Read the Mission Statement

NicoleZervos.BLOG2Though a certain amount of relief comes with finally getting all those applications in,  I know some of you are probably still a little stressed. You might be thinking: Am I applying to the right schools? Is this place really where I want to spend the next four years of my life? When I was a senior in high school, my guidance counselor recommended that we read the mission statement of the colleges we were considering. Looking back, I wish I had taken her advice. I spent more time looking at guidebooks and placed more importance on statistics like average GPA or SAT scores than the actual mission of the college. While these things are important to consider, the mission statement really sets the tone for your entire college experience.

 As a recent graduate and the newest Admissions Counselor at Holy Cross, one of the questions I get asked frequently is why I chose to attend Holy Cross. My answer to this question can be found in our mission statement. While there are many aspects of Holy Cross that I love, the community is something that I feel sets Holy Cross apart. The wonderfully compassionate people and the belief that we are “men and women for others” is something that is not just said, but is truly taken to heart. Take a look at a few quotes from our mission statement:

 “Informed by the presence of diverse interpretations of the human experience, Holy Cross seeks to build a community marked by freedom, mutual respect, and civility.”

 “The College is dedicated to forming a community which supports the intellectual growth of all its members while offering them opportunities for spiritual and moral development.”

I urge you to read the entire mission statement  to further understand the goals and objectives of Holy Cross.  Because I did not consider the fundamental mission of each college I was applying to, I ended up originally choosing a school that was not a right “fit” for me. While I did end up transferring to Holy Cross and finding a home here, I think that if I had taken the time to read the mission statement, I would have been better able to assess what kind of school was right for me. So, while you are wrapping up the final touches on your applications, take a minute and look over the mission statements of each school. Make sure that your goals and expectations are in line with the college of your choice. It will make all the difference in the world.


Nicole Zervos ’09

Admissions Counselor

Do Non-Catholics Feel Comfortable at Holy Cross?


Just last Friday, I attended Shabbat dinner here on campus alongside five Holy Cross faculty members, and seven Holy Cross students. Rabbi Norman Cohen ’72 , led the service, and two  students prepared a traditional Jewish meal, including a fantastic matzah ball soup, and a beautiful loaf of Challah. It was a wonderful night of reflecting on our respective Holy Cross experiences, and getting to know each other. The night further solidified my love for Holy Cross, and its open-minded appreciation for diversity.

Growing up in Worcester’s Jewish community, I never thought that I could feel comfortable at Holy Cross. Now, having worked here for a little over two years, I can tell you that at no point have I ever been made to feel excluded, judged, or like an “other,” for not being Catholic. On the contrary, working here has helped me to more fully recognize how much we all have in common. The Jesuit sentiment of being “men and women for others” is very similar to the Jewish tradition of giving Tzedakah, or charitable donations.  The words Tzedakah comes from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness, (all words we rely on heavily at Holy Cross).

Though the majority of students at Holy Cross are Catholic, our community is enriched by Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Protestant, Orthodox, Coptic, Hindu and non-practicing faculty and students. While we do have a religion requirement among our common area requirements, it can be fulfilled with classes like Comparative World Religions, Ancient and Medieval Hinduism, and Zen Buddhism.

Shabbat dinner is just one example of the opportunities Holy Cross provides its non-Catholic students.  Earlier this year, our Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture hosted a Zen Meditation and Social Justice Forum, and every Sunday, an interdenominational Christian service  is held on campus. Finally, the Chaplain’s office will drive any student to any of the wide array of worshipping communities in the city of Worcester.

Come for a visit, and hopefully you’ll find that Holy Cross is a  comfortable place for you to explore your own faith, and the faiths of others.

Julia Sanders

Admissions Counselor

Newest Admissions Counselor Nicole Zervos Introduces Herself

NicoleZervosHi! My name is Nicole Zervos and I am the newest Admissions Counselor at Holy Cross! I graduated from Holy Cross this past May where I majored in Sociology. I’m from Narragansett, Rhode Island and love the New England area. On a nice summer day, you can probably find me on the beach reading a good book, but I also enjoy heading up to the mountains in the winter to ski and snowboard. I’m a huge Red Sox fan, love to watch the medical mysteries unfold on the TV show House and enjoy spending time with my family, friends and chocolate lab.  At Holy Cross, I was involved in the SPUD community service program and the Appalachia service trips, peer-education, the Sociology department Student Advisory Committee, and working in the Office of Orientation, Transition and Leadership.

Why have I chosen to come back and work in Admissions at Holy Cross? First of all, I was curious to see how the admissions process worked from a different perspective. Because I was a transfer student to Holy Cross, I actually went through the process of applying to college three times! I spent so much time working on applications that I became interested to find out how the selection process operated from the other side. Secondly, and more importantly, it was my positive experience at Holy Cross that has made me want to spread the word to prospective students. Everyone here truly cares about each other and there is a wonderful sense of community on this campus. For example, when I first transferred in to Holy Cross, I thought it would be difficult to get to know people and become integrated into campus life. Within my first week on campus, my Resident Assistant, Community Development Coordinator, and several girls on my floor had all come by my room several times to see how I was doing. My class dean as well as my professors also contacted me to check in and make the adjustment to Holy Cross a smooth one. Now that I have transitioned to being a staff member, nothing has changed! Ever since I started working in the Admissions Office, every member of the Admissions team has been constantly stopping by my office and trying to help me out in any way possible. As you can see, this is a truly special place.

This fall, I’ll be traveling to Connecticut, Westchester County in New York, Western Massachusetts, and Florida. I’m looking forward to meeting students and sharing my experiences at Holy Cross. Best of luck with your senior year and the college application process!

Jim’s Admissions Advice

jrichardson_2August has arrived, and with it, for many of us, has come the feeling that the end is near.  The end of summer … the end of sleeping late, beach days and pool time … indeed, its back to school!  You might find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone … its back to school for us as well.  As my colleague Amanda wrote not long ago, for us here in Admissions, we’ve been planning our schedules and getting ready to have the rubber meet the road in just a few short weeks.  We’ll be coming to your schools and college fairs before you know it; for many of us, in less than a month!  For some of you reading this in Arizona and Florida, you’re already back; but for many others, you still have a few days or weeks to enjoy!  How should you be spending that time, you ask?  Why, visiting colleges of course … including, I should add, spending some time here at Holy Cross!
Visiting college campuses on your summer break is one of the best investments of your time and resources you can make.  Visiting now, while it has its pros and cons, will be something you will surely appreciate later.  It will make your decision regarding where to apply, and possibly where to enroll should you be admitted, much easier later.  Here at Holy Cross we offer tours of the campus four times each day (M-F, 10AM, 12, 2 and 3PM), and information sessions twice each day (M-F, 11:15AM, and 1:15PM).  Interviewing is another critically important aspect of your summer or fall visit.  We put a lot of stock in personal interviews because, while optional, they provide us a chance to get to know you in a way we wouldn’t have at any other time in the process.  And for you, its a chance to personalize your application and really bring it to life!  If you’re serious about your Holy Cross application and would like to schedule an interview, simply call the office, we would enjoy taking the time to get to know you.
The last thing I would recommend doing before you head back to school is to begin your essay.  If you haven’t already done so, take a look at the essay questions on the application ( and begin drafting your response.  Considering it is the only piece of writing we will have in your application (we don’t ask for graded papers, other writing samples, or require any supplements), its very important that its a good piece of quality writing.  A few (seemingly obvious) tips:

* answer the question.  Answer the question in a complete, yet concise, clear, and direct way. 

*make sure its your own work, and original.  “Recycled” history papers from last year … while they may meet the criteria of ‘topic of your choice’, are a no-no. 

*Proofread – – Proofread – – Proofread.  It speaks for itself.  Essays don’t have to be novels (nor should they be!), but they shouldn’t be two sentences either.  Spend a lot of time on this; its the only piece of writing we will have from you, so please give it the time it deserves.  Doing it now will make your life a lot easier later, I assure you.
Happy summer!  We hope you enjoy what remains of it, we hope to see you here on campus or at your school soon, and we look forward to reading your application!  Good luck!
James T. Richardson
Associate Director of Admission

Try to relax this summer!

alyssa-tI just got off the phone with my seventeen year old cousin who is inevitably freaking out. If you are a rising high school senior, like he is, you have a lot to think about. Face it, next year at this time you will have graduated from your respective high school and most likely will be attending college summer orientation. This upcoming year has a lot in store for you as you begin to finalize your college list, visit campuses, interview, write your essays, and send out numerous applications. You have a lot of goals that need to be set and prioritizing that has to be done. Trust me, if you work hard, everything will get done.

As I spoke to my cousin though I realized that he was becoming so stressed about his senior year that he was not going to enjoy his summer. I had to help him take a step back to realize that he could become organized for the busy autumn ahead while still enjoying these summer months he has off.
Here are some of the ideas we discussed:

  • Plan a road trip with your friends to visit schools you are interested in.
  • Get your family involved. Plan a vacation that involves looking at some distant colleges while you are away. Even plan to visit those long lost relatives that live in states where colleges of interest might be.
  • Make a day of it! Come to Worcester in July for a great lunch on Shrewsbury Street and then check out our July Advisory Days.
  • On a rainy afternoon have a “mock interview” with a friend or family member.
  • Go to a café or diner with your friends, get lots of food, and talk about each other. Recalling great memories or stories from the past could lead to valuable material for that college essay.

I hope you can take advantage of one or all of these ideas listed and of course, find some excitement in the busy months ahead.

Alyssa Trometter
Admissions Counselor

How Do We Make Our Admissions Decisions?: An Insider’s Guide to the Committee Process

JuliaMonday morning, 9:00 AM:  Company in.  Twelve admissions counselors.  Twelve cups of coffee.  Our mission?  To decide who gets in.

With so many remarkable candidates, just how do we decide?  While some contend we could simply throw the applications into the air, grab a few thousand at random, and hope for the best, the Holy Cross admissions process is a democratic one, where all applications are voted on;  majority wins.

As today’s committee fly on the wall, I would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on our unique process.  So follow me, behind the closed doors.

Every day, for nine hours a day, for about 5 weeks, we gather together, in the cozy space pictured below:


Back when we were reading all of your applications, we were also summarizing everything in your file, onto what we call a “reading sheet” – a crucial piece of paper that houses a breakdown of your transcript, bits from your recommendations, quotes from the letter from your mom, impressions gathered from your interview, an evaluation of your essay, notes on the academic curriculum offered at your high school, a listing of your test scores (if you decided to submit them), bits about your extra-curriculars,  awards,  jobs,  etc.

During committee, the reading sheets are projected onto the wall, one at a time, for all committee members to see.  Everything in your file finds a place onto your reading sheet, and thusly, everything in your file is evaluated by twelve sets of eyes, before a decision is made.  IMG_3593

With your reading sheet projected onto the wall, we do, in fact, talk about you. We talk about your achievements, your personality, your background, your goals, your successes, and your failures.   Conversations can last anywhere from two minutes to twenty – depending on the case.   If there are any questions, we rummage through the file and fill in the blanks.   We might re-read the essay.  We might double-check the transcript.   We examine your school profile.   If necessary, we call your guidance counselor.  We check again.  And again.   And again.  We might even call your mom. (I kid).  The point is, when it comes to assessing your candidacy, there are no stones left unturned


When we are ready, it’s decision time.  “Anyone want to Accept?”  Hands are raised. And counted.  Majority wins.  And this is how it works, each and every time.

Why do we do it this way? While admissions-sponsored snacks  (important decisions require sustenance) and the option to dress down are obvious perks, we make our admissions decisions as a committee because we feel that a democratic voting process is the fairest way to handle such an overwhelming and often times subjective task.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because you have worked very hard on your application, and we believe your hard work affords you reciprocity.   We want you to have faith in the fact that your application is in the hands of people that will stop at nothing to make the fairest decisions possible.

And with that, it’s time to get back to work.

Julia Sanders

Admissions Counselor

Test Scores: To Submit or Not to Submit

Some of the most common questions I get asked from students, parents and counselors are the following:  “At what point should a student decide to not submit testing?”  Or “When will submitting testing help my chances?” In reality this decision is entirely up to you.  If you feel your testing says something about you and your abilities, feel free to send them along. We will look at them in conjunction with your transcript, your recommendations, essay and interview (if you have had one) and make our assessment.  If, on the other hand, you feel that your test scores do not represent you well, then do not hesitate to withhold them. We will not make any assumptions about your testing, and will focus our attention on your transcript and the other accompanying credentials that are contained in your application.

Holy Cross has always placed far greater weight on the academic experience of a candidate as demonstrated through the high school transcript then on a single test or combination of tests.  Our experience has shown that the rigor of a student’s program and overall academic performance can best illustrate commitment, motivation, and willingness to take on challenges.  Our process credits students who have achieved at a very high level in the classroom, with far less importance placed on testing.

So, submit or not to submit?  The choice is yours!

Ann McDermott
Director of Admissions