Archives for April 2016

Ice Cream is the answer!

If you’ve been reading much surrounding the world of college admission this year, you’ve heard about the report out of Harvard called Turning the Tide. In this report, there is a call for colleges to attempt to minimize the stress in the process by not putting as much emphasis on test scores, redefining achievement and promoting meaningful contributions to the public good, rather than perpetuating the resume padding and gamesmanship that draws such angst and frustration. I am a signee on this report, so I’m not contesting or detracting from its noble intentions or merits. However, I also firmly believe that as long as American universities have single digit admit rates, there will always be frenzy that cannot be solved by asking different essay questions or telling students not to spend thousands of dollars to go on a mission trip. We can “turn the tide” slightly. Colleges can make efforts, many of which are outlined in the report, so that after riding the proverbial waves of the admission cycle you can still see your umbrella and beach blanket, but we’re not talking about bringing six feet waves down to a still pool by any means.  The only place that can happen is at home.

Let me tell you a story. A few weeks ago, I was walking across campus and bumped into Derrick Moore. “D. Mo” as he’s known on campus is the chaplain to our football team, a former NFL player, and one of the most passionate, inspirational, gracious people you will ever meet. If you’ve not seen one of his pre-game speeches on YouTube, you have unknowingly been leading an incomplete life. His messages typically surround the concept of being “all in” and fully committed to the team, believing in yourself, and family. When you hear these, you know he believes them with every fiber of his being.

d moAnd what I’ve come to appreciate about Derrick is he lives these messages every day at home with his wife and daughters. Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of watching him navigate the admission process twice now with his girls. His older is in college and another is a high school senior.

On the day we saw each other recently, he said it was ironic because that night his daughter would be finding out if she’d been admitted to her top choice school. He told me she’d been deferred in EA and had been understandably dismayed, but thankfully he explained, she also had a few other acceptances to some great universities. I asked him how he was doing and how she was feeling about everything.

He kind of shook his head and looked down, shuffled his feet a little and said, “Man, Rick. I’m nervous. I’m really nervous. She really wants to get into this school. It’s her first choice, and we are really hoping it’s going to work out.”

Then he looked up and said with striking confidence and conviction, “But here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going down to practice now to be with the team. Then I’ll leave a little early and stop by the store. I’m picking up some of my favorite ice cream and some of hers. Then we’ll sit down around our table, open up her laptop, and check her admission decision as a family. And I’ll tell you what– if she gets in, we’re going high five, hug, dig into that ice cream and enjoy every spoonful. But if she doesn’t get admitted, there are going to be some tears. Some tears from her and some from me and my wife too because we just love her so much. Then we’re going to eat our ice cream, give each other some big hugs, and then cry a little more. But tomorrow morning we’ll get up and we’ll get really excited about her going to X College, because it’s a great school and she loved her visit there.”

Behold the power of ice cream. It’s like the duct tape of foods. It repairs, it reinforces, it supports, it covers up, and it endures. Big break up– ice cream. Stressed about an exam– ice cream. Pregnant (not in high school. This is an illustration of ice cream’s longevity as a cure all) — ice cream. Celebrating a raise or a new house or a retirement— ice cream is the answer! In fact, when people tell me they don’t believe in God, I lean not on theology but rather on– ice cream. They quickly point to our current political climate to refute the existence of a higher loving deity. I pause, eat ice cream, and renew my faith. And frankly, in that moment with D. Mo, I also realized it’s also the way to best navigate the admission process. From searching for a college to applying to dealing with admission decisions to ultimately choosing a college– ice cream. Because ultimately it’s just love in a frozen state.

ice creamDo colleges have a responsibility to attempt to de-stress the process, to be more transparent, to think deeply about how to make applying to school more simple? Yes, of course. But the way students will feel good about their options at the point of application; the way they’ll process and deal with denials and admits with a healthy perspective; and the way they’ll best make a final decision does not hinge on semantics in an application or on a college’s website, but rather on a family sitting together around their kitchen table with spoons enjoying the same tub of ice cream. Unified, confident, committed to support and excitement, regardless of the outcome. That doesn’t turn the tide, it eradicates it altogether.

May 1 is nearly upon us. I’m sure there are still a lot of you who are coming down to the wire on deciding the best school for you and your family. What makes financial sense? Where will I thrive, grow, enjoy, be challenged and succeed? Before you make that decision, I point you to ice cream. When you grab your spoon remember this– you are not walking on a tight rope. This choice is like strolling on a very wide, smooth promenade. At the end of the day, the decision you make on where to go to college is not going to determine the rest of your life, contrary to what someone has inevitably told you or what the press will often purport. Instead, it will be the decisions you make in college: the grades you make, the internships you pursue, the network of friends, professors, advisors you create. Those will dictate your trajectory, your success, and your options, and ultimately your contentment in college and life beyond.

Whether you are a parent or a student reading this, it’s time to commit. It’s time to be all in. It’s time for family. And that means it’s time for ice cream! So donate or burn the other schools’ t-shirts, recycle all the literature colleges have sent you, go grab a few spoons and crack open a tub of your favorite ice cream with your family this week—and notice how smooth the waters are around you.

LOST in the numbers

First, sorry for the brief blog hiatus. I came down with Bronchitis and have not been able to type more than four words without coughing for a week. I will say if you’re looking for a quick way to drop 10 lbs you may want to look into acquiring this lovely condition, otherwise it pretty much stinks.

Ever seen Lost? It’s ok if you haven’t, because now you at least know what you’re doing this summer, as it’s bar none the greatest TV series of all time. In the show, Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is shown through flashbacks to have won the lottery with the numbers 4.8.15.16.23.42. Over the ensuing weeks, everyone around him suffers horribly bad luck. He then visits a mental asylum where he apparently had resided for a time, to talk to another patient who keeps repeating the same numbers. When Hurley tells him that he used the numbers, Lenny panics and shouts, “The numbers are bad! You gotta get away from them!” The numbers continue to come up throughout the show in meaningful and correlated ways, and at times in random unconnected situations. Intrigued? If not watch the trailer here.

4.8.15.16.23.42. It’s April (4) 8th, 15th, 16th, 23rd….42nd! “Ahhhh!! The numbers are bad! You gotta get away from them!” The proverbial countdown is on as we approach the May 1 National Deposit Deadline. Before coffee, picking up a toothbrush, or checking the weather, Deans, Directors, and VPs around the country are waking up each day and immediately checking deposit reports on their phones and Ipads. “Are we up from last year?…Oh man, I hope not too far up or housing is going to kill me! “Are we down in students from abroad? Is it too early to go to our waitlist?” Scroll down: “How does our SAT average compare to last year?” Scroll down: “Do we have a kid from every state and enough in every major?” “Are you sleeping with your phone?” Wait… that’s not my voice. Roll over: “Yes, sweetheart. Gotta check the numbers.” (She always tells me with a mixture of concern and confusion that I make too much of an effort to think like a 17 year old, and I know the whole sleeping with the phone thing only adds ammo to her growing arsenal.)

 

4.8.15.16.23.42. So we made you wait for months on an admission decision, and now the tables are turned. Joke is on us. I’ve been reading back over my own advice on waiting and confirmed… it sucks! It’s a maddening time because we are asked daily “how are we looking on numbers?” by our President, Provost, Deans, Boards, housing directors, student reporters, random guys at the gas station… And we try to speak with some confidence knowing that 10 days is an eternity, because like applications, hundreds of deposits will come in over the last day or two, which will change everything. Inevitably there will be many calls on April 30 asking if the deadline is midnight that day or May 1 at midnight– followed often by, “which time zone?” (Don’t be that person!) Not too long ago, when many deposits were mailed in with checks, we asked for a post-marked date of May 1. That was even more frustrating because you had to wait each day on buckets to arrive from campus mail. It was literally all hands on deck with letter openers, sorting trays, and band aids for paper cuts. Good times! I know Deans that used to go straight to the mail house around this time of year because they didn’t want to wait on Fred the mail guy to chat it up in the Chemistry department and hold up delivery.

4.8.15.16.23.42. Ultimately, we need about 2950 deposits. That way when we lose (“melt”) deposits/commitments over the summer, due to schools pulling our deposits from their waitlists, breakups, financial reasons, Visa issuance hold ups, yellow pants just don’t work in the color palette, etc., we end up at our target of 2800 in the class. So on April 8th we had 1481 deposits; on the 15th, we had 1871; on the 16th 1912.  While it scares me to report out of sequence before the 23rd, this a.m. we had 2107 deposits. Hold please. Ok, now 2112.

So that’s what’s up with me. Coughing less, sleeping less, using the word “gotta” more, but hopefully some insight from the college side. One takeaway for those of you on waitlists is this: because there is so much movement in numbers in the final week, it is rare that schools will begin to pull from their waitlists pre- May 1. If they do, they either intentionally under admitted (a tactic typically employed to reduce admit rate and impact rankings/prestige), or they truly are having an unexpected drop in yield this year. So if you’re on a wait list, expect news post- May 1 and be sure you deposit at your second choice school to hold your place.

 

 

 

Life Lesson #2: Don’t be an idiot!

Ok. Where were we? Right…Don’t be an idiot.

Did you ever see the movie “Hitch” with Will Smith? It’s hilarious from beginning to end and has some pretty solid love advice themes in there too. In one scene, Hitch (Smith) is jet skiing in the New York City harbor with Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) on a first date.  His jet ski sucks up a plastic trash bag and completely dies, so he attempts to get on with her. In doing so, he swings his leg around and kicks her smack in the face (that’s not the solid love advice part). As she’s nursing her bruised eye and bloody nose, he says, “I saw that going differently in my head.”

In their acceptance letters, most colleges, in addition to mentioning grades and continued academic excellence, will also discuss character/behavior, and an expectation that you will maintain the record they reviewed when you applied. Unfortunately, every year at this time, we receive emails and calls from students, principals, counselors, “friends,” or others in the community informing us of matters we should evaluate regarding discipline infractions of varying severity.

Senior year is supposed to be fun. Especially your last semester. Lots to celebrate. Teams win, there are awards ceremonies to attend, spring break, prom, tradition upon tradition, and last upon last. I get it. I lived it. And along the way I made some pretty bad decisions, so trust, I don’t claim to be saying this from a place of perfection.

dont be an idiotWhat I have now is perspective on the risk you run when you decide to drink underage, jump off a bridge naked in the dark into water at an untested depth, cram 12 people into a hearse and blow up the principal’s mailbox, or deride and harass people on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Imagine sitting in a Principal’s, Dean of Students’, or attorney’s office saying, “I saw it going differently in my head when: my friend showed up to prom with a handle of bourbon… when we stole a farm animal for our ‘promposal’… when I posted those pictures and comments of my teammates on social media.”

I’m not trying to give you ideas here. These examples are all based tightly on reality, and all of them ended up having significant consequences. All relational, some ending in a revocation of admission, and some with long lasting legal implications. The big umbrella here continues to be “don’t be an idiot.” But I also have a few tangible tips as well.

Tip 1: Lock Down Social Media. At Tech, and most schools of similar scope, we do not have time to troll your social media accounts. But increasingly we’re sent links to those or images from them. We have had several incidents reported to us over the last few years that have led to revocation of admission, and another handful that we’ve referred to our Dean of Students for a summer conference and first semester probation. My advice is to make all of this private. Even if you are not trying to hide anything, this is just a wise move to make now. More and more employers and scholarship foundations are looking on social media, so start the practice now to insure only those you invite in have access to your life, thoughts, and comments.

Tip 2: Keep Studying. Sound familiar? As we speculated, you’ve likely already forgotten that catchy title from last week but don’t forget the concept. Not only do you need to keep working, keep your grades up, etc., but make sure YOU ARE THE ONE taking the tests and writing the papers. If you start sliding on your studying, the temptation to cheat grows. Several times recently we have been informed about egregious academic infractions in the senior spring. We have had one lead to the removal of a merit scholarship, and more than a few that have ended in revocation of admission. I know you have the integrity and drive to finish well, and I’m imploring you do engage both right now.

Tip 3: Zoom Out. Ever seen that kids book “Zoom?” It starts with a picture of a bunch of red triangles. On the next page you realize that those are really a rooster who is being watched through a window by two kids. Then you find out the children are actually toys in a set being played with by a girl but that all ends up being a cover of a magazine being read on a cruise that’s actually an ad on a side of a bus etc.  It’s an amazing book (and a great graduation gift too). I’m urging you to zoom back from these next few weeks as you close out high school. Think about your dreams and excitement for college. Consider what you might want life to look like in your early 20s once you’re out of college. It’s tough to think five years down the line as a high school student (Frankly, I did not find it all that easy in my 30s). But if you can see down into the framework you’re setting up now; if you can see how one decision (good or bad) leads to the next year, then you will think twice about going too far on the senior prank, or getting behind the wheel when you should not, and the list goes on… Basically, I’m encouraging you to turn the page from high school to college without ripping it.

 

 

 

Keep Studying. And other life lessons.

Recently, I was sitting at dinner with my family. Now you need to understand that a meal with young kids is actually more like circuit training. It’s a series of deep squats where you rarely remain in place for more than a minute or two, followed by the inevitable bend or stretch to pick up a rolling grape or a bouncing fork. There are periodically laps to the kitchen to retrieve additional napkins, and shuttle run sprints to the bathroom at unexpected moments to insure a kid “made it on time” or didn’t come up bloody after crashing down from the stool while washing hands.

They say you burn more calories than you consume when you eat celery. Due to the CrossFit workout that is dinner at my house, I’m pretty sure I’m doing that even over a meal of steak, potatoes, and a substantial side of avocados. Anyway, we’re eating and my daughter keeps saying she’s cold. Mind you—she’s wearing only underwear at the time… that’s how we roll. Finally, after the third time, I looked up and said, “If you’re cold, put on some more clothes. That’s a life lesson.” You know. The way you talk to little kids.

So consider today’s blog life advice/ admission advice (and a side of thoughtful family planning thrown in for good measure). You’ve been admitted to your dream school. Or you’ve been admitted to your second or third choice school, and you’re getting excited now to go there soon. Congratulations! That is great. Like your parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, and community, I’m very proud of you and excited for you. Now… Don’t Screw It Up! There are a few basic ways that students go off the rails in the spring of the senior year, and either have their admission decision revoked, or end up meeting with the Dean of Students prior to matriculating.

For today we’ll focus on Academics. Life Lesson: Keep working.

Schedule Changes. If you were admitted in EA/ED or you applied before your senior spring schedule was firm, and you drop classes in the spring, it is incumbent upon you to reach out to the college to inform them. Ideally, you would actually consult the admission office ahead of time to see how this may impact your admission decision or their consideration of your file. Generally speaking, if you are dropping a course that does not have graduation implications, is of similar rigor, and is not directly related to your intended major, it should not be an issue. For instance, if you plan to major in English and are proposing switching out of AP Psychology and into AP Environmental Science, we should be good. However, if you are dropping Multivariable Calculus and picking up Advanced Weight Training B, we should talk. Schedule alternations that indicate a decline in commitment to your preparation may have an impact on your admission decision, especially at schools with very low admit rates.

keep studying

Grade Decline. Check your offer of admission. After the congratulations and before the offer to visit campus or connect with a staff member, there is likely a paragraph that discusses your established pattern of excellence in grades. They may directly say they “reserve the right to revoke admission” if your final grades are not on par, or they’ll at least instruct you to contact them for consultation. The best thing you can do here is keep your grades up! Don’t take your foot off the gas. I’m sure Nike makes a lightweight, water-wicking shirt that has a pithy phrase that applies here: “Finish Strong” or “Lock In.” Put that on and wear it every day. “Keep Studying” would likely not be a big seller but that’s what I’m telling you.

Every year we have a handful of deposited students who submit final spring grades with straight Cs, or all As and two Ds. We’ve certainly had some Fs thrown in for good measure. Typically, this does not impede a student’s graduation, or it would be a non-issue (no graduation= no college). If this is the case for you, or if you “have a friend” in this situation, the best thing to do is get out in front of this. Call the admission office once those grades are official, or if you see this as inevitable, let them know the situation. If there are extenuating circumstances surrounding the precipitous drop, those are important to discuss. It will then be in their hands to evaluate the courses, speak with your counselors and teachers, and determine if that trend may continue into college, or if they believe you turn it around on their campus.

Our office has gone in multiple directions here. Sometimes we’ve rescinded admission because of the egregious grades and lack of reasonable rationale for the drop. Sometimes we’ve assigned academic counselors and RAs to monitor students in the first semester or first year to insure necessary support is in place immediately. But don’t let us find this out by reviewing your final transcript. And definitely DON’T intentionally hold sending your transcript until late summer because you know this is going to be an issue. I’ll never forget talking to a student several years ago from New Jersey who had failed two courses in the spring of his senior year. These courses were not required for graduation, but they were important to his foundation for success at Tech. I literally called him while he was packing his car to drive down to Atlanta and had to tell him to “unpack.” Not fun for anyone, especially because he had not shared any of this with his parents to that point.

Later this week we’ll delve into social media, discipline issues, character questions, etc. Life Lesson: Don’t be an idiot.