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Admission Application Suggestions (Part XIV)

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“How can I appear intelligent to interviewers?” Background to the answer of this question comes from Mother’s stress on attention to detail and second, Dad’s practice of never publicly discussing an important subject without knowing its history.

The best way to prepare to overpower a “monster problem, Dad said, was to study what that “monster’ was like as a baby. Knowing the “seed” source makes understandable more quickly its beginning, middle, end, and result. Mother frequently mentioned that “If You Handle Little Things Well, Then You Will Be Able To Handle Big Things Well” -- those problems which are complex; those “it depends” situations; those things with multiple variables. In support of learning how to handle little and big things well, Dad mentioned that when you have paid attention to the significant details in the cause of something and how the cause gave rise to the effect, then you will appear real intelligent to those interviewers smart enough to recognize and appreciate a depth of knowledge.
In the back of many interviewers’ questions is to discover what you are like on the “negative” scale as well as on the “positive” scale. Thus, they look for your weaknesses and limitations; your strengths; your ability to fit in well, the chances of you being a trouble maker; the likelihood of your failing; and your capabilities for succeeding. Having only a few minutes to be with you, they look for tiny details from which they can make “broad stroke” generalizations that lead to “for or against you” value judgements. The preparation for steering the interviewer in your favor is to get in the habit of paying attention to the details below the “tip of the iceberg” (the remaining 90% of which is hidden under water). To illustrate a way of appearing intelligent about any subject, let us discuss your Curriculum Vitae (since you may have to attach one to your application). Interviewer: “What is a curriculum vitae?” No points are given to you for knowing this definition. But, if you do not know it, points will be taken away because it is “common knowledge” among aspiring professionals. Preparation for this kind of question starts with knowing its story and its current definition. “Curriculum” is a label applied to a fixed course of study; “Vitae” means life. Thus, your Curriculum Vitae is literally your “course of life” -- a summary of the highlights of your life -- your birth date, schooling, outstanding experiences, career, titles, publications, awards, achievements.
To go below this definition “tip of the iceberg” is where you show your intelligence because it is rare for people to have such knowledge. The concept of curriculum began in Africa at least 4500 years ago. Egyptian boys studied writing for 6 to 8 years in order to become a scribe. Youth selected for higher levels of education took fixed courses to prepare them to become priests, government officials, architects, or physicians. The name “curriculum” came as a result of Roman troops amusing themselves in racing a chariot, or currus. An updated vehicle -- called curriculum -- was driven on a track or course. This idea as well as the word curriculum was borrowed, during the Renaissance, by the Scots to stand for the round of training along which they drove their students. Subsequently, American English used it as a statement of a job applicant’s previous employment experience, skills, and education -- i.e. a running coarse of one’s life. If you volunteer a tidbit of that information to interviewers, they will assume you normally give attention to details and the interesting history behind what is commonly known. As a result, they are likely to label you as “intelligent!”

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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