Some Supplement Advice

What does yLynnVerrecchia.BLOG2our stomach do when I mention the words “college essay?” Tie up in panicky knots? Flip over in anticipation? Growl with excitement? However you feel about writing your essay, the time has come to get serious about it.

We care about essays for two reasons: we want students who can write, and we want students who have something to say. Most of us who read applications consider the essay to be the dessert that comes after a steady diet of grades, scores, and other facts and figures.

In addition to the Common Application essay, Holy Cross has a required short (250-word max) response question. Hey, we like dessert! The short answer question is “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” We hope you’ll use your 250 words to share a piece of advice that has resonated with you and explain why. Maybe we’ll even take your advice!

Why should you get to have all the fun? I asked some of my colleagues to share the bits of advice that they would like to write about. Here are some highlights:
“It’s not all about you.”
“Make your own luck.”
“You have to be a friend to have a friend.”
“Listen first.”
“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
“Trust your instincts.”
My advice to you? Start writing!


May the Fat Lady sing

I love opera.

There. I said it.

I. Love. Opera.

I love the pageantry. I love the exaggerated emotions. I love how ambitious the productions are.

Loving opera does not make me cool nor garner me much attention (other than the quizzical looks from friends and family). But I do love watching it, listening to it, reading about it and talking about it. If I were applying to college today, I just might write my essay about my reaction to Figaro’s swagger or the sparkle in Carmen’s eye or how I feel hearing Violetta’s pained plea, “Amami, Alfredo, amami quant’io t’amo!” (Love me, Alfredo, love me as I love you!)

But when composing their essays, most students choose to write about topics that they think admissions counselors want them to write about; truth is, we hope for great essays and typically the best essays are on topics that the student loved writing about – for me, it just might be opera.

There are no right or wrong topics to choose for your essay – there are only the topics you want to write about and the topics you think you should write about.

So when the moment comes to choose a topic, seize the moment – choose a topic you want to write about, tell your story, sing your song and you might just have us yelling, “Encore!”

Andrew Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Back-to-school shopping list

I had the bright idea of going to Target this weekend. Roughly three minutes in to my Sunday errand, I realized that it was — for most — the last weekend before school came back in session. This meant only one thing:

Back-to-school shopping.

I’ll admit, between a mile-long walk from my parking space and lines that put any Disney coaster to shame, I got a little nostalgic. The rush for new binders, the “no Trapper Keepers” warning from teachers….I fondly remembered those waning days of summer spent in a Target loading up on school supplies to ring in a new year.

Now, on this side of the desk, my job has far less to do with No. 2 pencils than it does reminding seniors that there is still plenty to do in their autumn. Given that, here are important things to add to your college process list:

1) Start your applications. Yesterday. While even the earliest of deadlines loom two months away, you will thank yourself for starting — and hopefully finishing — your applications before Halloween. There’s a new Common App to figure out, many essay prompts and short answer requirements to write, and resumes to fill. Each one takes longer than you think, and all pieces should be submitted with care. Save yourself the stress and cross this off before November.

2) Don’t be a stranger. Many schools, including Holy Cross, pay attention to demonstrated interest. So, look into visiting opportunities that transcend the normal campus tour. Campus-wide Open House dates. Our visits to your high schools. The all-important interview (hint, hint). We like that you’ve seen the campus. Now, stay in touch by doing those added extras that can really help come decision time.

2a) If up to this point you ARE a stranger: introduce yourself! Actually stepping foot on campus not only bolsters your demonstrated interest folder but also allows you to get a true feel for the campus. You will never know which schools you like or dislike until you see the grounds and the facilities and students up close.

3) Keep your foot on the accelerator. There’s a lot happening senior year. Your schedule is likely the toughest it’s ever been. You’ve risen to leadership opportunities in your extracurriculars. You have to worry about college apps and standardized tests. Oh, right, and you’re trying to enjoy your final year of high school. It’s a heck of a juggling act! That being said, your first marking period grades — and often your performance through your midterms — is a vital component to the admissions process. We want to see that you’re continuing to challenge yourself, but we also want to see that you’re rising to that challenge. Don’t let senioritis sink your ship.

4) Befriend your guidance counselor. S/he should be helping you make your list, keep you informed of important dates, proofread your essays, and remind you to breathe a little. The better you know your guidance counselor, the more you know about your entire college process.

5) Try to enjoy these four months! Like I said, it is a lot to handle. But the searching and writing and visiting should all be at least a little fun, right? After all, you are trying to decide which place to call your home for four years. It’s a daunting task, but it should be an enjoyable one, too. We think this video helps.

If you have this entire list checked off by the time our calendar turns to 2014, you can bet that you will be resting easy, and that I’m going to enjoy reading your application.

Zach Wielgus
Assistant Director of Admissions

A Role for Parents in the Process

Everyone in the college admissions world has heard the tales of the overbearing parent.  One person may report the story of the mother who, following her son’s admissions interview, imitated his sloppy handwriting in a thank you note that she herself penned; another within earshot will quickly jump in, trumping that tale with the story of the father who actually placed a phone call to an admissions officer and imitated his son’s voice on the phone in order to demonstrate interest.

These tales, whether true or not, are swapped and traded like baseball cards.

What I don’t hear much of is the story of the reticent teenager, the late-blooming high school student who needed a nudge, a pep-talk, a push or even an outright shove to finally engage in the college search and application process.  Some sailors actually need a Captain Bligh to motivate and instill discipline so that they may eventually reach their desired destination and some applicants need their parents to kick-start their campaign, to encourage their participation in a way that may not always be pleasing to their teenage sensibility.

As long as that nudge creates momentum and not imbalance, as long as that “motivation” is filled with love, as long as the parent’s guiding hand doesn’t overreach, then there most certainly is a role (perhaps even a big role) for parents in this process.  But, take that role too far, or occupy it for too long and parents may learn Captain Bligh’s lesson, that mutinies don’t just happen on board the Bounty.

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

Parent Recommendations: My Love of These Ooey, Gooey, Mushy Messages

I really like that our office invites the parents of applicants to join in the application process and to start a dialogue with HC Admissions about their son/daughter.

(To any of you parents reading this right now: No, you/your son/your daughter do not get “extra points” for this exercise and you don’t “lose points” either.  You simply take away some piece of mind—at least you should.)

In some of these letters that we receive, I can literally see the parents appreciating their son/daughter more and more as the letter unfolds. 

These parent letters make me think: It is not often in life that we are asked to put life on hold, reflect for a moment, and form into words all of the specific things that make a special someone in our lives so special.  The exercise allows you to rediscover all of those hidden gems about that person who has been living under your roof for the past 17 years.   

Parents, it may be too late to submit a letter of recommendation on behalf of your child, but it is never too late to take a moment to tell them how proud you are of the person they have become.

Dan Weagle ‘08
Admissions  Counselor

College Essay Tips

As you are putting the finishing touches on your college essay, let me give you some tips to proofread by:

  1. Don’t make the mistake of taking a backseat in your own essay. Your transcript is about you, your recommendations are about you, your interview is about you, and, thus, your College Essay should be about you. If you want to write about someone important who was a positive influence in your life, you should let your reader know how you were influenced – how your life changed.  The focus of your essay should NOT be about all the great things your Grammy did and how you hope to be like her some day.  Too much focus on Grammy will make us Admissions Counselors want to admit your Grammy and we will completely forget about you!
  2. Proofread, proofread, profreed (whoops, *proofread* – see it’s important). Proofread is not the same as Spellcheck.  Ask solid writers who are familiar with your voice and your style to read your essay in order to correct grammatical errors, offer advice, and make suggestions.  These proofreaders should be mom, dad, a mentor, that great English teacher you had last year, your best friend, etc.  All of these people know you. They know your style, your voice, your humor.  They know what you are trying to say and they want to help you say it in a concise and efficient manner.
  3. Punctuation goes INSIDE of quotations. “Don’t put punctuation outside of quotations,” cried the pained Admissions Counselor, “because I don’t enjoy reading it.”  Follow that example and you’ll be golden in most American English scenarios (if you speak/write British English, then disregard, good neighbour).

This is not a complete list of tips.  See your local MLA manual, English teacher, and Guidance Counselor for a full list of do’s and do-not’s for the college essay.


Dan Weagle ‘08

Admissions Counselor

Contagious Symptoms!

Before you run for the hills or close out of this web browser, I should let you know that what I’ve got, you want.  I have a bad case of the College Interview Bug (or CIB for short).  Symptoms of CIB include:

1.        An irresistible urge to discover any or all colleges/universities in which you are interested which offer an Admissions Interview. You will stay up late at night to search these colleges’ websites.  You will call up Admissions Offices during your lunch break at your summer job to inquire about the details of the interview.  You won’t be able to help yourself until you have nailed down each college and university; it will just feel right.  CIB will take control of your motor functions and bring you on tours, plop you down in information sessions, and brag about your accomplishments during interviews.  It will have your body running on auto-pilot.

2.       An insatiable desire to speak with Admissions representatives like myself. You will sign up for those interview slots and count the seconds until you are able to present yourself in all your glory to the Admissions office at X University and/or Y College.  You cannot fathom waiting any longer to converse with these representatives because you need to tell them how your summer is going and how excited you are for a busy Senior year.

3.       A lingering thirst for continued interaction with representatives even after the interview. You will insist on keeping those representatives at your top college/university choices informed on your activities throughout Senior year.  Yes, Senior year will be busy, but you will toss and turn in bed at night until you shoot off a quick email once every month to touch base with those Admissions representatives.

The thought of catching CIB might sound unappealing upon reading this blog, but CIB is a pandemic.  It seems that current Juniors (soon to be Seniors) are most susceptible to CIB.   Like Hay-Fever, CIB appears mostly in the summer and it is communicable by word of mouth.  Don’t be afraid to pass it on to others as CIB forms a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with each host.  Like I said from the get-go, you want what I’ve got.

Dan Weagle ’08
Admissions  Counselor

The Final Push

As I walked from the parking lot to my office this morning, I noticed a particular stillness to the campus.  So much so that I had a brief moment of panic that I had mistakenly come to work on Saturday.  I quickly remembered that for our students, today marks the first study day before exams.  They wrapped up classes yesterday and spent last night celebrating at our annual spring concert.  The stillness explained.  Rest.  A much deserved, albeit brief rest.  Soon enough, our students will crawl out of bed, balk at the clock (can I still make it to lunch before Kimball closes?) and make their way to their favorite study spot on or off campus.  They have worked so hard all year, and they’re not going to stop now.  We hope you won’t either!

Lynn Verrecchia
Associate Director of Admissions

Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or so they say. With the busy holiday season quickly approaching, we all have a lot on our minds – what present to buy Dad, what to wear to that holiday party next weekend, where to spend New Year’s Eve…w and the list goes on. While most of us are stressing about these menial details, all of you high school seniors are most likely stressing about the ever-looming college application deadlines. I won’t preach to you about the importance of meeting said deadlines, but instead offer a friendly reminder of our upcoming deadlines:

December 15th – Deadline for EARLY DECISION applications

December 29th – Deadline for ON-CAMPUS INTERVIEWS (Regular Decision applicants)

January 15th – Deadline for REGULAR DECISION applications

February 1st – Deadline for FINANCIAL AID applications

Hopefully these deadlines will allow you to plan ahead and enjoy this busy time of the year. Have a wonderful holiday season everyone!

Lauren D. Thornton

Assistant Director of Admissions