The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school admissions teams across the nation to think about and develop new and creative ways to get to know students in this socially distanced and virtual world.
Standard approaches such as conducting in-person playdates, shadow days, and face-to-face interviews in many cases are not currently feasible due to safety concerns and social distancing guidelines. As a result, there is an increasing need for independent educational consultants (IECs) to inform and educate clients about best practices as they relate to virtual interviewing in order to maximize the impact and effectiveness of the overall virtual interviewing and application process.
Below we have included some tips for both parents and students to consider while forging their way through the application process.
Parent Tips for Virtually Interviewing
- Your attention and focus on the computer screen will be extremely important. Make sure you are present; remove all distractions (phone, clock, etc.). Your goal is full engagement!
- If a virtual conversation is not something you are comfortable with, start practicing in the mirror or in a mock Zoom session with a family member or friend. This will create a mindfulness around facial expression and body language.
- Be mindful of lighting, camera placement, and appearance. The idea is to present yourself as professionally as possible. Ensure that the light is on your face and not brightly shining behind you, as this creates a blinding glare. This video offers tips for looking your best on video calls.
- Your background tells a story. What story do you want it to tell? Pay attention to the background behind you. Are there discreet ways to use the background to enhance who you are? Or, do you want to present a simple, uncluttered look? Some virtual collaboration applications allow for virtual backgrounds.
- Make sure your conversation is collaborative (give and take). Come prepared with questions. Help them make the connections for why you and your family are a great fit.
- Always send a thank-you note!
Preparation for the Child’s Virtual Interview
Every school has a different process, especially during COVID-19 where these are newly developed. Make sure you have clarity on the process.
- Will there be an internal assessment at the same time of the interview or is the assessment a separate process? What materials do you need to have available? Planning ahead creates less stress for both you and your child. Schools are happy to answer your questions.
- Have your child learn about the school through its website, optional activities offered by the school, and scheduled playdates with current students. The more they can connect with the school, the more they will have to say during the interview. Take time to help your child develop questions to ask during the interview and ways to share information about themselves.
- Try to schedule your child’s interview at a time when your child is at his or her best! Provide space in your home with limited distractions (no cell phones, television, games, etc.). Make sure your child is set up about five minutes before the interview starts so that he or she is ready to engage. Practice having your child stare into the camera. Also find out if the parent is expected to be present or if this is only for the child. For younger children, parents may be expected to hang around for technical support—but do ask the question! Remember, this is your child’s time to spend with the school.
- Visually allow the school to get to know your child through your virtual context. Are there pictures or awards that you can strategically place in your child’s sight to trigger a memory? To illustrate, if your child has a difficult time engaging, have your child interview in their room so that they can remember to share things that they care about.
By Rona Frederick, PhD, IECA Associate (DC) and Theodra Washington, CEP, IECA (MD)
Rona Frederick, Moja Educational Consulting, can be reached at [email protected]
Theodra Washington, Metropolitan Educational Consulting Group, LLC, can be reached at [email protected]