I detested filling out college applications. Layingthe last four years of my life on the table for self-scrutiny humbled anddepressed me. There was so much time and energy involved just for the chance ofadmittance. It must have been divine intervention that allowed me to complete allthree of my early-action applications on time. Once this hurdle was over, though,there was another: The Interview. To add to the intimidation, my earlyapplications were to "reach schools," and my first interview would bewith a Harvard alumnus.
Before entering the law office where myinterviewer worked, I checked myself in my car mirror. I had dressed very nicely,in a light-blue shirt and gray skirt suit. When I entered the office, the firstthing I noticed was that the secretary was wearing a sweater and pants. Imentally noted her lack of propriety. When the alumnus entered, he was wearingjeans. I flushed at my first mistake, but he explained that because the next daywas the start of their holiday, it was a dress-down day.
He asked if myblond hair was connected to my Swedish name. I replied that it was not, I wasmainly English and the daughter of two brunettes. He exclaimed that I was ararity, especially with my blue eyes, and began a discussion on genetics.Freshman biology was only a distant memory, so I could only nod and smile. Heasked what my SAT scores were, but I unfortunately could not remember. I told himwhat I like to do in my free time, which led to a discussion of Macbeth, religionand spirituality, Japanese culture, Cezanne and art history at Harvard, and VanHalen. He was very amiable, and the interview lasted a long time, though it didnot seem to. When I left, I felt as though I had conquered the world.
Myinterview for Harvard had gone better than I'd hoped, but I had no idea what toexpect from the Georgetown alumna. She was a teacher, and I was afraid that sinceshe was familiar with students she would expect more from me. Our rendezvous spotwas a coffee house. I arrived first, and while waiting with my coffee, a mucholder man who thought I was much older started a conversation. To myembarrassment, he handed me his card at the same moment my interviewer walked in.She was very polite about the matter. While she was ordering, a woman near usspilled coffee on herself and started screaming for help.
When thingssettled down and the interview began, I became more relaxed with each question. Iknew why I was applying to Georgetown, what I would major in and who firstsuggested the university to me, so it was very easy to answer her questions. Themost difficult one was, "Which of your three early-action schools do youwant to go to the most? It doesn't have to be Georgetown."
I wastempted to say, "Whichever one takes me," but instead explained thestrengths and weaknesses of each school and why I did not have afavorite.
After my Georgetown interview I felt fairly secure; neither shenor my Harvard interviewer had posed extremely difficult questions such as"What do your friends think of you?" or "What are your greatestweaknesses?" My Brown interview was a shock.
Neither the courthousewhere it took place, my sheriff escort nor my interviewer intimidated me. My onlyfear was that the judge had looked up my record and found my expensive littlespeeding ticket. But her questions were what challenged me. They were morepenetrating than the others, such as, "Exactly what about the Brown musicdepartment interests you?" and "How would you sum yourself up in onesentence?"
My most horrifying moment took place directly after wehad discussed Harvard. With that school lingering in my subconscious, I beganrattling off my list of reasons why I wanted to attend Brown, ending with,"And I love Massachusetts." The look on her face was indecipherable,and I quickly corrected myself. "And Rhode Island, too," Iadded.
I undoubtedly learned more useful things during my interviews thanduring the paperwork process of applications. First, those willing to spend theirtime interviewing teenagers must like them. Second, interviews are what you makeof them. They can be fun or nerve-wracking. The important things are to prepare(read the college's view book) and march bravely on even after you make ahorrendous mistake, like forgetting what state the college is in.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.