Monday, January 16, 2012

My First College Interview

When I was applying during my senior year of high school, the first college that offered me an interview was MIT. For those of you who don’t know, I was a bit of a math geek in high school, so MIT was actually a perfect choice for me. It was basically the math team expanded into an entire school. Wow, heaven.

The other great thing about MIT was that since there are not many girls interested in math, you don’t have to be nearly as competitive as the male applicants. You basically just have to be okay in math. For example, if you could calculate the postage on your application, that’ll do. So I, being a straight A math student, a math team captain, etc., thought MIT would be salivating over me. I thought they’d be offering me cars and jewels during my interview.

My interview was given by an alumnus of MIT named Alyssa, who worked at one of those large investment firms with two names (Goldman-Sachs, Smith-Barney… can’t remember which one). I figured Alyssa and I would bond over our mad math skillz, and she’d try to convince me to pick MIT over the much more sunny Cal Tech.

It didn’t really go like that.

Alyssa kicked off the interview by informing me that MIT was now half female, so that there were lots of girls there and they totally didn’t need me at all. So there. I didn’t entirely believe her, but I wasn’t about to start arguing.

I got the feeling that Alyssa felt that she was in competition with me, for some reason. I deduced that when she said something along the lines of, “You got the top score in the city on XYZ math competition? Wow, that’s impressive. I was only second in the state on ZYX math competition.” I don’t know why Alyssa felt she needed to compete with me. I mean, I was a high school kid, for god’s sake, and she was an adult.

But then the best part was that before the interview was over, Alyssa gave me a math problem to do.

And it wasn’t just a math problem, which might not have been so bad. It was one of those puzzles where you have five people and they have to get across a river with one canoe in three tries or something like that. Doing a puzzle like that during an interview with a catty i-banker watching you is not fun. It was a lot of pressure. I sort of felt like John McClane in Die Hard 3 with those stupid buckets of water. Anyway, I couldn’t figure out the answer, and Alyssa had to show me how to do it.

Just in case you’ve never been on a college interview, you should know it’s not standard practice to be given a math problem. None of my other friends who interviewed at MIT got math problems. And that wasn’t even a math problem. It was just stupid.

By the end of that interview, I was pissed as hell at Alyssa. In my opinion, that is not an appropriate way to run an interview. On the bright side, at least she didn’t sexually harass me, I guess.

Anyway, in case you were wondering what happened with MIT, I ended up withdrawing my application after I got in early somewhere else. I always wondered if I’d still get in after that interview, but it wasn’t worth the application fee to find out.


  1. She sounds like a psychotic b*tch. WTF?? I wonder how many other applicants she alienated.

  2. My sister once emailed me one of those logic questions from a job interview. I futzed around with it for 2 hours before figuring out there was a short solution. No way I would have figured it out during an interview. I know they're trying to see how well you can think on your feet, but I don't think one question is going to reveal a whole lot.

    I remember an admissions representative from Tufts giving me some sarcastic answer to one of my questions at this info session I attended. She was real polite and friendly to my classmate, but it seemed pretty clear she wanted him to come there and not me. I didn't go there.

  3. First Impressions. Vulnerability. The interviews sound like just the beginning of a doctor-patient practice. And that is what life is 'practicing.' Some folks, like your examples, need a lot of practice to work through issues that clutter the task at hand.

    Guess doctors need resiliency to survive even the initial selection process of the many hoops they must jump through.

  4. Wait, what? You have to pay an application fee just to find out if you've been accepted or not? That's ludicrous!
    Here in Belgium you only have to pay your tuition fee when you're actually attending the university/college in question.

  5. It's not just the fees. Heck, they pepper spray your face just for sitting on a public grass field-wait, that's just my college. :P

  6. Interesting I was given a really difficult maths problems for my Interview at Cambridge University....for Medicine. Kinda glad I didn't get in to that weird place.

  7. There's some sort of bridge math problem that can't be solved. Was that the one she gave you? (my hubs has the tee shirt with it around here somewhere...) 'Cause that would be particularly shirty of her.