Helping Your Child Ace School Admission Interviews

Imagine you are a parent of a 12-year old or an 18-year old. Your child has passed the PSLE or “A” levels or IB final exams with flying colours. It has always been his/her dream to enter an elite school or university. Despite the good academic results or lack of, your child needs to cross that final hurdle – and that is to succeed in the school admission interview.

Almost everyone, including adults, dreads interviews. For a child or teenager, having to attend an interview can be very intimidating. My sister once told me of her friend’s son horrific experience with an interview. He had always wanted to go to St Joseph International School because he was so excited about their beautiful campus and interesting curriculum. But he had sleepless nights because of the upcoming interview. He did not know what to expect. Neither did his parents. On the day of the interview itself, he was so traumatised about having to face a “firing squad”. To add on to his nervousness, he saw 2 “ang moh” interviewers upon entering the interview room. Throughout the whole interview, he did nothing except to remain speechless and give hesitant one-word answers to the questions asked. Not surprisingly, he failed to enter his dream school because his interview was a disaster. In fact, a chief operating officer from one of the international schools in Singapore told me that half of the candidates fail to get admission to the school because of their sub-par performance at interviews.

Story No. 2: We discovered that my niece was dyslexic only when she was in primary six. She did not do well in her PSLE because of her “handicap”. My sister decided to send her to Hwa Chong International School so that she could receive more personal attention since the teacher-student ratio was lower. Other than having to take an entrance exam, she also had to go for that all scary interview. So I was asked by my sister to prepare my niece for her interview. I coached her on how to behave and sell herself from the beginning of the interview (like making her entrance to the interview room) to the end of the interview. I also taught her how to present the right visual language, unearth her strengths by doing a personal inventory of her achievements and use the story telling technique to captivate their audience and make her answers memorable. I will never forget a phone call I received from my 12-year old niece one day, “Xiao Ah Yi (small auntie), thanks for helping me prepare for the interview. I got into Hwa Chong International!”

Prestigious universities in Australia, US and UK often require candidates to pass through many obstacles tests in order to get a place in the university of their choice. Besides expecting candidates to have excellent grades for their “A” levels or IB exam, they have to excel in aptitude tests, entrance exams and lastly, the all important admission interview. Even in the context of Singapore, the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine requires candidates to go through seven rounds of interviews. In this competitive world, where there are long queues of candidates wanting to get into the “right” university or course, this is an effective method to separate the sheep from the goats, to weed out those candidates who are not passionate enough or who do not possess the personality traits they are looking for. For many universities, the admission interview is important to ensure that candidates are the right fit for their university or for a particular programme.

There are certain misconceptions that people usually have about interviews. Firstly, some people think that it is not possible to prepare for interviews since we cannot predict what the interviewer is going to ask. Secondly, there are people who think that it is possible to prepare for interviews by predicting questions, having formulaic answers, and memorising them word for word. But the problem with this method is that your answers will sound stilted, and preparation by rote learning  will not help you to create flexible answers for the endless variants of possible questions.

What I am trying to convey above through the two stories is that it is a myth that one cannot prepare for interviews. Also, please do not expect your child to depend on luck and pass the admission interview with flying colours without any preparation. Lastly, strategic preparation for interviews makes a phenomenal difference to the interview performance on the day itself.

In addition, it is usually the small things that are the killers in an interview. Examples include bad body language, poor grooming, poor listening skills, talking about one’s strengths without substantiation, rambling one’s answers on and on etc.

Another hindrance that candidates commonly face is low self-esteem. They fear their “handicaps” will lead to their failure in getting in to their ideal school. Their handicap could be their less than sterling academic results. Their handicap could be their lack of English proficiency. Their handicap could be their shyness. And the list goes on. To reassure you, everyone in this world has handicaps. I can guarantee you one thing: it is usually not the candidates’ handicaps that will prevent them from acing school admission interviews; it is their preoccupation with it. The fact that the school has called your child or teenager up for the admission interview is a positive sign. So the bottom line is – candidates need to focus on their strengths in the interview.

So as you can see, many things can go wrong in an admission interview. But the good news is that good interviewing skills are not elusive and innate talents that only an exclusive few possess- they can be trainable by an interview expert. Hence, to give your child or teenager an edge over their competitors, do send them for an interview preparation course to enhance their chances of getting into their dream school or university.

Article written by Eden Pang

About the Author

Eden Pang is currently teaching communication skills in a local university. She received a Masters of Linguistics from the University of Delaware, United States and a Bachelor of Arts from the National University of Singapore. Eden has extensive experience (15 years) in teaching and coordinating the Professional Communication course for undergraduates. Her forte lies in teaching writing personal statements, resume writing, interviewing skills and public speaking.  To date, she has helped more than 10,000 students secure their ideal jobs and internships through her expertise in teaching resume writing and interviewing skills to her students. In addition, she often gives career counselling to her students and helps her students refine their personal statements for scholarship or post-graduate education applications. She is gifted in imparting her knowledge to the next generation and her dream in life is to fulfil the dreams of the youths.

Services Offered by Eden

1-to-1 coaching to teenagers and adults in:

  • Resume writing and personal statement for school, scholarship and internship application
  • Interviewing skills for children intending to go to international schools and pre-university students applying to universities
  • Resume writing and interviewing skills coaching to adults
  • Public speaking skills

For more details on packages, please call Eden at HP: 9017 3558

[Note from Eden: If you cannot reach me, it could be because I am teaching. I will return your phone call asap; if not, you can What’s App me]


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