Once upon a time (specifically, January 14th, 2006), I was a more-confused-than-usual high school senior applying to Oberlin. On my 18th birthday, my family friend/mentor/Fairy Godmother and her urbanite husband drove me through the infamous Washington, D.C. morning rush hour traffic to my interview. I alternated between silently freaking out over this opportunity to interact with officials at what was quickly turning out to be my dream school and meditatively watching the snow dust across the landscape as it gradually changed from farmland to the city center. We circled the block looking for the address for almost 15 minutes before we parked, unpiled from the packed car, and pinpointed the location where the interviews were being held. (We finally caught on that the address was spelled out into the building's limestone, typical of the more mysterious D.C. buildings.) In the warm darkness of what turned out to be a law office, I checked in and then was ushered into a long meeting room lined with hundreds of volumes and filled with the immediate and arresting presence of Professor Yolanda Cruz, brought along to answer questions of prospective students and their accompanying adults. I watched her tackle questions and answer them with wit, honesty, and a clear respect for the institution she was representing. Quickly, though, I was called off for my interview.
I can't remember exactly what I said. I do remember that I unloaded all the life story that applied to college up to that point. A short version would have gone something like this:
My father was the first in his family to graduate high school. I will be the first on either side to go to college. I was also the first of my father's family born into a house with indoor plumbing. I announced to my parents when I was 15 that I wanted to go to college, and quickly learned that they had not saved any money for that purpose. When I got a booklet for Oberlin College after I took the PSAT, I was more drawn in with every page. When I took the booklet to my mother, she turned to the back page, said "That can't be the price for one year's tuition. No school would have the nerve to charge that - it must be for all four years." My parents' view of the practicality of Oberlin had not improved, but I was only falling more in love the more I learned.
Clyde, my interviewer, spoke when it seemed I had finished. He, too, was the first one in his family to go to college, and he had chosen Oberlin. He asked me a few other questions, and then we emerged from the office where we'd been. Fairy Godmother and Clyde chatted for a minute, and he cheerfully insisted that if I visited campus I should be sure to meet up with Midge and Smith Brittingham, two alum friends of his who lived in town.
After this interaction, I slowly realized just how important that interaction really was. Other than serving as my admissions interview, that conversation with Clyde led to me meeting Midge and Smith (who have practically become foster-grandparents to me here in Oberlin), a continued correspondence with Clyde (who turns out to be a really active alum who heads up many of the D.C. alumni events), and almost surely influence from all three of them in the admissions decision(s) to come.
This weekend, for the first time ever, Clyde, Midge, Smith, and I will all be in the same place at the same time. Clyde has graciously invited me to the pre-convocation talk dinner and got me a ticket for what happens to be the most popular speaker so far this year: Ed Helms.
Next time for my fractured fairy tale: Application Process(es)