first) which translates as just over a page of typed A4 – so every sentence in your personal statement will need to pull its weight. Bear in mind that you can only write one personal statement for all of your university choices, so make sure that you are tailoring your statement as much as possible to each of the courses you are applying to – otherwise your tutors might doubt your commitment to their university and course. One thing’s for certain: you won’t come up with a polished personal statement overnight. It will take many drafts, a lot of editing and a few late-night flashes of inspiration – and it will all be worth it when those university offers start rolling in. To help you get started, we’ve got a few useful tips to point you in the right direction. What should you include? Although it’s called a personal statement, the idea is not just to give the admissions tutors a potted history of your life to date. You need to be expressing your academic self – your interest in the subject you are applying for and your achievements in that area. Your personal statement is a good place to write about any subject-related work experience you have done, any courses of lectures that you have attended which have advanced your knowledge and will demonstrate that your interest extends beyond the classroom and any books or articles that you have read. Make sure that you are not just listing the things that you have done– try to show what your reading and experiences have taught your and how they have developed your interest and understanding of your subject. You should mention your extra-curricular achievements as well, but the amount of space that you dedicate to this section should depend on the university to which you are applying: if you are applying to Oxford, Cambridge or Imperial, you should keep your extra-curricular activities to a minimum as these universities are focussed primarily on your academic achievements. If you’re applying to a university such as Loughborough, which may be looking at the contribution that you will make to the university as a whole as well as the faculty, then you can dedicate a bit more space to your achievements outside of your subject. How do you start? There are about a million ways of starting your personal statement – and there is no one correct way to begin: some people start with a quote which encapsulates their interest, others with an anecdote that explains where their curiosity for their subject stems from. Your opening should set the tone for the rest of the personal statement – showing your enthusiasm and interest in your subject, and introducing the admissions tutor to your personality. Don’t ever feel like you need to pretend to be someone else in your personal statement – just make sure you are your academic self. Speak as you would to your headmaster or mistress – clearly, maturely, but retaining a sense of who you are. How do you finish? Almost as hard as starting is finishing! Your final paragraph doesn’t have to be long – just enough to round off your statement and reiterate your interest and dedication for your subject. Watch out that you don’t come across as too arrogant or self-assured here – it can be easy after almost 4000 characters of own-trumpet blowing to get a little carried away! Is there anything to avoid? Your personal statement is your space to sell your own subject interest. You haven’t got much room, so make sure that you’re not repeating anything that the admissions tutors could find out somewhere else on your UCAS form – you don’t need to list your A levels or GCSE grades, for example, as these go into the form in a different section. You should aim to be really positive in your personal statement. This is not the place to attempt to explain a lower predicted grade due to a disagreement with a teacher or the fact that you needed to miss school for an extended period of time due to illness. If there is something in this vein that you feel the admissions tutors need to know, ask the teacher writing your reference whether he or she could include this in the reference section of the UCAS form. It’s far better for your teacher to bring this to the admissions tutor’s attention and it means you don’t waste space trying to explain yourself – instead you can just dazzle the university with your interests and achievements. Final advice It may not be the most exciting activity and after days, weeks and even months of drafting, summoning up the motivation might be a challenge, but proof-reading your personal statement is absolutely essential! You know that feeling you get when you spot a typo in an article – no matter how insignificant, it lowers your opinion of the content of the piece and the author. Admissions tutors are likely to be sticklers for accuracy, so make sure you get your teachers, friends and parents to proof-read it a couple of times. One tip we’ve got is to being with the last sentence and work your way through your personal statement backwards – it keeps you focussing on the individual sentence and not the full statement. Best of luck with your personal statement! Look on it as a challenge, but also a very important opportunity to talk about a fascinating subject – you!
We provide Guardian services in the following areas and at the following schools. We provide students studying at these schools with a fully checked and matched host family, transportation assistance provided by our transport partner, regular school visits and attendance at all important school meetings and 24/7 emergency support- whatever the problem.
Bedford School Study Centre
Queen Anne’s School
The Oratory School
Cambridge Centre for Sixth Form Studies
King’s Ely International
St Christophers School
St Francis School
St Mary’s School
The Leys School
The Stephen Perse Sixth Form College
New Hall School
Bishop Stortford College
Hockerill Anglo European College
Princess Helena College
St Edmunds College
St Francis College
Wellesley House (Prep School)
Mill Hill International
Royal Hospital School
St Joseph’s College
King Edwards Whitley
St Teresa’s School
St John’s School
UCAS the university application system, launched yesterday a Parent guide to help you and your child start their university application process, the guide takes you through the whole application process, courses, finance and accommodation.
If you need to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to study in England from September 2016 please follow this link from the UK Council for International Student Affairs: http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/Information–Advice/Visas-and-Immigration/Making-a-Tier-4-General-application-outside-the-UK