Spotlight

Senior Exit Interviews

Many benefits can be gained from interviewing seniors individually at the close of the school year. Giving seniors the opportunity to express their candid views about their final year of high school can provide valuable feedback for the school. These interviews affirm seniors by letting them know that their impressions and ideas matter.

Brief interviews with individuals selected at random or a representative sample of the class will suffice.

The following questions could be included in a senior exit interview:

•  What was the most significant educational aspect of your senior year? Why?

•  If there were one thing you could change about the 12th grade, what would it be?

•  Which of the last four years was the most challenging?

•  What educational opportunities do you think should be included that were not available in your final year?

•  To what extent do you feel the school prepared you to meet the challenges of life beyond high school?

•  In what subject areas do you feel best prepared? Least prepared?

•  Is there a teacher or staff member who stands out as having had an especially positive impact on you? (Some schools have found that passing along the responses to the teachers and staff members who were named is often both a poignant and unexpected morale booster, especially at the end of the year when teachers need it most. The effect of this small gesture can be far-reaching, if not downright magical.)

Regardless of who conducts these exit interviews, it is essential that the purpose be clearly explained so seniors understand their input is invaluable both in helping to make the senior experience more meaningful and to improve the school. Finally, all responses should be carefully recorded and processed.

Focus Groups
An effective variation of the exit interview is a focus group of 10 to 15 seniors who are given questions similar to those used in individual interviews, with the exception of the final one.

In schools that seek to cultivate truly meaningful leadership opportunities for 12th graders, capable seniors could facilitate these sessions with some training. Despite some concerns that senior focus groups could turn into school-sanctioned gripe sessions, this will not occur if seniors understand the purpose of the discussion and believe their ideas and feelings are valued.

Ultimately, effective focus groups provide not only helpful data about how the school is doing but also offer seniors a final opportunity to contribute and learn from each other. It is precisely the kind of cooperative interaction that will be required of them in the future.

— Janice Dreis and Larry Rehage