Princeton interviews

Princeton has a pretty sugary relationship with its alumni — and if that sounds derogatory, I mean it as anything but.

Now, you mustn’t read what I’ve just written as falling into some kind of “curse of the considerate clarification” parapraxis. (Is there a name for what happens when intentions are betrayed by the very clarification or qualification that tries to cover them up?) Jen, the blogger I link to above,  describes the “3-C” — the social error or blunder in communication that occurs when you reveal (the possibility of) nefarious intentions or dishonourable assumptions by insisting on explicitly disavowing them. For example:

Andy: “Do you get out much?”
Anne: […]
Andy: [fearing Anne will think Andy’s comment reflects a negative judgement of her social habits] “–oh, sorry, I hope you didn’t think I meant that I didn’t think you got out much. Because, you know, actually, um, I was just curious.”


This kind of situation is simultaneously reminiscent of the situations RD Laing depicts through poetry in Knots, and Austen-esque social capering, boot-licking, and meaningless compliments.  If Emma Woodhouse weren’t so deft with her words, one could almost picture her letting some revealing comment about her intentions concerning Mr. Elton and Harriet slide, and then needing to gracefully manoeuvre out of the situation. If, unlikely as it seems, an Austen heroine were to say something that might be misconstrued, she would almost certainly be sensible enough not to fall into the 3-C trap, however.

Anyway. When I say Princeton and its alumni are sweet on one another, I don’t mean that the relationship is sugar-coated. The different ways that a university benefits from its alumni population and vice versa is a topic on which my knowledge is limited to the experiential kind, and so far all my experience has been good…hence the positive judgement. The reason I bring this up is that I’ve just done my first two ASC (Alumni Schools Committee) interviews. Alumni get matched up with Princeton applicants in their geographical area to do an interview. This is what Princeton tells me about my duty as an ASC interviewer:

“ASC interviews provide applicants the opportunity to learn more about Princeton by meeting and talking with a Princeton graduate. We hope applicants will find interviews to be an opportunity for a relaxed and informative conversation with someone familiar with the applicant’s hometown as well as with Princeton. When added to students’ files, interview reports help admission officers gain a more complete picture of each candidate. It is rare for any one piece of an application to determine the decision on a given candidate. Rather, each piece is part of our holistic evaluation of an application.”

Doing the interviews is a learning experience for me as well as for the interviewees; it is seldom that I get to do something as rewarding as this. Interviewing applicants is like opening a window into my past life. (Can I say that without sounding cheesy?). I can see bits and pieces of the way I used to be in high school, and so so much potential for growth and development and maturation. I want for these kids to go to Princeton and have God use that experience as a way to develop their character, as was my own experience. My role as an interviewer, then, is to draw as much as I possibly can out of them; to seek out the sparkling bits and polish up the clouded parts and then present the complete result to Princeton as honestly as possible in my evaluation.

Thinking back to my own interview experience (as a prospective student) — we met in Paul’s restaurant in downtown Victoria, my dad’s favourite place for liver and onions, mercifully absent on this occasion — the alumnus who interviewed me no doubt correctly identified some of my insecurities from our conversation. The piece of advice that I remember from my own hour-long interview? “Don’t sell yourself short.”

Thankfully, they were words that I haven’t had to repeat to my own interviewees.

~ by julia on December 21, 2010.

One Response to “Princeton interviews”

  1. so cool that you’re interviewing! i would have loved to have you as my interviewer :) (i.e. i’m sure you’re doing a fantastic job of selling princeton).

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