We interviewed author Meg Mitchell Moore about her new novel,  The Admissions , which follows one family through the sometimes arduous, always exciting college application process.

The Admissions

What inspired you to write this book?

This book was born during the one year my husband, my three kids and I lived in California, from summer 2012 to summer 2013. I was working on another book at the time that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to for a variety of reasons. I began The Admissions as I waited for that book to magically fix itself. Something about being in a new setting (California vs. Massachusetts) and in a town where many of the pressures (on both kids and parents) seemed like they were more prevalent than they had been on the East coast gave me a lot of material.  I once heard someone casually mention how the Ivies weren’t taking any students from the local high school (a very strong public school) anymore and how you had to take drastic measures (like sending your kid away to boarding school) if you wanted a shot. That stuck with me and comes up as something a character says in the book at one point. I’m not saying parents and students on the East coast don’t feel this pressure but as an outsider in California it was easy and fascinating to be an observer. Also, because my kids are not yet in high school (only one is in middle school) it’s much easier to observe the process than I’m sure it will be when they’re going through it.

The Hawthorne family came alive very quickly once I wrote the first scene (which now is the first chapter after the prologue). Making a whole book out of this family was another matter, of course—it always is.

What do you remember about going to college / getting admitted?

I remember that I did NOT get into my first choice school: Columbia. I’m (almost) over that by now. I remember spending a lot of time on the essays.  I remember (because this was a long time ago) waiting for the notices of acceptance or rejection to arrive by mail. No e-mail! I moved my senior year of high school from a large school in Maryland to a small regional school in Downeast, Maine. When I was applying to college, not too many of my classmates were applying to out-of-state schools. There wasn’t a lot of guidance, nor was there a ton of pressure. It was nothing like what I hear about happening now.

What did you major in?

English

Any advice for kids interested in becoming an author like you?

My advice is to get a really solid liberal arts education without necessarily focusing on writing fiction. One of the touchstones of my undergrad college, Providence College, is a program called Development of Western Civilization, a required interdisciplinary program that includes studying literature, philosophy, theology and art. That gave me a solid foundation in a variety of discipline. Providence also has a very strong English department, and I learned a lot from every professor I had. I think I took one creative writing course during college but mostly I was honing my critical thinking skills.

And read, read, read! I think when you’re young and learning you gain so much from reading everything you can get your hands on. It takes most people a while to develop a writing voice, and that’s okay. There is plenty of time to study “how to write” later. If you focus on the mechanics of fiction too soon you may miss the chance to develop something really original. (At the same time, don’t be too intimidated to take a stab at writing fiction. Every single published author out there starts each new work with a blank page or screen too.)

If you had to go back, would you do anything different with your college experience? Study abroad? Take a gap year? Go to a different school/different location?

I loved my college experience. I loved my college. I did study abroad for my entire junior year (at Oxford) and that was a wonderful experience. Gap years weren’t really a thing when I went to college, at least not that I knew of. I did a lot of traveling during my junior year abroad and right after college, so I feel like I got that stuff in. I think there are so many different ways to have a good college experience that I don’t wish I’d done anything different from what I did, but I wish I could have had several different college lives to try them all out. I look at schools like Williams and Middlebury now and think, “I would have loved those schools!” but at the time I know I wanted to be in more of a city and not at a small school so I didn’t consider those schools. There are times now when I think it would have been great to meet people from different walks of life—at my school many of the students looked like me and came from similar backgrounds. But at the time I was perfectly happy. 


Follow Meg on Twitter: @mmitchmoore .


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