Listen to “Episode 14: Your Voice Matters – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.
If you have ever heard an admission counselor discuss college application essays, they will inevitably say, “We just want to hear your voice.” Having worked at a number of institutions, I can tell you this is absolutely true. While grammar and style matter, conversations in committee rooms center on what your essays tell us you care about and how you think and operate.
Admission interviews are similar. In fact, “interview” is really a misnomer. Admission reps, alumni, students, faculty, or other university representatives you meet with have a battery of questions to ask, but really they are hoping for a conversation. They are interested in the content of your responses, your tone, your ability to build on ideas, and the tenor of the overall exchange and dialogue.
In other words, when an admission dean tells you they “just want to hear your voice,” they are not only thinking about your application, but also who you will be as a future member of their campus community—and ultimately as a graduate and a global citizen.
Your voice matters in the college admission experience. How and when will you use it?
Your Voice Matters
As someone who works at the unique intersection between high school and higher education; as an educator charged with building and shaping a class and a community; as the father of two young children, I believe all schools and universities should foster discussion, expose you to new ideas, and surround you with people who think and approach life differently. These communities should serve as laboratories for the mixing and merging of perspectives and the facilitation of open, spirited dialogue. None of that happens without your full engagement and commitment—without your voice.
If you are about to begin your college career, go look at your acceptance letter from the school you plan to attend.
I hope it makes you feel proud. I hope you see it as a vote of confidence, an invitation, and a contract.
An offer of admission is our way of saying…
We trust you.
We believe in you.
We need you.
We are counting on you to show up and contribute. We want you to be challenged and to challenge us. We are offering you an opportunity to learn, transform, and improve. And we are also imploring you to teach, transform, and improve our campus community.
Your voice matters in college. How and when will you use it?
Your Voice Matters Now
These are fractured and tumultuous times. Our world is facing a global pandemic. Our nation is in a divisive and contentious election year. Our cities are experiencing protests and curfews.
Honestly, part of what gives me hope right now is you. On Sunday, my family went to a protest organized by the Beacon Hill Alliance for Human Rights. The first 10 speakers were either high school or college students from the Atlanta area. It further convinced me of what I already know from reading your college applications—your voice is powerful and crucial right now and as we move forward.
Whether you are returning to high school or beginning your college career, I want you to know your voice matters. Your voice can help bring about the change and healing our local communities, campuses, cities, and our country so desperately need.
After the recent killings of Aumaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, there has been no shortage of articles, interviews, speeches, and social media posts suggesting precisely how and when you should use your voice. Ultimately, that decision rests with you.
My hope is you will choose to use it in your school and community to:
- call out and speak against injustice, inequality, racism, and discrimination.
- lift the voice of friends, classmates, or other community members who are marginalized or excluded.
- acknowledge what you do not know and commit to listening and learning.
- speak truth to power, especially when the reality of an organization or an institution does not mirror its stated values, mission, or vision.
- question and protest systems/ status quo that work against progress and equity– and ultimately vote accordingly.
- call out who is not in the room and work to bring them in as equal partners.
I want to be clear. I do not always get this right– far, far from it. The Real Cost of Silence is a story I told several years ago as part of Georgia Tech’s Transformative Narratives project, which demonstrates that fact. But it taught me that my voice matters; transformation comes through experience (often through missteps and failure); our words will never be perfect, but silence in the face of injustice and overt prejudice is patently wrong; we cannot change the past, so we must commit to a different and better today and tomorrow; and perhaps most importantly, not being part of the solution means you are part of the problem.
Your voice matters each and every day. How and when will you use it?
Your Voice Matters, Now More Than Ever
I hope you take this summer to read, listen, watch, learn, reflect, and evaluate.
I hope you will ask yourself big questions about who you are, who you want to be, what you care about, and what you believe. Whether you are applying to college in the year ahead or beginning your college career, those questions are critical.
I hope you consider what you want your future and the future of our nation and world to look like.
Most of all I hope you will be reminded and confident in this—YOUR VOICE MATTERS.
How and when will you use it?
More Georgia Tech Voices
President Ángel Cabrera’s Statement on George Floyd
A Commitment to Drive Change by Archie W. Ervin, Ph.D.
Dean of Computing, Charles Isbell
Dr. Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs
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