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Applying to private school?



advice. Well. Grounded.

Applying to private school is no small task. Before you start writing essays and prepping for interviews, take some advice from NMH experts who’ve guided thousands of students through the same process you’re embarking on. Their tips can help make the difference between feeling stressed and feeling like you’ve got this.

Claude Anderson is NMH’s dean of enrollment. For more than 25 years, he’s been interviewing students from ages 8 to 18 at four different independent schools, and he even trains admission professionals in interviewing techniques in workshops across the country. There’s no one better to help you prepare for your school interviews. Sarah Jahries is a college counselor at NMH. She’s also been associate director of undergraduate admission at the Johns Hopkins University and McDaniel College, director of college counseling at Walnut Hill School, and assistant director of college counseling at The Hun School of Princeton. She knows a good essay — she’s read thousands of them!

Steer the Interview Your Way By Claude Anderson, dean of enrollment

Interviewing can be a daunting process — sweaty palms go with the territory. In fact, nerves are a good sign; they mean you care about doing well. Your admission officer understands how you feel and is there to put you at ease, so take a deep breath and enjoy the conversation. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you get the most from your interview. 1. Schedule visits early in the admission season. If you get in ahead of the busy season, admission counselors will have more time to focus on you and will likely remember more about you. 2. Send any information about yourself to the school at least a week ahead of your interview. This gives your admission counselor a positive impression of you before you meet. 3. If there’s any not-so-great information, be ready to offer it during the visit. If you have learned something from your less-thanstellar experience, say so. Hiding information won’t make you feel good or make a good impression. 4. Stand up and smile when you greet your interviewer. Give a firm handshake and look the person in the eye. Remember that you are part of the relationship-building experience; meet your interviewer halfway and you’ll get great results. 5. Be prepared to talk about something at the school that excites you. Show your enthusiasm!

6. Show your interest in learning. Talk about what you’re looking forward to and what you hope to learn at the school. 7. Show your personality. Outgoing, social people may have a slight advantage in an interview because their personalities are readily visible. Reserved people may not fare as well because they take time to warm to the interviewer. Try to step out of your comfort zone for the interview. You don’t have to be a Broadway star — just interesting to talk to. 8. Make the most of the interview. Ask questions. See if the school is right for you. Both you and the interviewer are looking for a good fit. 9. Thank the interviewer for his or her time. You get bonus points if you seem genuinely appreciative, especially if you say “thank you” before your mother or father nudges you. 10. Being your friendly and respectful self will make a good impression. Most admission counselors will get feedback from the student host.

Writing Your Essay: (Almost) Anything Goes! By Sarah Jahries, college counselor

Admission officers use essays to assess your writing skills; to see who you are beyond your transcript, scores, and recommendations; to understand your values, goals, and passions; and to envision what kind of impact you could have in their community. You won’t get admitted to a school on your essay alone, but a strong, thoughtful piece of writing can move you up in the competition. A weak essay sends the message that either you have lackluster skills or you don’t care enough to do a good job. Here are a few suggestions to stay on the right track: • Choose a topic that will tell admission counselors something new about you. Say you’re a star hockey player. They already know that. Write about something else. Are you concerned about climate change? Do you volunteer at the local thrift shop? Has being the

youngest in your family shaped your identity? Use the essay to deepen your application. • Begin your writing process with some self-reflection: Who am I? What matters to me? What am I most proud of? How do I spend my time? What experiences or moments

have shaped who I am? Try freewriting your thoughts. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write nonstop. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation at this point — just write to get the juices flowing and do not stop or look at the clock. Some prompts: I love . . . I value . . . I wish . . . I am inspired by . . . I admire . . . I am good at . . . • Don’t get bogged down in creating a perfect first sentence or paragraph. It’s going to take several drafts to get it right. Give yourself time between drafts, so you can bring fresh eyes to your revisions. • Form and content both matter. The structure of your essay can be flexible; think beyond the standard

five paragraphs. Once you’ve got a draft, reflect on it. Is it interesting? Does it draw in the reader? Is the tone too formal? Or too chatty? Could anyone else have written it, or is it all YOU? • Solicit feedback from a trusted friend or teacher, and give that person time to read and ponder. Welcome honest reactions and suggestions, but if the person starts trying to rewrite it for you, say no thanks. • If you are applying to multiple schools, it’s OK to recycle your essays, as long as they fit a particular essay question. Be sure you are answering the whole question and not just part of it. • Proofread! Twice!

Northfield Mount Hermon Office of Admission One Lamplighter Way Mount Hermon, Massachusetts 01354 413-498-3227 2019–20

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Our Expert Advice  

Northfield Mount Hermon faculty share tips for your interview and writing your college essay.

Our Expert Advice  

Northfield Mount Hermon faculty share tips for your interview and writing your college essay.

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