What factors make you like a city?

DrewWhile driving back from Buffalo last week, I reflected on how much I liked Buffalo.  That got me to thinking . . .

What specifically was it about Buffalo that made me enjoy my visits every fall?

And what are the factors that contribute to whether or not we “like” a city?

The answer, I believe, is highly personal.  For me, in any city, I always end up looking for tacos, trails and tea.   Here at home . . .

1. For tea, coffee and breakfast sandwiches that will change your life, I go to Culpepper’s Bakery.  It’s walking distance from Holy Cross.  I’ve had and loved everything on the menu but the Hammy (egg, ham and cheese on a sesame bagel) will change your life.

2. For trails, I go to Wachusett Mountain State Reservation (20 minutes from HC) which, during the warmer months, offers 3,000 acres worth of scenic hiking: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/central/wach.htm.   In the winter, it is one of the premier skiing destinations in New England: http://wawa.wachusett.com/mountain_info/default.cfm

3. And as for tacos and burritos, the choice is easy: Tortilla Sam’s (5 minutes from HC) http://www.tortillasams.com/menus/cantina.html.  All of their sauces, salsas and marinades are homemade and you can watch them make their tortillas fresh every day in the front window.  When you’re there, don’t miss the boneless buffalo wings and the spicy spuds.

So as you make some of your final college visits, take some time to look off campus for the things that you might find yourself looking for during your four years of college and if you find yourself in Worcester, don’t miss the tacos, trails and tea.

Andrew N Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Help chances of being admitted

Kelli Lately, my inbox has been filling up with e-mails from students wanting to know, “what else can I do to help my chances of being admitted?”  But before getting to this question, many of these electronic notes begin with a inventory of all the things the student has already checked off their college application to do list: visited the campus, set-up an interview, had an interview, written their essay, edited and re-edited their essay, re-edited the re-edited essay, created a detailed activities resume, met with athletic coaches, spoke with current students, spoke with alums, met with a fortuneteller (just kidding), studying hard and focusing intently on senior year coursework…and so on.

I understand the intense desire many of you have to make sure you’re covering your all you bases.  The college application process is extremely intimidating, because in many respects, it is set-up to make you feel like you only have one chance to get it right–to do it perfectly.

So what’s my answer to the aforementioned question?  What wisdom do I have to impart to you and these students who have written me wanting to “improve their chances?”


I think some of you are about to hyperventilate from the stress of trying to juggle collegiate concerns, with your already busy senior year schedules.  This post is really more of a public service note advocating (at least) the occasional mental decoupling from the whole “college thing,” to improve your current quality of life.  My advice is to breathe…relax…take a moment and go try to find some cloud animals or something.  The catalog of activities would suggest you’re already doing the things that “improve your chances.”

Perfection is an illusion.  There isn’t a prefect or magic combination of activities and contacts with the school that will assure your admission. There is no secret kernel of advice we’re not sharing (we share it all–hence the blog!).  All the listed items can be important parts of the your college application process, but do yourself a favor and investigate what economists refer to as the “law of diminishing returns.” If you’re already doing the things your guidance/college counselor, parents, teachers, and/or colleges recommend, know that you can let go of the some of the worry and anxiety that assail you.  You’re on track.

Now go see if you can find a cumulonimbus cow or some altostratus alligators.

Extra-curriculars help admissions

Lynn Have you seen the movie “The Break Up”?  I did, and it was terrible.  Seriously, really terrible.  Even so, I’ve managed to find blog inspiration from it.  There is one scene in which the wife is angry at the husband not because she wants him to do the dishes, but because she wants him to want  to do the dishes.  Which clearly leaves him baffled and infuriated.

During recent high school visits, I was asked about what Holy Cross wants to see students do.  Do we want you to do community service?  Play a sport?  Take on a leadership role?  Sure we do.  But more importantly, we want you to want to do it.  “It” can be just about anything.  Holy Cross creates no hierarchy for extra-curricular involvement.  We want you to be active in your school and in your community, in the ways that you think you can most contribute and that you find most enjoyable.  The best way to prove that you will contribute to a college both in and out of the classroom is by doing just that at your high school.  Whatever you choose to do, do it with gusto.  When you tell us about your involvement, make us believe you love it–not that you love the way it looks on your resume.  You have a lot going on right now.  You owe it to yourself to spend your time doing what you love.  And we’ll love you for it.

Oh, and skip “The Break Up.”

Interview inspiration from Facebook

We spend a lot of time online: researching, doing business, emailing… maybe even procrastinating. And without much contemplation, I can guess that you probably spend more time renovating your Facebook pages than you do reading our Holy Cross admissions blog. Terrible pity. But understandable nonetheless.
The fact of the matter is, you’re living in a world where opportunities to advertise yourselves are countless, and extremely accessible. Forums like Facebook, Myspace, and Youtube give you the opportunity to paint fantastic portraits of yourself, package them up nicely, and send them out across the universe for all eyes to see.

Ironically, one of the biggest problems I encounter in the interview process is a student’s inability to do just that: to paint an honest and glorious portrait of him or herself and hand it to me in a pretty little package. Many students are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion in the interview arena. They struggle to pinpoint significant accomplishments, and to list what they’re proud of, for fear they will come across as conceited, cocky, or even worse, corny.

Throw those fears out the window. The interview is your time to shine. If you have nothing to be proud of, why should we admit you?

Now we’re not asking you to jump around our offices Muhammed Ali –style, air boxing and listing off accomplishments with reckless abandon, but we do urge you to think about achievements – big or small – and come prepared to tell us about them.

So start thinking of the interview like you think about your Facebook page. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. It may be the only time you have to tell us how truly awesome you are. If you do a good job, we may just “add” you (sorry, just couldn’t help myself) to our next class of Crusaders.

Julia Sanders
Admissions Counselor

Good ‘First Quarter’ grades important

Pmaloney_2 Hey all, after what seemed to me to be a very short week in the office, I’m back out on the road.  I’m writing from Wilmington, Delaware and I apologize that I don’t have any exciting photos to share in this entry.  I’m not saying that Delaware doesn’t have anything worth taking photos of, but I just didn’t have time to see much before driving north to the Philadelphia area for the next few days.

Anyway, while taking in a few sports games yesterday in the airport, namely the Patriots and the Red Sox, I saw a car commercial several times that made me think.  Maybe you know the one.the women is running through a neighborhood and then crosses the street and runs directly into a parked car with a loud thud and then falls to the ground.  Admittedly, I chuckle a bit when I see it and maybe that’s not great to say, but it’s the truth.  At this point, you should be asking what does this have to do with college admissions.  (If you’re not, I’m concerned for you.)  Anyway, I’m telling you about this commercial in the closing weeks of October because for many of you high school seniors the next few weeks represent the end of the first quarter of your senior year, and this is a milestone.  Senior year should be a year that you buckle down and show colleges that you are doing your best work in your senior year in your toughest courses.  Getting back to that advertisement, a few students represent that runner and they run smack into a car during the 1st quarter of their senior year.  Not literally, of course, but for one reason or another, their grades slip and this is a trap you do not want to fall into.  Some of you may even be thinking about applying Early Decision to a college, and that only further stresses the importance of these first quarter grades.  Holy Cross, along with several other institutions, require 1st quarter grades from your senior year.

So remember, it’s not enough that you just signed up for lots of Honors and AP classes this year, but you must be performing well in them as well.

Watch out for those cars along your running route!

And, of course, go Sox!


Patrick Maloney ’02
Assistant Director of Admissions

Thank you notes demonstrate interest

In just a month we’ll all be gathered around our respective dinner tables, passing mashed potatoes (yum) and creamed onions (eww) and waiting, inevitably, for Dad to pose the question, “What are you thankful for this year?” …at least this is what happens at my house. I’ll complain about this corny Danny Tanner moment, but then I’ll play along. When it’s my turn, I’ll have plenty to be thankful for: my good health as well as that of my family and friends, a stable job, the Sox winning the World Series (hopefully), and of course, the greatest objects of my affection, my sister’s babies, Jack and Caroline. What will you be thankful for? Will your proclamation of thanks be related to your recent college search? Do the people who have helped you (parents/teacher/counselor/mentor) know that you appreciate them?

There was an article in this week’s NY Times that addressed the role of the thank you note in the college admissions process. The article detailed how some colleges appreciate a letter of thanks for a tour, interview, or day visit. Other colleges shred these expressions of gratitude which, to them, serve only to fill already overflowing recycling bins. The article suggests that more and more students and parents are writing notes to college admissions counselors as a strategic ploy for gaining them an edge. When was the last time you heard of a student being admitted based on the flowery cursive, elevated diction, or artistic stationery of their thank you note?

It’s pretty simple: if you appreciate getting a thank you note, write one. If you were impressed by the student/teacher/counselor/alumni with whom you interacted, write one. A thank you note does not get you into college. Does it demonstrate that you’re thoughtful? Yes. Does it show us you’re interested in the college? Yes. Do we like to see that you took time out of your busy schedule to write a thank you note? Yes. This is not an ego trip, however. We do not paper our walls with laudatory notes, and no matter how many compliments you bestow on us, your note will never be the deciding factor in an acceptance. Similarly, there will not a gaping hole in your application if you don’t send one. Bottom line: don’t send one if you don’t mean it.

So this Thanksgiving, let those who have helped you know that they are appreciated. Your guidance counselor, parent, teacher will be happy you did.

Allison P. Rose ’06
Admissions Counselor

Tell us what you think

DrewThe popular view in the 17th Century was that the Earth was stationary and that the Sun revolved around the Earth.  Through his research and calculations, Galileo knew better and suggested such in writing. Fearing he would be put to death if he did not comply, Galileo, when called before the Inquisition, recanted his belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun.   But, legend has it that after renouncing what he knew to be true, he muttered underneath his breath, “E pur si muove!”
And yet it [the Earth] moves.

So what’s the point of this slightly hyperbolic story?

Well, the point is this – we all have a voice.  We all have passion; we all have something to say and sometimes, our voice gets stifled.  In the college application process, students sometimes feel as though their GPA and SAT scores get plugged into a giant admissions computer and after being fed a quart of motor oil, it spits out decisions.  This is far from the truth (at least at Holy Cross!).

We want to hear your voice so let it be heard – in your interview, in your essay, even in an email to the admissions office.  Tell us what you think.  Tell us what you know.  Tell us what you love.  And don’t mutter it under your breath.  Say it with confidence.  Make sure that when your part of this application process is done, there is no doubt in any admission office about who you are.

What if my guidance counselor doesn’t know me?

AmandaWhile in New Jersey last week a common question that kept coming up is, “What if my guidance counselor doesn’t know me very well?”

Holy Cross asks for two letters of recommendation; one from a teacher of your choice and one from a guidance counselor.

So what if you guidance counselor doesn’t know you very well?  Don’t stress!  Make an appointment with your counselor to sit down and talk about you: your classes, interests, what you want out of college, etc.  Tell them about you so that they will have something to write about.  All you need is a half hour.  No big deal!  You may want to ask him/her to write you the recommendation in person anyway so if you set up a meeting you can get both tasks done at the same time!

If you’re still worried about the counselor recommendation, get another recommendation from someone else.  Two recommendations does not mean you are allowed to send only two.  If you have a coach, employer, volunteer supervisor, mentor, etc. have him/her write a recommendation for you as well.  Anyone who has another point of view on your abilities or personality may write you a recommendation (parents don’t count, you know they’re biased).

Sending in 5-6 recommendations is OK.  Sending in 10-12 maybe not.  As long as each additional recommendation tells the Admissions staff something new and different about you it is acceptable.  Send it in!

Amanda Juriansz
Assistant Director of Community Outreach

Why are interviews so important?

Suzanne I’ve been back in the office for a week now from my trip to the Windy City where I spent my time visiting with high school students in the Chicago suburbs. Thinking back over my travels to both St. Louis and Chicago it seems like the theme of my fall travel has been INTERVIEWS. While on the road in Chicago and St. Louis I personally conducted twenty interviews and also helped to run an Evening Interview Session where twenty students were interviewed by Holy Cross Alumni.

So, you may be sitting at your computer thinking, “Why are interviews so important anyway?” Or something along the lines of, “If they are so important, how can I get one?”  In this blog I hope to answer both of those questions…

First and foremost, interviewing prospective students is one of my favorite responsibilities as an Admissions Counselor. My friends tell me that I’ve become quite the listener. The logic behind interviews are simple;  can you think of any better way to have someone on our staff get to know you than to sit with them for about twenty minutes and tell them about yourself?

To say that students can get a little worked-up about the interview can sometimes be an understatement. There’s no need for unwarranted pressure.  So, I encourage you to think about it as a conversation. We never ask you questions that you don’t know the answers to, because guess what….our questions are always about you! More importantly, we want you to come off as the impressive soon to be high school grad that you are. Come dressed professionally and be prepared to talk about your experiences as both a student and person. Don’t forget that interviews are an opportunity for to you to ask questions of your interviewer as well. Spend a little time on the Holy Cross website and be ready to gather even more information on Holy Cross during your interview.

So hopefully by now you feel more at ease about the actual interview. Now, let’s get it on the calendar! Call our office two weeks prior to your desired interview date to schedule your appointment on our campus. Alternatively, you can visit our website to learn more about opportunities to interview in your hometown with a Holy Cross Alumni Representative.

In closing, I would like to extend an enormous thank you to Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois and to our Alumni Interviews who made our Evening Interview Session a success.

To all of you students out there, I hope to see you getting a leg up and taking advantage of the very important college interview!


Suzanne R. Timmons
Admissions Counselor

Common Application essay advice

Drew Now that the October SAT testing date has passed, for high school seniors, there is little left to do in the college process.  That is either a great relief or quite scary.

But you’re not done just yet.  That big Goodyear blimp hanging above your head is the Common Application essay and for many of the students that I’m meeting on the road, it keeps releasing parachuting boxes of doubt on their head:

What do I want to write about?

What do colleges want me to write about?

How long is too long?

How do I make my essay stand out?

It goes without saying that all of this doubt is not conducive to creating a quality essay and there’s nary enough room on this little computer screen to answer all those questions, so let me leave you with just a few pieces of advice.

Students, proved by the questions above, tend to be riddled with anxiety about their essay and they grip too tightly.  Just relax.  Your essay is a sparrow.  If your grip on it is too tight, you’ll squeeze the life out of it.  If your grip is too loose, it will fly away.  Hold it just tight enough that it won’t fly away but not so tight that you suffocate it.

We really do look forward to reading your essay and we’re not expecting to read something profound nor do we expect you to summarize your entire life in 500 words.  We just want to read what you want to write.  It’s that simple.

So don’t worry about those questions above, just write what you want to write.

One final thought: inspiration can come when you least expect it.  I was inspired today by a few thoughtful students (you know who you are!) and it came in the form of a bottle of Mountain Dew and a box of Pop-tarts.  So if you’re still stuck, go buy those two things, sit down at your computer and listen to your sparrow.

Andrew N Carter
Associate Director of Admissions