Getting Ready For A Parent Interview: 3 Tips from Anne Simon

Anne Simon headshot 2014


Anne Simon is wonderful my co-author and step-mom. With decades of experience as a head of school and admissions director, here she’s highlighted 3 tips to help you get ready for the parent interview, an essential part of the L.A. private school admissions process at many schools.


Preparing for a parent interview is much easier if you follow a few simple steps:
1) Review the website of the school you are visiting on the day before the interview. You’d be amazed what you might see that’s important and that you had not remembered or noticed before.

2) Review any notes you may have made about your tour experience of that school. Remember that this is a chance to zero in on that school and not be thinking about the many others you are considering. Be ready to talk about specific programs or attributes you like about that school!

3) Review your Family Message and pick out a few key points where you see that the principles of the school (philosophy, curriculum, campus design, teaching approach, community feel) are in alignment with what you have written in your message, either about your child or about what you want for your family in general. Once you have both done this, take 1/2 hour and have a conversation that focuses specifically on this school and how it would serve your family. Also discuss how, specifically, you would want to be involved there. Once you have done these things, you are good to go – don’t worry about it – you will be great!

Remember, it does require a bit of compartmentalizing in order to not be thinking and/or comparing one school to another, but it is important to stay in the moment and trust yourselves. You have much to offer any school, and your child is a bright and exciting student who will bring joy to any classroom where he or she feels safe and seen.


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Characteristics of a GREAT Written Application by Anne Simon


If you’ve been staring at a blank application form wondering what to write, nervous about how to describe your child, you’re probably not alone. Writing applications can be exciting once you get going, but its the getting started that can be so hard. We have real applications in Beyond The Brochure for this reason. Its great to see what an accepted family’s application looks like.


Beyond The Brochure co-author Anne Simon offers these essential characteristics of a great written application:

  • Create a family mission statement and make sure that everything on the application is reflective of this family message in some way
  • Be able to craft a positive and accurate picture of your child
  • Communicate something unique about your family and/or your child
  •  Describe what you can– and will do– as a participant member of the school community
  • Read the school’s mission statement.  Demonstrate that you understand the mission of the school and that you feel it is a great fit for your family and/or child
Anne Simon is the former head of Wildwood Elementary School and the former dean of the Crossroads Middle School. Her daughter, a veterinarian, is a graduate of Crossroads.


Reader Question: How Long Is Too Long For Written Application?

Here’s a question from a blog reader:

I would love to know what we should be aiming for in essay length. What’s considered average? How long is too long? Etc. I would hate to ruin my child’s chances by overwriting, but I don’t want to short change him either. Any advice would be appreciated!


September 12, 2010 7:33 PM

Here is Kim Hamer’s response:

How long is too long for the written application is a good question!

Instead of focusing on the length, it’s really about focusing on the content of your private elementary school application. Specific, detailed applications are never too long. As a parent you really want the school to know who your family is and who your child is, right? The problem is talking about your child is usually a parents favorite subject which means, we can drone on and on about our kids, causing a too long application. You’ve met that same person at a party! This person continues to talk and talk and talk while not saying anything of interest and not providing details that you can relate to. Unfortunately, that is how many private school applications read. Here are two ways to help you avoid the droning and over long application.


1 .Make Sure You Are Answering The Question And Be Specific.

Many parents make the mistake of NOT answering the question! This usually happens because they’re so worried about not giving a good description of their child, they over describe him. They also use meaningless descriptions like happy, nice, funny. To avoid this mistake, while you re-read your answer keep the question in mind. Use words that really show who your child is.  The more specific you are about your child, the less you have to say!


2. Show The School Who Your Child Is, Don’t Tell Them

Another way that essays become too long is that parents often tell the school about their child, about their family or why they should be a part of the school. The most effective way to get this point across is to show the school your child, family etc. For instance in our essay about our youngest son, we wrote, “When Ezra’s in a group he tries to make sure that everyone else in the group gets to talk.” I could have written “Ezra is a leader.” While that sentence is shorter, the longer one speaks volumes! It demonstrates how my child behaves, it shows what we think an important leadership attribute is. It also speaks to our values, that being a leader is important. I just showed them in one sentence who my child is and what we value. I now no longer need to state, or tell the school. Show Your Family!


Remember, an admissions director in Los Angeles has to read over 100 applications. An essay that takes up a lot of their time, that uses none interesting or detailed words for them is like listening to the person at the party. You just want to get out of there. An essay that is pointed and clear, which means it will not be over-written or over long, will get you noticed and closer to getting you in to the school of your choice!


Kim Hamer is the founder of “Get Into Private School” an education consulting firm in Los Angeles. Kim is no longer working in consulting, but has moved on to a job fundraising for schools.