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Answers to 2 common applicant-family questions

Meeta Gaitonde, Director of Admission

There’s no prototypical PBS student or family – no particular mold we need you to fit into – so this won’t be “5 things to nail in your interview.” There’s no checklist and no magic formula. But I hear a couple of questions often enough in the process that I wanted to share my answers.

“What are you assessing in applicants?”

Children entering preschool, pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten are growing and developing every day, sometimes by leaps and bounds. This makes it hard to assess a child at this age – so much depends on how they slept the night before or whether they had their favorite food for breakfast (whatever their favorite food is today). We get it! We also get that some of our younger applicants may not be used to separating from their parent or caregiver. We’re not looking for a perfectly choreographed performance from any applicant.

Instead, when we meet each child, we are looking for classroom readiness. For me, that boils down to three things:

  • Is this student flexible? Will they be able to transition between activities and subjects? Will they be comfortable with different adults moving in and out of their classroom space?
  • Is this student curious – about peers, about adults, about the world around them?
  • How does this student interact with peers?

Of course, flexibility and curiosity and peer-relation are skills that they will be exploring and learning in school; they will be a part of their educational experience. We want to ensure that they will be ready for our classroom setting.

“What are you looking for in a family interview?”

We want families who can be authentic, eager partners in their child’s education. Over the course of a child’s time at PBS, that partnership will manifest in myriad ways, but during the application process, we’ve found that families who are eager to truly understand the school, our program, and our philosophy – and who feel that PBS will be a great fit for their family – make the strongest partners in the long term.

This partnership begins at the parent interview. Coming to a parent interview as part of the independent school admission process can feel a bit nerve-wracking, intimidating, or stressful. And it shouldn’t. Here are a few tips to help you breathe a little easier:

  1. Reframe. Take away the word interview and think of it instead as a conversation – a collaborative effort to learn more about each other and see if the school is the right fit for your family and your child. A true partnership happens when there is authenticity, openness, and honesty.
  2. Prepare. The conversation is an opportunity to share about your child and get your questions answered. Before coming to the interview, spend some time thinking about what the most important things are that you want the school to know about your child and family. It’s not always easy to share your family values and history or details about your child; do some thinking beforehand. Can you think of a few great anecdotes that might help us understand who your child is or what your family is like?
  3. Reflect. Spend some time reflecting on your child. What is their personality like? What do they enjoy doing? What makes them smile? What upsets them? How do they learn best? How do they handle things when they’re upset or when things don’t go their way? Be honest and objective about your child. If you have concerns about your child that will impact their educational experience, share them.
  4. Question. Bring on the questions – don’t hesitate to ask us what’s on your mind. We want to be sure that you have a strong understanding of PBS so that you can make an informed decision. 

Don’t expect any trick questions or gotchas; our most common questions are all about opening you up about your child. Here are the questions you can expect: 

  • Tell us about your child.
  • Share about yourself and your background.
  • Tell us about your family: What do you like to do together? What do you value?
  • What are you looking for in a school or your child’s educational journey?

Most importantly, be yourselves and think of it as an opportunity to learn and find the best fit for your family.

Meeta Gaitonde P’17 P’20, now in her second year as Director of Admission, has worn almost every hat at PBS except Head of School – so far, anyway. PBS has been her second home since 2002, when she started as a 3rd-grade assistant teacher. Since then, she’s been a lead teacher, a substitute teacher, a learning specialist, a long-term librarian substitute, and the educational technology and innovation specialist.

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