Even after college applications had all been submitted, one heart-stopping obstacle stood in the way before I reached the uneasiness that was waiting for admissions decisions: the interview. Some days, I imagined that it would go perfectly—that the interviewer and I would share common hobbies, likes, dislikes, hopes, and aspirations. Other days, I imagined that I would show up late, drenched to the bone in rain, before stumbling over questions about why Penn, why M&T, why engineering and Wharton instead of just one or the other.
With this in mind, when the email popped into my inbox, it was accompanied by a cheery tri-tone on my cell phone’s part and a near-heart attack on my own part. It said that I would be interviewing via Skype one evening a few weeks away, and the interviewer was an alumna from northern Virginia, currently living in the hustle and bustle of New York City and working for Citibank.
When the day finally arrived, I changed into some more formal clothes, set up the computer and webcam, and paced back and forth. Now that I think about it, I must have looked ridiculous. Even my parents agreed: “it’s just an interview!” they exclaimed between looks of incredulousness. Oh well.
With five minutes until our scheduled meeting time, I logged into Skype, and sat at the computer, looking at my reflection in the screen and scrutinizing every wayward hair, every previously-unseen smudge on my glasses. And then, the screen lit up. It announced that my interviewer “would like to connect,” and I clicked the green accept button. “Here we go,” I thought to myself. It was half-dreading, half-hopeful, but there was no turning back now…until there was. Both of our webcams seemed to be broken, so there was just audio without any accompanying video. We tried disconnecting, reconnecting, logging off, shutting down, starting up. At the end of a nervous-laughter-filled half hour, we had succeeded in getting my camera to work, but not hers. Things seemed to be going downhill—I’d be stuck staring at a black screen while I imagined my interviewer analyzing my every move.
With the ice broken, though, the interview commenced. We talked for a little over an hour, about me, about her, about food, the dual-degree, and jobs. We discussed STEM education and northern Virginia, resumes and work environments. I supposed that it had gone surprisingly well—no soul-crushing disaster, no embarrassments or catastrophes. As I turned off the computer, I figured that my chances at getting into M&T were about the same as before: slim to none, but I held onto that slim chance for dear life.
A few months later, March 28th rolled around and college admissions were being released. At 5:03 on the dot, I logged into the admissions portal from a cell phone and promptly suffered yet another near-heart attack.
The first line read “Congratulations.”
Aaron is an M&T freshman in the Class of 2017 from Gainesville, Virginia. He is contemplating studying Bioengineering or Systems Science within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School.