Reflections on a Year in Admissions

As a newer member of the Admissions Office at Holy Cross,  I’d like to share some of my impressions about my first year:

1. I really appreciate the committee process and the fact that 13 of us make a decision on every applicant together.

2. It is a democratic process. Each person has a vote and every vote helped shape the class of 2015.

3. We spend a lot of time on each applicant.  In the committee room, we discussed the positive attributes of each applicant and looked at each application holistically before voting. Hearing the different opinions and viewpoints of my colleagues taught me to  recognize what it is to be a competitive college applicant,  and what it means to be a “fit” for Holy Cross.

4. We read your essay. I found the most common question in committee was, “Can we see the essay again?” After making tough decisions all day, I found that a sweet, endearing, or funny essay could really lift the  mood of the room.

My favorite memory from this year occurred when a student, whom I met on the road and interviewed on campus, stopped by my office with a smile on her face and a deposit slip in her hand.  She could not wait to tell me she would be joining the class of 2015!

I look forward to meeting the 2016 hopefuls.

Krystle Leveille
Admissions  Counselor

I Read My First Application Today

I read my first application today.

I de-constructed the transcript.  I read, evaluated and summarized the recommendations.  I read through the interview evaluation.  I summarized the extra-curricular activities.

And then I got to the essay.

It was at that point that I turned the calculator off; I pushed my laptop to the side.  I minimized the spreadsheet and put my pencil down.

I sat back in my chair and I read.

Up until that point, I’d been evaluating data and building a composite of who this student is, using a collection of sources, mainly other people’s voices.  The essay was my first chance to hear the student’s voice.    I was making a painting of the student and all of a sudden, the paintbrush was in the student’s hand.

Suddenly, the rest of the file made sense.  Suddenly, I had a sense of who this student is.   Suddenly, it was time to pick up the pencil, turn on the calculator and move on to the next application.

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

I’m About to Apply – What Else Can I Do?

Fall is a time that flies by for Admissions Counselors.  Personally, I can’t believe that it’s already November. In the Admissions Office, we’re getting ready to start reading applications, especially those who have applied for Early Decision (deadline December 15th). As you get ready to hit the “submit” button on the Common Application, I wanted to share a few tips to help make your application the best that it can be:

If you haven’t already, schedule an interview .  Interviews are not required, but are highly recommended as part of our application process. They’re painless, we promise! We just want to have a conversation with you and learn about all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished in high school.

Keep up those senior grades! We know how easy it is to fall prey to “senioritis,” but remember that continuing to do well in senior year is important to us.

Proofread that essay. Make sure to use both proofreaders (Mom, Dad, siblings, friends, etc.),  and proofreaders with perspective (English teachers, Guidance Counselors).

• Feel free to send us any supplemental materials- artwork, music, writing samples, resumes, etc. We like to know about all of your talents, both in and out of the classroom.

Not ready to submit an application to Holy Cross just yet? Don’t worry. There is still time to learn all about HC and our admissions process. Join us at our Open House this Sunday,  November 14th.

Nicole Zervos ‘09

Admissions Counselor

The Cupertino Effect

If you search the website of the United Nations, you’ll find a fascinating article on African-German Cupertino; in another article, you can read about peace education that stresses participation, problem solving and Cupertino.

Still have time on your hands?  Another search will bring you to an article on political, economic and trade Cupertino in the Balkans.

What is Cupertino, you ask?

Well, it’s a city in California.  But for our purposes, it’s proof that spell-check is not always correct.

You see, early versions of spell-check did not recognize the word “cooperation”; it only knew the word to be spelled with a hyphen: “co-operation”.  Like any misspelled word, spell check recommended alternative spellings, the first of which was the now famous town in California.  Inattentive writers (even in the UN!) frequently hit “change all” without proof reading the spell-check selection.

The lesson here?  Today is August 18th and the Common Application has been available for a few weeks. As you begin working on your essay, remember that spell-check is a handy tool but that your eyes and the eyes of a proofreader with perspective are the only way to make sure that your thoughts come across effectively.

Thank you for your Cupertino.

Andrew N. Carter

Associate Director of Admissions

Newest Admissions Member Reflects on Committee Process

NicoleZervos.BLOG2About five weeks ago, the twelve members of the Holy Cross admissions staff convened to start our “committee” process. As a first year Admissions Counselor, I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous. After weeks of reading applications, highlighting students’ academic success and getting to know them through their essays and extracurricular accomplishments, I knew the decision making process would be no easy feat.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. It’s the last day of committee and we’re making those final few decisions. I have to say, it’s been a lot harder than I ever could have imagined. As a first-timer in committee this year, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite aspects of committee to help you understand how we go about making our decisions:

  • I love the amount of time we spend discussing each and every applicant. Discussion is crucial in our committee room. I could be feeling one way one minute, and then a someone will make a comment that may help me see a completely different side of the applicant that I might not have seen before.
  • It truly is a democratic process. We take a vote on every application and majority wins. Often, there’s not a clear winner. So we vote again. And sometimes even a third vote is required! It can be tedious, but that’s the beauty of the committee process: everyone gets a fair shot.
  • We take a very holistic approach. Sometimes it feels like all we’re seeing is numbers.  GPA’s.  Class ranks. Numbers of honors and AP/ IB courses. It can be hard to distinguish between them, but then someone reads a nice quote from an essay or an interview write up and it makes all the difference in the world.

Nicole Zervos ’09
Admissions Counselor

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

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

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

Three Cups of Tea

‘Here we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die.’


6a00e54ed0db8e8833010536f8f30b970b-800wiThis quote is the inspiration for the title of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea, the remarkable story of Greg Mortenson and his commitment to build schools and improve lives in the poorest villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

In preparation for Mr. Mortenson’s visit to Holy Cross at the end of September , I’ve been reading his book.  The more I read, the more I realize that there are so many lessons contained within – commitment, honor, the value of hard work, respect, etc. 

But perhaps the one lesson that has stuck with me the most is the lesson of perseverance.  Without reading the book, you might imagine that Mr. Mortenson decided to build schools and simply did it.  It was not that easy. 
In building his first school, he had to deal with an unfamiliar foreign land, coming up with enough money, time constraints, missing supplies, etc.  It was no easy task. 

Similarly, as you sit down to write your Common Application essay, remember the lesson of perseverance.  You might struggle with an unfamiliar format, coming up with an idea, time constraints, missing ideas, etc.  An essay that you can be proud of is not likely to simply appear on your computer; but know that if you invest your time, effort and hard work, you will succeed.  If you persevere, your efforts will be rewarded with an essay of which you can be proud.  Hard work always pays off.

Greg Mortenson knows this to be true. 

The children who attend his schools know this to be true. 

You do, too. 

See also:

Andrew N. Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

The Do’s of the Application Process

tranThis list is the culmination of my own experiences as an admissions officer as well as of my colleagues in this office and other admissions offices.  As you go through them, you may have a lot of “duh” moments and most of these are very much common sense but it’s usually the most obvious things that are the least visible to us.  With that said, I hope this list is useful to you as you focus in on the application process.

  • Meet all deadlines for Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision.  Not meeting a deadline reflects badly on your ability to be responsible and may make an institution feel like you aren’t that interested.  It may also reduce your chances of getting in because the class is getting filled and you may be too late to get a spot.  If you have an extraordinary circumstances, you should let an admissions officer know in writing or by phone so that we can take that into consideration. 
  • File your financial aid paperwork early and by the deadline at the latest.  Holy Cross requires both the FAFSA and the the CSS Profile forms to be considered for financial aid.  The FAFSA form is not available until January 1st but you and one of your parents can go ahead and file for a FAFSA Pin Number that will serve as your signatures on the forms.  The longer you wait, the bigger the risk that you may not get as strong a package and if you submit late, the chances of getting financial aid are even slimmer.
  • Pay close attention to what each school requires you to submit or strongly recommends you send in regards to standardized testing, essays, letters of recommendation, etc.  While strongly recommends doesn’t mean require in the sense that you are disqualified from admission, it does means that you may be placing yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t do what it is that is being strongly recommended.
  • Ask teachers early for letters of recommendations.  The earlier you ask, the more time they can put into it and produce a well written letter on your behalf.  It’s important to keep in mind that you will not be the only student who is seeking that student out for a letter of recommendation. 
  • Follow up with all counselors and teachers to make sure that they have submitted your paperwork on time and be sure to also send a thank you to them for doing so.
  • Proofread your essays very carefully before you submit.  I would encourage you to print out your application if you’re filing it online because what you see is mostly likely what we’ll see when we click on print so you want to make sure that it’s formatted to what you want it to look like.
  • Demonstrate your interest in a college institution before you apply.  A lot of students visit the schools that they get into and from there will make a decision as to where to attend without knowing that many admissions offices take applicants’ demonstrated interest into consideration as a way to determine whether or not the student would enroll if admitted.  Just like you all want us to like you and admit you, we want to be liked by you all as well and be admitted in essence.
  • Create a professional email address and check that email frequently.  Silly or suggestive email addresses, while comical for us to read, are not professional and do not reflect well on you.  It’s also important that you don’t use your parents’ email addresses as your own and we can typically tell when this is happening.  We like to see students take the lead in the application process because it shows that you’re ready for the independent environment that is a part of the college experience.


Tran Kim-Senior
Assistant Director of Admissions
Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment