I’m back on The Hill after an exciting fall season spent on the road! Mount St. James sure is a sight for sore eyes this time of year.
My first travel season as an Admissions Counselor for the College of the Holy Cross sent me farther and farther west throughout the months of September and October. I originally set out in familiar areas like Albany, NY and Amherst, MA. As the fall went on, however, I had the opportunity to visit personally unchartered regions like the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. I met a number of incredible high school students along the way and I began forging professional relationships with some brilliant college counselors as well. I want to share some highlights of my journey with you and tell you about what I was doing while my “Out of Office” email reply was on…
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy visiting high school guidance offices as much as the next admission counselor, but there’s just something special about those classroom information sessions! I am always thrilled when a college counselor asks if I would be willing to speak in front of a class full of their students. I’ve found that these sessions allow high schoolers the ability to ask questions in the presence of their peers – questions that many individuals might not have thought to ask just yet! And classroom information sessions provide unique opportunities for me to reach new audiences who may not have heard of Holy Cross before.
Moving from large presentations to individualized conversations, let’s talk about interviews. A quick word of advice to high school seniors – if you are applying to schools that offer admission interviews, sign up for one! This is the best way to tell your story, highlight your passion points, and showcase your curiosity about a school. These 30 minutes of discussion can add vibrancy to a student’s file and make an application spring to life. I encourage all prospective Holy Cross applicants to come to Worcester and to explore our campus for themselves, but I also understand that life is busy and that a trip like this can be a major financial undertaking. For applicants who are unable to make it to campus for an interview, we offer alumni/off-campus interviews. During my travels far and wide, I try to accommodate as many individual interviews as I possibly can. We are eager to speak with you and learn about what makes you, you!
Another tidbit that I find worth sharing is to always remember why you are doing things. Be purposeful with how you spend your time; we are much more interested to hear about the meaning behind your experiences rather than the sheer amount of different ways that you stay busy. I prefer to speak with applicants who have passion for the lives that they lead, rather than prospective students who are spreading themselves thin with over-involvement. Life as a high school student can be hectic and pressurized, but make sure to take time to reflect and think about the value of your experiences. This will help you to articulate why you chose to do things throughout high school and to recognize the lessons that you took out of your studies and activities. Reflection might also allow you to realize that you have taken on too much and that you need to step away from one of your responsibilities in order to enjoy life more! Take stock often and declutter your life where you see fit…health and well-being will follow.
Admittedly, fall travel season is a busy time in the life of a college admissions counselor, which makes it more important than ever to find moments to pause, breath, and reflect (everyone is well aware of our uncanny ability to blabber on, after all!). One such moment presented itself during my travels this year. As I crossed state lines on my drive from Western Massachusetts to New York State, I was thinking about my grandma who was very sick at the time. I pulled over at Immaculate Conception Church in New Lebanon, NY and had the chance to light a candle and say a prayer for her health and for a speedy recovery at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine. When I returned to my car, my mom had just sent a message to our family group chat asking for prayers. I was able to send along this picture and say that I was way ahead of her.
This was a simple, beautiful, and seemingly providential moment during my first travel season for Holy Cross that will stay with me. It was also a healthy reminder that while we all have jobs to do and goals in mind, everyone carries different weights around with them, and kindness is paramount in every interaction that we have with others.
My fall travels invigorated my passion for this school and instilled meaning in the work that I set out to do each day. I am happy to be back at the college now, able to settle back into my duties in the office and interact with our current students on campus. I am excitedly gearing up for my first reading season here at Holy Cross, where we will work to build an incoming class of zealous young adults from a variety of backgrounds. I strive to embody our Jesuit mission of being a human being for and with others, so please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know if I can help guide you through your college admissions process in any way!
A few addendums – Despite this being my first trip to the Pacific Northwest, I was overjoyed to learn that Seattle Preparatory School had named their gymnasium after me! In full disclosure, my middle name does not start with a “C”, but I figure that this must just be a typo.
Note to readers: When I see a student on campus who I met with during my travels, I get very excited. So no pressure – but if we have the chance to chat about Holy Cross while I am out on the road, please come visit for a campus tour. I promise, it will make my day!
Note to self: when driving from place to place in Chicago and Seattle, leave 30 minutes before you think you need to. The traffic is no joke!
written by Tom McHugh