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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Microstory 1304: State School Candidate

State School Candidate: I don’t even know why I’m here. My brother went to this school, and he didn’t have an interview. This ain’t exactly ivy league.
State School Admissions Interviewer: We don’t do many interviews, no, except for certain programs. Are you interested in pre-law, pre-med, or engineering?
State School Candidate: No?
State School Admissions Interviewer: Then you’re only here because your parents requested it.
State School Candidate: Oh. Did they have to pay for that?
State School Admissions Interviewer: No, that would be illegal.
State School Candidate: I see.
State School Admissions Interviewer: It doesn’t matter if you want to be here or not; let’s just assume that you do. As a hypothetical, if you really wanted to do this interview, what would you want to get out of it?
State School Candidate: I guess I just need someone to tell me I can make it?
State School Admissions Interviewer: Have people been telling you that you couldn’t?
State School Candidate: All the time. Teachers, principals, other students...
State School Admissions Interviewer: Why would they think this of you?
State School Candidate: I’m not a great student. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a bad one either. I’ve never failed a single class, I show up on time, and I do the work. I just don’t get good grades.
State School Admissions Interviewer: I’m going to be honest with you, that would be worse than if you didn’t do the work.
State School Candidate: Why?
State School Admissions Interviewer: Well, even when I’m not conducting interviews, I meet a lot of students, and some of those students have had really terrible grades. For the majority of those kids, it’s because they didn’t try; they didn’t realize their potential. The dropout rate is, in fact, predominantly due to unrealized potential, but that can be learned, practiced, improved. On the other hand, there are some who really want to do well, but they still struggle with the material. I’m not calling you stupid, but I think you’re smart enough to know that not everyone can be Stephen Hawking. The only question is how far from being Stephen Hawking are you? The further you are, the less chance you have at succeeding. Take a moment to ask yourself that question in your head. Then answer out loud the only question that really matters: do you think you can succeed in higher education?
State School Candidate: Well, I’m very not Stephen Hawking, yet I know the answer you’re looking for is yes. I’m afraid I can’t give you that, though.
State School Admissions Interviewer: No, the answer is indeed yes. You can do this. Were you diagnosed with a learning disability?
State School Candidate: No, not per se—
State School Admissions Interviewer: Then I don’t care what your grades were in high school. What no one will tell you is that much of what you learn in college is introductory; or sorry, can be introductory. You can sometimes skip the one-oh-ones, but if you don’t, then they generally assume very little foreknowledge of the subject. They do this because, even though colleges and universities require a high school diploma at the very least, they can’t be sure what you learned, and what you didn’t. They have to get everyone in class up to speed, which makes any prior experience almost meaningless. Almost. Someone who has never had any education in their entire lives won’t be able to go to college, unless they were born with that Stephen Hawking-level intelligence, and they just get it. Someone who never went to high school would even probably have trouble. But someone—anyone—who managed to graduate high school, is smart enough for college; I guarantee that. You have to rely on good advisors, and tutors, and study groups, and professor office hours, but you can do this.
State School Candidate: I never expected you to say any of this. I figured you were just going to ask me to guess how many books are in the library, so you can gauge my capacity for logic.
State School Admissions Interviewer: No, that’s stupid. What I told you is the truth, and is what matters. A lot of schools will let anyone in for one simple fact: they’re getting paid for it. They don’t care if you’re smart enough, or whether you graduate or not, because they’ll get money out of you until you officially fail. They see it as a win-win, because they can’t take money from the ones they reject. We are not like that. We want you to do well, which is why our test policy is unconventional, and we spend so much money on resources designed to give you the tools you need to learn the material. It does neither you, nor us, any good if you just keep getting bad grades because all you had access to were the lectures.
State School Candidate: So, you think I should apply?
State School Admissions Interviewer: You definitely should, but don’t forget to find an advisor. They’ll make sure you have what you need. Few who do this alone do well.
State School Candidate: I think I can remember that.

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