I had the experience of applying to both public and private high schools as an eighth-grader, and because of the vastness of my application process, I had unique exposure to interviews. Over the course of two months, I sat down with representatives from six different schools and was evaluated for my performance. What both intrigued and perplexed me was that I could utter the same phrase at Trinity and have it be received entirely differently than at Beacon. Different schools expected different attire and levels of formality, and some schools had unspoken interview rules, like that you must write a thank you letter to your interviewer to get accepted.
By far the most important lesson I learned from paying attention to the nuanced undertones of my six interviews was this: when it comes down to it, interviews are about assessing fit, that is how well a potential student is likely to acclimate to the academic and social dynamics of a school. With this in mind, the key to a successful high school interview is tapping into what distinguishes the school at hand from all other institutions and how it matches you as an individual. Consequently, only when you leave an interview both feeling that you have represented yourself well and feeling genuinely interested in the school can you be sure that you aced it.
My current school, Bard High School Early College Queens (BHSECQ), has an interview component to its admissions process which reflects its values to a tee. When I walked into the school for my interview three years ago, I was immediately struck by the variety of clothing worn by my fellow applicants. While I wore a blazer and skirt, the other girl waiting to be interviewed had jeans and a plain long sleeve on, and the boy next to me wore a button-down. At the time, I found this unnerving, but what I’ve come to realize is that this fits with BHSECQ’s aesthetic well. There is neither a literal or figurative dress code. Students wear what makes them feel good, whether that be leggings, baggy jeans, or pajamas. The school is ideal for people with a carefree, non-judgemental outlook on style (which is not the case for all students, and that is okay).
I waited a few minutes before being called into my interview. Unlike some other schools, BHSECQ conducts interviews one-on-one, so I was alone with a teacher. The questions asked were routine: What is your favorite subject? Do you do extracurriculars? What’s your favorite book? Have you faced any significant academic challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them? What was not routine was the way my interviewer engaged with me and my answers. She addressed me with no condescension. I could have told her my favorite book was Goodnight Moon and she would only want to know why. We had a long conversation about Judaism and community, and then transitioned to soccer. Like Bard, the interview was stimulating and warm, and it centered around unpacking me as a person. I was afforded the opportunity to ask questions, which was not the case for many of the schools I interviewed for. I walked out exhilarated by the depth of the discussion and I knew that I wanted to spend more time at a place like Bard.
Noa Costom is a junior at Bard High School Early College Queens. She enjoys reading, running, and backpacking.
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