“Where is your other sock? How is it possible to only have one?” I said incredulously to my 7-year-old. “I’m going to start waking you up at 5 a.m.” It was 7:45 a.m. Her backpack was half-zipped, she was not wearing a jacket in 40-degree weather, and the snack I packed for her expedition to the zoo was sitting on the counter as she approached the door. Other thoughts also flew through my head, such as “you have one job; I hope you’re wearing underwear; only 11 more years; I’ll brush her hair and teeth tomorrow.” What can I say? This is next level parenting.
Like watching a movie on fast forward we drove, parked, ran across the park and into the school (embarrassingly, I was 20 yards ahead as if it’s my name on the roll). We get to the classroom at 8:00:45 a.m. and the announcements are rolling. My daughter was nervous to go in at this point, so we crossed the threshold of the door as the Pledge of Allegiance started.
A few other things also happened to me this week. I won’t get into the details on workout classes or meetings or books or movies or trips—you’ve heard about those things before. But this week two things in particular stand out:
- A staff member announced she’s leaving our team. Granted, this has happened before. In my time at Georgia Tech, I’d put the number of colleagues who have left around 60, but some hurt worse than others. Jade is a Tech alumna. She started working for us right after graduation and over the last four years she’s been absolutely incredible with everything we’ve asked her to handle (and that’s been a lot). She’s a spitfire. I’ve walked into my office to find her sitting there eating lunch asking me, “Can I help you?” Funny, smart, caring—she’s beautiful in every way. I love her. Even though she’s staying in Atlanta, it won’t be the same not seeing her every day and I am going to deeply miss her smile, wit, perspective, and infectious personality.
- We’ve been making lots of admission decisions. This Saturday, March 10, we will release approximately 21,000 admission decisions. Over the last few months, and particularly the last few weeks, our staff has spent a lot of time together. In our process applications are reviewed by two team members before moving into Committee. At this stage, groups of three or pairs are going back over applications with various recommended decisions to re-examine individual decisions and ensure we meet our class goals. Admitting one of every four applicants is tough. Thousands of incredible students with great stories who we simply cannot admit. Fun? No, it’s not. Every day we have debates and disagreements in our office about a student, a school, a state, a major, our process, our communication and recruitment strategy, if only local honey has allergy countering effects, or if the correct spelling is “grey” or “gray.”
Back at my daughter’s school, I put my hand over my heart to join in the pledge and we come to the word indivisible. It struck me. It stuck with me after I hugged my daughter and walked back (much more slowly) across the park. It stuck with me on the train, on my walk, all day after, and even as I’m writing now. Indivisible. I thought about the public finger-pointing, vitriol on social media, drama of the nightly news, bickering and blaming, dearth of humility, and the prevalence and proliferation of fear in our world today. Division seems to be far more the norm and trend these days.
And then I thought about you- as high school students. I thought about the lessons you teach us through your applications. We have the honor of reading incredible stories every year—the essays, emails, and life stories we see, hear, and read challenge us and inspire us. I’m so thankful for my job because seeing the talent, passion, and perseverance you demonstrate through your applications gives me hope.
The truth is we teach you very little in the admission process. You visit. You apply. You receive a decision. You ultimately come or don’t come. So today I hope to return the favor, even to the smallest extent.
Look Back. Go Back.
If you are a senior, I know you are excited about next year—and you should be. My guess is you are talking about “moving on” or “our last” this or that a good bit these days. That’s awesome. But remember for your parents, teachers, counselors, and coaches every time you say one of these things, or even when you just walk into the room, they feel conflicted. Sure, some have better poker faces than others. Outwardly, you will get a lot of smiles, hugs, high-fives, and congratulations and best wishes. But when you are not looking they close their eyes, take a deep breath, and remind themselves it’s going to be okay. Even if you are the third of three (some would argue especially if that’s the case) to go to college, they still feel this way. Just because they’re the adult, or they’ve been through it before, or they are the ones who have been encouraging you to do this all along, your absence will leave a hole.
We have a Facebook page for current and former staff members. When we go to conferences we make an effort to have at least one Tech dinner of current and former team members. Honestly, very little gives me as much joy as to see and hear from our former admission staff. Once family, always family. So before you walk out of the room, before you leave school this spring, before you close the door, look back. Walk back in one more time to say thanks. Tell them you love them. Tell them something specific about how they’ve helped you. And when you think of them next year as you’re eating in the dining hall or leaving an exam or heading to a game, send them a text or email, make a quick call. Once family, always family. Indivisible.
As I said, our staff disagrees constantly. If you could listen to conversations in committee you’d hear different perspectives on a student’s match for Tech or what the ultimate decision should be. In review, if counselors have opposing opinions they’ll make a note of their disagreement and send the application on for further review. I always admire that, despite not always seeing eye-to-eye in review, they go eat together, go for walks together, and spend time together socially as well.
Last week, our Senior Associate Director and I looked over all recommended decisions and projections for the class. In order to meet class goals (size, geographic distribution, etc.) we asked our team to re-visit many of their previous recommendations. Did they love our directive? Nope. Did they have legitimate questions about timing and rationale? Absolutely. But ultimately they understood the big picture and what has to be done to meet our goals. Within your family, on your team, and in your job, club, and community I hope you’ll both speak up for what you believe is right and experience progress that can emanate from confidence and also from compromise.
As you graduate and move on, I encourage you to look for opportunities to improve things by finding middle ground– and always trying to see the bigger picture, particularly when others around you are taking a myopic view. Indivisible does not mean 100% agreement in the short term, but rather 100% commitment to ultimate unity. Listen, consider, revisit, and seek out multiple opinions. A holistic admission process is actually a great example of how this can done well, and unfortunately, there are precious few cases of this right now in our society.
What the College Experience Creates
People will tell you college is the best time of your life. Perhaps it’s partly because of what the college experience creates: a diverse community that comes to campus from a wide variety of counties, states, and nations. A group of strangers with varying religious, ethnic, political, and philosophical backgrounds who have the opportunity to live together, eat together, exchange ideas and beliefs in class and in residence halls all week, and then cheer for the same teams at night or on the weekend. One banner, one campus, one motto. Win or lose… Indivisible.
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