August 12, 2011 by Taylor Mullaney
If you’re a rising high school senior, you’re one of the many reasons I’ve loved working in the Admission Office this summer…I thank you. Interviewing is an awesome job because I get talk with all of you potential members of the Class of 2016 each day and learn about your pursuits, your fascinations, your hometowns, your favorite moments of your high school experience, days you would erase from that experience if you could…and the list goes on. For some high school seniors, the interview can be a daunting, somewhat overwhelming trip to Williamsburg that includes a rather ambiguous vision of what to anticipate. I get that; to some degree, I’m right back in your boat as I start applying to jobs and law school, so I’m more than aware of the anxiety these processes can entail. With this post, my goal is to ease some of those apprehensions you may have by telling you about a couple specific questions I ask and the intangible elements that make certain responses, and in turn, certain interviews, something I distinctly remember.
My greatest suggestion is that before the interview, you sit down to reflect upon a few things—on what you care about, how you’ve acted on that, why the path you’ve traveled is totally different from that of anyone else, what you want out of a college experience, what you personally will contribute to a campus community, AND how exactly William & Mary in particular fits into all of that. Once you’ve reflected on these aspects of your own story, decide how best to articulate them. I don’t have to regale you with every inquiry I ask (and that changes a bit from interview to interview!) in order to help you prepare. In fact, I promise that if you engage in this self-evaluation of sorts, you’ll be better able to include everything you want me to know about you, and even if you’re a bit nervous coming in, we can have a genuinely enjoyable conversation in which you leave me with a distinct impression of who you are.
At some point during our conversation, I’m going to ask you about extracurriculars—what do you do outside the classroom? Here are a few pointers for that moment:
• This is NOT time for a laundry list of 14.25 activities; it IS an opportunity for me to find out what you care about and WHY you invest so much time in whatever that may be. If you do theater, that’s great—color it for me, though! Elaborate. My goal is to make you jump off paper as the Admission Committee reads your application. Chances are that I can find that you’re in the International Thespian Society and are involved in your school’s theater program somewhere on your resume. Instead of just mentioning an involvement off-handedly, if you’ve recently been in Beauty and the Beast, give me a rendition of “Tale as Old as Time!” Tell me what it was like to play Lumière. Share an anecdote about how the cast bonded…anything that provides me with details to contextualize your experience.
• If you’re on the debate team at your high school, don’t be afraid to tell me about what kind of debate you do, your favorite topic to research or present, how you totally rocked at that one tournament, how your arch-nemesis from your rival high school beat you at another after your voice cracked three times in front of an audience of 100 people…these sorts of quick details put a certain personal stamp on what you share.
Here’s another question that I love to ask: If you had a soundtrack to your life—20 or 25 songs as a backdrop to the last 17 years—what would be three songs that I’d likely find on it? Why?
• Again, not a numbers game. I have no mental point system through which I assign Hanson -4 points (though they were my first cassette ever…yes, cassette…I’m older than you are), Celine Dion 8 points because she was my jam growing up, Iron & Wine 7.5 points because he’s indie and awesomely folksy, Joni Mitchell 12 points because the woman is a brilliant lyricist (I digress…), and then add up your numbers at the end as a Quality of Taste in Music Score….no no no. Instead, it’s about relating a song or beat or artist to who you’ve become, to what matters to you, to your sense of humor, to your favorite sport, to your cultural heritage, to the dance you choreographed, to the instrument you’ve been playing since age 6, and so forth.
• For example, I had one student who told me she’d have a Taylor Swift song on her soundtrack. Pretty generic. But then, she added that the song would be “Long Live” due in large part to her favorite lyric of the song, “I’ve had the time of my life fighting dragons with you,” which she thinks describes her high school experience with her best friend perfectly. That’s great because she owned the answer by individualizing it, and in doing so, she revealed a bit about how she thinks of friendships and how she notices certain language even in teeny-bopper-ish tunes. Another student immediately responded, “Oh my gosh! They’re ALL show tunes!” This added further depth to his adoration of musicals and involvement in theater, and it was certainly not something that any high school senior would assert. He proceeded to give me three specific show tunes from musicals he loves, and that provided me with YouTubing material for after the interview.
• At the risk of sounding tangential, one more comment: I was sitting at the campus bookstore about a week ago with my friend, Nathan Hoback, when he mentioned something that automatically brought this question to mind. (Nathan came to the College for both undergrad and his Masters of Education and is now living in the ‘Burg to start his teaching career!) During a conversation about the merits of taking long drives alone, Nathan forcefully asserted, “I totally prefer driving alone sometimes. You know, Taylor, sometimes, I just show up places without any voice at all because I’ve been singing so loudly in my car! You just can’t do that when there’s someone there beside you in the passenger’s seat…it’s not the same.” That, my friends, is a detail that I’d love to hear about when you answer the soundtrack question…something that hints at humor, honesty, and quirk.
I hope that insight into these two talking points helps you out! Overall, I’m interested in your personality, in whatever you really love and invest in, and in why the College has captivated you.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below. I look forward to seeing and having a great conversation with you at the Alma Mater of a Nation!
August 4, 2011 by Taylor Mullaney
All kinds of fascinating things happen in the summertime—BBQ cookouts, prospective students flooding campus, the discovery of a new beachy area of town or a new Sno-to-Go flavor, and more. I was particularly enlightened during this year’s steamy, swampy season by a certain occurrence about two weeks ago.
Given my obsession with Diet Coke, I make it a habit to have a can handy at all times. It makes my life simpler. The easiest way to have one ready to go for lunches in the Admission Office each day was to keep a twelve pack in the trunk of my car and grab one on the way in. It turns out, however, that if you keep cans of soda in an enclosed area that’s consistently over 100°F, those cans will explode.
Yes, explode. Legitimately everywhere, leaving you with nothing but popped open coke cans and a giant mess.
I had been blissfully unaware of this phenomenon until I opened my trunk to grab a coke during the week when Williamsburg became an earthly oven earlier in July. The coke can I reached in to grab was totally empty…and the carbonated liquid previously in it all over a pink button-down and a beige skirt that had been sitting in my trunk, patiently awaiting the day they’d be dry-cleaned. We’re talking very serious mess here—the shirt looked half brown, the skirt as though I had rolled around in dirt for a couple hours while sporting my Sunday best.
Now here’s where the fun part comes in: What to do next? I seriously considered getting rid of both forever, but I heard my mother in my mind telling me that’d be a waste and that I had given up too easily. (I should mention here that I get my diet coke addiction from her, so really, this was indirectly her fault.) From there, it seemed I might as well take a shot at taking them to Master Cleaners on Richmond Road to see if they could do the seemingly impossible.
The woman at the cleaners was as nice as she could be, but she was also very concerned: “Umm, I’m gonna need you to sign this saying we can wash it…and it might shrink…or not work no matter what we do…but we’re gonna try!” Master Cleaners: An attitude to emulate. I like it. So I tried my luck.
Just yesterday, I picked up my clothing from the Cleaners, and it honestly looked brand new. The employee who got my clothes from the back had already become familiar with my situation: “Ooooh! You’re Diet Coke girl! We had to wash your clothes again and again…Yeah, umm, our owner said to tell you to quit drinking Diet Coke…”
Let’s be honest. That’ll happen when I quit drinking Wawa coffee every morning, which will be NEVER. (Dentists are reading this, cringing, and pondering how my teeth have not completely yellowed or just fallen out.) Still, I appreciated the sentiment and am now convinced that Master Cleaners works miracles. My only regret at this point is that I don’t have “Before” and “After” photos to prove what an extraordinary job they did.
Important lessons garnered this summer: 1) Master Cleaners delivers. 2) Leave your coke in temperate environments.
Words to the wise for future inhabitants of the ‘Burg in the summer months.
July 14, 2011 by Taylor Mullaney
One of the countless reasons I love music is that it can transport me from one place to another. Somehow, once I’ve associated a song with a particular era of my life, I can always revisit that period—remember a certain person, reassemble exactly how I felt, recollect a distinct zeitgeist— simply by listening to the song or artist or album that defined it.
Here at W&M, music has played an undeniable role in my college years. From our first moment at the College, we’re indoctrinated with the alma mater in William and Mary Hall, singing with the entire incoming class and the choir. Personally, I never miss an a cappella performance at the beginning of each semester, and I’ve seen concerts from Ben Folds in Norfolk to Rascal Flatts and Sara Evans in Virginia Beach. (The heartrending tale of how I missed seeing The Script two semesters ago due to procrastination on an English paper will be saved for another entry. Wait with baited breath.) Needless to say, the ‘Burg and the surrounding area have provided ample chances to cultivate my love of music, and my taste has become fairly wide ranging…I’ll go ahead and admit that I grew up too close to the Georgia border not to love country. I make no apologies.
There are several songs that have characterized my time here. Freshman year was most definitely “Paper Planes” by MIA, first semester of junior year colored by “Free Life” and “Breathless,” both Dan Wilson tunes, and too many songs to enumerate bring back my semester abroad, though I can say that the “Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers” album and a couple Ani DiFranco ballads from the 90s were notable additions to my iPod at the time.
All of that said, I’ve started a list of certain songs that will forever remind me of this summer. A lot of them are from months ago since I dropped out of the American music world / pop radio scene while studying in France. Others are old just because I somehow remain oblivious to contemporary hits, then discover them eons later and go around telling friends I think they’re awesome—only to realize my friends are far more on top it than I and had the same realization months or years earlier. Here’s a sampling of my playlist so far:
1. Adele- “Someone Like You,” “Turning Tables,” and “Rolling in the Deep” : I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Um. Duh. Since February.” I remember a friend of mine praising this album as nearly divine in France, but I had never heard Adele. My roommate for the summer (another blogger! Steph Kumah) implored me to listen to “Someone Like You,” and we now hold nightly jam sessions.
2. Corinne Bailey Rae – “Put Your Records On” : Steph also introduced me to this song from ’07 or so. It’s great…I, of course, had to Wikipedia the singer and now know useless details of her personal history. “Paris Nights / New York Mornings” has a very cool vibe about it, too, and both the song and video make me totally nostalgic for the City of Lights.
3. The Script – “For the First Time” : My best friend from high school, Cameron, berated me for not having listened to this song a few nights ago…so I YouTubed it with her on the phone, and it’s just about the catchiest thing ever. Brilliant suggestion. She just got back from London, so we’re both catching up on the song crazes.
4. Enya – “Only Time” : Sooo, this may seem weird. That’s because it is. Beautiful song, but strange on this playlist. It’s here because a fellow intern played it every morning toward the end of June, to it’s etched in my memory and associated with this place.
5. Lissie – “The Pursuit of Happiness” : More of a rap type song, and Lissie is newer. An intern also played this song one morning, and I had heard it but forgot about it. Another catchy one, and her voice has a unique sound to it.
6. The Band Perry – “If I Die Young” : At first, this song just peeved me. After a while, though, it started to grow on me. Once again, Wikipedia research was conducted, and I’m now aware of fun facts on the band. I especially love the video of this one…that the “love song” she talks about is Tennyson in the video, a classical “love song.” Yup…call me an English major.
I’ll add to this list as the summer goes on. I’ve recently thought that I should start making a playlist every few months or so of songs that have captivated me or just made me wanna groove so that years later, I can remember those times. Soon, I’ll make a playlist with these and add others to immortalize Summer ’11 in the ‘Burg—and a long time from now, I’ll remember nights out eating Mexican food with friends, late night jam sessions / chats with Steph, the slap across the face that is waking up at 7am for a real job, the intense heat of Virginia’s colonial capital, and the eleven fantastic fellow students I work with each day. Rock on.
July 11, 2011 by Taylor Mullaney
I’ve been known to tell people I love William & Mary because of its tightly-knit student body—the motivated, intriguing, engaged people I am surrounded by here—and because of the quirkiness of the ‘Burg itself. I think there’s no better illustration of this than an incredible surprise birthday party my friends threw me this year.
My 21st was actually last February while I was studying abroad in Paris, but that just didn’t cut it for friends at W&M who wanted to be part of the celebration. I got back from a phenomenal semester abroad toward the beginning of June, and as soon as I hit the ‘Burg, I was told to reserve Saturday night for my friend, Ellie, whom I hadn’t seen since December. As Saturday night neared, I wondered what exactly she had up her sleeve; she refused to tell me where we were going or what specifically we would be doing. I was told only to “look nice” (good friends are well-aware of my solid Saturday-no-makeup-and-sweat-pants regiment) and to “be on time” (they’re also aware of my not-so-charming-twenty-minute-late habit).
Saturday was a real dog day of summer in the ‘Burg. I woke up, scarfed down some leftover pizza, went on a run in my neighborhood, and started getting ready pretty early. I had a hunch that something was up and that pictures would be taken to document whatever we would be up to, and Facebook detagging is just a pain.
Ellie picked me up at 6:30, and so began a plan masterminded by my roommate of over three years, Diana. When we got in the car, Ellie informed me that I would be wearing a blindfold so that I’d be surprised at each stop. At this point, I 1) thought she was kidding about that blindfold and 2) was exceedingly giddy that a friend would put that much effort into driving me around for an evening—presumably just to run to a nice dinner or something. Wrong.
When I took the blindfold off, I found that we were at Firehouse Subs. To be honest, Firehouse is totally my idea of a “nice dinner”—the sub shop has a special place in my heart because I ate it all the time growing up in Jacksonville. I happily ordered my favorite sub (roast beef combo, no mayo, no tomato, on wheat…if you want a solid suggestion) and chatted with Ellie for about 45 minutes. She then announced that we were “on a schedule” and needed to get going. Before I knew it, we were whizzing down Colonial Parkway blasting one of my favorite albums. This is one of my favorite things to do in Williamsburg…I love Colonial Parkway and often go for a drive there just for a change in scenery. The forest and waterways that line it are beautiful. Ellie knew how much I adore the Parkway, so she decided it had to be part of my surprise. After that, I was blindfolded yet again so that I wouldn’t know where we were going, and we ended up at a key part of campus: Swem Library. Ellie and I first became close friends because we studied in Swem at the same time of day (read: night) sophomore year, so we would always see each other there, sit down together, and allow the number of music videos we watched to far exceed the number of pages we actually read. Ellie decided that showing up at Swem would totally astound me, and it did. I think it was the first time I had ever been so excited to find myself at the steps of the library. It was a “key place” in the ‘Burg that had to be part of my surprise. After that, we headed back to the car, and I figured the evening was over. Wrong yet again.
One more time, I found myself blindfolded and on the way to some unknown destination. This time, Ellie guided me from the car to our “final destination.” I kept bumping into cars on the way, so I figured out that we were in a parking lot, but that was the only clue I had. Suddenly, I heard a door open in front of me, and I heard someone shout, “Guys! Lights!!” Incredibly confused, I had a feeling we were at someone’s apartment complex, but the reason for being there still didn’t click. Then, Ellie took off the blindfold, and to my astonishment, my entire freshman hall and other friends were standing in front of me screaming, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
Diana had transformed the apartment into a Paris in Williamsburg of sorts, with fondue and a Parisian shower curtain as a wall decoration (that I got to keep!) and a Sartre quote on a banner and signs that indicated that metro stops by which Diana and I lived in Paris: “Ternes” and “Trocadéro.” There were also many of my favorite cheeses, and I wore a purple beret for the evening. Diana has always been more creative than I, but I was so impressed that she succeeded in bringing a sense of Paris all the way to the ‘Burg…and pulled off a giant party while I remained totally unaware of what was going on! One dear friend, Eric, even drove all the way down from Northern Virginia just to be a part of the evening, and he came in costume! That’s dedication, and it ended up being a fantastic night.
This is just one example of why I love this place and my fellow members of the Tribe. In one night, I experienced my favorite things about town and got to celebrate with people I had missed the whole last semester. While I miss Paris every day, I must admit it’s great to be “home”—surrounded, once again, by quirky people in a colonial town who make my college experience unparalleled and totally unforgettable.