It’s truly amazing the things that come out of kids’ mouths these days. And no, I’m not talking about the sassy retorts of toddlers or the embarrassing questions posed by 8-year-olds. I’m talking about college-aged kids. As a society we’d like to suppose that our most prestigious colleges and universities are catering to the kids with the most merit i.e. intelligent, well-mannered, respectable adults. Well, I’ve had my fair share of college group interviews and I’m now a freshman—and I have to say that I never cease to be amazed at what college kids will say in front of other people, especially if it means winning approval of interviewers who are handing out big juicy scholarships. Here are a few of the little gems that I was so blessed to hear and that I will never get out of my brain as long as I live. I hope they unsettle you as much as they did me.
So I’ll start with my group interview at College #1, let’s call it. I was already in a grumpy mood going in—it was early on a Saturday and I had to dress up and pretend like I was actually a likable, sensitive human being who was interested in “diversity” and “community” and “academics.” I would’ve much rather have been honest and been like, “Yo, please give me scholarship money to go to your school because I’m white and I’m not going to get any financial aid.” Barring this solution, however, I was out of options. So I showed up to the interview day. To pass the time my mom and I sat in the corner judging the other people there and snickering while we snacked on the assortment of cheeses provided (the one upside to these interviews.) Eventually I was called back with three other kids. Our first exercise was the classic “If you were on a deserted island, what would you bring?” question, but we were given a list of items and we were instructed to choose 5 of them as a group and then explain our choices to the panel of interviewers. The list ran something like this:
-a live chicken
After a time my group had decided on our first four items: the tarp, rope, canoe, and iodine. I’m pretty sure that the ice skates had originally been put on that list as a joke—I’m glad to know that the members of the world of academia have such a raging sense of humor—but I, being the ingenious little fart that I am, decided to take this cleverly assimilated red herring and use it to stun the interviewers and rouse them to applause with my brilliance. Since we had no method of defending ourselves on our personal godforsaken island, I suggested to my companions that we take the ice skates and use the blades on the bottoms as knives with which we could also create and sharpen other weapons. Everyone agreed and I was giving myself a big fat gold star as we began to explain our plan to the judges. We went around in a circle, each explaining an item. The third to go was a thin, soft-spoken boy with glasses who played the cello and had his head stuck so far up the asses of the interviewers, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get it back out after the interview. So it’s his turn and this kid looks straight into the eyes of the judges and before God he goes, “Well, I had the idea to use the ice skates as weapons…” I almost came up over the table at him. The judges were visibly impressed at this ingenious idea and I sat there seething. Alright cello-boy, so that’s how you wanna play it? You’re going to be the first I kill and eat on the island…and I’ll slit your throat with those stupid ices skates too. After a few minutes, I pulled myself together. I was pretty mad still, but hey, at least this interview couldn’t get any worse, right? Oh, but it did. Next, the question was posed of “What has been the greatest adversity you’ve ever faced?” and this blond, extremely cheerful girl went first:
“Well, helping people is really one of my passions.”
Okay, cool cool.
“Especially people who want to kill themselves.”
“I created and run a suicide hotline and have stayed on the phone with a lot of people so they don’t kill themselves.”
Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
“Especially people who have trouble with their self-image.”
Houston, we may have a problem…
“Especially anorexic people. That really hits home for me.”
“Because I myself…*sniffle followed by a dramatic pause*…am a recovering anorexic.”
Then she burst into tears. Right there in the interview room in front of all of us. There was about a 10 second lapse of the most painful, awkward silence that I have ever been a part of and then this girl opens her folder she brought with her and there are tissues in it. I’m like holy crap, did you plan this???? Did you plan to have an emotional breakdown in your college scholarship interview??? Like is this your Anorexics Anonymous meeting or something?? After that, everything was just tinged with awkwardness and I was left wondering how anyone would be able to follow that little performance. But sure enough the next kid told us the story of how he’d been fighting cancer for years and had finally beaten it. Well, I thought, who needs scholarship money? I didn’t want to go to college anyways….I think I’m just going to go live on that island after all.
So now we begin my adventures at College #2. The scholarship I was in the running for here was a full ride (about $160,000 over 4 years) and so the weirdness of the nominees was amplified. It’s my theory that there’s a direct correlation between the two. So in this instance we had about 8 people in a group and we all sat in a circle and had a type of rapid-fire interview session. A question was posed and we each had exactly 30 seconds to answer it. For those 30 seconds you were the only one who was allowed to speak. So first there was the girl who didn’t listen and never picked up on the fact that the rest of us weren’t allowed to talk if she ended earlier than her allotted 30 seconds. Every single time she finished speaking after like 10 seconds and we all just sat there in awkward silence while she stared at us in confusion and her eyes pleaded with us in vain to say something.
The first few questions were alright for this interview, but then came the kicker, “How do you differ from the beliefs of your parents?” Oh let’s open Pandora’s Box, shall we? One kid, a dark-haired theatrical guy who wouldn’t shut up, announced to us all that he was an atheist and had been ostracized by his parents and disowned by his grandparents. He also added that his grandfather had referred to him as “the devil’s spawn.” Makes me wish that my grandpa had cute nicknames for me. But I mean, is it just me or is that just something wildly inappropriate and uncomfortable to share with a group of people that you’ve known for a grand total of 12 hours? It occurs to me now that perhaps his grandpa wasn’t referring so much to the kid’s religious beliefs as to his obnoxious personality.
A few turns later, a tiny girl with a unibrown and what looked to be a pant suit announced to the group that she was a lesbian. Well, that wasn’t much of an announcement because I had actually mistaken her for a boy when I’d first seen her. So apparently sexual preference wasn’t off the table either when it came to what could be brought up in a college group interview. And then lastly, another kid answered that he couldn’t differ in opinion from his dad because his dad left his mom when he was a baby and he’d had to be the man of the house and work to support his family. At that point I gave up hope. How was I supposed to compete with atheists, lesbians, and fatherless kids? I had a brief idea of lying and claiming that I was a vegan, tri-sexual, neo-fascist who was raised by wolves, but I gave it up in the end. Well, I thought, who needs scholarship money? I didn’t want to go to college anyways…I seriously just might go live on that island.
Well, I am at college and I am saddened to inform you that the outrageous public disclosures of extremely personal information have not stopped. The infamous “share one fact about yourself” bit that seems to be the ice breaker for every organized, new situation as a freshman is where the weirdos often come out of the woodwork. I recall two particular occasions. The first was when we had our first hall meeting in my dorm building. All the girls on my hall were gathered in one room and were sharing normal, forgettable facts about themselves until one girl tells us that she enjoys photographing nude women as a hobby. If you ever want to make a group of girls whom you’re going to be sharing a shower with for the next 9 months go completely silent, that’s the way to do it. Welcome to college everyone!
The next semester, on the first day of Spanish class, I was partnered with this girl and we had to share a unique fact about ourselves (in Spanish) and in turn we would then share the fact about our partner with the class. So this girl tells me (in Spanish) that she plays the viola….and then she nonchalantly adds that she also used to have 22 total fingers and toes. I responded with a bewildered “¿Que?” because I thought I’d misheard her. Then she showed me the scar on her hand by her pinky where she’d had her extra finger removed. I was at a loss. I was just like, “God, why are you doing this to me?” So when it came to be our turn, I had to tell our entire class (in Spanish) that this girl used to have 22 fingers and toes. Thinking back on it, however, it seems that it might’ve been beneficial for her to keep that extra digit seeing as she plays a stringed instrument.
So to sum this all up, to clarify, and to set the record straight, I would like to make a list of all of the topics that I deem unacceptable to bring up during group interactions:
It is also not okay to steal others’ ideas, have emotional breakdowns, or throw pity parties. For anyone who disagrees with me, I say this: This is not your support group. This is not your forum for open venting. This is not your therapy session. This is a public, social group event and there are boundaries people, boundaries. And I can only imagine the kinds of things that will be revealed when my kids go through their rounds of college interviews in 30 years or so, God help them. God help us all. I’m probably going to need therapy after all of the stuff I’ve heard.