Archive for the ‘Zach Wielgus’ Category

Summer Visit Opportunities

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Zachary WielgusSummer is an interesting time for us here in Admissions. With the stress of application reading and the selection process behind us,  summer is a great opportunity for admissions officers to plan travel, take some vacation days, and admire the gorgeous trees and flowers blooming all over campus.

But we haven’t forgotten about you, high school juniors, who are just starting your college search. Once you’ve had some time to relax, think about making some college visits.

Summer is an excellent opportunity to visit Holy Cross. Come for a tour and information session. You’ll hear directly from students as they guide you around campus and from an Admissions Counselor about the college process. If you happen to be here in the next few weeks you might want to take advantage of our July Advisory Days, where you’ll receive insider tips on interviewing and writing your college essay. It might be nice to get all of this done before your hectic senior year starts up (where you’ll likely be juggling AP classes, soccer practice, band rehearsal, community service, etc.). For tips during the week, follow us on Twitter @HCAdmission, where we will be posting visit tips during June.

We will be here and looking forward to your visit!

Zach Wielgus

Assistant Director of Admissions

Why Holy Cross? We let you write on the walls.

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Zachary WielgusIt began as one of those ideas that sound good in your head but don’t quite manifest in real life.

Create a poster that we ask all visiting admitted students to sign to create a visual welcome and introduction to the Holy Cross community. How would we print something that large? How would we get all — or even the majority — of the visiting admitted students to sign? How much of it will be left blank?

Sometimes you get lucky, I guess. It’s been a wonderful point of pride to welcome students who arrive for a campus tour or day visit and, after greeting them with a congratulations and Holy Cross pennant, directing them to “The Wall.” Multiple Holy Cross students corralled the hundreds of admitted students at Accepted Student Open House on April 13 to “sign the wall.” Moms and dads excitedly gaped at just how far some students had come (Boise, Idaho, and Beijing, China, two clear winners), while potential Class of 2018 Crusaders found classmates and neighbors also occupying the same 28-square-feet of wall.

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This is what I love about Holy Cross. First, the ability to let small ideas morph into wonderful and meaningful actions. This is also how Montserrat went from optional First Year Program to required (and well-loved) first-year seminar. This is how so many students create their own major or secure an internship never-before pursued.

But second, watching The Wall fill up with the rainbow colors of excited students from literally all over the world paints a brilliant picture of our student body. Holy Cross will introduce you to people who think differently, speak differently, learn differently, and hail from cities and states you have never visited. That’s what college should be: a change from your four years of high school, not only in class offerings and bedrooms but also in the strangers with whom you connect from all corners of the globe.

Open House 12 Open House 13 Open House 14

Open House 15

 

Sign The Wall. Leave your mark. So many others have.

Zach Wielgus

Assistant Director of Admissions

What’s Holy Cross REALLY Like?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Zachary WielgusI wish I could tell you. Really, I do. As a member of the admissions staff, I view knowing as much as I can about this school as a point of pride; having to say “I don’t know” or “let me get back to you” is something I try to keep to a minimum.

The trouble is, no matter how much research I can do, no matter how long I work here, I will never be able to answer that question. I’m not a student. I don’t eat in the dining halls, sleep in the dorms, attend classes and lectures, cheer my lungs out at games, or form lifelong friendships on this campus.

Our students, however, do. And what’s even better is that there are seven current students doing a stellar job answering this question on social media. So you want to see what Holy Cross is really like? Start following Meaghan, Alli, Kerri, Natalie, Matt, Caroline, and Julia:

 

1) On Twitter (current students initial their posts and photos)

2) On Instagram: MeaghanB2017, AlliD2016, KerriF2016, NatalieC2017, MattB2016, CarolineL2016, and JuliaL2016

3) Their student profiles (coming soon!)
A quick peek at some recent contributions….

 

A stunning winter view (MB17)

A stunning winter view (MB17)

This is how Kerri Dinands (KF16)

This is how Kerri Dinands (KF16)

Natalie's room (NAC17)

Natalie’s room (NAC17)

A study break in Cool Beans 2 (JL16)

A study break in Cool Beans 2 (JL16)

The Most Fun Part of Our Job

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Zachary WielgusFor the two and a half months that span early November to nearly the end of January, much of our focus is on reading and evaluating Early Decision applications. These students have signed a contract affirming their intense interest in Holy Cross; after all, it requires they remove all other applications they have and commit to attending Holy Cross. (Take it from us, it is a commitment many should be excited about.)

Instead of notifying every student of their decision on the same date — as we do with Regular Decision applicants — we opt for a wrinkle in the admissions process. During the ED months, our office meets in our patented full Committee every 10-14 days to begin crafting the incoming class. For those students who have made that important commitment to Holy Cross and know this is their top choice, we feel it’s important to tell them the good news in ways outside of an acceptance letter. We do what no other school does: we call them to tell them they’ve been accepted.

Below you will find a compilation of reactions that were recorded during these phone calls. There was disbelief, there were tears, there were many thank you’s, and there were a lot of full voice mailboxes (clean out your voicemail, people!). There’s truly no way to capture the emotion during these amazing calls … but here’s our best effort:

 

Just got off the plane to his grandparents’ for Chinese New Year. “This is the best New Year gift!”

Very excited! Could hear her start to cry when she hung up.

“Oh my gosh I got in?! It’s my top choice and I didn’t think I was going to get in!”

“No way! No way! Are you lying? No way!”

Total silence and then he whispered, “I got in” to his friend. Really cute. Very happy.

Screaming and gasping and OMG’s galore.

Incredibly excited. Issued at least 20 “thank yous” before the call was over. Couldn’t get off the phone soon enough to begin celebrating.

“What? I got in??? I’m so confused. And excited!!”

“Best Christmas present ever!” Mom got on phone, crying too, very thankful.

“My heart is beating so fast!”

Absolutely started screaming and crying on the phone – SO excited to be a Crusader.

He was trying to play it tough but started to break down a bit.

“Wow! Wow! Wow!” followed by giggling, hyperventilating, and maybe even some tears of joy.

Very excited – said she was going to do her happy dance.

“Can you hold on one sec?” He then screams, “I just got into Holy Cross!!!”

Broke down crying on the train and couldn’t focus on anything I said after I told her she was accepted. Kept saying “you made my day.”

Amid tears of joy: “I just want you to know I’m so honored to be accepted.”

“This is..probably…the best….phone call… I’ve ever received. You should see the smile on my face right now.” Can’t wait to share the news with parents who are “on the edge of their seats.” “I had to step out of varsity bowling practice once I saw that you called.”

Meditations in an (Application) Emergency

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Zachary WielgusI’m a planner. I plan things. Checklists litter my desks — e-mail these people, check in with these applicants, don’t forget to pick up stamps and dry cleaning, post blog. It’s how I stay efficient.

What often transpires, as so many of my list-making peers agree, is that I cannot turn off my planning nature. There are always three more things to do, a new idea to write down, which is why in addition to my written daily checklists one could find four notes in my iPhone with a smattering of to-do’s and what-if’s. (I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is….and it’s also why I have a password on my phone.)

A little frustrated that I could not put my mind on “vacation mode” during the days around Christmas, my younger sister felt I needed to hear my 2014 horoscope. It began with a suggestion to take more time to slow down and look inside myself, offering up the idea of meditation; oddly enough, I had recently read an Esquire article on the Headspace app — essentially meditation for beginners. Always impressed by random coincidences, I decided to give it a try. So, for the past five nights, I’ve crawled into bed and booted up Headspace, allowing myself 10 minutes of meditative relaxation.

It’s been incredible!

As someone whose mind is never fully powered down, I remained skeptical about my chances of fully embracing the goal of meditation: a tranquil, free mind. Instead, the day’s stream of tasks slowed down and the lists drifted away. They will still be there tomorrow, after all.Extra-Headspace-logo-001

With a week until our Regular Decision application deadline, I implore both students and parents alike to create some head space. The anxious tone of recent phone calls and e-mails has me wishing I could stand in front of each and every one of you to look you in the eye, ask you to take a deep breath, and remind you that it will all work out. And with this calmness comes a clear mind and keen eye, eliminating the chance for sloppy mistakes or rushed writing. Yes, every piece of the application is vitally important; however, if your mind is frantic from the stress of attaining perfection by a deadline, you can easily lose your footing as you try to put your best foot forward.

Take a walk in the brisk winter air. Eat dinner with your family and talk about something other than college applications. See a movie with your friends. Read a book for fun. Before you know it, the chaos inside your brain will settle, the stress will float away, and the final days before a deadline will feel much more manageable.

A Seasonal Playlist

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Zachary WielgusMy life requires a soundtrack. More often than not, I have something playing in the background. While I’m working in my office, cleaning my apartment, going for a run, writing this blog … there’s something moving through the speakers.

Given that, as I spend many hours in the car getting from place to place during travel season, I have made an unofficial playlist for this time of the admissions year:

 

 

1)  ESPN Radio. The bickering and analysis of Mike & Mike greets me every morning. I drink coffee, listen to sports talk, and wake up on my way to my first stop.

2)  “We Were Us” by Keith Urban & Miranda Lambert. I heard an interview about making this duet while in Columbus, and now I can’t change to the station when it’s on.

3)  “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. I’m not proud of it, but this thing is on all the time.

4)  “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right” by Bob Marley. After answering many, many concerns about the Common App’s glitches from frantic applicants and counselors, this melody has become my go-to advice. Get lost in these words.

5)  “Out of My League” by Fitz and the Tantrums. A lucky find of a Minneapolis independent radio station introduced this song (and band) to me. Their whole album is great!

6)  “Radio” by Darius Rucker. I was lost in Tennessee when I first heard this new single. As a big Darius Rucker fan, it was three minutes of windows-down bliss in an otherwise stressful situation.

7)  “Roar” by Katy Perry. As word of a contest to win a Katy Perry concert by making a video to this tune got ‘round all-girls schools everywhere, I, too, got caught up in her new hook.

8)  “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder. After exhausting the country, top 40, and alternative rock stations, I rediscovered my appreciation for Motown. The horns in this song get me pumped for a visit!

9)  “Applause” by Lady Gaga. After a long day with a drive back to the hotel the final task, getting to blast Gaga’s return appropriately matches my mood. I don’t know most of the words, but at that point, it doesn’t matter.

A Day in the Life: On the Road

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Zachary WielgusHey ya’ll!

As anyone who knows me — friends, family, co-workers, recent plane neighbors — I love Tennessee. I love the accent. I love the music. I love the barbeque. Sometimes (read: all the time), I like to pretend I live here as I spend my week visiting Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis. So I figured, this trip is a great way to show what it’s like to be a Holy Cross admissions counselor on the road.

 

En route to Nashville from Chattanooga!

En route to Nashville from Chattanooga!

 

6:27 a.m. Begrudgingly pull myself out of bed. I am not much of a morning person.

7:35 a.m. Arrive at St. Cecilia Academy for their mini-fair. Not 12 hours before, I was standing in their foyer for the Catholic Colleges fair for students in Nashville, but it’s important for all the girls to get a chance to stop by.

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9:10 a.m. Wrap up at St. Cecilia’s and head across the street — literally — to Montgomery Bell Academy for a similar setup.

10:30 a.m. A break from the mini-fair action comes in the form of a traditional visit to Ensworth School. In this format, we announce our visits to students and guidance counselors in hopes of having a conversation for 40 minutes about Holy Cross.

10:34 a.m. Whoa! My body finally realized I had had neither coffee nor breakfast today. That’s about to change…

Ahhh, sweet caffeine

Ahhh, sweet caffeine

10:45 a.m. Pull into Ensworth just in time for my scheduled visit. We admissions counselors get pretty good at maximizing these few minutes in between visits.

11:30 a.m. After a great conversation with Laura Stewart, Ensworth School’s Director of College Counseling, I plug Harpeth Hall into my handy-dandy GPS. Did you know there was a time when admissions counselors used maps to get from place to place? As in, a real road atlas. I would make it to a school visit 4% of the time.

11:56 a.m. With an hour before the Harpeth Hall mini-fair begins, I must invoke the unfortunately common parking lot lurk. It’s just me in my rental car, hopefully away from quizzical eyes, answering e-mails on my phone until I can head inside. There is such a thing as being too early.

1:45 p.m. With the end of a strong visit to Harpeth Hall, it’s time for lunch. Let my obsession with Yelp take over!

2:10 p.m. Today’s lunch spot has been found! (Thanks for a delicious salad and iced tea, Fido.)fido

3:30 p.m. To answer more e-mails, nap, or go for a run? Incredibly, I choose run this afternoon. It’s only a quick four-mile one, but I always enjoy the chance to jog around Centennial Park and catch a glimpse of the Parthenon replica. To be honest, I still don’t know why it’s in Nashville…

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4:18 p.m. OK, OK, time to catch up on e-mail,: reply to inquiring students, continue planning Wednesday’s interview night, and keep all the on-campus commitments humming.

6:41 p.m. The best part about Nashville, of course, is the free live music EVERYWHERE. Hop the hotel shuttle to the main strip on Broadway and pick your destination. It sure beats watching TV or reading a magazine while eating dinner. Hey, this part of the job can get a little lonely!

Just a few of the lights on Broadway

Just a few of the lights on Broadway

10:01 p.m. Well, Father Ryan’s mini-fair begins at 7:15 tomorrow morning, so I better head back to the hotel and get some rest. Bless my heart, but I still need my eight hours!

 

For a list of where all 13 of us will be and when, check out our Visits to Your High School page

 

Back-to-school shopping list

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

I had the bright idea of going to Target this weekend. Roughly three minutes in to my Sunday errand, I realized that it was — for most — the last weekend before school came back in session. This meant only one thing:

Back-to-school shopping.

I’ll admit, between a mile-long walk from my parking space and lines that put any Disney coaster to shame, I got a little nostalgic. The rush for new binders, the “no Trapper Keepers” warning from teachers….I fondly remembered those waning days of summer spent in a Target loading up on school supplies to ring in a new year.

Now, on this side of the desk, my job has far less to do with No. 2 pencils than it does reminding seniors that there is still plenty to do in their autumn. Given that, here are important things to add to your college process list:

1) Start your applications. Yesterday. While even the earliest of deadlines loom two months away, you will thank yourself for starting — and hopefully finishing — your applications before Halloween. There’s a new Common App to figure out, many essay prompts and short answer requirements to write, and resumes to fill. Each one takes longer than you think, and all pieces should be submitted with care. Save yourself the stress and cross this off before November.

2) Don’t be a stranger. Many schools, including Holy Cross, pay attention to demonstrated interest. So, look into visiting opportunities that transcend the normal campus tour. Campus-wide Open House dates. Our visits to your high schools. The all-important interview (hint, hint). We like that you’ve seen the campus. Now, stay in touch by doing those added extras that can really help come decision time.

2a) If up to this point you ARE a stranger: introduce yourself! Actually stepping foot on campus not only bolsters your demonstrated interest folder but also allows you to get a true feel for the campus. You will never know which schools you like or dislike until you see the grounds and the facilities and students up close.

3) Keep your foot on the accelerator. There’s a lot happening senior year. Your schedule is likely the toughest it’s ever been. You’ve risen to leadership opportunities in your extracurriculars. You have to worry about college apps and standardized tests. Oh, right, and you’re trying to enjoy your final year of high school. It’s a heck of a juggling act! That being said, your first marking period grades — and often your performance through your midterms — is a vital component to the admissions process. We want to see that you’re continuing to challenge yourself, but we also want to see that you’re rising to that challenge. Don’t let senioritis sink your ship.

4) Befriend your guidance counselor. S/he should be helping you make your list, keep you informed of important dates, proofread your essays, and remind you to breathe a little. The better you know your guidance counselor, the more you know about your entire college process.

5) Try to enjoy these four months! Like I said, it is a lot to handle. But the searching and writing and visiting should all be at least a little fun, right? After all, you are trying to decide which place to call your home for four years. It’s a daunting task, but it should be an enjoyable one, too. We think this video helps.

If you have this entire list checked off by the time our calendar turns to 2014, you can bet that you will be resting easy, and that I’m going to enjoy reading your application.

Zach Wielgus
Assistant Director of Admissions

Why Holy Cross? The Research Opportunities

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Have you ever been a member of the Secret Service? Or built proteins from scratch to figure out why Alzheimer’s exists? Surely you’ve written a book on the Art Deco movement from France to America in the 20th century?

John, Steve, and Lily, all current Holy Cross students, are just three examples of the incredible research happening throughout campus every day.

I listened to John Castro, a junior, give a lecture on his award-winning thesis that he completed during his semester in Washington, D.C. After serving as an intern with the Secret Service and interviewing both agents and congressional advisers, John wrote a thesis on the importance of cyberterrorism and national security. What is now being called “the fifth domain of war,” John is one of the first students to complete extensive research on cyberattacks. Perhaps what’s more impressive is that he is just one of 30 students who participates in the Washington, D.C. program.

I met Steve, a current senior, last summer, where he described (in layman’s terms for my non-science mind) the research he was conducting as a paid summer research assistant in the chemistry department. Each summer, roughly 50 students in the science departments alone serve as paid research assistants. Working one-on-one with a chemistry professor, Steve was in charge of building microscopic proteins to determine why they “mis-fold,” which causes neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. After eight long weeks of hard work, Steve excitedly revealed that he made a breakthrough, and was en route to being published. Not bad for a summer job.

Lily, a junior who has been abroad in Bordeaux, France, all year, was an active admissions volunteer before her passion took her across the Atlantic. Intrigued by both her art history and French majors, Lily sought out a research grant in the winter of her sophomore year to combine her two passions. Soon enough, she was traveling to museums in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, and was given behind-the-scenes access to various Art Deco exhibits – all on Holy Cross’ dime. Just two weeks before her flight to France, Lily completed her 80-page book on the Art Deco movement. She is furthering her research in the innumerable art museums of France.

As a solely undergraduate institution committed to research, Holy Cross is full of students completing impressive research normally reserved for graduate students. It is a rare chance for you, as an undergraduate, to dive deeper into your passion, to create something cutting edge, to leave your mark.

Why do I love Holy Cross? Because these three examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Zach Wielgus
Admissions Counselor

Jesuit Excellence

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Twenty strangers meet on a bus. By week’s end, they will share innumerable experiences and actually become friends.

This sounds like a silly romantic comedy. Not all that different, this is the scene of a typical JET.

A JET is a Jesuit Excellence Tour, which allows a significant number of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities to join together on a week-long trip of group travel. We descend upon a school, taking over its gym or library, unfurl our banners on arranged tables, and carefully adorn the surface with a litany of materials. And then, we wait for the seniors and juniors to take a solid half-hour away from their studies to speak with as many of us as they prefer.

In addition to being a great recruiting tool to interact with more students than usual, the JET is actually a pretty amazing illustration of what it means to be Jesuit. We can toss around fancy Latin phrases  — cura personalis, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam – to summarize our philosophy. Or, as the Jesuits usually opt, we can show you.

That sense of community that I continue to emphasize, in which students truly care for one another and professors honestly pay attention to their students’ well-being and happiness, can be seen in the gathering of 20 admissions counselors for a week-long recruiting trip. How about the notion that social life on campus isn’t exclusive or passive-aggressive, and that it’s so easy to meet new people and join tons of new extracurricular activities? There’s no stronger bond than the ones made by Jesuit counselors; trust me, the weird jokes and fun social interaction we get to have in just five days cannot be replicated. And then there’s that commitment to community service and helping your fellow man or woman. Instead of competing for students – who in all likelihood will be applying to more than one Jesuit school – we travel in a pack of 20 on a JET, eager to help students find the right fit and point them in a direction of another school if we don’t offer a program or sport.

The JET creates a wonderful sense of family that is otherwise impossible to find during the lonely travel season. I mean, where else can you get dropped off at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, strike the triumphant pose from Rocky with two dozen others, and then race to the top? The JET also portrays the aspects of a Jesuit institution: community, social interaction, cooperation, and service to others. There’s a reason these traveling bands of admissions counselors don’t much exist outside the Jesuit realm.

So next time a JET is coming to a city near you, don’t be a stranger. Join the Jesuit family.

Zach Wielgus
Admissions Counselor