The Good, Bad and Ugly: Lessons Learned

Just wanted to share observations from the whole process and key lessons learned. No particular order.

First of all, you are at the mercy of the interviewer and their perception and/or bias. My son went through about 10 interviews and was able to tell from the interview, how serious the school’s interest was in him. This is really a frustrating thing in that there is not much you can do about it. Luckily, the interviewers were very good overall.

Secondly, don’t assume anything. My son was blindsided by one school that whispered sweet nothings to us (parents and him) and then completely rejected his application just 3 weeks after telling him he was one of the best candidates they’d seen. We held back on applying to some other schools during the process because we thought he was assured a spot (this is a Canadian school). The school has a reputation for being “old money”. I think the fact we need FA played a huge role.

Thirdly, always be positive and communicate graciously. After being waitlisted, our son emailed everyone he spoke to at the school to thank them and reiterated his interest. Both schools he is waitlisted with responded and appreciated his reaching out. Again, don’t harass the schools.

Lastly: be yourselves and be honest. If you need to behave differently to make an impression, it is not the right school for your child. Out of maybe 10 schools our son dealt with (Canada and US), I’d say only 1 was a horrible experience. The remaining 9 treated our son with respect which is all we can ask for.


Curious about this as in our case all interviews occurred prior to hitting Send on the completed applications (which I think is the case almost 100% of the time). How could they have interest in him, or not, based on the interview? Or are you saying that the interest or lack thereof unfolded as a result of and during the interviews?

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My son’s application was pretty complete by the time he interviewed. He scheduled his interviews after most of the requirements were submitted and certainly not before. I think it totally dependent when the process was took place.

Ah gotcha. Interesting, thanks.

I totally agree with the “be yourselves and be honest”. Although we all would like our children to be accepted everywhere, reality is that they don’t “fit” and will not thrive everywhere. As difficult as it is to have rejections, I hope that the AO are doing their jobs and not admitting those who they know will not “fit” at their particular school. The only way the AO can do this is if our children present their true selves in the process. Nobody benefits from students having to leave a school if it turns out not to be the right place for them.

I agree about the interview. DD applied 3 places, her dad and I met two of the interviewers at the end of her part and they were nice enough. One said she seemed very mature and a good fit (both those schools rejected her). The third she felt was her best interview, she clicked with the interviewer well and did not feel at all nervous or uncomfortable. Her dad and I were unable to meet that person. I think even if your application is not yet complete, the interviewers definitely pull for those they really connected to. I also learned a lot about FA. I had no idea how much harder it is to get accepted when you request it. We knew nothing about boarding schools so applied based on which schools seemed to have the most FA - but were also some of the lowest acceptance rates. Luckily, the one she clicked with in the interview came through on M10.
I also think that submitting a video link is extremely helpful if you have a talent or interest where that is appropriate. We did that, as well as emailed the link to the appropriate person expressing interest in the program (not a “sport”). But also, I wish we had found this forum and researched more for “fit”. I think- I hope we lucked out and found it. Knowing what I do now I can’t believe how lucky she was!


Firstly, just because you have completed most of your application does not mean that your interviewer has seen it. That just isn’t a good assumption.

Secondly, I recommend being aware that while we think we know what’s going on, we don’t. I have 2 kids in/gone to BS so I have been listening to other parents IRL talk about admissions for 5+years. 90% of what they assume is wrong. It happened again last night, a Dad who’s kid was waitlisted going on and on with totally wrong info.


I agree with @one1ofeach here. Often the interviewers know very little about the candidate they are interviewing, unless the interviewer is the Dean or Dir. of Admissions, in which case, it is a senior interviewer likely for a reason.

Interviews are only a part of the admissions committee evaluation process, and usually cannot derail an application unless the interview was terrible. On the flip side, a great interview usually cannot get a candidate admitted - it just helps the overall score that is tabulated by the ad com.

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…And, while it doesn’t apply to this year, do keep a check on what you discuss with other applicants/parents at the admissions office - like, you probably shouldn’t loudly discuss things the school doesn’t have (a specific sport, for example) that are a high priority for you. (Yes, I overheard exactly that at an on campus interview.)

And at least do some cursory research on the “culture” of a particular school.

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Yes, Sir, your son’s has been my experience too. Some schools were simply not interested, even at the outset. Others were very enthusiastic, even at the outset.

One thing that still held true for me: interviews seemed to weigh big. The enthusiastic schools at least waitlisted me, whereas those less so flat-out rejected me.

One thing I regret: I should have applied earlier. I applied early December and by then the interview schedule seemed running on hyperdrive. I could only imagine what a herculian task admissions must have faced this year, with 50% increase in volume, amid COVID. I should have expected the crunch and applied earlier.

Agreed with applying earlier. We were not sure because of covid if by 2021 BS would be an option. Also, high school grades were delayed for first term.

What really helped our son is the schools that requested personal recommendations from his current school are the ones he got waitlisted on. Those pushed him to the next round at least and the schools learned a lot more about him through those. The more they get to know you the better.

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Just to add though: for US schools, they specifically say that there is no benefit to applying early, and you interview before applying for the most part. We actually used the interview as a tool to help us decide which schools my DDs liked – we removed several schools both last year and this year (for two different daughters) after interviewing.

Now I will say that knowing what your essays are going to be about (approx), and doing the important work of looking at who you are and how you will add to a school will absolutely make you a better interviewer. So I don’t think the application itself needs to be done (and in fact, I would discourage early application, because great things happen in December and you want to add it in!), I DO think that the greater work of knowing who you are and what your magic is matters, and is best to do before interviewing.


I agree^^

We interviewed at multiple schools which my kids did not end up applying to - the interview/tour convinced them it wasn’t the school for them.

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Do not let an interview make your decision as to which schools to apply.

Interviews can be deceptive & misleading.

Base decisions on several factors rather than on just one consideration.

Once enrolled, students rarely interact with admissions officers.


Our son graduated from Choate without ever having stepped foot in the admissions office or talking to an AO. We saw Choate for the first time on revisit days. The two schools that accepted him were the ones where he interviewed with alums at coffee shops in our home state. I’ve also posted many times that the two AD’s who gushed over him were the two rejections. So, I’m pretty neutral on interviews. A bad one isn’t going to help, but a great one may not mean anything either.

@Publisher is absolutely correct about not making decisions based on interviews or interviewers (or tour guides) as you may never see those people again. Their role is done in April, and though they may be happy to see you when they pass you on campus, their focus is preparing for the next round.

The fact is there are no tea leaves to be read during this process. You put your best application forward and then let the chips fall where they may. That’s all you or any candidate can do.


I disagree. Sometimes it is clear after visiting a campus that the school isn’t for you. If you are a kid who can be picky then it’s ok to be picky. Why go through the trouble to apply to a school you don’t want to attend?


With the pandemic this year’s process really came down to interviews. Many applicants couldn’t visit the campus and so the opportunities to interact were few and far between.

One thing for sure, given the numbers of applicants, many people are abandoning the public school system. And for parents are willing to pay full fare to get in even if they don’t have the means.

Regarding interviews – I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we should choose (or reject) a school based on the whims of one person’s personality. But if you feel like a school isn’t a fit by the time you visit, tour and interview, in my opinion, then that is meaningful information. Listen to it. It’s a little harder when it’s just zoom for sure. But even this year, we were able to suss out a bad fit by piecing together interview data points, admissions zoom sessions, etc… and we removed two schools from consideration.

What is SUPER clear, though, is that I wouldn’t NOT remove a school from consideration just because my kid thought that the interview didn’t go well. That, I think, is unreliable predictor.


I would agree with @canuckdad. This year’s process came down to interviews. Two different AO’s told me that the interview and teachers’ recommendations are essential for the application this year since test scores were optional.

A week after my daughter’s acceptance and enrollment, the AO sent a handwritten note saying, “When I first meet you on zoom, I knew you would be a terrific Taftie in every respect! You will be hardworking and a dedicated student/Athlete and be a wonderful community member. I can’t wait to welcome you to campus in September and see you in a Taft Jersey!”

I also had several calls on M10 and the days following with Ao’s and coaches from the schools she applied to. Many mentioned, among other things, how strong and impressive her interview was. We were honored and humbled by how many schools wanted her and gave us the hardcourt press after M10. One school even set up a family interview with the Headmaster during the application process. Although FP, we were offered generous merit awards from some schools to our surprise. Taft was always her first choice, and we could not be more impressed with the school, AO’s, teachers, and coaches. We have learned from this process that the complete application is essential, and this year, interviews and recommendations held a lot of weight.

Full disclosure my daughter will be a repeat Freshman from a private day school. She is an honor student and a three-sport athlete at the varsity level as a freshman and has dreams of attending the Naval Academy.

Reading through this thread, The kids are so impressive and driven. It is refreshing to see so many goal-driven young people; this country still has hope! You will all end up in the place you are meant to be! Keep your positive mindset, keep grinding, learn from failures and setbacks! Good luck to all of you! From what I’m told this has been the most competitive admissions process ever for all prep schools. Go Rhinos!


This probably varies by school. With smaller schools, AOs are married to teachers, are advisors, their kids attend, and a good chunk of the student body are tour guides.

Last year at Cate, pre-pandemic, a beloved AO passed away after a long battle with cancer. They closed school that day. The students spontaneously posted notes all around her office door, as a sort of impromptu memorial. Families showed up for tours that day - I have wondered what impression those families came away with. The people in Admissions (the whole campus really) were wrecked, and others had to step in.

They had a virtual memorial for her a few months ago that I sadly couldn’t attend. She was the AO that interviewed kiddo, and I credit her as the reason kiddo is at Cate. Our interview with her was qualitatively different than at any other schools, and I knew she truly connected with kiddo. Anytime I was on campus we chatted like friends. She was - and still is - a huge part of campus culture.