#1 They sound alike.
#2 You can make many things with Play Doh and Plato makes you think.
Those are my answers to one of the quirky questions on this year’s University of Chicago’s college application. I wouldn’t hold my breath for an acceptance letter.
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune featured some of the more interesting questions standing between today’s high school seniors and their futures. Some are fill in the blanks:
“The best movie of all time” Columbia University.
“I felt I truly belonged when” Brown University.
Another offered opportunities for an open-ended opus calling on one’s originality: “You have 150 words. Take a risk.” University of Notre Dame.
What’s the point of these questions? How is someone supposed to write about his former kindergarten fear (University of North Carolina) if he can’t remember kindergarten and has to rely on his mother’s memory? Is that cheating? Can his mother’s memories be trusted?
Are these good questions for revealing a student’s underlying character and/or academic potential? Or are they just an attempt to enliven the admissions review process for the thousands of admissions officers who have to read through tens of thousands of mind-numbing applications a year? The answer probably lies somewhere in between.
Having to answer a quirky question on a college admissions form would have prepared me for one of my job interviews when the young, dark-eye-lined and leather vest wearing advertising Account Executive said she had one more question.
We were at the 45-minute mark of an hour interview for a summer internship at an advertising agency between my first and second year of business school. I wanted this job with this Michigan Avenue agency so badly that I had ambushed the agency’s campus recruiter on his lunch break and begged to be added to his interview schedule
“There’s no right or wrong answer, “ she said. Right, I thought
I thought the interview had gone pretty well. Even though my buttoned up business suit and hair-in-a-headband hairdo didn’t in any way resemble the skinny skirt and tousled locks of the woman sitting across the desk from me, I still thought I could fit in. Let’s put it this way – I wanted to fit in.
“If you were going to invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner who would they be, and why?” she asked.
Pause. My heart paused. My brain paused. This was not on the list of “commonly asked interview questions” provided by the University Career Center. I had prepared answers to other questions, such as:
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
Why advertising versus brand management?
I could list, my goals the challenges I had overcome and my parents’ lasting influences. I was prepared to share a favorite class or work experience that demonstrated my unique abilities. I had many readily available answers but none touched on the subject of dinner invitations. I didn’t even cook. Could I make reservations?
So I just started talking.
#1 Kathryn Hepburn. I admired her acting and her approach to life and her career. She was married shortly to a doctor and said of her marriage and subsequent life choice to not marry Spencer Tracy that she felt she could have a career or a marriage but not both. I would want to ask her about that decision and about how she managed to change early negative impressions about her talent to become one of the most celebrated actors of our times.
I added that I really liked Hepburn’s style. Everything she did became her signature from slacks and a turtleneck to the way she pulled her hair up into a devil-may-care knot. I wanted to learn East Coast nonchalance from her.
The whole time I’m talking I’m thinking: Am I on the right track with this? No time to worry. I needed another guest.
#2 Mikhail Baryshnikov. I totally named dropped this one. Believe it or not, I had just dined with Misha – he told me to call him that – and that’s the only name that came to mind when the interviewer mentioned dinner.