Saturday, April 10, 2010

Witch One Am I? (Scholarship Interviews, Part 2)

Competitive scholarship interviews at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro consisted of a reception, a tour of the campus, an overnight stay in a dorm, two interviews, and lots of boring downtime, which I filled by working on a jigsaw puzzle off and on with other finalists.

My morning interview went ok. The questions seemed pretty general, and the experience wasn’t nearly as scary as I had imagined. I thought my biggest weakness would be my indecisiveness and lack of direction. My intended major was “Undecided,” but that didn’t seem to be a problem for UNCG, and having a particular major was not a requirement for these scholarships.

My afternoon interview was a little less breezy. Interviews were conducted by small groups of faculty and staff from around the campus, and I gather each member was allowed to ask the student whatever question they wanted.

Among the interviewers in my afternoon session was Murray Arndt, Director of the Residential College, a two-year living-learning program full of open-minded oddballs, but I really didn’t know who the heck Murray was yet during the interview. He must have seen something on my application form about Henry David Thoreau, so he asked me what I thought about Thoreau’s idea of a “majority of one.” I don’t really remember how I responded. I mean, it always seemed obvious to me that you were supposed to do what you felt was best and screw the majority, so I guess I probably tried to say that, but in a nicer way.

The next question came from a very serious-looking woman seated on the other side of the table, opposite Murray.

“How do people view you?” she asked.

The question made me smile a bit. “Well,” I said. “Some people think, because of my older brothers maybe, that I’m a trouble-maker. Other people think, because of my grades, that I’m a studious goody-goody. And then other people think, because of the way I dress, that I’m a total weirdo.”

Mrs. Stepford was not satisfied with my response. “Well, which one ARE you?” she demanded.

I wasted no time deliberating, looked her squarely in the eyes with all the audacity of my 17 years, and simply said, “All of them.”

In the moment that followed, before someone broke the silence with another question, I knew in my soul that my response had just sealed the deal, one way or another. I either just earned a scholarship worth thousands of dollars, or I did not. Perhaps the path of my entire life had just been decided with one flippant remark.

The following August, my parents and I pulled up outside Mary Foust Hall, home of the Residential College of UNCG, where a throng of trouble-making, goody-goody weirdos descended upon our car offering to help carry my belongings in to my new home. My parents were grateful; college would neither break their backs nor their bank.

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