My unabashedly honest reply to an innocuous college interview question pretty much put the kibosh on my application to a certain not-to-be-named college. When the interviewer asked me what book I was currently reading, I sweetly replied, Love Story. As you can imagine, the interviewer was painfully unimpressed and things went downhill from there. I never bothered to submit an application. Here’s where the fateful twist comes in: If he had asked me what book I had just finished reading, I would have answered "Atlas Shrugged" and our conversation might have gone differently. The thing was, my mother was a voracious reader who chose books across a broad spectrum. When I was in high school, I often picked up whatever book she had just put down. I wasn’t that discriminating – I just loved to read and my mother generally had excellent taste. But there were exceptions, like this tear-jerker romance.

So, here’s my advice to rising seniors: Read. Read a lot. And not just beach fiction. Read books that challenge you, inspire you, pique your imagination, make you think. While Love Story may be a dated reference, you stand as good a chance of being asked this question as I did, so prepare. Think about what the books you are reading mean to you, how they’ve helped you to see people, situations, the world, and even yourself in a different light. And if you’re enjoying some delightfully trashy novel, make sure the next book you read is one you can speak thoughtfully about.