July for Juniors Tip #8: Reach out


Reaching out to teachers and counselors for letters of recommendation or advice early helps both you and them.  Teachers and counselors get busy during the year and it would advantageous to ask them ahead of time.

At least two letters of recommendation are application requirements for most schools. These letters are important and can help us learn a lot about applicants that we wouldn’t otherwise have known: “Cecil had a rough junior year because we implemented a new social studies curriculum, and we noticed grades drop for many of the students. Still, he remained in the top 10% of his class.” Or, “Kelly stopped playing soccer last fall because she has been volunteering with student council and spends 10 hours after school each week planning and organizing activities for their annual holiday bazaar.”

There’s nothing worse than a flat letter of recommendation. “Mike was always on time and prepared for class.” Yawn. Is this the best praise you can get from your teachers? We expect you to be on time and prepared. Show us how you went above and beyond expectations. This means asking a teacher who really KNOWS you and can vouch for all the hard work you put in both in and outside of the classroom. Really put some thought into your selection. Maybe spend some time with that person before the letter is written to give him/her/them a better sense of who you are as a student and a person. You want their words to be glowing! Also, please remember to ask for a recommendation early. You want to make sure to give them enough time to write the letter– your teachers, counselors, and coaches are all very busy people!

July for Juniors Tip #4: Show interest

In the application process, it’s important to indicate your interest in the school(s) to which you are applying. Get (and keep) in contact with the colleges you are interested in. Contact can be in person, through a formal or informal visit to the school (be sure to sign-in with the office), via phone or email.

If we see that applicants have been in contact with us then we are going to have a better sense of their interest in the College. Psychology and propinquity theory are at work here…even on a subconscious level.

So get in our heads…for the right reasons, and stay informed of new developments at the school as well as possible updates to the application process that we may announce. It’s easy to do and the returns are well worth it!

July for Juniors Tip #3: Deadlines

Summer is a great time to research important dates and information regarding admissions (such as application deadlines, financial aid requirements, and/or test optional policies). Make sure you are aware of all of these key pieces of information–particularly deadlines–as they will likely be different for each of the schools to which you are applying.

For example, does a school on your list recommend interviewing? At the College of the Holy Cross, we love it when students interview! It gives us a chance to get to know our applicants better, and it gives them a chance to get to know us as well. Try to schedule an interview early on in the process to ensure you get an appointment that fits in with your schedule. 

Additionally, is your school test optional? Think carefully about whether or not your testing reflects positively on your application. If your test scores reflect your academic ability, then please do feel free to send them. Know that at Holy Cross, we do not require that applicants submit test scores, nor do we penalize students who choose not to submit test scores.

Finally, if you are ever unsure about any piece of information, definitely reach out to the Admissions Office at the school to which you are applying (email is great!). It will guarantee you have the correct information, and it will show more demonstrated interest on your part. Win-win!




Visit, visit, visit! You may not know what you are looking for in a college until you have seen a few up close in personal. You don’t know what you don’t know, and visiting is a great way to expose yourself to all the things a college has (or does not have) to offer. Sometimes visiting colleges may be easier than expected. Maybe you are on your way to the beach and you pass by a college campus…take a look! You never know what may happen: you may like it, but if you do not, it will give you context for the types of schools that would be a better fit.

So, sign up for a tourgo to an info session, listen to the questions other people ask, and think about whether they are important to you. Maybe even use a few of those questions for your next tour at a different school (we won’t tell!). Here at Holy Cross, we offer July Advisory Days (JAD) during which you can learn about what to do to ensure a successful interview as well as how to start cultivating your personal statement.

Visiting campus is a huge part of what is known as demonstrated interest, which is something colleges (Holy Cross especially) take quite seriously. So take the time, if you are able, to see schools and learn more about what they could offer you! We will be here, ready to show you our campus and tell you more about our community.

What are you looking for in a college?


Happy July!

As we shift our focus from the Class of 2021 to the Class of 2022,  it might be helpful to post some tips on the blog for rising seniors.  We recognize that juniors are narrowing their colleges lists and thinking about where they might want to apply in the fall, so this month we will post articles with helpful information for students as they begin their college application process.

What qualities do you want in a school? How far away from home would you like to be? Do you want to commute and live at home or would you like to be 3,000mi away? What types of activities would you like to continue in college or try? Think about all of the lifestyle habits you would like to keep or try and make sure those activities are included in your search process. Would you like to live on campus or commute? Keep in mind of the opportunities outside of campus as well. How will this school help me with internship/job/alumni networking opportunities? You have a lot to ponder but it’s best to start somewhere. Here are some points to consider:


  1. Size, distance from home
  2. Career opportunities
  3. Athletic opportunities
  4. Academic opportunities
  5. Campus life
  6. Study abroad opportunities
  7. Service opportunities
  8. Tradition
  9. History
  10. Alumni network
  11. Research opportunities
  12. Clubs/organizations
  13. Off-campus life
  14. Religious affiliation
  15. Arts

What will you leave behind?


As our senior class is getting ready to leave Mount Saint James, I’d like to share some reflections from our senior intern, Madison (Maddy) Smith.


written by Madison Smith ’17

Over the last four years I’ve heard it time and time again, “Enjoy your time while you have it.”  Not only from Holy Cross alumni, but from my family and friends who have moved on to the real world.  It’s so easy to think you’ll be here forever, or that you can always do something new or better next year.  Until, you can’t.  It’s easy for me to say, “don’t take it for granted.”  But it’ll probably be more helpful to tell you what to enjoy and what are some of the special things I will be leaving behind.  So Holy Cross, here are the things I will be leaving on the hill for all of you.

Holy Cross has not only provided me with the academic tools to carry me into the world, but has given me a plethora of memories and stories for the rest of my life.  I’m sorry to say that it would be a challenge for me to remember one book I read in my first semester CRAW class freshman year.  But, I can still vividly remember the first time it snowed enough to go sledding by freshman field, or the first time it was nice enough to sit and pretend to be doing work in the Hoval.  The first thing I’ll leave behind for future classes will be the special backdrop to all those memories that is Holy Cross.  Hills and all, from a late night in Dinand to a rough morning in Kimball, campus almost seems to be constructed in a perfect way to make memories for a lifetime.  Don’t wish yourself off campus too soon, or run to study in a Starbucks café, try to enjoy the setting and the people around you.  All those places have been for so many and will be for you the places where your best stories are lived.

Next, I will happily take, but also leave the ever so lucky opportunity for life long best friends.  The people of Holy Cross really seem to be the best and I plan to have them surrounding me for a very long time.  After shortly falling in love with school and not being afraid to tell everyone and anyone I could find, someone told me that I had finally “drank the HC Kool-Aid.”  I absolutely did and I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t.  The people and the community at Holy Cross are truly the Red Dye #3 that makes that sugary drink so great.  I’ll be taking my friends from the Class of 2017 with me, but I can assure you there and there always will be a friendly face around, and more likely than not someone you will take with you when you leave as well.

It’s hard for me to tell you to enjoy it and to not wish it away.  As I’m writing this now I have a countdown in my head of things to get done, classes and practices left.  But, what you can do is remember how special of a place Holy Cross is and realize sooner rather than later that it won’t last forever.  Which is fine! (I hope!)  But, along the way take the time to think about how lucky you are, to be thankful for where you are, to write it down or take a picture, because one day you’ll only be so lucky to tell people about the times you had.  Be sure to remember how wonderful it is while you’re still on Mount St. James.

What did you do over Spring Break?


written by Mackenzie Horl ’17

This year was my third year participating in the Spring Break Immersion Program run by the Chaplains Office. I can honestly say that my experiences on “Appa,” as the program is commonly referred to at Holy Cross, have been some of my favorite and most transformative while here on the hill.

From the time I was a first year at Holy Cross, I had repeatedly heard older students talking about the Spring Break Immersion Program. I heard rumors about how much fun people had at their sites and the friendships that lasted well beyond the one week spent in Appalachia. Unfortunately, nerves got the best of me and I did not sign up for the program as a first year student. However, when I heard my roommate’s stories about her group and all those who she served during her first experience on “Appa,” I promised myself that I would not miss out the next year.

That was a promise that I would keep to myself for the remainder of my spring breaks at Holy Cross. I have visited Ivanhoe, Virginia, Barren Springs, Virginia and Wheeling, West Virginia respectively. At each site, I met unique people and came to better understand their struggles. I found myself in parts of Appalachia that I probably would have never experienced, had I not decided to go on Spring Break Immersion.

This year, I went to Wheeling, West Virginia with twelve other students from Holy Cross. I spent the week living and working in The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling. Each day we ate breakfast and lunch with the patrons who visited the soup kitchen, many of whom were homeless. There were numerous times during this experience that I felt like I had ventured outside of my comfort zone. Before this experience, I had never really come into contact with homeless people before. However, this experience was eye opening for me and taught me a lot about the society that I live in and how the homeless are treated.

I am always amazed when I meet my group each year at the Spring Break Immersion send-off held in Kimball. The night consists of an hour or two of making small talk and getting to know one another. Conversation usually revolves around questions like “what grade are you in? or “what is your major?” Usually I find myself wondering if I made the right decision to go away to a place that I have never been before with fellow Holy Cross students who I have never met before. However, after my first day of the service trip, I always know that I made the right decision. This year, I went to Wheeling with twelve strangers and I returned to Holy Cross with twelve new friends. I look forward to seeing my Appa friends around campus in between classes or meeting up at Cool Beans to chat about life.

I am thankful to the Spring Break Immersion program for opening my eyes to the injustices that people in the United States face. I know that the three weeks that I have spent in Appalachia throughout my time at Holy Cross have meant much more to me, than to those that I have served. However, I hope to take these experiences back with me to Holy Cross and wherever my life journey takes me.


Do you have questions about the wait list? Maybe this will help:

Spring Campus Scenic 2016. Photo by Tom Rettig

Spring is here! Last Saturday our office released admissions decisions online, and recently mailed out our notifications. We are so proud of our applications from all over the world!  We had more qualified candidates than we had room to offer, and many great students were given a spot on the wait list.  For the last few weeks our office has received phone calls and emails from prospective students who wanted to know more about how the wait list works, so please see below for some more information:

1. The first thing that students should do is log into their Holy Cross account (please go here to do so) and accept their spot on the waitlist.  This will change their status in our system and let us know that they are still interested.

2. Students should consider sending us (via email) an update as to what they have been doing since they submitted their application back in January.  Did you change your classes? Have you earned some improved grades? Did you start a new activity or job? We would love to hear what’s new!

3. To keep their options open, waitlisted students should send their deposit to another institution by May 1.

4. After the national enrollment deadline of May 1, we will know what our numbers are in terms of admitted students accepting our offer of acceptance. If it is determined that spaces are available, students on the wait list will be reevaluated by the Admissions Committee. The overall academic and personal record will be considered, as will the level of interest the student has expressed in attending Holy Cross. 

I hope that this information helps students and their families better understand our process.  Please do keep in touch with us via phone (508-793-2443), email (admissio@holycross.edu), Facebook, and Twitter; we would love to hear from you!

Committee Reflections

In anticipation of decisions being released tomorrow, here are some reflections from new counselors in our office on our committee selection process.


written by Nicole Howell

As a new hire in the Admissions Office, I had heard a lot about committee since my first day on campus. From my coworkers’ descriptions, it felt like a mix of final exams and Christmas – daunting, tiring, but exciting. I was told that for a month and a half, we hunker down in a dimly lit room and comb through every single application until we’re left with Holy Cross’s next incoming class. Up until the beginning of February, one piece of insight into the process was consistent: “You just have to wait and see it.”

Much like Christmas, food was abundant in committee. To keep our minds fueled and focused we had Potluck Mondays, specials treats and desserts on Wednesdays, and a hearty stockade of fruit snacks and granola bars for all the days in between. Each day was different. Some days we went through upwards of 300 applications, while other days we decisioned just over 100. Each decision was made with thought and care, and throughout this process I watched as my coworkers advocated for students they had met, and shared the insights they gained as they read their applications. Very quickly I realized the value in having 11 individuals with different perspectives and experiences collaborate on such important decisions.

Committee is a singularly unique experience for college admissions. Like many of the students and families I’ve met over the last 8 months, I was both pleasantly surprised and a little skeptical when I learned about committee for the first time. For an office of only 11 staff members and thousands of applications, it seemed impossible that every application would be carefully reviewed and considered separately from the thousands of other applications in the pool, but it also seemed like the right way to honor and recognize all of the time and hard work that students put into their applications. As I find myself now finally at the end of my first committee, I’m happy to report that my pleasant surprise was justified, and skepticism misplaced. Yes, every part of your application is read: every letter, essay, and supplement. And yes, we really do look at each student individually, and we’re happy to do it. I’m proud to work at an institution that puts as much time and care into hand-picking our students as our students spend researching and choosing us, and applicants can rest easy knowing their hard work throughout high school and in their applications are getting their due consideration.


written by Brenna Kelly

Back when Kevin Federline was still married to Britney Spears and Razor cell phones were all the rage I began applying to colleges. Like many of you, I wondered what the right equation was to get admitted into college. What were these Admission Counselors looking for and are they really reading every last word in my description of extra-curricular activities? As an Admission Counselor now I have realized my hours of exasperating myself and the eyes of my mother over my Common Application were well worth it. At the College of the Holy Cross I have been able to sit in and participate on an admissions committee process that is caring, detailed and thorough.

There are a few words in my mind that are overused in the admission world and those are community and holistic. So I thought as I embarked on my position at Holy Cross I would find different words to describe the higher education institution and most importantly the admission process. Yet I found these words to ring more true than ever as I sat in with ten of my fellow co-workers in the dimly lite Admissions Office. Let me set the scene for you all here. Our room was dark due to our two projectors that stood tall and large in the front of the room. These projectors displayed each student that applied to Holy Cross and not only did it contain their application but reviews from two of our staff members who have already read these files as well. Underneath the projectors we had an enormous amount of snacks to keep us fueled. As we reviewed students who possibly may endure “The Freshman 15” in the Fall I had begun my journey on “The Committee 15”. It will take a while before I look at a pack of trail mix the same. But all jokes aside this room is where we made caring and thoughtful decisions about each applicant from our own city of Worcester to across the world in China.

As a staff, we thoroughly go through each application with more emotion and thought than a prospective student would guess. Just like any student who has sat through a college information session, they are aware of how important grades, curriculum rigor, activities outside the classroom and more are when compiling the “perfect” college application. While this application process during high school may seem daunting, sitting in my first cycle of committee has assured me none of this hard work goes unnoticed. From reading essays more than once to really getting to know a student through an application, this process has been eye-opening and validating. Building a new community for each incoming class may take many weeks and Twizzlers but it’s a process I’m proud and excited to be a part of.