Everything is a test for my students when they come to my home office or chat with me on Skype, even some of the strange stuff I surround myself with, like my Distinguished Concubine doll and the poster that hangs next to my desk of Saint Matthew and the Angel by an artist born in 1635.
It’s all there to get them to notice things about me and work on engaging adults. This is important because they must be experts at the process when it’s time for their college interviews.
Too many of them worry about what they’ll wear and how they’ll recite all of their accomplishments, all in a quest to make sure the Harvard, Yale and MIT interviewers are convinced that they should be included in the 2017-2018 class.
In reality, they should be more worried about paying attention to the interviewer and making a connection. It’s all about getting the conversation started.
Granted, most schools urge their interviewers to conduct these interviews in a public place, like a Starbucks. But I’m always surprised at just how many of my students end up in the offices and homes of interviewers because it’s more convenient. And I’m glad, because it makes it easier to forge a bond, if you’re trained to be a good observer.
Look around the room and find some key detail to ask about. Maybe it’s a picture on a desk or an award hanging on the wall. This, of course, requires putting down your mobile phone and not sneaking a look at what texts are coming in.
On rare occasions, a student will ask me about my Chinese doll holding a book in her hand.
I tell them I got it from my friend Reean Park during a trip we took to Shanghai. She gave it to me along with the priceless story that the king loved this particular concubine so much that he let her learn how to read. Knowing what an obsessive reader I am, she thought it would make the perfect gift. It did. And I love it when people ask me for Distinguished Concubine’s backstory. It makes me think they’re paying attention.
And St. Matthew?
The poster shows what looks like a small boy, actually a cherub, dictating words to an elderly man. Of course, St. Matthew is one of the gospel writers. I found the picture, which was part of a traveling Vatican art exhibit years ago, to be humorous. It should give my students encouragement, too, because the youth is tutoring his elder. But not many ask me about this.
The really bold ones ask me about the Glinda the Good Witch doll that sits on my bookshelf and the picture of her that’s pinned to my bulletin board.
When I get the occasional odd look and question about it, I say, “Remember what she told Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? That she had the power to go home all along. She just needed to click her heels together three times.”
And then I tell them that they’ve had the power to get into a good school all along, too. Maybe they didn’t even need me to hold their hand.