The Reading Season Routine

Nancy NelsenAs I sat down to read applications recently, I suddenly had a flashback to my days in college and graduate school. There was something oddly familiar about the set-up at my desk. I was surrounded by the same must-have items that I needed to write a long paper, including a huge cup of coffee, a bottle of water, a pillow behind my back for comfort, a mellow mix of tunes playing on my iPod, and most importantly, atomic fire ball hard candy. Whether I’m gearing up to write a 20-page paper or reviewing admissions applications, having the aforementioned items seem essential to me when tackling a project of this magnitude.


Though I’m no longer a student, the task of reading such a large volume of applications is reminiscent of the feelings I had when faced with a big paper in school. I love the challenge, and I love the adrenaline rush.

Perhaps what I love most about reading applications is having the opportunity to learn about so many fascinating and talented students. After reviewing transcripts and doing calculations, I get to sit back and read hundreds of thought-provoking essays. Students’ college applications give me a glimpse into their world. I’m constantly learning about different cultures and experiences, as well as personal challenges and triumphs.

While I’m moved by stories about life-altering events, I’m equally impressed with lighthearted essays. My excitement surrounding an essay isn’t always related to the student’s choice of topic. Rather, I find it stimulating to read a piece where the author really lets his or her personality shine through the essay.

Reflecting on the last few weeks of reading files,  I can assure you  there  have definitely been some long days, but thankfully, since I stuck with  my college routine, I didn’t  have to pull any all-nighters!


Nancy Nelsen

Assistant Director for Multicultural Recruitment

Application Deadline Extended

AnnMcDermott.BLOG2This year, we asked our applicants to respond to the question, “What is the best advice you’ve ever received?”

Many students have chosen to reflect on the importance of compassion and kindness. Others have sung the praises of hard work and determination. We have been inspired by the advice that has been relayed to us, and would like to put it to good use.

Given the unusual circumstances and challenges many of our prospective students have faced with the Common Application this year, we are extending our application deadline to January 26th.


We hope that you will appreciate this kindness, and complete your application with determination. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Ann McDermott

Director of Admissions

Meditations in an (Application) Emergency

Zachary WielgusI’m a planner. I plan things. Checklists litter my desks — e-mail these people, check in with these applicants, don’t forget to pick up stamps and dry cleaning, post blog. It’s how I stay efficient.

What often transpires, as so many of my list-making peers agree, is that I cannot turn off my planning nature. There are always three more things to do, a new idea to write down, which is why in addition to my written daily checklists one could find four notes in my iPhone with a smattering of to-do’s and what-if’s. (I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is….and it’s also why I have a password on my phone.)

A little frustrated that I could not put my mind on “vacation mode” during the days around Christmas, my younger sister felt I needed to hear my 2014 horoscope. It began with a suggestion to take more time to slow down and look inside myself, offering up the idea of meditation; oddly enough, I had recently read an Esquire article on the Headspace app — essentially meditation for beginners. Always impressed by random coincidences, I decided to give it a try. So, for the past five nights, I’ve crawled into bed and booted up Headspace, allowing myself 10 minutes of meditative relaxation.

It’s been incredible!

As someone whose mind is never fully powered down, I remained skeptical about my chances of fully embracing the goal of meditation: a tranquil, free mind. Instead, the day’s stream of tasks slowed down and the lists drifted away. They will still be there tomorrow, after all.Extra-Headspace-logo-001

With a week until our Regular Decision application deadline, I implore both students and parents alike to create some head space. The anxious tone of recent phone calls and e-mails has me wishing I could stand in front of each and every one of you to look you in the eye, ask you to take a deep breath, and remind you that it will all work out. And with this calmness comes a clear mind and keen eye, eliminating the chance for sloppy mistakes or rushed writing. Yes, every piece of the application is vitally important; however, if your mind is frantic from the stress of attaining perfection by a deadline, you can easily lose your footing as you try to put your best foot forward.

Take a walk in the brisk winter air. Eat dinner with your family and talk about something other than college applications. See a movie with your friends. Read a book for fun. Before you know it, the chaos inside your brain will settle, the stress will float away, and the final days before a deadline will feel much more manageable.

Five Reasons to Apply

Madison 2There’s less than two weeks before our application deadline, so I decided to give you a little motivation as you consider why Holy Cross is worth one more push of the submit button. As an alumna of the Class of 2012, I’d like to think these mean something … but in case you remain unconvinced, we are posting one reason per day @HCAdmission with #whyHC. Feel free to tweet at us with your own!


Top 5 reasons why I, Madison Hebert, believe you should apply to Holy Cross.


1. “The Undecided Movement” – Don’t know what you want to major in? No problem. Holy Cross understands that declaring a major is a stressful and important decision. In order to combat that, all of our freshmen come in undecided and are encouraged to explore their interests and pursue their passions. Some students will declare as early as the spring of their freshman year, while others will wait until the end of their sophomore year.


2. Alumni Network – Do you want to be approached by extremely proud alumni every time you have on school paraphernalia outside the gates? Do you wish for extended family that spans the world? Do you enjoy swerving across the highway to get a glimpse of every car sporting a HC sticker (not recommended)? Well if you answered yes, you are applying to the right place. The Holy Cross alumni network is an expansive, supportive, and extremely proud bunch.
>>Alumni Network helps student get finance internship in three days


3. Campus – Are you excited to spend four years at an institution where the ivy changes color, the flower beds are pristine, and the snow blowers are revved at the first sight of a snowflake? Words cannot describe the beauty of the Holy Cross campus – come see for yourself on one of our tours. I guarantee you will fall in love with it (maybe not the hills, but I promise you get used to them).

It's January. We need a reminder of Spring beauty.
It’s January. We need a reminder of Spring beauty.


4. Professors – Are you looking for caring professors that are invested in your success? Does the idea of in-depth class discussions get you excited?  Do you thrive in small classroom environments that foster meaningful faculty-student interaction? The Holy Cross faculty go above and beyond office hours. They are accessible outside the classroom in review sessions, by cell phone, and over dinner. The faculty wholeheartedly live out the mission as mentors to the students by creating strong bonds that even continue beyond the hill.


5. Friends – Do you appreciate a close knit community? Are you someone that values strong relationships? Are you expecting to make memories of a lifetime? Or maybe, you’re even looking for potential bridal party members? Holy Cross nurtures lifelong friendships. From your first steps on campus until graduation you will be connected to the most enthusiastic, hardworking, and caring peers. Countless inside jokes, long brunches in Kimball, and celebratory dances after surviving an exam are almost a guarantee. Also, I would like to make a shout out to my HC friends that helped me put this list together!


The Dark, Mysterious Committee Room

AshleySitting in a dark room … with candy


After almost four months at my new job as Admissions Counselor at Holy Cross, I have learned one thing: to throw all of my expectations out the window.  So when I received my first calendar invite to Committee, I had no idea what to think.  My colleagues had given me a brief overview of the process: the dark room, the projector, the snacks.  But like almost everything in Admissions, nothing is really that clear until you experience it for yourself.


Going into my first committee, I’ll admit … I was nervous.  Naturally, I sat next to the other newbie Admissions staff members(strength in numbers, right?).  Having my reading sheet notes projected in front of my peers made me almost as nervous as applicants are about their credentials being projected in front of the Committee.  After all, I was not far removed from the college search and application process.  Fresh out of college, how was I expected to participate in making life-changing decisions for students only five years younger than myself?  But I guess that is the beauty of our Committee process.  As a new employee, I have more say in shaping the community here than I would at any other entry-level job.  I get to hear all of the unique perspectives of my colleagues and all of our applicants’ amazing stories.  Our Committee process gives every applicant and every staff member a voice.


Going into some of our final Early Decision Committees this week, I am feeling more confident.  The Committee process is becoming clearer to me now.  Instead of nervousness, a sense of excitement comes over me whenever we enter the Committee room.  I am excited to help shape the Holy Cross Class of 2018 … and some candy.


Ashley Johnson
Admissions Counselor

Put the “y-o-u” in Essay

Kate Stewart
By the time you’re ready to actually apply to college, many of the pieces of your college application already are the way they are. You’ve taken the classes you’ve taken, you’ve earned the grades you’ve earned, you’ve been involved in activities that have been important to you, and your counselor and teachers have been reflecting on their relationships with you and starting to write their letters of recommendation. Essentially, your college application has been a work in progress for the past few years and at this point much of it is already– to a certain extent– out of your hands.

Sure, you might take the SATs one more time to see if your scores improve (though we’re test-optional at Holy Cross). You’ll continue working hard through senior year to keep your grades up (because we will see them). And hopefully, you’ve contacted us to set up a personal interview (we HIGHLY recommend this).

But one piece that’s still completely in your control and ready to be molded by you is your college essay.

This is great power, and it’s exciting! Consider the college essay an opportunity, and take full advantage of it. This is your chance to share something unique about yourself and to give us a glimpse into one aspect of your life that we wouldn’t otherwise have been fully privy to. We know you aced AP Calc and we know you’re captain of the soccer team and we know your teachers love you … but such is the case for many of our other applicants, too. So now let’s get personal. What wouldn’t we discover or understand about you just from reading your application? Let us in.

If you keep putting off the writing or are filled with dread every time you think about it, ask yourself why this is. Chances are, if you’re having difficulty getting started or making progress, your topic might not be as meaningful to you as you thought. Don’t write what you think we want to hear, write what matters to you. Start a couple of drafts on different topics, walk away, see which one you look forward to returning to the most, and stick with that one. A great personal essay often comes from a place of passion, pride, pain, amusement, nostalgia, curiosity, confusion, desire, joy, love. Write about what makes you tick, what gets you up in the morning, what brings tears to your eyes. Write about experiences that have changed you, relationships that have bettered you, accomplishments that have truly mattered to you, moments that have stayed with you, challenges you’ve overcome. Write about who you are and who you want to be.

The point is, write about YOU. You’ll notice that all five of the essay prompts on the Common Application direct you to write about yourself. So even though we are looking to evaluate the strength and style of your writing, please don’t send us the English paper you just got an A+ on. Boring! Make sure that the people who know you best would be able to read your essay and know it’s yours. Also make sure that if those people are helping you proofread and edit, don’t let their opinions influence you to the point that you end up losing “you” in the essay.

Finally, help make it easier on us admissions counselors by crafting a piece that’s interesting to read! Inject your voice, your personality, your creativity, and in some cases, your humor. A few comments we often make when we’re reading college essays:

  • “Show, don’t tell!” Illustrate the who, what, when, where, and why with details, examples, anecdotes, even dialogue.
  •  “Too thesaurus-heavy!” Don’t use words that are outside of your normal vocabulary. It will sound forced and unnatural.
  •  “Get rid of the first paragraph!” Don’t feel the need to have a formal introduction and conclusion with three neat topic paragraphs sandwiched in between. You have a limited number of words to use, so please just jump right in there and grab our attention.

Believe me when I say that we here on the admissions staff at Holy Cross love and appreciate the college essay. We look forward to getting to know you.

Thoughts on Application Reading

With every application I read, I try to conjure up a mental image of the student. The essay, resume or recommendations often provide the information I need to form this picture in my mind. Our applicants are so much more than just the pages in their file, and I try never to forget that. I might picture a student during that nail-biting championship game, on that life-changing mission trip or spending time with a beloved grandparent. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Lynn Verrecchia ’01
Associate Director of Admissions

Application Stress

As of last week, the Holy Cross admission office is paperless!  This means that we will review all applications and make all decisions online.  For the past year or more, I have been part of a small working group tasked with making this happen.  At times the project felt dauntingly huge.  The level of detail required to document our processes seemed impossible to attain.  The only thing longer than the “to do” list was the “to figure out” list.  Still, we always knew it would all be worth it and the finished product would be a source of great pride.  So we worked.  And worked.  And worked.  We gave it our best, and now we look forward to the reward made all the sweeter because of that hard work.
Sound familiar?

Lynn Verrecchia ’01

Associate Director of Admissions

Winter at Holy Cross

Winter is officially upon us.   In fact, just yesterday,  Holy Cross enjoyed its first official “Snow Day” since 1997.  In Admissions, the arrival of winter shifts our focus from interviewing,  to filing and reading applications.  To commemorate this shift, I wanted to share a few scenes of the season with you.  Enjoy!

Amanda Juriansz

Assistant Director of Community Outreach

A Recipe for Application Reading Success!

The gifts have been exchanged,  and the resumes and recommendations arranged,  but have you clicked submit or put your application in the Postman’s mitts? Many of you have, we’re sure (because your applications are now on our desks), and so we’re saying, ” ’tis the season”,  for reading the application you’ve assembled.

In a few days we’ll shut the doors of the admissions office, and gear up for reading all of your applications.  For this, we’ll need supplies. There are many components that allow us to have a successful reading session. I thought I’d share with you my recipe:

50 applications for admission; 25 early decision, 25 regular admission

1 sharp or refillable mechanical pencil

1 eraser stick

1 calculator

1 pack of post-it flags and memos

1 highlighter

1 reader evaluation pad

1 box Krispy Kreme donuts

40 ounces of coffee (not shown here)

Pull the first application from the top of the stack. Sift through the transcript by reading honors and AP courses, as well as grades. Using the  mechanical pencil, transfer data from the transcript, Counselor and Teacher recommendations and essay on to the reader evaluation pad. Have calculator, eraser stick, highlighter and post-it flags nearby, just in case.  Place Krispy Kreme donut (or, donuts) in microwave oven for 20 seconds on medium heat; consume slowly to savor the full flavor and flair of the application. Add final thoughts and enjoy.

Best of luck with the home stretch of the application process everyone.  We’re excited to “devour” your applications!

Jim Richardson

Associate Director of Admissions