The Direct School Admission (DSA) interview is one of the biggest challenges your child will have to face during the selection process. Here are useful tips to help him get through it.
Organise each answer
Your kid must remember to organise his thoughts before answering each question – a well-structured answer reflects coherence and composure. He should avoid rambling answers or responses that are too brief, says Eunice Fu, English subject head for Upper Primary programmes at The Learning Lab United Square.
Share personal experiences
According to Eunice, interviewers love personal anecdotes. Your kid’s thoughts, feelings and opinions are unique. When he shares personal stories and experiences, it makes him more memorable to the interviewer and shows originality.
Give honest responses
Tackling questions about the school your kid has applied to and the programmes the school offers can be tricky. Interviewers may ask questions ranging from, “Why do you want to enrol in our school?” to “Have you applied to other schools? If so, why are you applying to our school?”
When responding to such questions, your kid should be honest. Eunice says he need not worry about sounding indecisive or uncertain about his interest if his answer is “Yes, I have applied to other schools” for the latter question.
He should further support his answer with a reason such as, “In addition to applying to your school, I applied to School Y as well, because it has a strong robotics team. And apart from my passion in sport Z, a niche sport in your school, robotics is another interest I’d be keen to further develop.”
He won’t be penalised for applying to other schools. What’s more important is the way he communicates the reason behind his decision and why each school is valuable to him.
Express achievements confidently
Interviewers look for confident answers, with thoughts and opinions expressed articulately. Your child should not be shy about sharing how well he’s done in school and showcasing his drive and tenacity to improve in multiple areas (academic and non-academic).
If he has strong leadership capabilities or holds key leadership positions (like head prefect, for instance), he should highlight them during the interview, Eunice adds.
A well-organised portfolio can boost your kid’s chances
This is more about keeping track of all the competitions and events your child has taken part in over the years, says Jacqueline Chua, principal of Paideia Learning Academy.
“There’s no need to spend a lot of money on a fancy folder; the simpler the better. What’s more important is what you’re presenting – certificates, awards, and so on.
“Even certificates of participation are worth showing, because it tells the interviewer that your child was interested enough in a particular event to be a part of it.”
When it comes to artistic portfolios, Jacqueline says to sit down with your kid and pick out the works that best demonstrate his ability. He must be comfortable with those choices, too, and understand why he’s selected them for his portfolio.
Rejection is a possibility – help him overcome it
The Ministry of Education revealed that some 2,800 out of 16,000 applicants got into the secondary school of their choice in 2016 – that’s a success rate of about 17.5 per cent.
MOE didn’t state the number of applications in 2018, but it said that 3,000 received confirmed offers.
So, it can be heart wrenching for Junior if he doesn’t get into the school of his choice or doesn’t even get shortlisted.
“To help your kid handle the rejection, you should first be able to contain your own disappointment,” says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness.
“A parent showing disappointment will only reinforce feelings of failure and dejection in the child.”
Then, explain to your child that, just because he didn’t get selected it doesn’t mean that his talent or skill is subpar; nor does it mean that he should quit his chosen sport or stop nurturing his artistic talent.
Remind him of all that he’s accomplished so far, explain that his talent or skill may help him later in life, and highlight all the positive takeaways from the process – for example, he picked up useful interview skills, he got the chance to audition for a top school, and so on.
DSA prep classes: Who offers what?
ACADEMIE OF STARS
Its programme aims to give DSA preparatory students a portfolio of performing arts and audition experiences through active casting opportunities. They will also achieve relevant certifications from international examination boards for their skills. Classes run for 20 weeks per semester and cost $900 per month.
GIFTED & TALENTED EDUCATION
Its one-week DSA Expresso programme helps groom the subject talent in your Primary 5 or 6 child to facilitate his DSA application via the subject route. Costing $600, it covers English, maths and the DSA interview.
J CARTER CENTRE
It focuses only on preparing Primary 5 and 6 students for DSA to Secondary 1 in an IP or SIS school. It offers a six-day or 12-day Accelerated DSA Preparation Course. Both cost $998 each.
THE LEARNING LAB
Its P5P6 DSA Impressive Interview workshop focuses on preparing students for the DSA interviews, from understanding the interview process to etiquette and confidence boosting tips. The $489 course runs for three hours daily over three days.
PAIDEIA LEARNING ACADEMY
This centre offers three DSA preparation programmes. For $70, it will guide your child to build an impressive portfolio. Pay $200 for a one-day programme to help Junior prepare a personal statement. Or for $650, join the Ace the Interview! Programme, which teaches your kid to think to think critically on the spot and converse with confidence, experience a mock DSA interview with digital video recording, and more.