Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Eighth Hat

In my post from Wednesday, I discussed the many different hats that I wear. And today, via email, I was reminded of my eighth hat: Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador.

It's that time of year. College applications are basically done (and having done more than 30 letters of recommendation, I am now way more acquainted with this process than I care to be) and so the contacting of prospective candidates now begins for every major college. Last year, I became officially a part of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, or CAAAN, after *thinking* I had enrolled a few years back (I never received any students to contact, so after some poking and prodding of the local Cornellian in charge of the San Diego CAAAN chapter, I had seven or eight students assigned to me).

Whew. Eight hats. And this eighth hat is clearly one that is going to mean extra time. In the email I received today, the CAAAN representative said we would probably each have at least eight students to contact, given that, once again, the number of prospective applicants in the area has increased. Quite mightily, actually. Now, normally I don't like to do this kind of math, but here it is: if each of those eight interviews takes at least half an hour, that's going to be at least four hours of my life. But that's not counting commute time, waiting time, notetaking time after the students leave, and filling out the paperwork time. So if each student takes approximately an hour, that's eight hours. And some of the meetings (note that I've been deliberately avoiding the word "interview" -- in the training materials we receive, we are reminded several [million] times that Cornell doesn't call these meetings "interviews." You know, because Cornell is the kinder, friendlier Ivy.) (While you're applying. It's the least kind and friendly once you're actually there.) (But don't tell the kids that.) ANYway... some of the meetings can take more than an hour, especially if you find yourself with a particularly chatty or inquisitive little hopeful Cornellian.

And then there are some that last fewer than thirty minutes and FEEL like nine hours. Like the kid I interviewed last year who wanted to major in Economics because his dad wanted him to major in Economics and didn't even know WHERE CORNELL WAS. And if I recall correctly, the phrase, "oh, I didn't realize it was somewhere where there was winter" was uttered.

Despite the realization, as a result of this whole blogging thing, that I really and truly do have a LOT on my plate, this is probably the hat that I enjoy wearing the most. First of all, it happens in a very narrow window of time. We generally have about three or four weeks to squeeze in all of the student contact meetings, we file our reports, and the job is over. So though it's a lot of time in the span of a few weeks, hey, no big deal. Last year, I used it as an excuse to camp out at a coffee shop or cafe an hour before the designated meeting time to squeeze in some grading.

But in the bigger, grander scheme of things, I enjoy doing the student interviews because I feel like it's an important way to give back to Cornell. I can't contribute too much money to them, because I basically make none, so there will never been any McMillan-flavored buildings on campus and such, and clearly I live 3,000 miles away from Cornell, so I can't mentor or otherwise support current students. But I can, from the comfort of a local Starbucks, meet with a prospective candidate and find out whether or not they're a good fit for Cornell.

I also vividly remember my Cornell interview; it's the one that stuck the most clearly in my mind because it was so ... easy. So casual. It seems so weird for a hard-core Ivy League -- especially given that I was interviewing for a spot in the Engineering School -- to say that my interview was easy and casual. But being a part of the process now, I see why. That's their whole philosophy. Don't talk numbers. Don't talk grades. Don't talk about the things that are on all of their other application materials. Talk about them. Their passions. Their troubles. Their questions. It's so much easier and I think we learn a lot more about the kids than other schools that have what sound like fairly prescriptive interview protocol.

So that's my eighth hat. It wears me out to think about it just now, so I think I am going to lie back in my recliner and take a nap ... you know, to save up all of the rest I'm going to need to make it through this eighth heap of responsibility on my plate, aside from Speech and Debate, Science Olympiad, department chairs, and AP English teacher. Among all those other things.

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