1. DRESS TO IMPRESS!
Translation: Zippers, velcro, hooks, straps. Make sure everything is latched tight. They like button-down sweaters and black boots with silver buckles that clink when you walk. Wear a smart little scarf, a smart little jacket, and your best smile. Fasten your edges so they don’t slip. They like big blinking eyes welling with curiosity, and soft, lubricated lips, accustomed to speech. Talk to yourself in the mirror, see the face you’ve forgotten, reacquaint yourself with the sound of your voice. Open and close; think well-oiled hinges. They want battle scars, not open wounds. Wear long sleeves.
2. GO CONFIDENTLY IN THE DIRECTION OF YOUR DREAMS!
Translation: Your dreams are supposed to have directions. Don’t tell them you’ve lost your GPS; don’t tell them your dreams consist of getting lost. Getting lost in the woods, getting lost in the sheets of your bed, getting lost in a bottle of Melatonin. They do not want to hear the things you dream about on long car rides, or while you’re running, with the raspy, anemic voices of your favorite pop singers whimpering into your ears. They want ambition, trajectory, arc. They want to know about the novelist you dream of becoming, not the words you inscribe on the insides of your thighs with razor-tipped calligraphy pens.
3. TALK ABOUT YOUR ACADEMIC INTERESTS!
Translation: Academic interests do not include doodling in the margins of your math homework, or making paper boats out of your Juicy Fruit gum wrappers while your Bio teacher explains mitosis. When you say you’re a writer, don’t mention the profanity Sharpied into the pages of the diary your therapist gave you. Don’t mention the poetry you write in the middle of the night. When you say you’re an artist, don’t mention dipping your fingers in paint and revelling in the mess. Pretend your drawings resemble something from this world.
4. COME PREPARED!
Translation: Buy a new notebook, preferably black. Don’t bring your favorite spiral-bound, the pink one with plastic fairies on the cover. Remember, you’re supposed to be seventeen. Bring a crisp, glossy fountain pen. Hold it delicately between your thumb and pointer finger at a slight angle, poised to scribble every once-in-a-lifetime opportunity your interviewer offers. Come prepared with clipped, confident answers to her questions: “Are you diligent?” Yes. “Are you motivated?” Yes. “Are you resilient?” Absolutely. Think this, but don’t say it: you have lived in and out of hospitals; you wake up every morning with your limbs stitched to the bedsheets; you push yourself off the mattress with arms criss-crossed like the seamed wrists of a rag doll. If that’s not resilience, you don’t know what is.
5. BE SPONTANEOUS!
Translation: This does not include erratic eye-watering or face-twitching. This does not include random cocooning of your head in your sweater sleeve. It does not include grimaces, groans, or spontaneous exits into dark hallways. This is no time for hide-and-seek.
6. SHARE WHAT MAKES YOU YOU!