Monday, February 16, 2015

Hi, I'm Nicholas // Scholarship Competitions Are Hard

Did I mention that I competed for money last Saturday? No? Well, I did.  As a senior in high school, I'm currently behind the game (as usual) and still trying to figure out where (or if) I want to go to college next year.  I've applied to schools with 3,000 students and schools with 40,000 students and considered running away for a gap year in Africa to avoid making a decision do mission work.  I've yet to make a decision or even to lean noticeably in any one direction, so I'm keeping my options really diverse and wide open.

I'm quickly learning that "keeping my options open" involves making sure that all of the schools I apply to want give me a ton of money, because college is sinfully expensive.  I mean, from what I understand, you could mortgage pretty much your entire life and still not have enough dollars to get yourself a degree. Thus, hours upon hours of essay writing, online form filling outing, and whirlwind trips to various colleges to interview with faculty and charm their wallets empty. 

I've spend several weekends firmly planted on my couch, doing college things and drinking literally pitchers full of Crystal Light lemonade and eating cheese / caramel popcorn for every meal.  That's one way of doing it, and very effective, especially when you include the cheese / caramel popcorn (crack.) Last weekend, however, the money-making strategy was to drive across the state to Grand Valley, where, among other things, we were supposed to interview with two faculty members and leave such a lasting impression that they just couldn't resist handing us a free college experience.
I don't know about you, but events that could potentially influence MY ENTIRE LIFE, forever, make me kind of nervous.  After a big, fancy lunch spent listening to overzealous parents talk about strategies for making a good impression on our interviewers (people form their opinion of you in the first five seconds they know you, apparently, and you should always have a question when they ask, "Any questions?), us victims  students were divided into groups and herded towards different areas of the campus. As my guide brought a group of about ten scholarship hopefuls, including me, to our appointed interview spots, my palm started sweating profusely.  Just my right hand, the one you use to shake the hands of people who have lots of money to give you.  Sweaty palms are off-putting, so I wiped it off on my pants leg and tried to hear our guide over the sound of my pounding heart as she called off a name at each door, dropping a student off with his or her interviewers.  As each person was called and went into an office to try and get money, the group got smaller and I got more nervous. 

Finally, there were only three of us left.  We walked up to yet another door, which our guide opened.  "Nicholas? You're right in here."

So, naturally, I walked right in (confidently greeting the interviewers, of course, because the first five seconds matter the most). 

I don't know what possessed me - maybe she had an accent that affected none of her speech except to make "Nicholas" sound like "Alexandria"?  That's a strong possibility.  It's also possible that I was really nervous about being charming and making a ridiculously good impression, and that caused me to act in a way that is completely unacceptable.  In fact, it's almost definitely that.  Or my inherent awkwardness that I thought I outgrew.

It took me about 3.7 seconds to realized that something wasn't right.  Neither one of the interviewers spoke - they stared blankly at me.  When I turned around to look at my guide and the rest of the group to figure out why these people were being so rude, their faces showed varied levels of horrified shock.  The real Nicholas was definitely not happy that I was trying to steal his interview. I stared from face to face - looked at my guide, at poor Nicholas, and back at the interviewers again.  Eventually, something became clear to all of us:

I was not Nicholas.  Which I proceeded to announce out loud.

"Oh! Ha-ha!  I'm not Nicholas."  Upon saying which, I stood up, gathered my things, and made as graceful an exit as I could.  (Which, if you're wondering, was down to like a possible high of a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10.)   I attempted to laugh it off, which was pretty much the only option at that point.  Nicholas glared, breathed heavily, made a threatening gesture, and proceeded to sit down in his rightful place and get his rightful money.  Money that it was now clear that I am nowhere near smart or poised enough to deserve.

So, that went well.  After my little misunderstanding, I got interviewed (I bonded with the interviewer over his daughter, who plays hockey -score! (pun intended)), took a tour, and decided that I really enjoy Grand Valley's campus and the people at it and that I would definitely enjoy spending time there someday.  MAYBE.  If, by some miracle, they still let me go there.

And that, my friends, is how you charm people and make a lasting impression.



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