Friday, April 2, 2004
Early April is the fateful time of the year for many of our high school seniors who are receiving their college acceptance and rejection letters. Even those of us who do not have college applicants in our families can be indirectly connected to this exciting time. I am, as an alumni interviewer for my alma mater.
I first volunteered to interview Cornell applicants about ten years ago, before I had children of my own. It was a way to make some connection to a generation from which I was otherwise quite removed. It also allowed me to reminisce about my own college days. Over the years since I began interviewing, I have moved closer in age to the parents of applicants. So, instead of merely looking back, these college interviews are also a way of looking forward. Will my children develop talents and interests as impressive as those of these aspiring college applicants?
Since returning from California to my hometown of Carlisle, I feel a stronger connection with these students. I've been hoping to interview applicants from my old high school, CCHS, but so far only one has been assigned to me. Middlesex has produced many of my interviewees this year, so I've learned a little bit about the school I've driven by so many times.
It is true that the interviewer can be more nervous and unprepared than the interviewee. I still don't feel I'm doing the best job at it, sometimes forgetting to ask certain things or being unable to answer some of the applicant's questions. Once I even forgot about a scheduled interview appointment at my home, until the applicant knocked at the door. I had not yet checked my information, and didn't even realize that he was my single applicant from Carlisle!
So how much does the interview count in the whole application process? For Cornell, not much. I must summarize what I've learned of the applicant's impressive activities and interests in a space about one-third as long as this Forum column. What the interview is really about is making a human connection and personalizing the application process. Although I'd like to think that my brief write-ups make a difference in Cornell's decisions, it goes the other way too. As a representative of the university, I can make a favorable impression on the applicant, who may still need to make a decision if accepted by more than one college.
I remember one of my own college interviews especially well. It was for Harvard (where I was ultimately not accepted) and the interviewer was none other than Mosquito co-founder Skip Anderegg. It was winter and, as a relatively inexperienced 17-year-old driver, I got my parents' car stuck in the Andereggs' long, snowy driveway. I arrived at the door a little late and somewhat flustered. My nervousness obviously showed, and a few days later Skip called to offer me a second interview opportunity.
Cultural artifacts, ca. 2004
What is Carlisle's favorite beverage? In my part of town it is clearly Bud Lite, followed by Michelob and Busch. What's the favorite in your neighborhood?
Now that the snow has melted, this question is easy to research. Just take the dog for a short walk down your street and note the treasure trove of cultural/anthropological artifacts that meet your eye. No digging or statistical analysis necessary for this scientific study.
It's trash, not flowers, that is blooming along our roadsides — beer cans nestled up against our scenic stone walls, cigarette wrappers decorating the banks of vernal pools. Occasionally there are more interesting finds. Call me if you have lost a fork, ski mitten or telephone book. I know where they are.
Each April, before the ferns, grasses and poison ivy wake up, citizens are invited to join in a town-wide rite of spring, the Mosquito-sponsored Trash Party. Tomorrow is the day — Saturday, April 3.
Now that I have noticed the beer cans on Curve Street, my eyes can no longer avoid them. They stare at me every day. So I may have to go out there with my plastic bag tomorrow morning. It won't be for science, but therapy.
© 2004 The