Helen and Jake start pressuring Daria to look into college scholarships. She manages to find one where a lack of extracurriculars isn't an issue, but finds herself competing against two of the school's brightest students: Jodie and Upchuck.
After an evening meal of hot dogs (thanks to Jake screwing up an order for bulk-rate meat from an Internet company), the inevitable finally arrives: Helen and Jake start putting gentle (but firm) pressure on Daria to look into college scholarships. Daria is skeptical -- given her glaring lack of extracurriculars, which most colleges like to see -- but finally agrees to give it a go. Surfing the web, the closest thing she can find is a $10,000 prize from the Wizard Foundation, given to the student who best embodies "the Wizard pursuit of excellence" (whatever that means). Further bad news: along with the application, the student has to submit an essay about how he or she could change the world if they could. Speaking with Jodie at school, Daria is openly skeptical of the whole thing, but ultimately decides to go through with it, with a Daria-esque twist: her essay is a scathing commentary about money, and how its elimination could force politicians to stop pandering to special interests, CEOs to treat the environment and their workers better, and allow students to study instead of "wasting their time with pointless scholarship essays." To her shock, Daria becomes a finalist... and finds out that Jodie and Upchuck also made the cut. To say that Daria is slightly irked would be an understatement, as she didn't expect competition from "America's Studious Sweetheart" and the school's biggest suck-up. To top it all off, Jane has developed a real attitude over the whole situation (which only gets worse as time goes on), and Daria finds out from Tom that Wizard's hiring and promotional practices are not exactly progressive (very few women or minorities are hired or elevated into top positions). Daria informs Jodie about what she's learned, and while Jodie and her father agree that Wizard's practices are pretty disturbing, Andrew manages to convince them to pursue the award anyway by telling them that Wizard seems to be trying to fix the situation, and besides, their policies will never change unless women and minorities continue to make the attempt. To that end, Daria finally makes an appointment with Dr. Danada, who basically tells her to say what they want to hear and suck up as hard as she can... in other words, exactly what Daria refuses to do. At the interview, Mr. Brower (a Bill Gates lookalike) asks Daria, Jodie, and Upchuck routine questions about their goals, their skills and faults, etc.; Jodie replies with pat answers, Upchuck sucks up like a vacuum cleaner, and Daria is her brutally honest self. In the end, none of them get the prize, and to add insult to injury, Daria discovers that the people at Wizard thought that her incisive essay was actually a light-hearted spoof! At lunch, Daria and Jane reconcile, with Jane explaining that the reason she was so upset was that she was feeling left out: her grades aren't exactly stellar, while Daria and Jodie were fighting for a scholarship based on their academic excellence. They both muse on how they must be growing older, as they never used to think about such things. But Daria still isn't willing to admit she's more competitive than she admits, because if she was, she'd be in the parking lot competing in the hot dog eating contest... which is being sponsored by Jake Morgendorffer Consulting.
While waiting for Jake's bulk rate prime rib (or whatever) and as he lamented the fact that "food costs money," Quinn points out that once Daria goes off to college, there will only be three mouths to feed. Naturally, as Daria replied, that will hardly offset the cost of tuition, room and board. Quinn, who is now using her recently discovered intelligence more frequently, suggests that Daria should look into "one of those scholarship thingies." Of course, Helen concurred with that and moved in to try to persuade Daria to look into any possibilities she could find. Since Daria doesn't have any extracurriculars, it would have to be a purely academic award. Personally, I don't think having a lot of extracurriculars is as important to college admissions boards as Helen (and Jodie) think, especially in regards to someone like Daria that has an exceptional academic record (though one or two activities, as a token that there's life outside school, probably helps, and Daria doesn't even have that). Helen finally gets Daria working on it by making it clear that, if Daria wants to go to college, she should do it for herself to try to get something to make sure she can better financially afford her first-choice school. And, hey, if someone wants to give you money for being who you are, why not?
Once Daria decided to go for it, the first award she found was the Wizard Corporation scholarship that would be given "for the pursuit of excellence." As Daria tells Jane about the requirements for the prize, which were a form and an essay, Jane scoffs at the whole process. She said she doesn't want to "fill out five pounds of forms or kiss any butts," before she caught herself. The next day, Jodie saw Daria in the hall while looking for a new editor for the school newspaper and Daria told her about the Wizard scholarship. Daria expressed her shock at the amount of paperwork involved and was almost as shocked to hear that what she described is "par for the course." Anyway, Daria turned down the editor gig and told Jodie that she probably wasn't going to apply for the scholarship anyway.
How Would You Change It?
The essay question itself was of the garden-variety "lame Miss America finalist" question that has little or no real world value, unless you have a lot of money lying around to get your ideas done. How would Daria change the world? Some of her ideas included eliminating money, so "promising young students could study instead of groveling for money." Jane, while chowing on one of Jake's hot dog concoctions and listening to Daria's essay, said that the essay wasn't going to work. Daria made it clear that she wants to get the prize based on her real self without making up stuff. Jane felt that was very naive of her, saying that Daria must have been "born yesterday."
Hot Diggity Dog:
Speaking of Jake's hot dog concoctions, he seemed to have made a mistake when ordering his prime rib (or whatever) and got hot dogs instead ("stupid blurry computer screen"). He then tried to peddle them off in a variety of recipes, with the surplus going to Ms. Li's hot dog eating contest. At least he got to show off his creativity, or his ability to follow directions. This is just another example of Jake's questionable judgment. Who would buy anything as perishable as meat in bulk for a family of four?
The Final 100:
Daria made it as a finalist for Wizard's scholarship. It was hard to tell if she was happy about it or not. She had to feel good about being in the running but she was also one step closer to "selling out." Of course, she wants to win (she said so herself) and was less than thrilled that Jodie and Upchuck were also finalists. Daria is mad because she told Jodie that she might apply and now felt that she didn't have a chance against her without kissing some butt. Helen, after seeing Daria's obvious disgust about that, told her that there's nothing wrong with some competition (it's not like there wasn't going to be any anyway) and that Daria might as well get used to it, and suggested an interview coach to "tell [her] the things [she] would have learned through experience." Jodie offers a referral to the same coach because she felt bad about trying for the award. Both Helen and Jodie seemed to think that the coach was a good idea. However, Jane felt that it would be cheating. Personally, I wouldn't go to a coach, but I can't really say I have too much of a problem with the idea.
Where's My Problem?
Tom, being the supportive boyfriend that he is, tries to help Daria prepare for her important interview with a mock interview. He wants to help her "stare evil in the face" by bringing up some of the injustices in Wizard's hiring and promotion practices, which didn't seem too kind to women or minorities. Daria didn't know about this at the time, but her reaction to learning it was subdued. As Tom noted, she was neither "leaping" nor "swearing" to do anything about it, probably because her competitive juices got flowing and she was willing to ignore Wizard's problems while going after their award. However, her principles got to her and she went to Jodie's house to tell her Jodie about what she had learned. Jodie's didn't really like it either, but they were both surprised that Andrew Landon had already known about it. Daria's intention in going to Jodie was that they both would drop out in protest (even though Andrew thought otherwise), but Andrew convinced them otherwise using the logic that this was a perfect opportunity for them to try to do something about that. After all, if they dropped out, "they could keep [them] out without doing anything." That's a very good point. Also, it's hard to tell if Daria was suggesting that they drop out of the contest to "reduce the competition," as Andrew implied, or because she was looking for an out.
Now that it seemed to Daria that she would indeed be going for the scholarship (at least going through the motions), she broke down and went for a coaching session. Her coach, Dr. Whatshisname (he was forgettable enough as a character that I didn't bother to remember or write down his name) gave her the standard advice. She should dress nice, project "winner" and deliver what they want. Not bad advice (you should hardly have to pay anyone for it), but because Daria resisted, or at least made wisecracks about all of them, the good doctor felt he had to ask if she really wants to win. She wants it, but not through dishonesty. Does she feel she is deserving? That particular question was the one causing the conflict in her. Wizards has less than stellar ethics, so if she acts unethically, that makes her deserving, and if she is ethical (and, by extension, honest) then she is undeserving. In effect, she doesn't like what she has to be to deserve the award. I think she may have missed the point a little with that reasoning. For one, the award is supposedly for her academic achievement, not for her potential as a Wizard hiring manager (though that criteria would also make the entire interview process unnecessary). Also, sometimes it's best to work within the system instead of staying out of it. If they want to give you ten thousand dollars, take it.
So, This Is Oz:
Finally the interview arrives. A rep from Wizard asks Daria, Jodie and Upchuck questions in a Dating Game format. That seemed a little odd to me; I'd have thought that there would be two or three scholarship people asking questions to each person individually (the way they did it does work better for time constraints, though). Anyway, the interview itself was predictable. Jodie and Upchuck gave the stock answers and kissed a lot of behind while Daria was her usual flippant self. The interviewer was getting visibly frustrated, letting out many audible sighs; it seems he's heard a lot of this before (though his sighs at Daria weren't as loud, but he did ask if she was trying to sabotage her own chances). None of them won, despite Daria's high scores for her "light-hearted spoof" of an entry essay. Oh well.
I Wanna Play, Too!
While all of this was going on, Jane showed her displeasure with the whole process: the coach was a sign of a cheater, and Daria was sucking up by even participating. After it was all over, she finally let it out that she was troubled because she felt dumb watching all of the brains duke it out for a prize. That's more than understandable.
Daria and Jane lament the events of "Prize Fighters," wondering aloud if they're "buying into" or "selling out" to the system and abandoning their standards to "get ahead." Maybe they're mellowing out somewhat and are still learning how to use the system. Life is full of compromises, after all. Daria did want the prize badly, not enough to lie, but enough to be mad at Jodie. Maybe she's more of a pragmatist than she realizes. In reality, this episode didn't do much to prove or disprove that. Daria went along with the whole deal, but she went kicking and screaming, so it's hard to tell what she wanted. Other than that, it also showed just how hard it is to get one of those company-sponsored scholarships. I'm not saying that anyone out there shouldn't go for them, but, as has been my experience, the institution-granted scholarship market (in other words, scholarships given directly by the school attended) is much more lucrative. You usually can't apply directly for them, but many more are usually available (how's that for a tangent).
Daria as a Whole, Are They Graduating Yet?
Shouldn't Daria's class be about to graduate? Unless "Is It College Yet?" is set months after this episode, the events of this episode seem to be really late in the game to be throwing around terms like "first choice school." The worst time to have yet to apply for the college bound senior is a few weeks before finishing high school. By then, most schools have their freshman class filled. This is just a minor consistency in the Daria timeline, but it's definitely worth mentioning.
Copyright © 2001 Mike Quinn [All Rights Reserved]. Used with permission. The views presented in this review are those of the author, and may or may not necessarily be those of Outpost Daria Reborn.