Admission: Not Impossible

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.

photo by Thomas Rettig

photo by Thomas Rettig

I initially liked Holy Cross because it is a small, liberal arts college and I thought I could best succeed here, so I applied Early Decision. I have found Holy Cross able to provide me with many opportunities to explore my passion for learning.






Throughout my studies, I have become very interested in Human Rights and Ethics. I found these subjects to be at the intersection of Political Science and Religious Studies, so I decided to major in both. Then I found that a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies would compliment these two majors nicely. The academics are rigorous but I have found that my double major allows me to apply my academics to both my extracurricular activities at Holy Cross as well to my experiences in the real world.

During my time at Holy Cross, I really have become a part of not only the Holy Cross community, but also the Worcester community that exists beyond the campus gates. During my first year, I joined SPUD-Student Programs for Urban Development. Through this organization, students can serve the Worcester Community through volunteering at a variety of sites such as those that provide tutoring, after-school programs or elderly care. I essentially worked my way up the “SPUD Ladder” to now be 1 of 8 interns in charge of over 600 SPUD volunteers. We have about 50 SPUD sites and I coordinate about 6 Program directors who are in charge of particular after-school sites around Worcester.

In addition to helping people in the Worcester community, I am also able to be a voice for students through my position on the Student Government Executive Cabinet. What I really love about the SGA, is how the organization exemplifies the camaraderie that exists amongst students at Holy Cross. For example, I am the Director of Health and Safety, but, really, I am on hand to help any of the other 20 Cabinet members when they need help with their own programming. Also, SGA fosters strong relationships among professors and administrators so they can know more about students and we can know more about them.

written by Mackenzie Horl ’17

written by Declan Foley ’15

“Come into my office, I have something for you!” Nancy beamed, as she eased herself into her padded chair slowly but surely, anticipating her chronic leg pain – an artifact of 83 years of robust life experience.  As she moved from the kitchen to her private office, I could see Nancy knowingly smirk the entire way, thinking about her upcoming surprise.  “It’s the one I told you about last week,” she hinted, finally handing over a sealed envelope.  As if the situation did not already possess enough mystery, she playfully asserted not only that I must keep the contents a secret, but that only four copies of them were in existence.  My mind jumped from one idea to the next, searching for context clues that might hint at what was inside.  Perplexed yet full of curious intrigue, I slowly opened the envelope and pulled out a small photograph of Nancy in the recognizable kitchen we spent many Sunday nights in, the back inscribed with the month, year, and a personalized “Love, Nancy.”

Nancy is the director of the Salvation Army Meals Soup Kitchen SPUD site.  More than just a service figurehead, she is the woman who has not missed providing a single Sunday dinner at the Soup Kitchen in the past 25 years.  Well-respected by all and resolute with the disrespectful minority, she is the woman who finds a way to feed the members of the Worcester community that need it most.  She is the woman who served as a reference of mine for a volunteer opportunity, and aptly wrote “best friend” next to “role to applicant.”  Most importantly, it was Nancy that helped me realize that the relationship between intellectual pursuits and social justice is not dichotomous but complimentary.  

This significant duality pervades Jesuit institutions of higher learning; Holy Cross is no exception.  It was Nancy and my growing role in SPUD over my sophomore, junior, and senior years where I found the most inspiration for understanding the goals of Jesuit higher education, incorporating them into my personal set of values that I uphold today.  

When I joined SPUD as a sophomore volunteer, I performed acts of social charity: I set tables, prepared and served the food, and cleaned up after members of the Worcester community finished eating.  As my comfort level rose, I began to have small conversations with those who attended the dinners on Sunday who appreciated Holy Cross’ presence.  Though I appreciated their interest and still value these conversations today, their statements provoked feelings of dissonance; frustrated, I wondered what was the larger, institutional and structural reason for my presence at the site, and why did it exist?  Why did the same folks come and have the same conversations with me week after week, year after year?  What had I done to alleviate the social stratification that exists in the Worcester community that I was a part of?  

I was fortunate SPUD did not occur in a vacuum; as the years progressed on campus, I bore witness to the internal and external pressures students carry with them throughout the day, humbly striving to be their best self and doing so with a quiet confidence – a trait I firmly believe makes the Holy Cross student unique.  This culture of humble achievement persisted through all four years, but another fold was added with senior year, when I observed an increasingly intense focus on establishing a successful career upon graduation among my peers, and I began to question how I should define success.  

It was at a SPUD Intern meeting where Marty Kelly, chaplain at Holy Cross and staff leader of SPUD, had us reflect on Fr. Michael Himes’ “Three Key Questions” – “What brings me joy?” “What am I good at?” and “What does the world need me to be?” – which held particular significance for an intern team largely comprised of seniors.  It was at this moment, informed by the confluence of all things SPUD, when I realized that the real measure of a successful Jesuit education lies not in individual success but in how the individual uses their personal strengths to better others.  It was that night in Campion where I realized that I need to use my strengths in a vocation that affords the opportunity to be in solidarity with others.

My involvement in SPUD, under the guidance of Nancy, helped me realize that being in solidarity with others is what gives me joy, that my strength lies in others, and that my best way to serve this world is to uplift those around me as best I can.  The experience helped me realize that with each opportunity I have to interact with members of my communities, I am confirming the development of a moral responsibility.  It is this solidarity with others that paves my future as a “man for others.”  Importantly, I am simply the lucky one of truly countless Holy Cross students who could write about such profound experience if prompted – the reach of SPUD is remarkably profound.  SPUD is a defining volunteer activity for more than six-hundred Holy Cross students across forty different sites, every single year.  

I strongly implore those reading this to volunteer and meet your own Nancy, to have those conversations that bring you closer to others and complicate your perspective.  You will not regret it, and in this process of discernment you will find out what brings you joy, where your strengths lie, and how you can incorporate these joys and strengths into a life defined by personal fulfillment and service to others.

photo by Dan Vaillancourt

photo by Dan Vaillancourt

As the fall shifts to winter, our office receives more and more application items: transcripts from high schools near and far, resumes and links to students’ YouTube videos, and to me the most heart-warming, lots and lots of letters of support. Working in admissions, counselors often get phone calls and emails from parents asking about the admission process, facts and figures on the College, safety on campus and in Worcester, career services, and residence life. One of my colleagues, in fact, wrote a post about the role of parents back in 2013.



For me, reading letters of recommendation from excited parents is really one of the highlights of my job (along with receiving notes from enthusiastic students, reading thoughtful and thought-provoking application essays, seeing the familiar faces of prospective students at events, discussing admission decisions with my colleagues, enjoying fantastic on-campus programs, savoring delicious food on campus…I could continue!).

As hard as we work in the Admissions Office to recruit students, and as hard as applicants work to finish the Common App, I would also like to recognize the support of families in this process. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins can all play a role in a students’ college application process. Family members take prospective students to campuses for seemingly countless tours, information sessions, interviews, and Open Houses. They save the glossy college brochures and place them on the refrigerator next to old art masterpieces, recipe ideas, and cut-out news articles. They look over numerous drafts of personal statements and help their students decide which teacher to ask for their recommendation letter. They reach out to anyone in their own community who may have attended the student’s college of interest or know someone who did. The parents and other family members of students are their cheerleaders, their counsel, and their source of strength. Getting the opportunity to see such incredible examples of that kind of support in my work here at Holy Cross is a wonderful reminder of how important family is.

So I want to say thank you. Thank you to the families for bolstering your students throughout this process. Thank you for supporting them, for driving them (and arranging for planes and trains if necessary), for reading over their work a hundredth time, for reminding them that their off-campus interview is at 6pm, for bouncing off essay topics in the car, and for guiding them through a process that may at times feel overwhelming, complex, and nerve-wracking. We are so excited about the students who apply and enroll here, and we know it is in large part to your help!

sujiWe are proud to announce that our Student of the Month is Suji Yi! This month’s superstar hails from Leominster, MA and is a Chinese and Economics double major. We deeply value her dedication to the Office of Admissions and have included some words of appreciation from various staff members below:

One of our receptionists said, “She is very helpful and extremely knowledgeable about admissions and great with the visitors. She is willing to jump in and help where ever needed. She is always upbeat and cheerful…a true gem and a ray of sunshine.”

Another staff member wrote, “Suji helped me on a very busy Saturday pulling double duty as a Senior Interviewer and Tour Guide Coordinator. She helped with all the tour guides, plus she helped me at the front desk greeting and checking guests for their interviews. What a trouper! Suji is always willing to help out with whatever we ask her to do every week.”

A counselor told us, “The amount of time and energy Suji has devoted to this office is astounding. She volunteers four hours a week as a senior interviewer and another four hours a week as an admissions intern. She helps coordinate the tour guide coverage for group visits to campus and is the first to ask what else she can do to help. She is incredibly active on campus in other organizations, and yet, she is always ready and willing to help out in our office. Suji is an incredible representative of Admissions and the College. We are so grateful for having Suji in our office and don’t know what we would do without her!”

Another counselor wrote, “she spoke on panels for both Open Houses, has covered shifts for other Senior Interviewers, and continues to be a powerful component of our senior interviewing program.”

Still another counselor said, “Even being new to the staff here, Suji’s pivotal role in the admissions office is easy to see. From being the first to volunteer for events, to serving as Laura’s biggest helper and more, Suji embodies the engaged and academically motivated student we all articulate when describing the HC community to students on the road. Go, Suji! We would be lost without you!”

photo by Thomas Rettig

photo by Thomas Rettig

Today is November 15th, which is a month before our Early Decision deadline. As my colleagues and I turn our focus to the review of applications and begin our reading season, I thought it prudent to re-post a great piece from one of our students (and one of our Senior Interviewers!) about her admissions experience.  Enjoy!




When I became a high school senior, I knew Holy Cross was the college that I wanted to attend. Because I was so sure, I applied Early Decision to Holy Cross. Early Decision seemed very attractive to me; if accepted, I would know where I was going by the end of that fall. ED is, however, a huge commitment. If you know Holy Cross is the school for you, then go for it! That being said, do not feel obligated to apply ED, as it is a decision for which one has to be ready. It was the right decision for me, but it is not the right decision for all.

About a month after I had submitted my application, I was deep into an American Government paper when I heard my phone ring. The caller introduced herself as a Holy Cross Admissions counselor, and I immediately worried that I had forgotten something on my application. Before I had the chance to react, the Admissions counselor told me I had been accepted to the Class of 2017! My initial confusion switched to happiness, delight, and pride. I excitedly thanked the woman on the phone a million times, and then called my family and friends to share the great news. It is a moment I will never forget.

Despite my elation, it is important to recognize how applying Early Decision impacted the rest of my senior year. Although I enrolled in Holy Cross in late December, and I felt relieved of a tremendous amount of stress regarding my college choice, I did not let this affect my academics. If anything, it inspired me to continue to prove that I belonged at Holy Cross. With that, I worked to finish my senior year on a high note. If you are accepted ED, please do not let “senioritis,” “the senior slump,” or whatever you may call the lack of focus during senior year of high school get to you!

On the back of the Sader Nation T-shirts for the Class of 2018 reads the following quote, “From this point on, there is no turning back, no copping-out.” Spoken during the 1970 Commencement by Father Swords, the President of the College, these words symbolize the commitment I made to Holy Cross and my personal growth when I chose to enroll here. Never do I regret my decision to come to Holy Cross, and I believe that if you make the same commitment I did, neither will you.

(initially posted by Meghan Body ’17 on Friday, November 21st, 2014)

To my fellow colleagues, who tirelessly spent hours sending emails, reserving spaces, organizing volunteers, and stuffing folders;

To students, who cheerfully gave tours, spoke on panels, greeted guests, and hosted prospective students;

To our faculty and staff, who willingly came to campus on a chilly Sunday morning to answer questions and share information about the College;

To the members of the Physical Plant and Campus Dining, who made sure that Mt. St. James looked its very best and that we all got something good to eat;

To those who visited us and took the time out of their busy schedules to learn more about the Holy Cross community;

I offer a sincere and grateful thank you.




Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College, chatting with Holy Cross families. Photo by Shannon Power Photography

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College, chatting with Holy Cross families. Photo by Shannon Power Photography

Happy November! The fall seems to be flying by us in the Office of Admissions: staff are returning from their travels, gearing up for our second Open House, and preparing for the next part of the admissions cycle: reading season.

The fall semester seems to be flying by for students on campus as well! Although it was last month, we asked a student to tell us more about her experience at Family Weekend, and Maddy Smith was happy to help us! Here is her story: 





Family Weekend always seems to come at the perfect time each year.  Your pantry seems to be running low, you realize that you have forgotten all of your winter sweaters, and you mostly just want a hug from your mom.  Have no fear, Family Weekend is finally here!  Although I am a spring athlete at Holy Cross, my fall season still has many weekend tournaments at various colleges.  This year, Family Weekend coincided with a lacrosse-filled weekend…but thankfully, my parents were still able to be involved!  We spent Saturday and Sunday morning at Hamden Hall playing Quinnipiac and Dartmouth College (playing three different teams!).  During a brisk fall game, it’s the best to come off the sidelines and get wrapped in blankets by your parents’ arms!  Although, I wasn’t able to spend time with my family on campus this weekend, it was great to spend time with them at my games.

Luckily, in traditional Holy Cross fashion, there were plenty of families around on campus! After our game on Saturday, we came back to Mt. St. James in the afternoon, where we found families enjoying various tailgates and the football game.  Although my parents couldn’t make it back to campus to enjoy these activities, I was welcomed into tailgates and given great post-game treats!  As the afternoon continued and the temperature started to fall, students returned back to their houses and residence halls.  Many students went out to the great restaurants of Worcester with their families.  I joined two friends and their families for dinner at Volturno, one of the pizza restaurants in town!  So, even if your own family isn’t able to make it to Family Weekend, you’re sure to find many families that are more than happy to let you join in the fun! 


Crusader fans hanging out before the game! Photo by Shannon Power Photography

Crusader fans hanging out before the game! Photo by Shannon Power Photography                        

More folks enjoying Family Weekend! Photo by Shannah Power Photography.

More folks enjoying Family Weekend! Photo by Shannah Power Photography.













Happy Friday, everyone! This week’s blog post is brought to you by current senior Mackenzie Horl. Take it away, Mackenzie!

After a week of paper deadlines and midterm exams, fall break always seems to arrive at the perfect time. Some first-year students stay on campus to participate in the Worcester Immersion or for athletics and various other extracurricular activities. The remaining students visit friends who attend other colleges or go home for a few home-cooked meals.

I spent the weekend of my break in Providence celebrating my 21st birthday with friends. After the weekend, I took an Amtrak train home to Long Island, New York. I was greeted warmly by my parents, siblings, and our two boxers: Laila and Scout. A few days later my mom, older sister, and I jetted off to Nashville, Tennessee! As big country music fans, we were excited to explore a new city and learn about its history. I ate many meals of “chicken-fried chicken” with creamy sides of mac & cheese or mashed potatoes. I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the Grand Ole Opry. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do something I love, visiting a new city, with the people that I love! 

Being back at school is now bittersweet. I have reunited with friends and shared stories of our respective breaks. By now, Holy Cross Crusaders have fallen back into our daily routines and dived into academics at Holy Cross. Fall Break is much-needed and much-deserved by students on the Hill. Now we are refreshed and re-energized to jump back into this semester!

To gain some insight into the student-athlete experience at Holy Cross, we asked a current student for her perspective. Without further ado, here is Madison Smith ’17:

Locker room egg hunt last spring! Photo provided by Madison Smith.

Locker room egg hunt last spring! Photo provided by Madison Smith.

If you’ve been to Holy Cross recently, you can tell that it’s a great time to be an athlete on the Hill!  All you have to do is look up by the Hart Athletic Complex– you will see construction workers, cranes, and the beautiful new facilities being built.  While the 2016-2017 school year will be my fourth and final year as a student athlete here, I am excited for all those who will go through the life-changing experience that is being a college athlete at Holy Cross! I’d like to take the time to reflect on my own experience on the Women’s Lacrosse team and why being on this team has been such a positive and strong experience for me.

When people ask me my favorite part about being on the lacrosse team, the answer is simple: my 32 best friends, a.k.a. my teammates! There’s nothing better than knowing you have friends all around campus–in different grades, in different majors, involved in a variety of activities–who all want the best for you. I love knowing that when I walk into Dinand Library, Kimball Dining Hall, or the Hogan campus center, I will likely see one of my closest friends.

Next, obviously is the love of the sport.  If you are considering playing a college sport–at any school–please be sure that at the end of the day you love what you are doing.  Trust me, you’ll be doing it a lot and it won’t always be easy.  Thankfully for me I started playing lacrosse in third grade, and have always loved it since!  I’m a defender and for me there is no greater feeling than stopping my opponents or getting the ball to your teammate to help your team score.  Some days are hard, but I try to take a greater effort to reflect on how lucky I am to simply play the sport I love every single day.

Finally, being a student athlete in general at Holy Cross is an experience like no other.  Here on the hill about 20% of students own a big black.  For those of you who haven’t experienced a Worcester winter yet, big blacks are the HUGE jackets student athletes are given to survive the winters of the Woo. 1 of out 5 students on this campus is a student-athlete and is sharing in the same experiences that you are.  You make friends in class or through other campus clubs, and you see each other in the weight room or on the field. Every team at Holy Cross is connected and supportive–which you can see when sidelines are filled with students showing their support.

Overall, being a student-athlete at Holy Cross is bound to be one of the most rewarding and powerful experiences of your lifetime. You’ll instantly be connected to your teammates, your classmates, and all of the students who have come before you. I can tell you it will take a lot of work to play on the hill, but I also know that it’s worth it.

Women's Lacrosse outdoor activity: lifting each other up over an 18ft. wall! Photo provided by Madison Smith.

Women’s Lacrosse outdoor activity: lifting each other up over an 18ft. wall! Photo provided by Madison Smith.

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