Why Holy Cross? The Research Opportunities

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

Why Holy Cross? Excellence and Purpose

It is said that the nightingale bird never sings alone – that they always wait to hear another nightingale sing before they begin their song.

In that spirit, I’ll be the nightingale of the Admissions Office; let me explain why I love Holy Cross, let me sing my Crusader song and let me inspire my co-workers to do the same.

I love Holy Cross for so many reasons but today, it is because of our valedictorians.

Our very first valedictorian in 1849 was from Georgia and our 165th valedictorian in 2011 came from St. John’s Newfoundland in Canada.  He, upon graduating in 1849, went on to become the first African-American Roman Catholic priest and the country’s first African-American Catholic bishop.  She, in 2011, has gone onto pursue a career in humanitarian relief efforts and peace studies.

Two people from opposite ends of North America with very different upbringings — separated by gender, race and over 160 years but united by a school with a purpose.

I love Holy Cross because here you find students from all over the world who want a school that emphasizes open inquiry, inspires high achievement and is committed to developing the whole person.  They want academic excellence with a purpose.

That is why I love Holy Cross.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

I Just Got My Letter and I’m Not Happy

To the Holy Cross Office of Admissions:

I just received my decision letter, and you guys got it WRONG.  JUST PLAIN WRONG.


Sound about right?

We in the Admissions Office recognize that many of you are pretty disappointed right now and we just want you to know — we understand, we know this is tough, and we’re really bummed, too.

The frustration you’re feeling is indeed justifiable. You’re probably brilliant, hard working, charismatic, thoughtful, and talented. You’re a three sport captain. A class president. An Irish step dancing mathlete. A bassoon-playing robotics champion. And on top of all of that, you are getting an A in AP Calc! You are an admit-a-la-mode. It may not feel like it right now, but we think the world of you. And though you may have visions of us sitting around some big table, laughing devilishly, drumming our fingers together a’ la Mr. Burns, casting out careless decisions while contemplating the many delicious ways to destroy your life, the fact is, none of us enjoy letting you down. Our decision making committee consists of a bunch of sappy, sensitive nerds, who’ve committed the last four months of their lives to meticulously scouring your applications for every morsel of goodness. Deciding between such wonderful and often equally deserving students is incredibly grueling, and simply heartbreaking. Smiling devilishly? No. We rather feel like sulking in the corner.

Please try not to doubt yourself or wonder what you could have done differently. Due to an insanely competitive applicant pool, we simply couldn’t admit all of the admissible applicants we wanted to. So, while we hope you can trust that we did our best to make the fairest decisions we could, we acknowledge and understand your disappointment.

Please know that you are all stars. You’re part of the most exceptionally talented applicant pool Holy Cross has ever seen, and we’re confident that wherever you end up, you’ll find unlimited success.

Julia Sanders
Assistant  Director of Admissions

The Calm Before the Storm

Now, all that’s left to do is to wait.

All the decisions have been made on first year applications and the decision letters will be released through the mail in 24 hours.  For the first time in 180 days, there are no transcripts waiting to be evaluated, no essays waiting to be read and no applications waiting for a vote by the committee.  The silence is eerie.

Like bakers who arrive in the middle of night, for the past six weeks, we’ve been doing all our work in private – very precise measuring, some skillful adding, delicate mixing, artful shaping and now, waiting.

To those students who will receive disappointing news from us, know that we appreciate your interest in Holy Cross and that we take our decision making responsibility very seriously.  It is the most important and the most difficult part of our job.

To those students who will receive good news in the mail from us – congratulations.   You’ve impressed us with your record as committed students, passionate volunteers, standout athletes and even better people.  You’ll be faced with a decision soon – we hope you’ll come visit.  We’ll be waiting for you.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Oops, I Missed the Interview Opportunity

With all that’s going on in your senior year and the stress of college applications, you might not have noticed that Holy Cross offered an opportunity for a personal interview (or you may have  called and discovered that you missed the deadline!)

Don’t fret too much! If for some reason you weren’t able to interview at Holy Cross, we’d still like for you to take the opportunity to tell us a little more about yourself. What might we have learned in an interview?  What do you love about Holy Cross?  Recently won an award, became captain of the basketball team, or completed a spectacular service project? We want to hear about it. Write us an e-mail and share everything you would have talked about in an interview. Reconnect with an Admissions Counselor you met on the road or at an information session. When we sit down and open up a file, a lot of the information we have comes from other people (teachers, guidance counselors, etc.) This process is about you and we want to hear your voice as much as possible.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nicole Zervos ‘09
Assistant Director of Admissions

Did You Go to Holy Cross?

Aside from being asked about the size of the student body here at Holy Cross, what majors and minors we offer, what Worcester is like, and what the admissions committee is looking for in applicants, the next most common question I get from prospective students and their families is, “Did you go to Holy Cross?”

And more often than not, they seem surprised to hear that I did not, in fact, go to Holy Cross. But I get it. It’s a reasonable assumption. Five of the thirteen admissions counselors on our staff graduated from HC, and they carry their Purple Pride with them wherever they go. Who better than loyal alumni to rave about the college they attended and to want to promote it to prospective students? Who better to describe campus traditions, relationships with professors, and student life than people who have experienced all of this firsthand?

So why promote a school with which I have no prior affiliation? First, while I had an unforgettable four years at my alma mater, my experience there was so valuable precisely because it was the right place for ME. Do I think that everyone should go where I went? Nope. Do I think that everyone belongs at Holy Cross? Again, the answer is no. College choice is all about finding the right FIT for a student, and one of the most interesting parts of my job is being a part of that “fit” conversation. Early on in the admissions process, I meet students at high schools, college fairs, and Open Houses, as they’re collecting information about the different colleges they’re considering and trying to get a sense of what schools are in their “range” and where they could potentially picture themselves. Then, when I conduct interviews and read applications, it’s my turn to figure out which students are the best match for Holy Cross. Who will thrive and be successful here? Who will be a unique addition to the student body and make significant contributions to the campus community?

Second, I truly believe in this place and its mission. It’s hard not to be inspired when you see that the Jesuit motto of “men and women for others” is not just a catchphrase here but a way of life. Students at Holy Cross tend to care just as much about trying to make life better for other people as they do about their own education. In all of their pursuits, they are challenged and encouraged to develop themselves not just intellectually, but morally as well. While they are preparing for tremendously successful careers, they are at the same time molding themselves to be good citizens and ethical people. The largest, most popular club at Holy Cross, comprising nearly 25% of our student body, is devoted to weekly outreach and service in the Worcester community. In addition, one out of every ten students spend their Spring Break traveling to places like Kenya to live in solidarity with economically disadvantaged populations and reflect on issues of social justice, or to the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. to help rebuild homes and buildings destroyed by natural disasters. Being surrounded by these passionate and committed individuals, I am constantly reminded to think outside of myself and see the greater picture.

So no, I did not go to Holy Cross. But it doesn’t mean that I’m any less proud to work here than my Crusader colleagues. And I might even, just a tiny little bit, “bleed purple.”

Kate Stewart
Admissions Counselor

Copernican Principle

Until Copernicus and Galileo proved differently in the 1500’s, the Earth was believed to hold a special place at the center of the universe.  But then through research and scientific calculations, it was proven to be, in the words of the PBS show Nova, a “tiny speck in an unremarkable location.”  Scientists call this the Copernican Principle.

When you work in college admissions, it is easy to stay within your own bubble and to think that your own school is the center of the universe.

But, the truth is, there is (or should be) a Copernican Principle of college admissions.

Here at Holy Cross, we are but one school out of thousands in this country – one star in a nighttime sky full of stars that all shine in unique ways.  And while anyone who has taken our campus tour and navigated all of our stairs knows full well that this is not an “unremarkable location,” we do think it’s important to keep perspective in this process.

You’re torn between so many good options for college?  Of course – we understand.

Holy Cross is your favorite school?  Great – we’re glad you think so.

You found another school that matches you better?  Wonderful – we support you.

Our staff of thirteen admissions counselors believes wholeheartedly in this place, our mission and our students.  We wear purple and we make it look good.

But, at the same time, we understand that there are so many other wonderful colleges and universities out there and we invite you, we encourage you to explore and research and do the necessary legwork until you find your tiny speck, your star, your home for the next four years.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Jesuit Excellence

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

Holy Cross Greets Students With Open Arms

For the first time in awhile, I was on campus for freshmen move-in day.

It is quite a sight to behold — car after car arrives and a swarm of current students, faculty and staff greet the freshmen and their families and immediately take all of their belongings up to their rooms.   As you can see in the video, it is a tradition for current students to greet the freshmen with the same open arms with which they were greeted when they first arrived on campus for their first day.

If this is a tradition that repeats itself year after year, then someone had to be the first to experience this ritual.  This got me to thinking about Holy Cross alum James Healy and his first day on campus — most likely he was filled with a blend of nervousness and excitement just like this year’s freshmen.

But there must have been a special anxiety to his first journey to campus.  James was born in Georgia in 1830, the son of an Irish immigrant plantation owner and a female slave.  At the time, Georgia law dictated that a child of this type of union was a slave.  But James would go on to become the very first valedictorian at Holy Cross in 1849, the first African-American Roman Catholic priest and the country’s first African-American Catholic bishop.

What must it have been like when he first arrived Holy Cross?

I can imagine what he saw – the lush, green hillside of Mount Saint James, the babbling brook at its base, the seven hills of Worcester and their inspirational vistas.

But I can’t imagine how he felt.   I do know that he was welcomed with the same open arms that this year’s freshmen were and perhaps then, a tradition began.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

When Writing your College Essay, How Much Proofreading is Too Much?

It has been said that the Shakers deliberately introduced a tiny mistake into everything they made.

Why would they do this?  As furniture-makers, they were renowned for the integrity of their work and the excellence and precision of their craftsmanship.

The answer is that they did this to illustrate that man should not aspire to perfection – that perfection belonged only to God.

I’m no Shaker and, truth be told, I think perfection can be found in the first bite of a well-made maple-frosted doughnut; but I do think there’s an important lesson to be learned and perhaps even applied to the writing of the college application essay.

Applicants and those advising applicants place too much emphasis upon proofreading.  Now, I’m not here to suggest that proofreading isn’t important and valuable — but I think that by placing so much emphasis upon proofreading, we send students the message that their only goal is to produce a perfect essay.  In pursuit of this perfection, students often shy away from a riskier but perhaps more rewarding writing style.

In college admissions, the reality is this — every year, there are applicants who forget a comma or misspell a word in their essay yet still gain admission to their dream school; and every year there are applicants who submit flawless essays but are still not admitted.

We’ve just recently seen this example played out in the Olympics.  Gabby Douglas won the all-around gold medal for women’s gymnastics not because her routines were flawless (which they weren’t) but because she took chances and because her performances were inspired.

Leave behind the obsession of your essay being immaculate and take some chances – you just might stick the landing.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions