Wednesday, March 27, 2013




now click.

36 of our seniors will hear back on 96 application decisions.

It's certain to be a mixed bag.

Or like my golf game - a combination of birdies, pars, and quadruple bogies.

My colleague at a prestigious independent school in the northeast recently texted me these macabresque four words:

"Regular admission is dead."

At highly selective schools, in particular, it seems that the sheer, absurd, colossal numbers are going to bury most applicants like an avalanche.

It seems that if a kid wants a school that admits 25% or less, their best shot, and in most cases, their only shot, in fact, is early admission.


Or nothing.

Recently, there was an article in Time entitled "College Admissions:  The Myth of High Selectivity."

The argument is that it is actually easier to get into a highly selective school.

Maybe not THE highly selective school of choice.

But A highly selective school of choice.

The argument revolves around the central idea that more unqualified students are applying just because they can thanks to the easy accessibility via the Common Application.

We call these applicants "profile negative" students.

GPA and test scores are below the 50% median.

I'm sure that cohort of applicants is growing.

But most deans of admission tell college counselors like myself just the opposite.

They are fomenting our anxiety with the growing cohort of qualified students.  

They are "profile positive."

Take this interview with Maria Laskaris, Dean of Admission at Dartmouth College.

At one point, Mrs. Laskaris said this about the overall quality of the admission pool:

"Probably 85 to 90 percent of the pool, if given the opportunity, would thrive, would excel, so we’re making very nuanced and difficult decisions, and it gets harder and harder, as you winnow the pool down, to figure out whom we’re going to admit."

85 to 90%.

So of the 8 out of 10 that are admissible, Dartmouth then will admit 1 out of those 8.

That's the same set of numbers I heard from Bill Fitzsimmons at Harvard.

Same number I just got on the phone from our rep at Vandy who told me that they got over 31,000 applications in this year's admission cycle.

Just today, in fact, The Times ran an article on tips for being accepted.

The thrust of the article is when you get your acceptance letter - be happy, relieved, jubilant...but don't go "Rod Tidwell" overboard and get flagged 15 yards by your peers.

My guess is that the Rod Tidwell touchdown dances will be far-and-in-between the crawl-into-the-fetal-position-and-spoon-down-ben-and-jerry's-ice-cream.

In other words, more of these cringing responses. 

Than the above.

So my final thought as the curtain lifts in the next 24 hours.

If you are one of the few who get in at highly selective schools  - count yourself lucky, because the truth is, that decision doesn't reflect as much your admissibility as it does the absurdity of the process.

And if you are one of the many who do not get in - know that the decision doesn't reflect as much your inadmissibility as it does the absurdity of the process.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Discovering Your Story, Part I

This month's theme for the College Seminar is story.

I invited a guest speaker to engage our 11th graders on the compelling power of story.

Our guest speaker has hired and fired many salesman in the corporate world of healthcare management.

He opened with our students by saying, "I've never hired a person with the best resume.  I've always hired the person with a good resume and an even better story."

Does a really good story make that much of a difference?

In a job interview?

On a college application?

In life - in general?

I would argue, Yes!

What is a story?

A story is what you do.

Think about what you do?

  • School
  • GPA
  • SAT/ACT Scores
  • Clubs
  • Activities
  • Service Hours
  • Athletics (JV/V...start/don't start)
  • Work
  • Vocational Aspirations

We are in touch with these because this is where we spend all of our time.

This stuff makes up 90% of our conversations - doesn't it?

But your story is more than what you do.

Your story is also who you are.

Now think about who you are?

You are shaped by your experiences, family, life events, etc.

You are unique - like your thumbprint.

And this sets you apart.

Informs your character and passions.

Makes you "come alive" to those around you.

Comes from "the heart" more than "the head."

Your story then is what you do + who you are.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Top 10 Rejection Moments

This is always an unnerving stretch of the application cycle.

Three weeks and counting before all regular admission decisions are delivered.

I find myself staring at our Naviance pie chart almost every hour.

50% of our admission decisions are in the books.

50% aren't.

That's a lot of unknown results.

That's a lot of finger nail biting.

Inevitably there will be a mixed bag of decisions.

Some of our kids will get good news.

Others disappointing news.

And still others the news that it's not over.

Wait listed. 

But for me, I find it easier to weep with those who weep, instead of rejoice with those who rejoice.

Perhaps it is because we tend to feel the sting of rejection longer than we do the euphoric prick of acceptance.

Just yesterday I got an email from NACAC that my proposal for a workshop at the upcoming national conference got rejected.

The email, of course, was gracious, but in the end, the committee concluded that my topic was "too basic for inclusion at the national conference level."  

So there was that.

I was one of the 150 or so that got their proposal waste bucketed.  

It stung for a bit, but then the mosquito bite disappeared.

But it got me feeling in a fresh and new way what some of my students and parents will feel in the next few weeks.

And it got me thinking-feeling back to other times that I have experienced rejection.

It's not that hard to pinpoint moments of rejection because it always comes with a visceral wallop - doesn't it?

If we're honest, our lives are fraught with rejection. 

Most of which we repress.

Or medicate.

Or project onto our kids.

So I've decided I'd "open a vein" and share some of my highest low points.

Call this my Top 10 Rejection Moments.

A cathartic exercise.

I've left out elementary and middle school.

I can't seem to remember that far back.

I have a few memories of awkward, insecure moments, like the time I couldn't lift the bench bar in the weight room, and my fellow 7th grade football teammates laughed at my scrawny frame.

Or the time I got my gym shorts and underwear pulled down by Zac Graves during a game of dodge ball.

Talk about humiliating.

Especially when you were a late bloomer puberty wise.   

So I'll just pick it up around 16 years old.

These are in no particular order.

Just as they surfaced from the subconscious nether regions.
  1. I was rejected by Lisa Freeland when I went in for a post prom date kiss my junior year.  
  2. I was slighted by my classmates as an incumbent class officer.  Kurt Anglebeck was elected Senior Class President and got to give the graduation speech.
  3. I was later rejected as a Senior Captain on the "Royal Court" for Homecoming.
  4. I was rejected by the Air Force Academy - offered a spot at the prep school instead
  5. I received almost 47 rejections from the colleges I had hoped would recruit me for basketball.
  6. I was rejected countless times as a freshman basketball player, driving into the paint, only to see my tear drop floater get swatted away by University of Illinois transfer, Marc Davidson, a 6'7" power forward with a haircut and physique like Drago's in Rocky IV.
  7. I spent an entire summer getting rejected on the phone as a "nurse recruiter specialist" (pretty much got fired after going 0-500).
  8. I had my co-manuscript of the memoir my wife and I wrote rejected by many publishers.
  9. I was rejected twice as a finalist for recent job openings. 
  10. I was initially rejected by the State Boards for my teaching license because I failed one of the English grammar exams.  ("I'm a story and ideas guy!)    
Looking back now, I realize that No, the sky wasn't really falling.  It just felt apocalyptic at the time.

And I also realize now that I had a lot of people around me - family, friends, coaches, teachers, colleagues - that helped absorb the sting, lick my wounds and move forward.

Life, indeed, is a communal effort.  The "I" needs the "we" to overcome those stretches on the journey that are fraught with disappointment.

And I also see now the silver lining in almost every one of those rejections.

Except maybe Lisa Freeland leaving me hanging on prom night.:)

Good, wonderful, didn't-see-coming things were just around the corner of the No's.

Yes's, in other words.

Big, surprising, beautiful, hopeful Yes's!

And it's those sunny Yes's on the other side of the dark, cloudy No's that give me comfort.

And a peace of mind as I move into this stormy spring season with my students.

All eventually will work out.

There will be a silver lining.

Just wait and see. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

200th Blog Post - Show Me the Money!

It's my 200th blog post!

To celebrate this bi-centennial post - I will blog about money in relationship to college scholarships.

My favorite topic.

Every year I just have to show this clip from Jerry Maguire.


Because every year I feel more-and-more like my job is that of a sports agent.

Not only am I to get kids into college (which again, I don't do - kids get themselves into college).

But I'm also to broker the best financial aid package.

The logic:  Show the colleges the A's on the transcript and the colleges will show my kid the $$$$! 

Of course, when it comes to the most highly selective schools, that money is reserved not for the meritocratic all-stars, because we should all know by now, everyone who is admitted at the top of the selectivity pyramid walks on water.

Money is given based on need only.


Not CUM GPA's.

Last week Forbes did an article on this growing trend among American families with college-bound seniors.

It's a sobering article.

Meant to be a "wake up call" to children and parents of entitlement.

High GPA's and test scores doesn't necessarily equate to scholarship dollars. 

It's becoming an art form really.

Of wishful thinking.

Like an imaginary game of Monopoly. 

Every A should equate to collecting $100 of scholarship money.

Reality is just now coming to roost.

For parents.  You means we actually have to pay for college?

For colleges.  You mean you (parent) actually thought you weren't going to have to pay for college?

For students.  You mean that A in AP Study Skills doesn't get me a full ride? 

In the end, I counsel my students and parents to choose a college that fits into their affordability parameters.

For some that will equate to a full pay, private college.

For others that will equate to a half pay, "lower-on-the-selectivity-food-chain" private college.

And for others that will equate to paying for a state public.

Of course the biggest fear factor going forward for many students and parents is the L word.


There are so many horror stories of kids who graduate with six figure loan debt.

In a recent The Atlantic article entitled, "The Myth of the Student-Loan Crisis," the writers seek to illustrate with excellent graphics and empirical evidence that the horror stories are in the minority, and the employment rate and the income earning potential for those who graduate with a college degree should give you some warm fuzzies.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

@UVADean Top New Tweets

Who is in the mood for a few insightful dean @UVADean tweets?

I am.

Here are some of my recent favorites.

This last tweet is from the Common Application.  I was shocked when the CA announced that the short answer question (1000 characters) was removed from 2013-2014 application.

That means only one personal essay.

With an extended word length 650 words.

On another note, I thought you might enjoy a picture from my seat at last night's Thunder vs. Lakers game.

The last couple Thunder games I've attended have been L's.  It's sort of made me feel insecure.

Like I'm some sort of jinx or curse on the Thunder.

But last night, the Thunder were sharp all night and made big plays down the stretch (12-0 run) to close out Kobe and the Lakers.

Have a great rest of the week!