Adventures in taking a General Studies Admissions Exam

The test itself cannot be written about – I signed a statement – which I had to write out in cursive, by the way – saying that I would not discuss any of the material on the exam. I will hold true to that. However, the story leading up to the exam, is worth writing about.

To fill you in a little bit, this was the Generals Studies Admission Exam for Columbia University (it’s for us folk that have had at least an eight year gap since we took the SAT’s). I was in two minds up until the morning of the exam as to whether or not I would take it. I finally decided that I would, and hitched a ride to the event location in Seattle.

It was in the Seattle Public Library. I have to admit, I get really lost with really tall buildings, and had to ask directions as how to to get in. I found my way in, the opening clearly not a main entrance. The hall was with tall ceilings, quiet and empty. A closed espresso stand was to my right. Finally, figured out I was on the 5th floor, and that I needed to be on the 4th. Naturally, I hopped in an elevator and hit 4.

Nothing happened.

I hit it again.

Nothing happened.

Clearly this elevator was stupid. So I swapped to another one. Same deal.

At this point I only had fifteen minutes until the exam began, and was instructed to arrive just as early, so in a frustrated huff, went for the stairs. I flung open the door to the corridor and skipped down the stairs. The door to fourth floor was locked. The panicked thought that all the doors locked on the inside jolted through me, though I dismissed that as utter silliness and that height of unsafe practices in the event of a fire.

I marched on up the starts back to floor five, and tried again. This time when I hit the button for 4 floor, the elevator went up. And up. And up. And up – to floor 17! Clearly someone needed that elevator. I waited for the doors to open, maybe this person would have some answers as to how to make these stupid things work.

The doors never opened.

I waiting a couple minutes before trying the door-opening button.

Nothing happened.

I hit it again.

Nothing happened.

I began hitting buttons at random, trying to get anything to work. Nothing would. The emergency button loomed there, big and red. At what point was it the right thing to do to hit that button and report to firefighters that I was stuck in an elevator?  I was beginning to panic. Over and over again I hit the button to open the doors, to go to floors below, to go to floors above – anything.

It was warm, and I was shaking. My breath was rapid, my palms were shaking. I was panicking and suddenly went through every elevator horror scenario I could think of. I thought that I might run out of air, so I tried to slow my breathing. I thought maybe the cable would break loose and I would plummet to my death.

Then I thought about how I’m the dumb girl trying to get to an Ivy League school that can’t figure out how to get out of an elevator.

My frantically pushing buttons landed on *1 – ground floor. I nearly screamed when the elevator descended. I genuinely thought in that moment I was going to die. It gained a safe speed which felt like I was free-falling, and landed safely.

I burst – burst – through those doors like the thing was on fire, panting, and gasping for air – that I wasn’t actually in need of because I was not suffocating in there.

Of course there should be a witness to such a silly spectacle. He looked official, and stood behind a wooden platform.. I began spouting my tale, trying to make myself look less crazy. Of course I didn’t succeed in that. Turns out he was a delivery guy waiting for some one to come down and pick up the podium he was delivering.

Eventually I was told that no, I wasn’t in the Public Library. It was across the street.

I looked at my phone for the time. I had three minutes.

I made my way into the building, greeted by rows of books and people looking at them – you know, everything a library building should be, that I didn’t quite notice was missing in the demon elevator building. I was on the third floor, and caught the inviting escalator up. I had more control on those. Plus they’re just fun.

I hopped off and was met with a giant 5.

The escalator had taken me from floor 3 to 5.

I felt like a student from Way Side School sent to take a note to Ms. Zarves on the floor that didn’t exist. Eventually, I found another back stairwell that took me to the mystical floor 4 of the Seattle Public Library.

I opened the door and felt like I was in A Clockwork Orange. The hall was narrow and entirely red. Walls, ceiling, floor – everything was red. The walls were circular, and as I passed rooms looking for 6 I glanced through windows of Asian people yelling at each other, intense computer courses and finally, a sign that said “Columbia University General Studies Admissions Exam: 11am-3”.

My heart stopped.

I looked at my phone again. 11:59.

The exam started at 11????

I tried to get in. The door was locked. I opened my mouth, inhaled, ready to spew every curse word I could think of in every combination imaginable when the door opened, and I was presented with Dirk, the representative from the presentation the day before at Green River Community College. He welcomed me in, and set me up with my space. There was one guy running late, but that was fine, we’d wait for him.

And then, happily, I took my exam.


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