The Fat Envelope
A Discussion Of All Things College Admissions and Test Prep
I've previously given tips about nailing your college admissions interview. Still, it appears as if a disturbingly large number of interviewees are getting off on the wrong foot. The last couple of years, Jenn and I have noticed a trend towards poor behavior among the students we have interviewed as part of our local alumni interviewing committee. Talking to other interviewers, it looks like we are not alone with this observation.

The problems have more to do with basic manners and maturity than the actual interview itself. It seems like common sense, but if an interviewer contacts you and leaves a voicemail message or sends an email, don't wait 2 weeks to reply. Try to respond as quickly as you can, preferably within 24 hours. Be courteous and polite, and be flexible about the meeting location and time. Remember, your interviewer wants to help you, but is an unpaid volunteer who is using his or her free time to talk to you. You should therefore be at accommodating as possible and respectful of your interviewer's schedule. You may think you are a busy person, but chances are you aren't nearly as busy as your interviewer!

Keep in mind that you want to communicate to your interviewer that you are mature and responsible. In fact, many colleges specifically tell their alumni interviewers to watch for these traits. So doing something as simple as calling your interviewer back right away and being courteous will go a long way towards making a good impression.
I don't know if you caught tonight's 60 Minutes piece on the recent New York SAT cheating scandal, but it shed some light on the motivations and mindset of Sam Eshaghoff, the hired gun who took the test (as well as his "clients").  If you missed it, you can watch on 60 Minutes' website.

The 60 Minutes report makes the College Board look like a bunch of bumbling oafs when it comes to test security, and the representative inteviewed offered feeble excuses at best.  I suspect security policies will get tighter very quickly, and that's obviously in the best interest of the 99% of students who take the test legitimately.

But by far the most striking aspect of the piece was the interview with Eshaghoff. Remorse? Not even a little bit.  He liked the cash, and he liked the thrill of getting away with it, coming across as incredibly narcissistic.  For example, check out this short video 60 Minutes made of his tips for taking the SAT. Eshaghoff basically states SAT prep is a waste of time, and if you can't do well on the test you should pay someone to take it for you!  

I was most amazed, though, by the rationalizing Eshaghoff did to justify the cheating.  He actually states that by taking the SAT for someone, he was "saving his life."  My head is still exploding!  Granted, this came from the mouth of a sociopath who I'm certain used that sort of language to sell his services.  He may or may not actually believe it.  But his clients did.  And by extension, the parents of his clients did, too.  Eshaghoff speculates that his clients had to get the money to pay him from their parents, and he's almost certainly correct.  He's just playing on the rampant insanity surrounding the college admissions process, and the utterly inaccurate belief that good SAT scores will guarantee future success and happiness.  Sure a great college is a first step, but no one's life follows the script you think it will when you're 16. 

I'm sure Eshaghoff is more than willing to blame the competitiveness of college admissions for his bad behavior, but buying into the craziness doesn't give him, or his clients, a pass. Those who cheat their way into colleges that are beyond them academically aren't doing themselves any favors.  Work hard.  Do your best.  And look forward to college as the beginning of the rest of your life rather than the end all, be all!