The Longest Answer to the Simplest Question

I cannot tell you how many questions I’ve been asked today. This time of year, admission counselors spend the better part of their day fielding questions from students, parents and counselors.   Some require simple answers (yes, we have an English major), while others require a more in-depth response (Montserrat is…).

On occasion, a student will ask a seemingly simple question, and may be surprised by a response that is lengthier than expected. Never is this more true than in the case of the old favorite—the “average GPA” question. Students rightly want to know if their academic performance will measure up in our pool, and frankly we’re glad you asked. But that doesn’t mean we’re able to give you the simple answer you were hoping for. We consider each student within the unique context of their high school, making it impossible to identify a number which we think represents a universally “good” GPA. The grading scale (3.0, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 6.0, 8.0, 10.0, 12.0, to name a few we’ve seen), weighting (or lack thereof), strength of curriculum, grade inflation/deflation and other factors unique to your high school are all considered. We study high school profiles and websites, and sometimes make phone calls to counselors to gather all of the information we need to assess your academic performance. It’s our job to understand what a “good” GPA is at your school. And this time of year, it’s our job to try to explain that to you.

Somewhat flustered by my response, students sometimes follow-up with a question they are sure will elicit a short, numbers-only answer: “What’s your average SAT score?” And I take a deep breath, and we’re off again…

Lynn Verrecchia

Associate Director of Admissions

From Inside the Committee Room

AnnMcDermott.BLOG2We’ve just completed the third week of committee. 4,424 decisions made, 2500 left to go.   And yes, all 6900+ applications will be seen by the twelve members of the Holy Cross admissions committee. The discussions so far have been very good. We don’t always agree, and very often we will dig deeper into the file, going beyond the reading sheet for greater clarity.

One of the most common requests this week has been: “Can we please see the essay?” And often, after reading the essay, the decision becomes clear. So while you wait to hear your decision (We expect to mail the decision letters on March 26th), please know that you do have a voice in this process. Your essay allows us to hear directly from you, and what you have chosen to share can be enormously helpful to our discussions. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, and making our job just a little bit easier.

Ann McDermott
Director of Admissions

Second-Reading Applications

JuliaSandersSurrounding me:   Piles of files, post-it notes, mechanical pencils, and caffeinated beverages.

What I’m doing:  Double-checking the “first reads” Drew Carter did of your applications.

Provoking anxiety:  All that’s left to do.

Quashing anxiety:  This is the final push.  Committee starts Monday.

Why the HC admissions officers second – read:  To make sure our colleagues didn’t miss that AP course, that service trip to Malawi, or the note you left when you passed through the admissions office on the way back to New York.  Also, because you work really hard, and we want to make sure we capture the most brilliant snapshot of you we possibly can before heading into committee.

What would make it just a tad easier on us?  Reminding your guidance counselors to  send us your mid-year (or first trimester – if that’s all that’s available) grades, if they haven’t already.

Thanks for all your hard work.

Files left to go….


Julia Sanders
Admissions Counselor

Thank You For Applying!

DianeSoboski.BLOG2I sat down a few weeks ago, cup of tea in hand, glanced out the window at the snow coming down, and began to read files. As I moved through the stack of applications on the table before me, I encountered several notes and emails thanking the admissions staff for interviews, visits,  and advice on the application process. Also in the files were hundreds of pages of letters, essays, and descriptions of amazing accomplishments that our applicants have decided to share with us. For that, I thank you!

It’s easy to look at a stack of 60 applications and feel overwhelmed by the volume of the work that lies ahead. But when you crack open that first folder and begin reading about that individual student , allow the materials in the folder to come to life, and introduce you to an amazing applicant – the task ahead no longer seems like work.  It’s fun!

I love learning about the time you “accidentally” tripped your brother and chipped his tooth, or the time you overcame your fears and sang in front of a full auditorium for the first time. Many of you have shared stories of obstacles you’ve overcome, and how you’ve come out a better person because of them.  We laugh along with you, we cry along with you, and we do celebrate all of your accomplishments along with you.

During this busy reading season, thank you for making me wake, stretch and want to head right for that stack of applications!


Diane Soboski
Assistant Director of Admissions

Deadline Day

6a00e54ed0db8e8833010536f8f30b970b-800wiHappy Deadline Day, everybody!

What a wonderful holiday it is – today is the deadline to apply for first year admission to College of the Holy Cross. Like many of you, we are in the midst of our Deadline Day celebrations. Here in the Holy Cross Admissions Office, we are eating the traditional Deadline Day breakfast – coffee and eraser shavings; we are exchanging the traditional Deadline Day gifts – mechanical pencils, carpal tunnel survival kits and prescription glasses; we have even performed the traditional Deadline Day circle dance around the Deadline Day tree. (Well, it’s more a stack of applications than it is a tree . . .)

So, now that Deadline Day is here, we are afforded the opportunity to reflect back upon this last recruiting cycle – several thousand admissions interviews, over a thousand high schools visited, 120,000 airline miles and nearly 400 hours of free Wi-Fi logged at Paneras located around the continental United States. It’s been an exhausting and exhilarating spring, summer and fall. Now all that’s left to do is to read, read, present, discuss, debate and then finally vote. A month from now, our committee process will begin selecting and completing the next class of Crusaders. But before we can do that, we first must read. And read. Every application. Twice.

So for now, I will bid adieu and return to my stack of applications. If you call my office in the next few weeks and don’t get an answer, know that I’m reading applications somewhere else. And if you find yourself in a Panera anytime soon and you see a spectacled, wrist-brace wearing, mechanical-pencil using academic surrounded by green folders and eraser shavings – don’t laugh. Just know that we appreciate calculus, we appreciate early morning swim team practice, we appreciate tech crew and we’d appreciate one of those enormous chocolate chip cookies.


Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Application Reading Has Begun!

AmandaJuriansz.BLOG2It’s December 15th already. Here in the Holy Cross admissions office that means two things. First, that Christmas music is continuously streaming out of Fr. Markey’s office (even as I type this the sounds of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” are drifting across the hall). Two, travel season is officially over and reading season has begun! So what does reading season mean? Well it means that our 13 admissions counselors are spending the majority of their time reading and summarizing thousands of applications.

We all have our preferences for what time of day we like to read best. There are a few of us who like to read first thing in the morning. One crazy staffer gets up a 5 am to get a head start! But then there are a few of us who like reading in the evening better, sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning. But whatever the time we prefer to read, we are each reviewing about 40-50 files a day!

It takes a lot of time, but it can be fun. We finally get to see all the hard work you’ve been doing over the past few months. Reading all of your essays and all of those recommendations, we’re hearing your story,  one piece of paper at a time.  


Amanda Juriansz
Assistant Director of Community Outreach

Application Deadlines: Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute!

LynnVerrecchia.BLOG2Every year around this time we take a staff photo which becomes our office holiday card. The card is sent to student volunteers and to guidance counselors we’ve met during our travels. It’s meant as a gesture of thanks for volunteers and one of goodwill toward our high school counterparts. We don Santa hats and Holy Cross gear and enthusiastically grin for the camera. Our smiles show that we love our jobs and that we truly wish those around us a wonderful holiday season.

The behind-the-scenes picture is a bit more harried. Our hectic fall travel season and various in-office responsibilities push the holiday card to the back burner for several weeks. It is typically all but forgotten until one attentive staff member points out that the holidays are in fact around the corner. We scramble to find a day when everyone will be in the office and a time when interviews are not scheduled. We raid the bookstore and scrounge for purple scarves that have not already been scooped up by students and visitors. We cringe at the gloomy skies that insist on threatening rain on picture day, because we know that rescheduling is not an option. We pay for expedited shipping and keep our eyes fixed on the mailbox. We stay late to print labels and address envelopes. We send the card out with hours to spare. Then, and only then, do we sit back and enjoy the picture ourselves.

In the end, our students and colleagues see only the final product. They smile at our gesture and pin our photo to their bulletin boards. They appreciate what we have done. The frantic nature of picture day does not show. Only we know that making this picture happen was a race to the finish.

 Last minute application filers deal with similar stresses. The computer suddenly crashes; a teacher assigns a major project; a family emergency crops up. That essay is due tomorrow and suddenly the conditions are not ideal. Just as we learn (and relearn) every year, the applicant learns that a looming deadline leaves little room for error. Though your final product is meant for others, the process is for you. Aim for more than just a strong outcome–try to allow for a positive experience along the way.

Holy Cross’ Early Decision application deadline is December 15. The Regular Decision deadline is January 15.


Lynn Verrecchia

Assistant Director of Admissions

How do I Know if Admissions has Received all of my Application Materials?

DianeSoboski.BLOG2You’ve filled out the Common Application and submitted it online, double and triple checking to make sure that you’ve attached your essay upload. You’ve filled out the paper work at your guidance office requesting that they send along your transcript and recommendation letters to Holy Cross (in Massachusetts, not Indiana). You’re positive that everything has been sent to us. We have it, right? You think we have it. You hope we have it. How do you know if we have it?

There’s no need to stay up nights worrying about whether or not we have your materials, you can now check the status of your application materials online! Simply go to our online checklist, click “register”, put in your personal information and you will be provided with a glimpse into our database. More specifically, you’ll see your application checklist as it appears in our records.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to tell exactly what (if anything) is still missing. A list of required application materials will appear along with notation of whether or not each item has been received.

***One caution – It takes some time for us to receive your materials in the mail, open our mail, sort our mail, and input the pieces of your application into our system.

DO NOT PANIC if you do not see all of your materials listed. You may be positive that you sent in that Verification Form, you know that you put the right postage on it, it should have been here, it’s not listed, you may check compulsively – it WILL eventually appear. Give it some time, and if after 10-14 days you still don’t see your materials appear, feel free to call our office and we’ll tell you whether or not we think you need to submit the missing piece again.

We wish you all the best of luck as you finish up those college applications over the next few months. You’re in the home stretch of your application season, and we can’t wait to begin ours!


Diane Soboski
Assistant Director of Admissions

Common App Essay Advice

6a00e54ed0db8e8833010536f8f30b970b-800wiYou’ve filled in all the empty spaces; you’ve identified siblings, parents, CEEB code, guidance counselor fax number and now you’re hovering above the “SUBMIT” button. You’ve checked it two, three, four different times but you still get the sense that it’s not quite ready. Like a cake without frosting, your Common Application is still not ready for consumption. So for the nth time, you go back to check your essay – one last time, you promise yourself.

You meticulously check for spelling mistakes.


You review the 11 comma rules and check your essay again.

Looks good.

Yet, you’re still not ready to click “SUBMIT”.

Stuck in that position?

Here’s some advice for you:

Review the beginning of your essay – the first two or three sentences. Have you effectively captured your reader’s attention or have you simply begun telling your story? Have you grabbed your reader by the lapels and given them a good shake or have you quietly snuck into the room like a late arrival to the opera? Not sure?

Here’s what you should do – pick up a copy of People magazine and take a look at their articles (yes, there are articles). Actually, don’t read any article in its entirety – just read the first 2-3 sentences. Their articles aren’t brilliant or unbelievably well-written but the writers for People magazine do an outstanding job of grabbing their readers’ attention at the beginning of an article. And while admissions counselors do not read applications while standing in line at the grocery store, it is equally important for you to catch their attention at the beginning of your essay.

So get some inspiration from People magazine and spruce up your first 2-3 sentences. Remember, lapels are on our jackets for a reason. Give them a good shake.

Andrew Carter

Associate Director of Admissions

Early Decision Versus Regular Decision

AnnMcDermott.BLOG2During my travels last week I received a number of questions about Early Decision…who should apply, what is the process, are there benefits to applying ED?  If you have had similar questions, please read on!

By applying Early Decision you are stating that Holy Cross is far and away your first choice for college. There should be no doubt in your mind that this is absolutely the place you want to be.  The process is binding, which means that if admitted to Holy Cross, you will withdraw all other applications and enroll here.  This is a serious commitment, so the decision to apply ED should not be made casually.

Unlike Regular Decision, Early Decision files are reviewed on a rolling basis, beginning November 1.  Once an application is complete, the application will be read by two members of the Admissions staff, and then presented to the full Admissions Committee. Students are notified of the decision as soon as they are made.  Therefore, the earlier you apply and complete you application, the earlier you will receive your decision. The deadline for applying ED is December 15.

If you plan on applying for Financial Aid, you will want to submit the CSS Profile at the same time you submit your application for admission.   Our financial aid policies for ED are exactly the same as for Regular Decision.  We are need-blind in the application process, which means that we do not consider the level of financial need in making our admissions decisions. We also meet full demonstrated need for all admitted students.  Financial aid for Early Decision is packaged in exactly the same way as in Regular Decision. However, if you and your parents are interested in comparing aid packages from other colleges, then applying Regular Decision would be the better course of action.

So what are the advantages of applying Early Decision? An Early Decision application demonstrates your commitment to and excitement about attending Holy Cross. Because the applicant pool is smaller, we have more time to evaluate your candidacy.  We respect the commitment you are making to Holy Cross, and value the fact that you are committed to attending the College.  Both of these factors are given serious consideration as part of our decision making process. Also, an Early Decision acceptance alleviates the stress of the college search during the remainder of your senior year!

Ann McDermott
Director of Admissions