Prologue: The Thing About Entrance Exams

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Anxious, tight voices ricocheted off the walls of the cavernous lecture hall from every direction.

"What'd you get on that word problem about the squirrels?"

"Dude, I totally failed."

"Hard part's for the wait."

Tension, fear and relief: they hung thick in the frigid, climate-controlled air. Nearly two hundred eighth-graders, nerves fried and brains overloaded, evicted themselves from hard plastic seats, walked around, discussed, analyzed, picked apart every question printed on the test form and every answer bubbled in.

Some students had studied diligently for this test since the first day of fifth grade. Others had taken twelve practice tests the weekend before in a last-ditch attempt to revert three years of blissful ignorance. Some felt breezily confident going in. Others could barely keep down the bagel their parents had seen to it they consumed before the test, they were so nervous. Nearly all wished they had had more time to prepare. And every last one felt impatience to a degree they had not even dreamed possible.

That March, two hundred eighth graders anxiously walked to their mailboxes, stalling in every way they could, as afraid to see what was inside the crisp white envelopes as they were excited. Two hundred eighth graders' hands shook as they carefully broke the seals of the envelopes that would tell them what they would be doing with the next four years of their lives.

Some cried. Their scores were too low, the cost too high, maybe both.

Some shrieked with excitement. Their scores were good, their tuition paid for, maybe both.

Three got the shock of a lifetime.

That was a quick one, I know, but it just serves to set up the actual opening. I hope you like this so far! 

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