Is My Recommendation Letter There Yet?

Pmaloney Dear Holy Cross Admissions,

I recently applied to the College of the Holy Cross and I’m very excited!  However, I sent my application online through the Common Application website and the rest of my information (recommendations, report card, etc.) is coming through the mail.  I want to make sure that everything arrives okay.  Can you tell me if you have all of my information and if my application is complete?

Thank you.

“Concerned Applicant”

I chose to start my blog this week with a generic version of the email/phone call above that starts to become more frequent this time of year.especially for students who have applied Early Decision.  There is a somewhat easy answer for this question, but the explanation is a little difficult (I think) for people outside of our office to visualize.  So, through the mighty power of the Admissions blog, I’m going to show you the answer.

The first step in the process is obviously the delivery of mail to our office.  Because of the sheer volume of mail that we are consistently receiving, we are one of the first departments on campus to receive our daily mail.  Patricia McKeen, who many of you will recognize as one of our two wonderful receptionists, is our postal worker extraordinare.  Actually, she works for us, but I would argue that she should receive some kind of compensation for the Postal Service for the job that she does.  As you can see by the photo, Pat opens ALL of the mail.  I can’t even begin to fathom how she does it.  But if you sent in your application via mail and received a postcard from us saying that we received it, well, Pat McKeen opened that envelope and sent you that postcard.  Seriously, look at the piles of mail in the photo!  Not only does she open it, but then she sorts it all alphabetically.  Amazing!


Next stop is our file room (sometimes called Fort Knox).  This is the real guts of the Admissions Office.  We have several wonderful clerical staff members in the file room, who receive all the mail that Pat has just worked on.  At this point, they take all of the recommendation letters, transcripts, resumés, etc. and go through the filing cabinets that hold all your applications to put them with all of the information we’ve received from you already.  Then, we check to see what kind of information it is that you’ve sent us.  If it is a required piece of the application process, a box is checked off on the front of your application file, so that anyone looking at your file doesn’t need to flip through all of the pages to see that your guidance counselor recommendation arrived last week.  This information is also stored in our computer system so that any required information that wasn’t received from you is recorded and we would eventually send you a letter notifying you which required items are missing.  Each counselor on the staff here has their own filing cabinet or section of filing cabinet divided by alphabet.  That way, we are able to keep track of all of “our” applications as they being to accumulate.

Anyway, getting back to the email/phone call at the beginning of this entry, if you did send us something and are wondering if it arrived, now you know the process that it went through to get to the rest of your application file.  However, as you can see, there are several steps involved and with the volume of mail (especially after a few days build up around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) it does take some time for things to get where they need to be.  But remember: You don’t have to worry.  We’ve been doing this a long time.  Your recommendation letters are safe and are in capable hands.  And if anything happened to a letter and it did not make it to your file, we’ll send you a letter to let you know.  You don’t have to email or call to check in on it.

Oh, and if you see Pat McKeen or any other member of the Admissions clerical staff around campus sometime in the future, make sure you thank them for their hard work and all of those paper cuts they got from working with all of your mail!

Patrick Maloney ’02
Assistant Director of Admissions

Procrastination–Your “Frenemy”


Procrastination is not your friend, though I’m sure for many of you it is whispering around your consciousness these days.  “Why do something today that you can put off till tomorrow?”  “It’s the holiday season and there are so many more interesting things than college application stuff that you could be doing.” “Really, you do your best work at the last minute.”  It would be very easy to give in to the college process fatigue that is probably assailing you right about now.

Don’t listen.  Ignore the temptation.  We’re in the homestretch and now is not the time to falter.  Whether you got out of the gate fast or are slow starter, it’s time to throw it into fifth gear and finish up all the things left unchecked on your to do list.  Finish up that final revision of your college essay.  Schedule that interview.  Follow up on those teacher recommendations.  Click “send” on that application.

Procrastination is truly not your friend.  At best it is a “frenemy” (an enemy disguised as a friend).  Don’t let it tempt you into putting yourself between a rock and a day-before-the-deadline-last-minute-allnighter-application scramble.  Real friends don’t that to each other. Rather take the advice of someone who was a friend to us all (Benjamin Franklin of course!)—“You may delay, but time will not.”  Or take the advice of Olin Miller, someone whose claim to fame seems to be that he just wrote a lot of quotes (but, probably was also pretty friendly)—“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”

Don’t try this at home kids.

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Okay, seriously, stop reading this blog and get back to work!


Kelli Powell
Admissions Counselor

The $50 Experiment

Allison I have a 3.5 unweighted GPA, am currently taking 2 AP courses, am a two sport athlete, member of NHS, and scored a 1280 on my SAT’s.  Is it worth it to apply?

We get a lot of questions from concerned high school seniors who are having trouble deciding if it’s worth it to apply to Holy Cross.  They rattle off their statistics and a laundry list of extracurricular activities and hope we can give them a sense of where they might stand in our applicant pool.  Unfortunately, our job is not that simple.  Making an admissions decision is not an exact science.  There is no secret equation which guarantees admission (oh, how I wish there were!)  Students (and parents) who ask this what-are-my-chances type question are probably frustrated by the admissions counselor’s vague answer.  Since there are so many variables that change from year to year—the relative strength/weakness of our applicant pool, the institutional needs of the college, the geographic, ethnic, gender breakdown of the current student body etc.—it is difficult for us to gauge a student’s chances when given only a small sampling of their academic record.  Additionally, we need to understand your high school, so that we can place you within the appropriate context.  Because our approach to evaluating students is holistic and we truly value every part of the application, a brief sound byte such as that above does not give us adequate information about you.  It is only when we have your entire application complete that we can begin to get to know you as an individual and determine whether or not Holy Cross is a good fit for you.

So should you apply, or not?  You’re the only one who can answer that.  If you think you have consistently pursued a challenging curriculum, are happy with the grades you have achieved in those classes, have given back to your high school community, and consider yourself an intellectually curious citizen of the world, then go for it!  After all, at the very least you can consider this a “$50 experiment” (perhaps a secret experiment between you and us) and prevent yourself from a life of wondering if you could’ve gotten in…

Keeping Your Hands on the Wheel

JuliaAwhile back I found myself in a gloriously gold rented Impala on the Mass Pike, west of Springfield, headed toward the New York state line.  It was just one of those days: fake blue sky, fiery leaves, twinkling sun, me pretending I can sing like Bob Dylan – the whole nine.

It also happened to be the last day of October, quota-filling frenzy day for state cops. Western mass’s unpredictable downhills and traffic-free highways were making it difficult for me to sustain my careful 72 in the 65 mph zone, and I slowly became frustrated by the attention my speed maintenance was requiring. After all, it was taking away from all the foliage-viewing and loud-singing I had on my schedule.

To remedy the situation, I considered, for maybe the first time in my life, setting the cruise control.

I scrapped the idea about five seconds later.

My thinking was this:  My hands are on my wheel, I am driving this car.  This is my experience, not the Impala’s.

This decidedly lame analogy is leading up to one anti-climactic piece of advice:   As you go through the college search-and-destroy process, make sure to keep your hands on the wheel.  By this I mean two things:

  1. Try not to place too much importance on other people’s opinions.
  2. Work on trusting your own beautiful instincts.

Many of you are blessed with guide book –toting parents, schlepping you from college tour to college tour, quite certain that their idea of your perfect collegiate experience precisely reflects your idea of the perfect collegiate experience.

And don’t get me wrong, your parents/guardians are great (the Holy Cross Admissions team LOVES parents).  Your parents are so great that many of them are financing much of your postsecondary education. They’ve also souped you up with great features; and made sure you’ve passed all your inspections.  But they’re not the ones driving.

Consider them your GPS navigation system, attempting to steer you in the right direction.  But (as many of us have learned the hard way) the GPS is not always right.  Sometimes, it’ll direct you into a lake. That’s when your instincts can be rather beneficial.  When your hands are on the wheel, you are the song that’s playing, you are the one that follows the sign to the farm stand. You are the cloud watcher, the photographer, the ice cream seeker.   Your parents might tell you how to get to the ice cream shop, but you order cookies n’ cream because your taste buds told you it’s delicious.

So keep your hands on the wheel.  Pay attention to your gut when you take that campus tour.   Ignore the gossip. Ignore the hype. Hone in on your pitter-patter. If a school feels right to you, it probably feels right for a reason.

Julia Sanders
Admissions Counselor

Happy Thanksgiving!

Annmcdermott It’s Wednesday.but not just any Wednesday.  It’s the day before Thanksgiving.  I was reminded of this (as if I could really forget) as I drove into the College’s near empty parking lot this morning.  The student exodus began mid-morning on Monday and continued throughout the day yesterday.  The campus is now peaceful and quiet with little observable activity.except for the Admissions Office. The staff is here in full force, conducting interviews, processing applications, answering phone calls and reviewing candidates for Early Decision.  Our Thanksgiving break will begin later this afternoon, hopefully before the traffic build up begins.

On behalf of the entire Admissions staff I would like to extend to you and your family our very best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. We hope you have a wonderful holiday surrounded by family, friends, and of course, good food.

Best wishes,
Ann McDermott
Director of Admissions

Is Early Decision right for you?

LynnThink back to when you began your college search.  How did you decide which schools to consider?  Likely you cracked open one of the many college books at your disposal, and your list began to form based on your pre-determined criteria.  Statistics likely built your initial list.  This was a good start, but only a start.

Remember those campus visits?  While logging hours at information sessions or on campus tours, your ideal college probably began to take shape in your mind.  Your list of likes and dislikes grew as you learned more about yourself and about what each school could offer.  When I interview a student, I always try to get a sense for what drew them to Holy Cross, and what keeps them coming back.  There are certainly some common responses.  Many students are drawn to Holy Cross because of its size, location, Jesuit identity, or its strong liberal arts curriculum.  But what I tend to hear from the most enthusiastic prospective students is that it just “felt right”.  They came.  They saw.  They’re hooked.

Early Decision (our deadline is December 15) will be a great option for some of these students.  They have done their research and know what they want.  They have determined not only what Holy Cross can offer them, but what they could bring to the College.   They have determined with virtual certainty that this is where they would like to spend their next four years, without interest in competing offers of admission or scholarship.  If this sounds like your experience with Holy Cross,  then Early Decision might be for you.

Whether applying via Early or Regular Decision, don’t let numbers alone make your decisions for you.  Use the wealth of information at your fingertips, but include your instincts in the equation.

Diversity at Holy Cross

Tran If you were to look at the percentage of underrepresented students at Holy Cross and then compare it to other colleges’ numbers, you’re not going to find much of a difference.  But just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you also can’t gauge a college’s multicultural atmosphere by percentages alone.  That only gives you one part of the bigger picture.  After this past Perspectives Multicultural Overnight Program, which is under my umbrella of office responsibilities, I have been thinking a lot about diversity and multiculturalism, especially as it pertains to Holy Cross.  After having attended another wonderful liberal arts institution and worked at a different one in admissions prior to my current gig, I have the luxury of observing the multicultural atmosphere at two other liberal arts colleges.  What in my mind is unique about Holy Cross is the support systems that are in place to one support students who don’t feel represented by the majority and two to increase awareness of other cultures and identities on campus.

First, there is a consortium of Multicultural Student Organizations (MSO’s) that is comprised of about a dozen student organizations classified as multicultural in nature and represent identities ranging from Asian to LGBTQ to international students.  Second, there is a group of multicultural peer educators (MPE’s) who work with various groups on campus from students to staff to educate them about various issues of acceptance and diversity and do a wonderful job.  It’s programs like these that strengthen diversity on college campuses and not the number of underrepresented students present.  But more importantly it is the people who are behind the programs who make multicultural life at Holy Cross what it is.  I’ve had the opportunity to work one-on-one with many of the wonderful people who are involved with multicultural affairs and they are some of the most dedicated, supportive and innovative individuals I’ve met.  As a former underrepresented student, I find myself often impressed and envious of the kind of support that students at Holy Cross receive to help them acclimate to life on the hill.

You might be asking why the people at Holy Cross are different and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that this is a Jesuit institution that very much emphasizes social justice and service.  There is a different kind of accountability that we have to each other as members of this community because of this identity that doesn’t exist at other campuses.  It goes beyond just being civilized but takes it many steps beyond to another level of kindness and caring between community members that I don’t find at other colleges, at least not the ones I’m familiar with.  So for those of you who are very much concerned about multiculturalism at Holy Cross or at any other institution, I encourage you to do some digging into the community beyond the percentages of underrepresented students.  High percentages don’t mean a thing if there aren’t systems in place to cultivate intercultural learning and provide support for the underrepresented students.  And if you have questions about multiculturalism at Holy Cross, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.

Tran Kim-Senior
Assistant Director of Admissions
Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment

The Standardized Test Affair, Part Deux

Drew_2 So it’s one thing for us to proclaim to be standardized test optional but then comes the inevitable question – how do we know whether or not a student wants their standardized test scores used?

Well, that’s where the verification form comes in.

Once we’ve received your application, we will send you a confirmation letter letting you know that we’ve received it.  Within that envelope is a very important form, the final part of our application process.  The verification form (see picture) is our final chance to verify some key information.  First off, we want to make sure we’ve got your name and address spelled perfectly (because that’s how we want to address the decision letter); secondly, we want to verify that we have your numbers correct – phone number, social security number and birth date.

And then, once and for all, we want to know whether or not you wish to have your standardized test scores considered with your application.


(Have doubts about whether or not to submit then see my blog entry from October 6:

Finally, we ask about Holy Cross alums in your family and contact you’ve had with the Admissions Office at Holy Cross.

So please take this form seriously – we do – and please return it to us completed as soon as possible so that we can process your application effectively.  Your hard work is done but ours has just begun.

Andrew N Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Application essay tips

Jrichardson Hi everyone!  After 17 flights, 4 buses, 2 boats, many a rental car, taxis and trains, I’m finally wrapping up the 2007 fall travel season and coming home!   Its been a wonderful fall, and all of the travel has been very interesting; I feel blessed to have met so many dynamic and intellectual students along the way!  From Flekke, Norway, to Tucson, Arizona, its all been very exciting.

Travel tip of the day: GPS.  If you don’t have one of these, get one … you’ll never be lost or frustrated over maps or directions again.  I would personally endorse the Garmin line.  I rented one of these while in Arizona and New Mexico, and am now poised to invest in my own – – a lifesaver!

So now its time to come back home and begin the “climb to the top of the mountain” as I call it – – the mountain of applications.  While we will likely receive more than 7,000 applications this year, one of the aspects of our process in which we take a tremendous amount of pride is the lengths we go to attempting to get to know each candidate.  Every application is read multiple times, by different people, each evaluating the various credentials we find within.  We rely on your transcripts … and what you teachers say about your work ethic and perseverance … and how well you did in your interview … and of course, how well your essay is written.

The Essay is undeniably one of the most important parts of your application materials.  By now, we hope, you’ve created your account, begun your application, and have presumeably been able to breeze through the first several pages which require you to complete your name, address, parents information, etc.  Presumably one of the items you’ve left for last is the essay.  Either you’ve decided to continue pondering the questions and are still debating which of the five you’d like to tackle, or you’re just outright procrasinating.

Do not procrastinateGet to work.

Please spend a lot of time working on this.  We spend a lot of time reading it, so we hope you spend a lot of time writing it.  A well written essay stands out not for its length, but rather for its content, imagery, and to what extent it “speaks to us”.  A few pieces of essay advice:

  • Take me there.  Make me react.  Allow me to see, smell, or hear (or do all of those) the subject about which you are writing.
  • Take caution on this windy road to a well written essay … you will never know who will be reading this masterpiece.  As you’ve seen through the blog and potentially through your other interactions with our staff, we have men, women, young, old(er), a priest, lay people, democrats, republicans … you will never know who will be reading your masterpiece.
  • Avoid humor; this can be very dangerous .. for the same aforementioned reasons .. you’ll never know who will be reading this.
  • Proofread – Proofread – Edit – Proofread     Edit – Proofread.     An essay which is free of grammatical and syntax errors says you care about your application and whether you not you are admitted; an essay which is less than perfect says something else – – I’ll leave that to you to imagine what it says.
  • Answer the question.  Whichever question you choose to answer, write about the subject.  Avoid tangents.  Get to the point already.
  • Always bring it back to speak about yourself.  Its wonderful for us to read all about the influence your Grandmother/father had on you, but Grandma isn’t applying to be a part of the Holy Cross community .. you are .. so always bring it back to talk about yourself.
  • Feel good about your finished product.  Write about those things you enjoy, believe in, or to which you are committed.  Doing this will show; not doing this, will show.
  • Spend more time on this, collectively, than on any other aspect of your application.  Make it good .. this is the only piece of writing you are required to submit.

Well, there are applications to read … I best get to work.  Good luck!

“Oh Auntie Em … there’s no place like home!”

Come on in for a campus visit…We’re open!

PmaloneyThis time of year is very popular for campus visits.  Here at HC in New England, the fall months mean leaves are falling, the mornings are cool and crisp, and high school students and parents are getting a workout on the stairs while walking around our campus.  While I encourage any and every visit to campus for students, if you find the days growing shorter and your free time decreasing one great way to get the most out of a campus visit is by going to the Open House.

Open House is one day that you can visit the campus and, at least at HC, take a campus tour, discuss your interests with a professor, go to a session on the admissions process, talk with the coach of a sport you’re interested in, find out more about financial aid, etc.  What I’m trying to say is Open House is a great way to get a lot of information in a short period of time.  The second of our two Open Houses will be this Sunday, November 4th.  For more info: click here:

Hope to see you there!

Plus, I heard Kelli Powell is going to be there, so if you weren’t convinced before, I bet you are now!


Patrick Maloney ’02
Assistant Director of Admissions