9 Common Boarding School Interview Questions

Many boarding schools have an interview process before accepting students. Knowing what kind of questions they may ask can help you prepare for the interview and increase your child’s chances of acceptance. Outlined in this blog are 9 common boarding school interview questions:

“Why are you pursuing a boarding school education?”/ “What are you most excited about in your high school years?”

Why They Ask: Boarding schools are relatively rare options for families, with roughly 35,000 students doing this nationwide. For context, more than 40 million students attended public school in 2020, so boarders are about 0.0875% of the number of public students. Even private schools are far more common than boarding, so schools want to know why you’re inquiring. They want to know that your child has envisioned this type of education as a reality.  Schools want to know what the details are about this specific type of high school experience that drew you to this point.

How To Answer: Be honest and tell them your reasoning. Some families are looking for a challenging curriculum, while others need to travel for work reasons and want their children to have an excellent educational environment. High school is the last step before many embark on a college career. Are there specific things the student has envisioned involving themself in when they reach these transformative years? Maybe it is to make a varsity sport, to be cast in a play, go to prom, be president of the student government, or to earn an “A” in chemistry.  Be specific.  Literature and film have depicted high school in many forms, what kind of experience has your student landmarked as a rite of passage. 

“Are you involved with extracurricular activities?” or “What is your typical day like after school?”

Why They Ask: This is one of the most common boarding school interview questions. Boarding school students tend to be active and engaged with their environment.However, they’re looking for information on how you interact in your daily life and manage your time. Extracurricular can apply to academic, athletic, or artistic pursuits.

How To Answer: Talk about some things you are actively involved in or areas that you would like to explore once you reach high school. Share what you’ve accomplished, especially if you’ve won any awards or recognition. If possible, tie that into your educational plans and areas the school is known for teaching. Boarding school does not have a dismissal, students and faculty are always interacting, whether that’s over a meal, on the soccer field, or in a dorm setting. How does your student envision spending their time outside of the classroom?

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Why They Ask: Schools like to know if potential students have any self-awareness. People who understand their flaws are more likely to commit to overcoming them, which makes them better students.

How To Answer: Describe one strength, including how you’ve successfully applied it in your life. After that, describe one of your weaknesses. For added effect, talk about how you failed at something and what you learned from that failure, then how you hope to learn something specific to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

“What is your current school like, and what would you change?”

Why They Ask: Boarding schools don’t have a potential student’s educational history – not to the same level as the information public schools share, anyway. They want to know about your current environment, but more importantly, they want to see if what a student is looking for in a school matches what they can provide.

How To Answer: Be honest about your current school. When talking about something you would change, try to tie it to something the boarding school is known for. You can use this as an explanation for why you’re seeking a boarding school in the first place. Interviewers know their school’s strengths well, so they’ll easily make this connection.

“When have you demonstrated leadership?”

Why They Ask: Boarding schools like students who take the initiative and enjoy leading projects. They’re not just a student’s school, they’re a student’s life for months or even years, and they want students who will get the most from it. Students who demonstrate leadership, like those who do extracurricular activities, are more likely to be engaged, and thus more fulfilled.

How To Answer: Describe a time when you took the initiative to accomplish a project. You can discuss how you started the project, the help you got for it, and the setbacks you faced. Don’t try to imply that you’re perfect and have no problems as a leader. Honestly admitting to a problem, then describing how you overcame it, is more impressive in interviews.

“What do you plan to study in college?”

Why They Ask: Boarding schools want to know if you have an idea of where you’re going in life. This question is less common for younger children, but anyone approaching high school age may face it. This question is mainly about your foresight and maturity.

How To Answer: Be honest about your plans, and remember that it’s okay if you haven’t fully decided yet. If you’re unsure, tell them two or three areas that you’re interested in, then say that you want to use some of your time to learn more about each area and make a final decision before you graduate.

“Who’s someone you admire, and why?”

Why They Ask: This question helps interviewers get a better sense of your character and interests. Someone who focuses on learning from politicians is probably quite different from someone who talks about scientists.

How To Answer: Try to pick a non-controversial figure with accomplishments that relate to your interests. A good answer here will explain who the person is (unless they’re exceptionally famous), what they’ve accomplished, and what you learned from them. If relevant, you can also talk about how they‘ve inspired you to do something.

“Tell us about your family.”

Why They Ask: Boarding schools rarely frame this as a question because it’s more of a demand on their end. They want to get a better sense of their student and the student’s family, including how much support the family is likely to give while the student’s in school.

How To Answer: Be honest about your family life, but try to emphasize things you do together. You can mention things like traveling together, educational outings, or projects you’ve worked on as a group. Boarding schools prefer students from healthy families, but they understand that some students often use it as an escape from their current environment.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

Why They Ask: This one is as obvious as it sounds. They want to know if you need any information they haven’t already provided. On a secondary level, this can alert them to any special interests or hobbies they may want to know about.

How To Answer: Be honest and ask any lingering questions you have. If you don’t have any questions, ask them if they have any interesting changes coming to the school and whether you’ll be able to participate in them.

Final Thoughts 

These are some of the common boarding school interview questions you can expect to face in an interview. Try writing down and rehearsing your answers, and remember that it’s okay if you don’t know how to answer everything. Just be yourself!

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About the Author

Buffalo Seminary is an independent day and boarding school for college-bound girls in Buffalo, NY.

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