Dragon candidates are traditionally women between the ages of twelve and twenty two, with a preference for the upper ages. During times of threadfall, any candidate approved by the candidate or weyrling master may stand, but during passes, only 'mature' people of higher than fifteen are usually allowed, though exceptions are made, particularly for weyrbrats.
Three Turns ago, candidacy was opened to male candidates who could prove their good health are were selected by dragons. Male weyrbrats are usually not allowed the right to stand without being searched first, even though girls over age twelve were allowed to choose for themselves without dragon selection.
However, because of lessening prejudice against males, particularly from Weyrwoman Rean and her Miroth- and notably less so from Gold Takhisith- many male weyrbrats are now allowed the choice.
All candidates have different ideas about what to do when faced with a dragon, and none are definitive. But some of the more pervasive rumours include the belief that an individual's willingness or unwillingness to impress will on some way improve or decrease their chances. Thus, candidates looking to impress will usually think 'happy' thoughts, whereas those who have found themselves forced into the position for social or political reasons may attempt to think hatefully towards the hatchlings.
When a dragon clutch is hatching, the clutch mother will publically command all the residents of the Weyr to her sands. Of course, most of the weyrfolk themselves attend, but for candidates, this is a mandatory demand. If any candidate is found purposely avoiding the hatching even after making the conscious decision to become a candidate and taking the rank, they will be severely punished. After being carried bodily and deposited onto the sands, of course.
Candidates are expected to be presentable in terms of hygiene and hair at the hatching, and to wear the traditional candidacy uniform: a formless white tunic or robe that has the uncomfortable tendency to become transparent when wet. These robes are often either handed down from previous generations, or sewn new by the candidate themselves, though they can be commissioned from Weyr tailors as well.
Upon the moment of impression, the candidate and their dragon become Weyrlings.
Wher candidates are traditionally women between the ages of sixteen and forty, though the restrictions of gender and age are much looser on whers. Indeed, one simply chooses to become a wher candidate, then skulks around near fertile females, rather than being officially searched or chosen. This is because only the wher mother is entitled to 'search' for her clutch, and any attempts to go against her demands tend to end badly for the foolish human who tried it.
When a wher mother's eggs are beginning to hatch, she will call all available minds nearby to her, much as a dragon would. Then, when all have assembled, she will begin giving eggs out to the audience at her discretion. Generally speaking, an egg that the mother gives away will not be a dud. However, it is not impossible, and some wher mothers have been known to specifically give duds to candidates they despise.
Wyvern hatchings are much closer in action to dragon hatchings, with the hatchlings choosing who they want without outside influence. Even in the case of Lesser Wyverns, this seems to be more or less the case, though there is a large aspect of first-feed-first-bond as is found in firelizards.
The greatest difference is that, when a wyvern mother's clutch begins to hatch, she is not especially likely to notify others. It is as much a matter of luck as information that puts people in the vicinity of wyvern eggs. Thus, whille there may be some people who specifically seek out hatchings to attempt to impress, there is a far greater element of chance in wyvern hatchings, and a much greater likelihood that the wyverns themselves will simply decide the available humans are unfit for service and disappear between to live in the wild.
While the Staren Guard specifically attempts to prevent members over the age of forty from impressing to wyverns, the wyverns themselves have no traditional age or gender restrictions. Wyvern Impression is considered, by the majority of adult recruits, to be the only opportunity to gain rank in the Staren Guard, since the usual paths of promotion are forbidden.
Standidates are people in the audience of any sort of hatching who are specifically expecting to watch an event, rather than impress. Because there is an impression modifier (Plain Stone Pendant) specifically for standidates, they are rather common on Sapphos. Most standidates are outside the traditional age ranges, and thus barred from candidacy.
It is possible for your character to impress on the stands without the Plain Stone Pendant. However, this is a relative uncertainty, and they will not be immediately considered for impresison by the clutch writers, but instead may be selected on the basis of closely matching a dragon hatchling's personality.
Standidates for wher hatchings are, technically, nnone existent due to the strange nature of wher mothers.
Standidates for wyvern hatchings are very common, and wyverns can travel from birth, and are usually very selective about their bonding.
Currently, there are only impression modifiers for dragon candidates. They include color modifiers (feline only, chromatic only, bronze only, fighter gold only) and restriction modifiers (male riders, age restrictions). Most modifiers can only be purchased for female characters. You may read more about these modifiers in the marks shop page.
It should be noted (and indeed it is, on the marks page) that when you purchase a modifier, you may receive a PM from a clutchmother's player suggesting you not use it. This is because purchasing a color restriction modifier will override any chance of your character impressing one of the restricted colors (calcium, cobalt, fertile gold). So, if such a message is received, think carefully before going ahead with your modifier.
When clutches are written, preference is given to impressing to female candidates before males. However, ultimately, the candidate which best suits the dragon will be selected. And, as always, candidates with larger amounts of on-screen play time will guaranteedly have a higher chance of impression. So, if you've just created a character or joined the site shortly after a hatching, then while you may have to wait a while for the next one, you will have a much higher chance of impression.