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【The Standard】How to ace British boarding school application interviews

Boarding 101


The interview is an incredibly important part of the application process for British schools. It might seem like just a chat between the prospective student and members of staff from the school. However, it is actually far more than that and is used to assess a student and to help staff make a decision on whether or not they should get a place at the school.

The fact of the matter is that international students, from Hong Kong and across Asia, often do not perform well in interviews.

Thankfully, though, there are many things that you can do to work on your technique and to improve the way that you come across in school interviews. For this week’s column, I’m going to share some of the tips and advice of a school interview expert, Chrissy Laycock.

For many years, Laycock was an international registrar. This meant that she interviewed international students from across the world and decided who would be accepted into the school based on their academic profile, tests and, of course, the interview.

Before she retired two years ago, she had risen to the prestigious role of head of international recruitment and marketing at Rendcomb College, an award-winning boarding and day school in Gloucestershire, South West England.

Now, she has her own business offering interview preparation classes, specifically for international students applying to British boarding schools and universities.

Based on her experience of over 12 years working in higher education and with independent schools , what did she notice about Asian students in particular?

“The vast majority had no idea what to expect. They were very anxious so perhaps this impacted on their performance,” she said.

“Their delivery was not always great and although on paper they looked great, the interview didn’t always reflect this, largely down to lack of preparation.”

An interview will normally last about 20 minutes and consists of a series of questions posed to the student that are relevant to their age.

It’s not quite like an oral exam though; it’s more than just a one-way process because it’s an opportunity for the student to ask questions about the school too.

Laycock said schools are truly looking for students to stand out from the crowd and to be full of enthusiasm and passion about their future education.

They are exploring a student’s level of English, their minds, friendliness, level of engagement, knowledge, interests and aspirations for their future.

They want to see the determination to succeed and want students who will be able to add value to the wider school community.

So how do you do this? How do you take these positive-sounding concepts and put them into practice when you are in front of interviewers?

Laycock said: “Preparation is key so be fresh and alert after a good night’s sleep. Ensure that your hair is well-groomed and you are dressed smartly because first impressions count.

“Open and close your interview appropriately, demonstrate good manners and make good eye contact throughout. Also, remember to smile regularly!”

These are just the basics.

“Students should be clear and understand their strengths and perhaps any weaker areas that they may have. Their responses should be descriptive, interesting and personal to them, avoiding one-word answers such as just ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”

Laycock explained that students should also be up to speed with current affairs and should have personal targets and goals. Perhaps most important of all is that they should be enthusiastic and energised.

“A student who is being forced by their parents to attend boarding school interviews is very easy to spot.”

At Britannia StudyLink, we now highly recommend Laycock as an expert tutor to help students to excel at their school interviews. She has, at the time of writing, given approximately 200 lessons to our students. The lessons are conducted via online platforms and offer everything from interview tips, conduct, presentation, practice interview questions and mock interviews.

If you would like to arrange interview tuition with Laycock, or have any other questions about British boarding schools, visit or drop into one of our centers to speak to our friendly advisors.