Monday, November 13, 2006

Now that I Interview for College Admissions

by Noelle Ashley

Exactly 10 years since my college interview for Columbia and almost 6 years since I graduated, it’s time for me to fill a different pair of shoes. Now I will be the one interviewing high school students. At that age, I was hopeful and hard-working, but today we hear about the dark side of ambition: overzealous parents compromising their children into lying and cheating their way to the increasingly competitive top tier. Newly published books reflect a world gone mad, with Alexandra Robbins’ “Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids” and Madeline Levine’s “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Deeply Unhappy Kids,” both which document a physical, psychological, and emotional toll on teenagers today. Novels like "Glamorous Disasters" by Harvard 2001 graduate Eliot Shrefer show the potential for impropriety: Park Avenue parents bribing an Ivy-League-educated tutor to take the SATs for their party boy son for $100,000. News stories on cheating suggest that morals are fading.

But not all applicants will make eye contact and list false achievements to make the cut. Teenagers are surprisingly honest and down-to-earth when face-to-face. There have been cases of young plagiarists admitting that a parent forged this or that to give their application an edge. Perhaps the child knows that it's wrong, fears getting caught, doesn't really want to attend the college or wants to punish a controlling mother/father. Students who confess such a truth would lose points for performance, but ironically, the same person may gain points for character.

The character of the interviewer is another story. Now that Congressional leaders, teachers and priests have been inappropriate with teens, there is a suspicion toward college interviewers as well. The elderly man who interviewed me in 1996 invited me into his living room. He questioned me intellectually and made no physical advances, but my mother was not allowed in the room. Due to concerned parents, the Admissions Office now wants all interviews held in "neutral places," like offices, coffee shops or diners. I don't blame parents for protecting their kids. I applaud their request to guarantee safety by having college interviews outside of a stranger's home. You just never know.

There are other rules as well. You can't interview students in your child's grade, for the obvious reasons. You can't ask anything that is out of line. Future contact must remain professional.

It's that time of year: interview season. So why not call your alma mater, tell them when you graduated and ask to take part in this year's College Admissions process? You'll be glad you did.


posted by Noelle Ashley @ 11/13/2006 11:25:00 AM |


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