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My Mother’s Advice (Or How To Pass A College Interview) by Crad Kilodney

My Mother’s Advice (Or How To Pass A College Interview) by Crad Kilodney

October 2002

When I was a high school senior in ’64-’65, my mother decided that I simply must go to an Ivy League college. (That would show all the Jews on the block!) I never questioned the idea since I intended to major in astronomy, and the Ivy League schools generally had good astronomy programs.

I applied to four of the Ivy League schools and one elsewhere, but the one my mother was keenest to get me into was Yale. Six other students at Syosset High School were also applying to Yale, and my mother had ascertained through the grapevine that Yale would accept two. I have no idea how she could learn this, but she had a talent for extracting information from people.

My grades and SAT scores were probably good enough, but there was also a personal interview to get through. These were commonly conducted by alumni living in the applicant’s geographical area if it was far from the college. The particular alumnus who was interviewing in our area that year, however, was reputed to be a prick. So my mother pulled some strings and arranged for me to be interviewed by a different person. I was the only one of the seven hopefuls to get this nicer interviewer.

Although I was “Ivy League material,” I was nevertheless so dangerously immature that I could not be trusted to go to my interview without heavy coaching. (My mother had never been to college, but she knew everything about it anyway.) Don’t talk about crazy things like flying saucers and ESP. Don’t make jokes, because you might say the wrong thing….Don’t mention this. Don’t mention that. If they ask you such-and-such, you should say this-and-that. As well as how to sit, smile, control my body, be careful about touching things, and generally act mature, like so-and-so, who went to Princeton. Needless to say, my mother would also tell me how to dress for the occasion. My admission to Yale hinged on all these little things.

The big day came. I was driven to the home of this couple in their thirties, who lived in the richest part of Syosset. My father dropped me off, and I was to call him to pick me up later.

I liked the Yale alum and his wife immediately. They were very friendly and hip, and we got to talking about all sorts of things. It turned out we were both big fans of Jean Shepherd, whose hilarious radio show on WOR is legendary to anyone who remembers New York in the 60’s. I talked about all my favorite subjects, including UFO’s. I even admitted freely that I ranked the lowest of the seven Yale applicants in my senior class. In short, I disregarded all the advice my mother had given me and was simply myself and had a good time.

When I returned home, my mother was eager to hear my report. I said it was a very good interview. Did I behave exactly as she had instructed me? Of course.

A few weeks later my mother learned through the grapevine that the Yale alum and his wife had liked me very much, and he had sent in an excellent recommendation. “You see!” said my mother in a self-congratulatory tone. “This is what happens when you listen to your mother!”

Well, I didn’t get into Yale, for the simple reason that some other applicants were better qualified. That was okay because I already had an acceptance from Michigan.

Until the day she died, I never told my mother the truth about the Yale interview and how I had ignored all her advice. She counted it as one of her most satisfying vindications as a mother, and I couldn’t bear to take it away from her.



by Crad Kilodney

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