Four Key Lessons of a Lifetime

Jerry Hitt (right) pictured with Senior Assistant Director of Admission Katie Faussemagne in 2010. Photo courtesy: GT Alumni Magazine

Jerry Hitt (right) pictured with Senior Assistant Director of Admission Katie Faussemagne in 2010.
Photo courtesy: GT Alumni Magazine

Even though he was several decades older than me, Jerry Hitt was my friend. Over the years, we developed a special bond. Jerry started working in undergraduate admission at Georgia Tech in the 1960s and continued to work full-time at the Institute until the 1990s. When I met him, he was still reading applications seasonally in a Director of Admissions Emeritus role.

Jerry died just before Thanksgiving, so the past week has been bittersweet. His health had declined over the last few years and his memory faded. He had started to tell the same few stories but still with great passion and detail.  What never diminished was his zeal for life and his unrivaled love for Georgia Tech.

I learned many lessons from Jerry, but these four really stick out to me.

1) Keep it simple

We quickly hit it off. Jerry loved to talk about simpler times. No cell phones, no email, no online admission decisions. He would spin yarns about faculty versus  staff softball games, tell stories about presidents gone by, or recount how Georgia Tech came to use a holistic admission process. Whether in the hallway, on the golf course at Bobby Jones (where he served as a starter) or over a meal, he always helped me to slow down and appreciate how we got to where we are as an institution.

2) Seek Perspective & Enjoy Life

He always encouraged me as director to build trust and relationships on campus, and to walk around rather than relying too much on phone calls or email (pretty sure he did not ever learn to text…). He always pointed me back to the things that matter the most: spending time with family, really listening to students, faculty and staff needs and dreams, and generally enjoying life.

3) Serve others

I’ve traveled all over the country for Tech, and never go more than a few months without an alum mentioning Jerry. They talk about how he gave them a chance by admitting them and in doing so changed their life. Or I will run into someone that worked with Jerry and they ask about him with great fondness and respect.  He was just one of those people– he listened well, he liked to laugh, and he treated people sincerely.

4) Express Appreciation

If you’re applying to college, there is no question that there are a few people who have given you that vision and provided you with opportunities and encouragement. It is easy to get caught up in completing essays, making sure all of your recommendation letters have been submitted, and taking exams.  Jerry would simply urge you to pause in an otherwise frenzied time to say thanks to those who have put you in the position to be able to apply to and ultimately attend college. Maybe that person is a parent or a teacher or coach, or perhaps a counselor or a grandparent. Who are your Jerry Hitts? Who keeps you grounded and adds value in your life? Be sure you take a moment to hug them, tell them you love them, and let them know you recognize the gift of their impact on you.

 

Arts at Tech!

Here is the latest on a new statue unveiled at Georgia Tech recently highlighting Tech’s commitment to both science and art.

A Championship (Admission) Season

A few years ago our staff started a Fantasy Football league. Developing careers, having kids, going to grad school, and life in general have spread our group across Georgia Tech’s campus and to other institutions including Harvard, Columbus State, Duke, the University of Texas, and beyond.

Amidst our trash talking and complaints of injured players, we often note the similarities and differences that exist between college admission and fantasy football. As we approach decision releases for Early Action and Early Decision (and Fantasy Football playoffs draw imminently closer), here are a few observations.

It’s never about one thing.

In Fantasy Football, you may have a quarterback or wide receiver score massive points, but if your tight end and defense lay eggs, you’re going to have problems in cumulative point total.

Similarly, you may have incredible test scores and a fabulous essay. But if your extra-curricular involvement and course choice/GPA are relatively unimpressive, it’s highly doubtful you’ll be admitted to a selective college or university. Holistic admission by definition means your entire application balances out to be both compelling and a good fit for an institution.

Everyone needs a kicker.

Your Fantasy Football team cannot be made up exclusively of players from a certain position ( i.e. all running backs or wide receivers). The best teams are strong across the board. A kicker is not the most glamorous player you have. He will not touch the ball a lot or make headlines very often, but his contributions are critical to the team.

In much the same way, colleges with very large applicant pools are shaping a class that has a wide range of interests; is geographically diverse; and draws students with different passions from all cultures and backgrounds. Shaping a class means schools admit students based on a variety of factors to determine impact, success, or best fit on campus. It’s helpful to understand this goal when you think about admission decisions, because complementary talent cannot be quantified by only one or two measures.

It’s not about the W’s or L’s.

Too many students and parents see the admission process as a game, and this is where fantasy football and admission diverge completely. If you are not admitted to a school, it’s not a “loss.” And conversely, if you are offered admission, it’s certainly not a “win.” Ultimately, the college admission process is exactly that: a process. It’s not a record or a point total of admission offers or scholarships.

Believing you are fundamentally a better person because you are admitted to a college is as ludicrous as thinking the same of a fantasy football win. Neither are judgments of your worth, future, or character.

Playoffs?!! Playoffs?!!!

Fantasy Football, for anyone who’s serious about it, knows the real reason you compete is for the playoffs and the ultimate championship. Winning most of your games across a regular season may have some level of satisfaction (as might compiling a good GPA or test score, or getting in to a specific school). Your regular season is your high school preparation and college search and selection process. Don’t lose sight and begin to think “getting in” is the championship. Playoffs start after you are into a college- and a deep run and championship season are defined by how well you’ve prepared to thrive there and in life beyond.

Commissioner’s Note:

In this season you will have times you feel winless, and others you feel undefeated. Ultimately, if you keep the admission process and your high school experience in perspective, you can take the tough break-ups, the failed quizzes, the meaningless denial letters and the awkward prom dates, and turn them into an inspiring Championship run!

Mediocre Advice:

My favorite Fantasy Football podcast is ESPNs Fantasy Focus. Matthew Berry, Field Yates and company frequently proclaim they proliferate “mediocre fantasy advice.” But if you are looking for an entertaining listen and some occasional life and love advice too, check them out.

More from our counselors

Listen to admission counselor and Georgia Tech alum Xan Roseberry give his advice to prospective students.

A Family Affair, Part 3

“Look Beyond What You See”

If you have ever watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you will remember Kostas “Gus” Portokalos issuing a challenge: “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek.”  So call me the Gus of college admissions. Here’s a few examples:

What’s the value of college visits?

It’s just like dating… all about getting a good image in your head of what you are or are not looking for- and what will be a good fit for you

Colleges that use demonstrated interest?

It’s like deciding who you’re going to ask to prom. You don’t walk down the hall blindfolded and grab someone (Please. Please. Don’t do this!). You want to get a sense that they may say yes.

Double depositing?

Two-timing.

Okay… so maybe I need to work on some of these a little bit. But the point is there are parallels between everyday life (and love) experience and the college admission process. Hopefully these begin to help clarify what’s often seen as mysterious or veiled.

In an earlier post, we established that I speak Disney. In The Lion King 1 ½ , Rafiki encourages Timon to “look beyond what you see.” Those words really stuck with me because of how tough they are to live out, especially in high school. Even with access to information and connections all over the world, our daily exposure and interactions have incredible influence on the decisions we make and our view of ourselves and of our world.

No matter where you live, there are a group of schools that you regularly hear about on TV or see on bumper stickers in the school parking lot or drive-thru line. If you read national news about college, particular related to rankings and admit rates, the school set is even more limited.  So it’s easy to develop tunnel vision and believe there are only a handful of colleges for you to consider. In truth, there are  more than 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States alone, and more students are going abroad for college every year.

Look beyond what you see.  I wrote this last year but it bears repeating. “Look at the alma maters of Fortune 100 CEOs and you’ll find as many public or not well known schools as you will Ivy League schools. The pathway to success does not always go through Cambridge or Palo Alto. Does the college you are considering facilitate your ability to continually learn, adapt and think analytically? Many schools do this phenomenally well. Too many families stretch financially for a brand, when the better option may be a college off the beaten path.” 

Students:

As much as you may love cheering for a certain school’s football or basketball team, it does not mean that it’s a good match for your education. You may have a picture of yourself as a baby in a onesie from your mom’s alma mater. Or you may be admitted to the same school as your best friend, or a place with an exceptionally low admit rate. But I urge you, “look beyond what you see.” It’s not easy. It takes the willingness to trust yourself and to diverge from the common route in your community or family. Ultimately, that self-awareness, confidence, and self-reliance will prepare you not only for success in college, but in life well beyond too.

Parents:

Maybe you’ve dreamed about a particular school for your student (remember the picture of them in that cute onesie?). If that dream is driven from your desire to boast of their admittance or attendance, I implore you to take a step back and examine if you really believe it will be a good fit for them. While they may not tell you, your opinion and approval influence them heavily. I know that can be hard to believe based on some of your interactions lately, but I talk to students all the time who say parental pressure is a major reason for their college selection. Too frequently that leads them to make a choice that was not truly right for them.

As you navigate this road, take heart and remember the wise words of Rafiki, “It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love.”