Admission: Not Impossible

In thinking about what to write for the blog this week, I looked for inspiration in our blog archives (which, if you have not checked out yet, is a treasure trove of interesting stories and helpful admission tips!).  I came across a post that one of my colleagues, Lynn, wrote about our annual holiday card and important deadlines.  I couldn’t help but smile: five years later I find myself in the same spot!  I am helping with the office’s annual holiday card this year, which seems to be a similar process to what Lynn described back in 2009.  We’ve been working hard to find a time that works for everyone in Admissions; choose a festive, picturesque spot for the shoot (which is hard because we have a lot of great options! For examples, please see our photo blog, our YouTube page, and our Instagram account.); arrange for one of the campus photographers to capture a fun shot of us; and gather the list of recipients for the card.  I look forward to the finished product!

Reading Lynn’s post made me happy because it reminded me of the cyclical nature of admissions, which is just one of the aspects of my job that I love!  Her post also reminded me that we are now at the point in the year when we are thinking about deadlines:

– our Early Decision deadline is this Monday, December 15th

– our last on-campus interview date is next Friday, December 19th

– our last tour is at the end of the month on Tuesday, December 30th at 3pm

– our Regular Decision deadline is Thursday, January 15th!

I hope this helps you as you plan your end-of-the-year activities and cross items off of your to-do list.  Be safe, keep warm, and good luck!

Oh, and if you would like to see some of the holiday photos from years past, here are the ones I could find:

2007:

2007

2008:

2008

2011:

2011

 

wan xwan 3 in color

 

Today feels like an important day.  It is Monday, which marks the beginning of a new week: new to-do lists to make, new appointments and meetings to attend, new weekly goals to set.  It is also the first day of December, which means only two weeks left until the Early Decision pool is closed (on December 15!).  Fall seems to be wrapping up for the year, and winter approaches.  With the new season comes more application reading, more decision-making, and more future Crusaders!

During this time of year, our office fields a lot of calls about applications, and I thought that it might be helpful to address some students’ and families’ questions here.  Below are my thoughts on what to know:

1. We offer some helpful application tips here.  When it comes to applications, every material a student sends us is reviewed and every application is read by two different counselors (we try to read by region).  Our staff collectively looks at each file during committee and every staff member’s opinion matters in the final vote.

2. The high school transcript is the most important item in the student’s file.  We contextualize each student within their high school and note the various course offerings and the individual student’s level of rigor at their particular school.  Students at Holy Cross will be challenged academically, so we admit students who have pushed themselves in high school (whether that’s taking honors, accelerated, AP, or IB classes).  Senior grades are important, but we do look at the overall high school performance.

3. The essay is, for many readers, the favorite part of the application.  We read about all kinds of high and lows in school, such as adventures abroad in new and exciting destinations, or setbacks and how students bounce back from disappointment.  Although it is only a few paragraphs, the essay is completely under the control of the student and an opportunity to speak directly to college counselors.  For those students who have not written their essay yet (not to worry, you still have plenty of time!), please keep this in mind and try to think of a creative way to tell the reader an interesting personal story.

4.  We do track student interaction.  By this I mean that we add emails to students’ files, we look at whether or not the student has visited campus for a tour or stopped by a college fair to say hello, and we highly recommend interviews.  The Office will be closed December 24 through 26, and on December 31 and January 1, but please do come in sometime this month if you are able!

Have a fantastic week, and please do feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

(photos by Xiaofeng Wan)

A few weeks ago, I asked a current student to send me her story about applying ED.  She wrote a lovely response that I wanted to share with you here:

meaghan body wan wan 2 wan 3 xwan

 

Two years ago, I was in a place of incredible uncertainty regarding where I would attend college. In February of my junior year, I came to Holy Cross for an information session and tour.  Holy Cross was the first campus that I visited, and I was unsure of what I was looking for in a college.  After just a short visit to Holy Cross, however, I knew it was where I wanted to be. Despite all of my previous uncertainty, I felt a tangible sense of community on the Hill: students said “Hi!” to each other on their way to class, spent their free time volunteering in Worcester and other parts of the world, and supported each other in an academically rigorous environment.  It was not just the beautiful campus (although that certainly did not hurt!); I felt drawn to the personal connections and the dynamic community.  That is what made Holy Cross so exciting.

When I became a high school senior, I knew Holy Cross was the college that I wanted to attend. Because I was so sure, I applied Early Decision to Holy Cross.  Early Decision seemed very attractive to me; if accepted, I would know where I was going by the end of that fall.  ED is, however, a huge commitment. If you know Holy Cross is the school for you, then go for it! That being said, do not feel obligated to apply ED, as it is a decision for which one has to be ready. It was the right decision for me, but it is not the right decision for all.

About a month after I had submitted my application, I was deep into an American Government paper when I heard my phone ring.  The caller introduced herself as a Holy Cross Admissions counselor, and I immediately worried that I had forgotten something on my application. Before I had the chance to react, the Admissions counselor told me I had been accepted to the Class of 2017!  My initial confusion switched to happiness, delight, and pride.  I excitedly thanked the woman on the phone a million times, and then called my family and friends to share the great news. It is a moment I will never forget.

Despite my elation, it is important to recognize how applying Early Decision impacted the rest of my senior year. Although I enrolled in Holy Cross in late December, and I felt relieved of a tremendous amount of stress regarding my college choice, I did not let this affect my academics. If anything, it inspired me to continue to prove that I belonged at Holy Cross.  With that I worked to finish my senior year on a high note.  If you are accepted ED, please do not let “senioritis,” “the senior slump,” or whatever you may call the lack of focus during senior year of high school get to you!

On the back of the Sader Nation T-shirts for the Class of 2018 reads the following quote, “From this point on, there is no turning back, no copping-out.” Spoken during the 1970 Commencement by Father Swords, the President of the College, these words symbolize the commitment I made to Holy Cross and my personal growth when I chose to enroll here.  Never do I regret my decision to come to Holy Cross, and I believe that if you make the same commitment I did, neither will you.

 

(photos of Meghan by the Web Communications Team, photos of campus by Xiaofeng Wan)

fenwick              xwan

by Sarah Gale

I received today my first email from a parent, and I must say, it made me smile.  Working in admissions, counselors often get phone calls and emails from parents about the admission process, facts and figures on the College, safety on campus and in Worcester, career services, and residence life.  One of my colleagues, in fact, wrote a post about the role of parents back in 2013.  For me, getting a note from an excited parent is really one of the highlights of my job (along with receiving notes from excited students, reading thoughtful and thought-provoking application essays, seeing the familiar faces of prospective students at multiple events both near and far, discussing admission decisions with my colleagues, enjoying fantastic campus programs and savoring free food on campus…I could continue!).

As hard as we work in the Admissions office to recruit future Crusaders, and as hard as students work to finish their applications, I would also like to recognize the support of families in this process.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins can all play a role in a students’ college application process.  Family members take prospective students to campuses for seemingly countless tours, information sessions, interviews, and Open Houses (shameless plug here, our last one of 2014 is this Sunday!).  They save the glossy college brochures and place them on the refrigerator next to old art masterpieces, recipe ideas, and cut-out news articles.  They look over numerous drafts of personal statements and help their students decide which teacher to ask for their recommendation letter.  They reach out to anyone in their own community who may have attended the student’s college of interest or know someone who did.  The parents and other family members of students are their cheerleaders, their counsel, and their source of strength.  Getting the opportunity to see such incredible examples of that kind of support in my work here at Holy Cross is a wonderful reminder of how important family is.

So I want to say thank you.  Thank you to the families for bolstering your students throughout this process.  Thank you for supporting them, for driving them (and arranging for planes and trains if necessary), for reading over their work a hundredth time, for reminding them that their off-campus interview is at 6pm, for bouncing off essay topics in the car, and for guiding them through a process that may at times feel overwhelming, complex, and nerve-wracking.  We are so excited about the students who apply and enroll here, and we know it is in large part to your help!

(photos by Sarah Gale and Xioafeng Wan)

 

xwan 2 xwan 4

It’s almost mid-November.  Halloween has come and gone, and now thoughts have shifted to Thanksgiving recipes, holiday gifts, and, of course, Early Decision!  I mentioned in my last post that the office is just beginning our reading season for the 2014-2015 cycle.  After going through application review training, I am very excited to sink my teeth into applicants’ files!

A part of some of these files includes SAT or ACT scores.  The question around whether or not to send standardized test scores often arises in admissions.  At the College of the Holy Cross, test scores are not required for students, with the exception of the TOEFL and IELTS for non-native English speakers or students who have spent less that four years taking classes in English (for more on the TOEFL and IELTS, please go here).

So if you do not have to send your scores, should you?  Why would you?  In a blog post from November 2008, our Director of Admissions, Ann McDermott, wrote that “if you feel your testing says something about you and your abilities, feel free to send them along. We will look at them in conjunction with your transcript, your recommendations, essay, and interview (if you have had one) and make our assessment.  If, on the other hand, you feel that your test scores do not represent you well, then do not hesitate to withhold them. We will not make any assumptions about your testing, and will focus our attention on your transcript and the other accompanying credentials that are contained in your application.”

In other words, we at the College of the Holy Cross are test optional because we have found that a student’s academic history in high school is a better indicator of their scholastic ability than an exam taken on a singular Saturday morning (or taken on a few Saturday mornings).  Please go here for more about our policy regarding testing.

P.S. For more admission information, as well as updates from current students, please check out our Twitter and Facebook pages!

(photos by Xiaofeng Wan)

 

Capture KF instagram

The leaves on the trees have changed color and are now dropping.  The days seem a little cooler, a bit mistier, and definitely shorter.  Fall feels as though it may be moving out the way for winter, and here in the admissions office we are starting to transition as well.  For many of us, recruitment travel has come to a close (it will be over soon for those still on the road!), and we are beginning to shift our attention from college fairs and high school visits to senior year transcripts, essays, and other important application materials as we enter reading season!

Although the deadline to apply through Early Decision is not until December 15th, we have already received a number of applications.  I for one am very excited to begin reading, and one piece of the application I personally enjoy reviewing is the interview write-up.  After an admissions staff member, senior interviewer, or alumni volunteer meets with a prospective student for an interview, their thoughts and impressions are added to the student’s file.  The write-up is later looked over by two different counselors during the reading season.

For us in admissions, the interview a great opportunity to see a glimpse of the student beyond their transcript and to get a sense of their potential fit at the College of the Holy Cross.  For the students, the interview is a great opportunity for them to offer us information that we might not otherwise glean from their application alone.

If you have not yet scheduled an interview, you still have plenty of time!  The deadline for off-campus interview requests is December 1st and for on-campus interviews is December 19th.  Please go here for more information.

Additionally, the Office of Admissions is especially grateful for our lovely Senior Interviewers and alumni volunteers who take the time to meet with prospective students and their families throughout the fall and across the country.  Thank you!

 

(photos taken by Xiaofeng Wan and Kerri Falkenham)

I recently saw an article in a magazine entitled, “Three Words to Live By,” which illustrated the fact that the best advice is short – three words, in fact. The author provided lots of three-word sayings to live by, such as floss every day, keep your word, bring her flowers, etc.

This got me to thinking about the college application process. Students are given so much advice but, do they remember any of it? Does any of it resonate? Would it help if the advice was doled out in shorter, easier-to-digest packets?

Perhaps it would.

So, here is my top ten pieces of three-word advice on the Common Application essay:

1. Love your topic

2. Write with joy

3. Trust your voice

4. Consider your audience

5. Develop a hook

6. Use paragraph breaks

7. Check your punctuation

8. Avoid the thesaurus

9. Submit on time

10. Thank your proofreaders

Want more essay advice? Follow us on Twitter: @HCAdmission

Greetings from sunny California!  My name is Sarah Gale, and I am a new Assistant Director of Admissions at the College of the Holy Cross.  Although I have only been working for the College since August, I already feel very much as though I am a part of the vibrant campus community.  In my experience, that is just the kind of place that Holy Cross is: welcoming, dynamic, and fun!

I am currently thousands of miles away from Worcester (or as I’ve been explaining it to West Coast students, “Wuh-sta”) on recruitment travel.  While visiting high schools and attending college fairs, I have been talking a lot about the College of the Holy Cross’ great campus.  I cover the academic experience, residential life, and opportunities for service, off-campus study, and research, but one aspect of campus that is especially important to students is the FOOD.  As much as I can talk about campus dining, who better to talk about the food than a current student?

Our very talented Natalie Correa put together a video about the updates to our Kimball Dining Hall, which I think really shows the great care that the College puts towards students’ overall well-being.  Plus, who doesn’t love a frozen yogurt station?  I hope you enjoy her video, and please do check out her other productions!

AnnMcDermott.BLOG2If you are reading this blog, you have likely noticed that the main pages of the Holy Cross web site have an exciting new look and feel. This is the first phase of a two part redesign. Look for the second and final phase in spring of 2015.

But that is not all that is new! On August 18, the College will launch a brand new logo and visual identity that will be used campuswide. Working collaboratively, offices across the College joined together to develop a new graphic identity that is both recognizable and distinctive. From banners to business cards to publications and PowerPoint presentations, the new Holy Cross look will be both clear and consistent, and will help to better uniquely convey our story.

But I have to admit that what I am most excited about is our new suite of Admissions publications! They are in the process of being printed but should be available shortly. I hope you agree that they are worth the wait.

Ann McDermott ’79

Director of Admissions

It is actually nine.  Whether  we are meeting students on the road or on campus,  we seem to hear the same question over and over again: “What can I do to increase my chances of acceptance?”

Our answer?  “INTERVIEW!”

Though interviews are considered by many high school students to be superficial, self-indulgent monologues professing one’s greatness to an intimidating potential employer for personal gain,  it would be more appropriate to title Holy Cross Interviews as “Conversations,” because that is essentially what they are: two people in a room chatting about anything and everything.

The interview is not the time to determine if a student is a credible candidate; it is a time to put a name with a face and get to know each candidate on a more personal level.  It is not about proving yourself to our office, it is about adding more information to your own application.  Twenty to thirty minutes of conversation can add volumes of information to your application that is impossible to convey on paper through the Common Application, your letters of recommendation, your college essay, or your SAT scores (should you choose to send them).  Read more about scheduling an interview on- or off-campus,   and schedule one before we run out of spots.

 

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