Early on in my time at Georgia Tech, a colleague received an email from a prospective student with a full signature line, including an inspirational quote at the bottom. I’m sure you have seen these before.
Typically, it looks something like this:
George P. Burdell
King of Georgia Tech
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
In most cases, you immediately recognize the quote (like the one above) or the person to whom it’s attributed. In my experience, Gandhi, MLK, Mother Teresa, or a dead politician or author are fairly common.
This particular situation had us curious because:
- Most high school students don’t have signature lines.
- Neither the quote nor the person to whom it was attributed were familiar.
So, we discussed, we debated, and we Googled. Finally, after extensive investigative research, we connected the dots. The mystery person who uttered these inspiring words was… the applicant’s dad—the different last name threw us off initially, but once we figured this out… it was on. For a good month, every internal email we sent included a quote from our own parents or close relatives.
“Don’t make me pull this car over.”
“Failing to plan means planning to fail.”
“This hurts me more than it hurts you.”
There were a few absolute gems. But it also led to some really personal conversations about our relationships with parents and some of the wise, interesting, and influential things they shared with us growing up.
Now, I’m not proposing you create a formal signature line for your emails during high school or walk around quoting your dad, but I do think this story is instructive. The truth is I cannot recall any of the other signature line quotes I’ve read over the years, but this one is emblazoned in my memory. Why? Because it was not familiar. And as a result, it led us to ask questions, research, and ultimately have enriching, bonding conversations.
A college search and selection process done right opens these doors for discovery and connection too. As a prospective student, my hope is you will stay curious, ask lots of questions, use your resources, and have open, honest conversations with the people around you about what you are learning.
In hopes of getting you started, here are a few accessible and available tools you may not have considered yet in your college search and selection experience.
College Scorecard– This site is hosted by the U.S. Department of Education. It is an increasingly valuable tool for searching for schools by academic program, size, cost, location, and other factors. It does a very good job providing details on price, median career earnings, graduation rates, and retention data, which often are tough to find on individual admission or university homepages. As you are researching where to visit or apply, the Scorecard comparison feature is helpful because it is easy to tailor based on a variety of factors. And it will give you data to consider or metrics to compare that you may not have previously encountered or factored. My hope is you will use this along the way, whether it be prior to visiting, applying, or deciding on a college.
ChatGPT– Based on their historically glacial rate of change and adaptation, I do not expect Common Application to include instructive language about the use of AI this year. So, there is no need to stare helplessly at a blinking cursor on the screen. One of generative AI’s greatest strengths is facilitating brainstorming and iteration.
There are seven prompts to choose from in the cycle ahead, so let’s assume you pick this one: Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Include a few bullet points of your ideas and be sure to name specific people, places, situations, and perhaps a quote or two- and then ask the program to produce a response of 500 words.
Make notes of what is accurate and helpful? What does not resonate with you as specific enough or reflective of your voice and experience?
In the essay, admission reviewers want details and insight that is uniquely yours. If you are applying to a college that receives 35,000 applications and the essay responses are evenly divided, then five thousand other students are responding to the same prompt you choose. As my colleague Dr. David Joyner from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing said, “use your interaction with the AI assistant as a learning experience, then let your assignment reflect your improved understanding.”
Degree Choices. Rankings get a lot of press and attention in the college admission conversation. However, in most cases, we do not dig into how these lists are formulated. Degree Choices provides a series of rankings lists based on region, academic program, return on investment metrics, etc. Even if you do not agree with the way they approach their rankings, at least it gets you thinking about what you do value. As I’ve said before, a good high school student becomes a good college applicant becomes a good college student. That starts with doing your homework, asking questions, re-thinking, and considering a variety of angles and sources.
The Common Data Set Initiative– For the data wonks among you- or for those who want to see information presented in a uniform manner from colleges. You can easily search for any institution’s CDS online. As an example, here is Georgia Tech’s. Particularly in the test optional world we are all attempting to navigate, the CDS can be helpful in understanding the number or percentage of test takers. CDS also highlights retention rates, financial aid distribution, and residency, ethnicity, and gender breakdowns, as well as size of classes, faculty degree attainment information, and more. Looking at multiple years of information in this format can point to trends or suggest institutional priorities. Again, taken alongside other tools and resources, examining Common Data Sets will inevitably generate questions for you to ask or additional topics to research when you visit campus and speak with students, faculty, or admission officers.
Did you wonder who George P. Burdell was in the example signature line? Did you follow the link to learn more? If so, you are well on your way with this whole curiosity and exploration adventure (If not, I’ve got you covered- here’s the link).
AVP/Executive Director- Undergraduate Admission