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Ask The Same Questions, again and again…

If you have ever been to Chick-Fil-A, you know their staff will always respond to your thanks with “My pleasure.” 

Customer: “Thank you for the ketchup.”

Staffer: “My pleasure.”

Customer: “Thank you for the lemonade.”

Staffer: “My pleasure.”

Customer: “Thanks for the sandwich.”

Staffer: “My pleasure.”

I once tried saying, “Thanks for saying ‘my pleasure,'” and received a sideways look. My current record is four “My pleasures” before they simply nodded to the next customer to approach the counter… I may go for five at the next drive thru. But you have to give it to them: they’ve clearly been trained on exactly how to respond, and they don’t deviate from that script.

Here’s the good news about colleges: they’re not Chick-Fil-A. You talk to a student, a tour guide, a professor and an alum and you will get different answers to most questions. This is a good thing.

Ask… then Ask Again

Last week we talked about asking better questions and follow up questions (and we established U2 as the best rock band of all time). This week we look at the questions you should ask over and over again to as many people as you can.

What makes this campus different or unique than other schools? This question is ESSENTIAL. If the student or tour guide or admission counselor or faculty member cannot answer that question, RUN! One of the most challenging parts about the college admission process is discerning how one school stands out from the other 4,000 in our country. This is a CRITICAL question, and you need as many different voices to respond as possible. Look for the answers online, and ask the question in information sessions. Talk to alumni about it. If you find some uniformity, you have likely found the school’s real identity. If you find great variance, you may be excited by the possibility of literally doing anything you want there. But if you find an inability to articulate a unique culture, you have a problem.

What is the most exciting thing happening on campus? If this is all about sports and you are not a fan, who cares? If this is all about some new building in a major you won’t be pursuing, who cares? If this is about political activism or the new vegan options or the 16 screen movie theater and you are an apolitical carnivore who has a fear of loud noises and big crowds, none of this will matter to you. But if their answers are all about the incredible start-up culture or the ways students work together to solve problems or the decision for all students to have an international experience and those are your passions, you have broken through the noise and found a real fit. Congrats!

What question has not been asked today that should be asked? Good one to work in at the end of a tour or an information session. This gives them an opportunity to hit on something that really matters to them. It will not be scripted, so you can count on it as being authentic and honest.

What do you wish you had known before deciding to come here? I’d ask this to students, tour guides, and, frankly, professors or admission staff who may not even be alums. There’s no way you’ll get a consensus “My pleasure “on this one. And the responses you get will give you more information to consider as you make your decision to apply or attend. Are all of those “pleasant surprises” about how nice folks are, or how good the weather is, or all the things to do near campus? Or are they predominantly negative about how expensive it is to live in that area, or that there are not direct flights to most places, or the food is terrible, or the girls are all mean? Again, this is simply information for you to digest and contemplate.

What has this college provided you to set you up for success and fulfillment in the future? Here again you can ask this of freshmen, seniors, recent graduates, or alumni well into their careers. This is also pertinent to faculty and upper level administrators. Are you hearing answers like, “The incredible network” or “the phenomenal reach and reputation” or “the ability to think critically and work collaboratively toward solutions,” and do those answers resonate with your goals?

Bonus questions (for overachievers or those who want five but did not like one or two of the above): What has disappointed you? What do you wish were different?  What is the most frustrating thing you’ve run into? Where do you see this school in five years or ten years?

The Gospel Truth…?

Here is the bottom line: Don’t take any one person’s opinion as gospel truth. I am the Director of Admission at Georgia Tech. But I am not the expert on all things Georgia Tech. To be honest, I’m not the expert on much at all on campus. And the same is true for any alum, or any tour guide or someone in the Chemistry department. Neither your sister nor the school President have a corner on the market of THE REAL STORY. It is the combination of all answers, all experts, and all perspectives that will serve you the best.  So use message boards and social media and read the school paper. But most of all ASK YOUR QUESTIONS. And ask them to as many people involved with each school as possible.

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Diving into 2017

It’s a busy week here at Georgia Tech as we prepare to release more than 15,000 Early Action admission decisions this coming Saturday. Since Rick is tied up with the business of admission, I hope you’ll bear with me as his fill-in this week!

We don’t get a lot of snow here in Atlanta… if I’m being honest, we don’t get any. Maybe the occasional ice storm will roll through, but snow? Not so much. So you have to understand why the GT swim team (and one diver!) had a pretty epic experience when last week’s swim meet at UVA was canceled due to snow.

So what does swimming in the snow have to do with a new year, college admission, and the blog? More than you may think…

New year, new goals

It’s a new year, and our tendency as humans is to dive in (see what I did there?) as we turn the page from 2016 to 2017. Something about the freshness of a new year (maybe it’s the calendars?) makes us excited to set goals and create new plans for ourselves both personally and professionally. We’re eager to shake off the shackles of whatever held us back before and move boldly into the future.

But… Before we forge ahead into our new to-do list and start checking those boxes, we can’t forget one little word that has a whole lot of impact: assessment.

If we really want 2017 to be different, and to be better, it must begin with a true look back. Assessment helps us see where we stumbled, where we excelled, and how we can improve.

Help us help you

The GT Admission blog has been up and running for over a year now, and we’re thrilled to have more than 400 subscribers (thank you!). Our team eagerly reads and shares any and all feedback we receive on our posts, and we use those conversations to shape our strategy for future posts.

One of our goals for the blog is to lift the veil on college admission. We try to give you an inside look into the who, what, how and why of admission. We want to help students (and families and counselors) understand what they can, and cannot, control when it comes to “getting in” at their top schools.

Each week our team brainstorms ideas for the blog, hoping to hit on what you want to hear. Sometimes we knock it out of the park… other times, not so much. What is it that makes one post successful, and another not?

We’re asking you to lift the veil on your side of the curtain, and help us understand what YOU want to hear from us. How can we provide the content you’re looking for? It starts with assessment. We’ve created a quick survey (and I do mean quick–only 7 questions!) that we hope you’ll take a moment to complete. We know you’re busy folks, so trust me when I tell you that not only are we anxious to hear your thoughts, but we will use what we learn to steer the blog forward in the year ahead.

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25 Reasons YOU SHOULD NOT Apply To Georgia Tech

The admission industry takes a lot of heat for not being forthright. Some claim we only take pictures on sunny days and never show pictures of crying students. We are lambasted for not being transparent and accused of not admitting our weaknesses. Many review our brochures with an eyebrow raised and wonder, “How is it possible that every student has class outside under a tree with a caring professor who is sharing great wisdom yet manages to do so at a distance that connotes ‘caring but not creepy?” We are criticized for telling students who may not be a good academic or ethos fit that they should still apply, “Well…we like to think of our 500 student campus as large… you know. It’s all what you make of it, right?”

brochures

Who We Are… and Who We’re Not

But our goal at Georgia Tech is to break open the black box, to lift the veil, and to be as clear as possible about who we are– and who we’re not. I recently read a college essay from a student begging colleges to differentiate themselves. After all of her tours and receiving these glossy, shiny brochures she’s in fact more stressed and concerned by the choices because they all seem to blur together. And when I’m really honest, I realize we send emails like “Why apply to Georgia Tech?” detailing all of our strengths and points of pride. But sometimes you need the converse too, right? Perhaps we’d appreciate our date saying, “Yea. I may look pretty but I snore a lot and my feet stink.” Or “Yes. I am the captain of the tennis team and hold all state records, but I steal about $20/week from my little brother’s top drawer.”

So while normally I write this blog more broadly on admission, rather than specifically about Georgia Tech, today I’m here to give you the other side. Now, for the record, in some form or another I’ve shared these truths about Atlanta and Georgia Tech before, but this is my attempt to consolidate all of those kernels of insight and give you the key reasons NOT TO APPLY to Georgia Tech. Consider this is your “anti-fit” litmus test: a series of if- then statements (admittedly influenced by Jeff Foxworthy’s You might be a redneck) that will help you understand our campus and city– and whether applying is in your best interest.

THE TOP 25 REASONS NOT TO APPLY TO GEORGIA TECH

  1. If you come to Atlanta and don’t get (or even worse don’t enjoy) a Frosted O from The Varsity, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  2. If you think yellow or gold make you look shorter or bigger or washed out or less likely to get lots of likes on Instagram, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  3. If you can’t deal with “The 3 H’s” (heat, hills, and humidity), don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  4. If you find yourself struggling to remember your birthday, name, or address on the application…well, not sure what to tell you here.
  5. If you don’t want to be around students wearing mathematical formulas on their shirts or are annoyed by impassioned debates about theoretical chemistry, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  6. If you think Georgia Tech is really Georgia Tech University or The University of Georgia Tech, rather than The Georgia Institute of Technology, don’t apply to Georgia Tech. Try Massachusetts Tech University.
  7. If “improve the world around you” sounds like a bumper sticker, rather than your earnest desire, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  8. If when visiting colleges you treat either the person on the phone or the person at the front desk poorly, don’t even apply elsewhere. Go apologize to your mom. If she’s the one doing that, consider applying for emancipation.
  9. If you don’t like to be pushed, stretched, and challenged personally and academically by professors, roommates, sorority sisters, and lab partners, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  10. If you don’t believe in George P. Burdell, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  11. If you enjoy making route connections rather than having access to direct flights, and you prefer airports with street side parking, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  12. If you are afraid of bees (and B’s for that matter), particularly large ones that do push-ups after touchdowns, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.buzz
  13. If you want a school that has hundreds of majors and makes statements like “we are all things to all people,” don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  14. If your tolerance for traffic is two lights and a railroad crossing, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  15. If you’d rather attend a school that has “an Olympic-sized pool,” rather than The Olympic pool, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  16. If status quo, homogeneity, and easy A’s are your goal, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
    WRECK
  17. If you’d rather win a national championship than…wait… not quite willing go there.
  18. If “Ramblin’ Wreck” is how you’d describe your GPA, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  19. If the term “y ‘all” is completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and you can’t even see that it’s incredibly efficient, y ‘all should definitely not apply to Georgia Tech.
  20. If you are unwilling to entertain the possibility that drinking Coca-Cola fundamentally makes you a better human being, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  21. If you have severe allergies to tree pollen and are vehemently opposed to shots or meds to combat them, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  22. If whistles give you flashbacks, cold sweats or the “hee bee gee bees,” don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  23. If being part of a place that discovers water on Mars and identifies gravitational waves in the atmosphere within the same year seems uninteresting, don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  24. If you think that the word “DOG” is actually spelled “DAWG,” don’t apply to Georgia Tech.
  25. If references to Jeff Foxworthy seem irrelevant to admission or indicative of pedantic humor that fail to convey great truth, why are you still reading? And definitely don’t apply to Georgia Tech!

If you want to learn more about Georgia Tech, or simply feel bad for me, you can follow @gtadmission or subscribe to this blog above.

Becoming Part of the Solution

I know I said we’d be delving into Part Two of the Welcome Manual this week, but that will have to wait for now.

The tragic deaths in our country over the last few weeks demand that our conversation change; that we all pay attention; that we all ask questions about how we can live and love differently; and about how, regardless of our age, race, job, or state of citizenship, we raise our voices to achieve the society described upon the founding of our nation.

declarationThe words of the Declaration of Independence could not be more clear: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A Wake-Up Call

When the shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas took place, I was in Boston and Plymouth. These pivotal places in American history, which represent hope and freedom, only made it more painfully obvious that nearly two and a half centuries since we declared independence, we have yet to live up to the beautiful ideals of “life, liberty, safety and happiness” for all our citizens. These deaths have been a poignant reminder of this fundamental failing, and they’ve rattled me, as I’m guessing they have many of you.  Police being targeted and killed while serving their cities is horrifying and unacceptable. Protests, sit-ins, viral videos, and daily unrest make it clear our racial divide is not narrowing. We are living in a crucial moment in history. Real change will demand collective grace, understanding, risk, patience, and many other qualities that require tremendous selflessness and self-awareness. It’s also going to take people in positions of power and privilege using their platform to bring this change about.

Until recently, I have not thought much about my role or opportunity when it comes to providing a forum for discussing and improving race relations locally or broadly. I have simply lived my life as my parents and my faith have taught me– to treat everyone with respect. As a native of Atlanta, I’ve associated with of our identity as “the city too busy to hate.” As an employee of Georgia Tech, I’m proud that we were the first public university in the south to voluntarily integrate. As an American, I stand behind Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to judge not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  But I have begun to appreciate that not being part of the problem is also not being part of the solution.

“What can I do?”

At Georgia Tech we proudly recruit, cultivate, and graduate students who passionately seek solutions to complex problems. They are insistent upon collaborating to refute the status quo. It’s my responsibility,  as a citizen, a staff member, and someone who holds a position in national organizations for higher education, to bring that  mentality to our nation’s current racial climate. This is uncomfortable and I feel unqualified; yet I also feel compelled.

“What can I do?” This is a question that I’m thankful to hear many asking right now. As for me, I attended a conversation in a colleague’s home on Saturday. About 25 friends old and new. The group as effectively half black and half white, and fairly similarly balanced from a gender standpoint. We talked about big and small issues regarding barriers to racial equality. We listened to stories, we shared our own trepidation, as well as our hopes. This week our staff gathered to listen to black co-workers talk about their last few weeks, their families’ struggles, and their desire to see change in this country they dearly love. Next week well over 100 admission staff from our area, including Agnes Scott College, Emory University, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, Oglethorpe University, Spelman College, and The University of Georgia, will gather for an annual day of professional development. We have changed our agenda to include a facilitated discussion on this topic of augmenting race relations in America. And in the months ahead, I’ll be discussing the need for discussion, understanding, and appropriate action at both the local and national level through my professional roles, positions, and network.

What Can You Do?

  • You can listen: There are many great recent and archived perspectives, but I was struck by this poem “White Boy Privilege” by an 8th grader here in Atlanta (Be advised he uses some profanity in this video). And then you can ask: “What am I doing to challenge those around me? How am I using my voice, my position, my influence to make racial equality a reality in America in my lifetime?” And then you can REALLY LISTEN as Pastor Greg Allen- Pickett demonstrates in “Reflections on the train: Racism and being an ally.”
  • bbYou can read “My hopes, dreams, fears for my future black son.” And then you can think about the literal and proverbial fences that still stand between races in America; about how critical it is for freedom to mean the same thing to all Americans; and how crucial it is for all citizens to trust and support our policemen so they can do their job well.
  • You can watch: “Color Blind or Color Brave” And consider Mellody Hobson’s words: “Then I realized, the first step to solving any problem is to not hide from it, and the first step to any form of action is awareness. And so I decided to actually talk about race.”

While the overall solution in our nation is nuanced and complex, part of the equation is recognizing that education is a privilege. AND SO YOU CAN TAKE ACTION: If you are headed to college next year, I urge you to listen and lead—and to challenge others to do the same. Create opportunities to have these hard conversations.  If you are continuing in high school next year, be a part of the solution: use your voice and position to build a school community that is equitable, that respects all races, and that gives opportunity regardless of skin color. If you are parenting a student in school at any level, keep coaching your kids to step in and step up. And the same in your own home, your community, your place of worship or work. Be reminded of Hobson’s words, “You can be color brave. If you are trying to solve a really hard problem, you can speak up and be color brave. Now I know people will say, but that doesn’t add up to a lot, but I’m actually asking you to do something really simple: observe your environment, at work, at school, at home.”

We have the opportunity to ensure that 21st century America is  known as the time in which we finally made life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a universal reality in our society. Perhaps someone much smarter than me will come up with a grand plan to bring this about.  But for now, I’m looking at myself and my sphere of influence. I encourage you to do the same.

Break a Leg!

This week we welcome guest bloggers Andrea Jester and Laila Flores, two admission counselors on our staff. A large part of the Georgia Tech, and Atlanta, experience includes exposure to the arts. Andrea and Laila are here to give you a glimpse into theatre in the city this summer.

“Break a leg!” is what you will probably wish your Drama Tech friends before a show. DramaTech Theatre is completely run by students. We are always uniquely impressed by every one of their shows. Depending on when you visit, they may be premiering a thought-provoking play, a lighthearted musical, or even improv comedy! If you have the theater bug, you can always join them! Everyone from the set designer to the performers to the special effect technicians are all Tech students.

All of Drama Tech’s shows take place in black box called Dean Dull Theater. If you have never been to a black box theater, it’s a very cool and unique experience. The theater presents an intimate setting where you always feel close to the action that happens on stage, and sometimes you are even asked to join the spotlight! During their last production, a performance centering on a group of spelling bee contestants, they recruited four volunteers from the audience. Neat, right? It was! All those volunteers won the favor and heart of the audience, they received rounds of applause over and over! Their next show is Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which runs June 24 through July 2, 2016. We hope to see you there!

If you are looking for theatre off-campus, Atlanta hosts great theater productions at the Fox Theatre (just down the block from GT’s Bobby Dodd Football Stadium) and the Alliance Theatre. For the Shakespeare fans out there we recommend reserving seats at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse. In addition to great acting, you can also dine there. If you just want to buy a drink and a snack, we recommend a round of their spicy peanuts.

Atlanta is also home for the Center for Puppetry Arts, which in addition to an immense collection of puppets from all over the world also houses The Jim Henson Collection. You can see the beloved Kermit and Miss Piggy, and other Sesame Street famous characters. The center also has programming for all ages, we recommend you attend the 2016 National Puppet Slam (held September 2-4, 2016).

We hope that if whether you are an Atlanta local or just visiting, these suggestions help you get your theater fix this summer. Now go break a leg!