Tips for Your Campus Visit: Confessions of a Former College Tour Guide

This week we welcome Associate Director for Guest Experience, Andrew Cohen, to the blog. Welcome, Andrew!

Since there is no majoring in “admission” in college, I often get asked how I ended up in a career working in college admission — more specifically, managing campus visits and events. Like many of my colleagues in this profession, I started out as a college tour guide. (A story for another time is how I was not selected as a tour guide the first time I applied.)

During my time as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to welcome thousands of students and families to my alma mater and share a glimpse of what life was like for me as a student. As we head into the spring visit season, I thought I would brush off the cobwebs, reflecting on  my tour guide years, as well as my current experience managing Georgia Tech’s guest experience, to provide some helpful tips to make the most of your campus tours this spring.

Your tour guide is just one person representing the whole institution.

Thinking back to my campus tours, I think about the poor pre-med or science students in my group as I raved about all my experiences as a communications major (hopefully they realized we had great science programs too!). I hear this feedback often from tour participants – “My tour guide was a biomedical engineering major, but I want to study computer science.”

campus tourCampus tour guides are only one person and they share generally about most programs on their campus. Your tour guide is going to share information about the overall student experience on their campus, and many times their experiences are going to be similar to other majors.

Personally, I chose my alma mater because I toured the school of communications and was in awe of their television studios, camera equipment, and production facilities, which showed me the hands-on experiences that were offered. I enrolled as an advertising/public relations major and never stepped foot in one of the studios or held a camera during my time as an undergrad. What the tour showed me was that there was an emphasis on hands-on experiences, which ended up being very true to my major, but just looked different.

Remember that your tour guide is just one student representing the whole institution. Think about the stories they share broadly and what that means about the student experience and the programs offered at the institution. Use your time with your tour guide to get a good feel for the general student experience and the institution’s community. When you are looking for specifics about a particular program, seek that information from major-specific programs, visits, or tours that are offered.

Utilize the time between tour stops.

Within the profession of campus tours, there is a big debate about tour guides walking backward. Personally, I am not a fan… been there, done that! I think back to icy walkways in Upstate New York, crossing campus streets and parking lots, and the many puddles that ruined several pairs of shoes.  It is now more common to see tour guides walking alongside tour participants between each tour stop.

This time can be some of the most informative times of your campus tour. Join your tour guide up in the front and start up a conversation. Get to know them and ask them some more questions about their experience… even if you are on the quieter side, don’t be intimidated! Tour guides love to talk about themselves and will carry the conversation! This is a chance to hear more about their life as a student. This authentic conversation is a great way to make the most of your tour experience.

Pro-Tip: If you are not talking to the tour guide, make sure you are still looking around during this time. This is a great time to look through windows into classrooms and labs, take note of program flyers on the walls, or maybe even listen in to hear what students are talking about with each other.

Post-Tour Recommendations

Tech students enjoy access to thousands of dining options throughout the city of Atlanta.

As your tour guide is wrapping up and sharing with the group why they chose the institution, think about what is next for you. A campus tour is never going to show a full campus or college town/city. As you near the end of your tour, this is a great opportunity to get recommendations from your tour guides (or even admission staff) on what else there is to see or do. This is your chance to find out what places were not shown on tour but might be worth checking out on your own (again, just looking through windows, reading posters on walls, or listening in on conversations can give you a very different perspective).

For me, I went to school in Upstate New York and had about a 45-minute drive on a two-lane country road after getting off the highway, which was an interesting experience during my first visit when my family arrived late the night before my tour. This place ended up being my home for the next 4 years; I needed to make sure I liked the college town and community. Make sure you plan some time to explore off-campus and eat at a local restaurant. As a tour guide, I had my top favorite restaurants that I could easily rattle off!

Make sure to get these types of recommendations from current students to gain a better feel for what your experience might be like. Your tour guide will have some recommendations and happily share some must-dos while there.

Whether you are a high school sophomore or junior just starting your college search or a senior working on narrowing down your decision, I hope you enjoy your time on campus tours this spring. Take advantage of every minute you have during your campus visit and talk to as many people as you can. And don’t forget to say hi to my fellow campus visits colleagues out there! It’s a busy time of year for all of us!

Andrew Cohen joined Georgia Tech in 2018 and currently oversees the guest experience for all Undergraduate Admission visitors. His love for providing visitors with informative, authentic, and personal experiences started as a student tour guide at his alma mater, Ithaca College. Andrew’s passion for the visit experience has led him to his involvement in the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association, where he currently services as the President-Elect on their executive board.

 

Value (Capture) in College Admissions

A few weeks ago, a friend told me about the concept of “Value Capture” – a phrase coined by Dr. Thi Nguyen, a philosophy professor at the University of Utah. Essentially, value capture occurs when a metric becomes the motivation for a certain behavior (Abstract and paper here.) 

For example, instead of posting pictures on social media to simply share with family and friends, we become focused on and consumed by the number of likes or impressions we receive. I appreciate Dr. Nguyen providing well- researched phrasing to what I tried to articulate with fewer citations (but more puns) in my blog: “What are you Strava-ing for?”, which served as a confession that my running had been hijacked by the stats of a fitness app.  

Before I had this app, I rarely brought my phone with me on a run unless I needed the flashlight or wanted to listen to a podcast. Before I had the app, I’d come home with new ideas or perspective, or just feeling lighter (minus my legs) because I’d tuned out and refilled my proverbial cup. Lately, I’ve been coming back and checking to see my pace, achievements, and who else I know has run those segments. Even in the middle of runs, I’ve found myself thinking, “I need to PR (personal record—it tracks those too) this mile or loop.” 

Not up for Dr. Nguyen’s 50+ page paper? In this 8-minute interview with best-selling author (Scarcity Brain and Comfort Crisis) and UNLV journalism professor, Michael Easter, they discuss the recognition of value capture as an invitation to continually check our motivations.  

Why am I doing this?  

What is driving me? 

And have I lost sight of “my why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others?

As a high school student, now is a common time to be selecting classes for next year. Beware of value capture. What are you chasing—the grade or the preparation? They are not the same.  

Why am I re-taking the SAT/ACT? Because a school I’m applying to has a merit scholarship connected to a particular score range—value. Because if I get 20 points higher I’ll be able to beat my brother’s score to rub it in his face—capture! 

Again: Why am I doing this? What is driving me? And have I lost sight of “my why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others? 

Value Capture Meet College Admission 

The more I read, listened, and thought about this framework, the more I realized the college admission experience (for everyone involved) is tailor- made to be value captured…and it has been—ohhh, how it has been. 

“In value capture, we take a central component of our autonomy — our ongoing deliberation over the exact articulation of our values — and we outsource it. And the metrics to which we outsource are usually engineered for the interests of some external force, like a large-scale institution’s interest in cross-contextual comprehensibility and quick aggregability. That outsourcing cuts off one of the key benefits to personal deliberation. In value capture, we no longer adjust our values and their articulations in light of our own rich experience of the world. Our values should often be carefully tailored to our particular selves or our small-scale communities, but in value capture, we buy our values off the rack.” 

Well, damn. There you have it. Let’s look at a few ways that students and colleges can be value captured- and how to keep this in check.  

Rankings 

And the metrics to which we outsource usually engineered for the interests of some external force, like a large-scale institution’s interest in cross-contextual comprehensibility and quick aggregability.” 

Sheesh! Can you say, “US News and World Report?!” Students and families value going to a good school. They want a place where faculty care, students learn, and graduates get jobs (If this language is too technical, please let me know). All reasonable and commendable desires/ values. But if not checked we can effectively outsource critical and independent thinking for a simplified ordering of colleges.  

Every year we hear stories from students who say they were discouraged from applying to schools ranked below number X; or decided only to apply to schools within the Top 10 in a particular field; or were pressured to ultimately choose the highest ranked school from which they received on offer of admission. No! 

Instead of considering individual needs and wants; instead of asking big questions about the types of settings in which we best learn or thrive; instead of being confident enough to do our own research and ask the questions that most matter to us, “we buy our values off the rack.”  

They call it the “College Search.” But that is not meant to be literal- as in  one-click on Google to serve up prescribed list. SEARCH means within yourself. It means asking big questions not drawing little lines between numbers on a contrived list. 

And what is particularly ironic about the “rackings” (definitely calling them that from here on out) dictating where you visit, apply, or ultimately attend, is the biggest factor in the US News rackings (Told you. See, I’m not even using quotes anymore) are not even numbers at all.  

What? YEP, 20% of the methodology is generated from the opinions of people who work at other colleges.  

What?! And to show you how little effort people put into these, only about 30% responded. 

What!! In the end, 1500~ (1000 fewer than 30% of this blog’s subscribers) highly biased and self-serving people dictated numbers that generate millions of dollars annually. Disturbing. Deeply, deeply disturbing.

Value capture, people. Unshackle yourselves from the rackings by continually asking: Why am I doing this? What is driving me? And have I lost sight of “my why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others? 

If you are a sophomore or a junior, try this map, rather than a list, to help you think differently.  

If you are a senior, wanting to make a personalized versus prescribed decisions on where to ultimately attend, how about this quote from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement address: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Admit rates = College Quality 

“We are vulnerable to value capture because of the competitive advantage that such pre-packaged value expressions have in our reasoning and our communications. But when we internalize such metrics, we damage our own autonomy. In value capture, we outsource the process of deliberating on our values. And that outsourcing cuts off one of the key benefits of personal deliberation.” 

Too many students and parents look at admit rates as a proxy for quality and take these numbers in isolation to make decisions and assumptions. Literally, this week I talked to a friend who cannot understand why his daughter is leaning toward one college to which she’s been admitted when she also got into a school that has an admit rate 2x lower. (Cough… value capture.)  

Now I didn’t get all Nguyen-y about it, but I did ask him to consider why his daughter is more interested in one over the other– and why he’s having trouble reconciling this. 

I also thought it was helpful to point out a few things about “admissions math:” 

a. Denominator. Colleges don’t all count apps the same way, and can easily up their n. Some schools require a transcript, test scores, and a completed application with supplements to count as an app. Others? Well, you hit submit on a pre-populated form and then unsubscribe to all follow up comms… yea, we’ll go ahead and count that.

b. Numerator. Through binding Early Decision plans or other layered application deadlines, schools can radically depress their admit count  because of the guaranteed enrollment of those admits. Sound like some dark Bayou magic math? Wave if you are following.

c. Still Numerator. Number of admits can be further decreased by intentionally waitlisting to gauge interest, deferring to watch engagement, or implementing other levers in the process.

Translation. You can’t trust the math. It’s not apples: apples. It’s fruity. But it’s not fruit. 

The big question to be asking is: What do you value?  

Perhaps the answer is: I want to go to a college that denies at least 3x more students than it admits because I value exclusion.  

Or I am deeply committed to single digits. I’ve never had a uniform number above 9; I was born in a month prior to October; and I always measure people in feet rather than inches.  

Sound ridiculous? Go online and buy a shirt that says, “I’ve been Value Freed!” If not, go here and sort by “Admission Rate.” Then find a shirt reading, “Olin = RISD” or “Berea > Bryn Mawr.”  

Flipping the Mirror 

Suffice it to say, when it comes to both the rankings and admit rate, colleges should be asking themselves the same questions.  

Why are we doing this?  

What is driving us?  

And have we lost sight of “our why” in exchange for chasing numbers- or the comparison to others? 

However, I’m not holding my breath to find the answers to those questions on any college’s mission statement, list of values, or strategic plan soon. 

Values 

“Value capture occurs when an agent enters a social environment which presents external expressions of value — which are often simplified, standardized, and quantified — and those external versions come to dominate our reasoning and motivations.” 

I believe you are more than an agent. I believe you have agency. And as a talented high school student and a future college student, there is no better time than now to embrace that distinction.  

 

College Admission Signals

My son is 15 and learning to drive. Sitting (squirming/ praying) in the car with a new driver has brought back some incredibly vivid 30-year-old memories from my driver’s education experience. 

Our county offered this class at the district level. So, as sophomores we’d load the bus and head off to a joint facility shared by multiple high schools. After a month or two in rudimentary simulators, we finally hit the roads. Each car went out with three students (one driving and two in the back) and an instructor. My understanding is that this model is extremely rare now, and trust me, I see all the reasons it has gone the way of the VHS tape.  

One day, I was in the backseat with a girl from another high school. The kid driving was from my school. For this blog’s purposes, we’ll call him John. Actually, that was his real name. Since it was three decades ago and he has one of the most common names out there, there’s really no need to disguise his identity.   

John was unique. I had Biology with him the year before. Smart, quiet, but apt to both say and do some bizarre things at inappropriate times. Yea, if you are thinking, “Wow. That does not seem like a good combo for driving,” then buckle up, friends.  

We are in the right lane going about 35-40 MPH on a busy four-lane road and headed toward a big intersection. The instructor said, “OK. We are going to take a left at this light.”  

John continues to drive.  

Five seconds later and about a quarter mile from the intersection, she repeats, “Up here we’re going to take a left.” 

John was not picking up on this cue, and I could not help myself. 

An eighth of a mile out I say, “John. You need to get into the other lane.” Without checking his mirrors, he literally swerves into the left lane.

At that moment, the light turns yellow.  

Now, what he should have done was slowly brake. But not John. He punches it. (Told you- bizarre things at inappropriate times.) 

The girl in the back with me grabs my hand with a look of sheer terror. And that’s when things went from bad to worse.  

Unbeknownst (bonus points if you had that word on your blog bingo card) to all of us, the instructor had an override brake on her side of the car. Whaaaaaatttt???!!! And she steps on it hard.  

Meanwhile, John is still gassing it. The combination leaves us diagonally stopped in the middle of the intersection. Instructor lady is yelling at John, the girl next to me is starting to break bones in my hand, and John is looking down at his foot completely befuddled by how he can be hitting the gas and yet at a complete stop.

Outside the car things are getting ugly. Cars from every direction are beeping because we’re blocking all traffic. Chaos.  

Apparently, “the John factor” was not accounted for in the manual, because instructor lady was totally flustered. She takes her foot off the override brake without warning him. Meanwhile, he’s got the pedal literally on the floor and we fishtail through the intersection and onto an embankment.  

All blood has now effectively stopped flowing to my right hand. All blood has drained from the face of my backseat partner. But the blood is flowing big time in the front seat. John looks at her- and she looks at him- and they both start yelling. Chaos. 

Seatbelts click. Doors slam. They switch seats. We drive the entire way back to the Drivers Ed center in complete silence. The girl next to me didn’t loosen her grip on my hand until we exited the car. Chaos.  

Since my parents still live fairly close to that intersection, I go through it a few times each year. Every time we approach the light my hand goes numb, and I’m hyper-focused on the signal.

Red. Yellow. Green.

And while it’s probably just in my head, I’m still convinced I can see those tire marks ever so slightly up on the embankment.  

Signals Matter

In prior years, I’ve started January with Predictions, Messages for Students, and Hopes. I’ll likely get to the forecasting and unapologetic optimism in a few weeks, but unfortunately this year started the way they all have in college admission — with most nationally known and high-demand colleges posting January 1 deadlines. In my opinion, this is a terrible signal that creates an unnecessary traffic jam of frustration and chaos for students, families, counselors, and even admission offices themselves. And the truth is it is all avoidable.  

Red Light- Application Deadlines on Weekends and Holidays need to stop. 

A few years ago, Georgia Tech went away from having application deadlines on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays/breaks. This makes our dates kind of random: October 16, January 4, as examples. 

But let’s be honest, nobody needs a car stopped in the middle of an intersection with everyone beeping and yelling in frustration– especially on a weekend or a holiday. And that’s effectively what happens when students are working on applications without access to their teacher or counselor, or when they need to contact the college with a last-minute question only to find offices shutdown for winter break or closed for the weekend.  

The truth is these dates also frustrate most admission staff and counselors too, since they come back on Monday or post-break to inboxes and voicemails filled with vitriol, consternation, and petitions for extensions.  

Yellow Light 

When you see a yellow light, you are supposed to consider distance, speed, other cars, and ultimately make a smart decision for you and others on the road. At the end of the day, having deadlines on weekends and holidays is like gassing it through the intersection while singing “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” It’s a signal of laziness at best– and negligence or hubris at worst.

In 2024, I’m hopeful more enrollment and admission leaders will roll down their windows, pause to read the room (road), listen to the beeping, yelling, and chaos that deadlines on these days create and… well… actually lead. 

Green light 

There are many policies and practices in college admission that need to be re-examined. Some of those are hard, and in some cases perhaps impractical, to unwind. But the truth is that if a critical mass of well-known, highly- selective schools made this shift, it would green light a macro change–and we would be left with a safer, more friendly, and logical flow and pattern. 

I wish I had one of those override brakes, because I’d step on it hard. Instead, I have this blog and possibly your collective voices to join me. Let’s work to clear the intersection here, people. 

Oh… and Happy New Year!

The Committees and Decisions of College Admission… And College Football

This weekend Florida State beat Louisville in the ACC Championship and capped off an undefeated football season at 13-0.

Translation for non-sports fans: they beat everyone they played. They practiced and prepared for each game, and despite some hardships– including losing both their first- and second-string quarterbacks to injury, achieved at the highest level within the context of their schedule.

In other words, they demonstrated not just competency but excellence. And they did so in the face of real adversity and challenge.

Ultimately, however, they were left out of the four team college football playoff, which will include two teams (Texas and Alabama), who each lost a game this year. If you want varying opinions on how this should/could have gone, feel free to go down an internet rabbit hole  or delve into the vitriolic threads of social media. (FYI- apparently, there is also some barking going on in Athens, GA about lack of fairness and committee bias.) 2023 College Football Playoff bowl games: Michigan, Washington, Texas, Alabama fill four-team field - CBSSports.com

But if you want facts, here are a few.

  1. A committee of imperfect humans made this decision.

This group gathered in a room, presumably with veggie and fruit trays, plenty of gluten, and hopefully at least one recycling bin. They looked at team and conference strength of schedule, home/away wins, timing of games played, and a variety of other factors. At the end of the day, they made their decision given the quantitative information they had, as well as the goals they were trying to accomplish.

  1. Stats do not guarantee slots.

On that note, their goal in this holistic review was not to “admit” or provide slots to the undefeated, i.e. numerically perfect teams. Otherwise, FSU is in and would not have been nervous about it leading into Sunday’s reveal.

  1. Supply and Demand is an issue.

When this group assembled to watch games this weekend and debate quality and merit, they knew their primary challenge was “too many good teams for the number (4) of slots available.” They knew no matter what decision they made it would be contested, debated, ridiculed, and challenged.  I can’t tell you how many folks in that room were wearing quarter-zips or On Cloud shoes, but I can tell you what they were thinking, “Why couldn’t we have expanded to 12 teams this year vs. next?!”

  1. Geography matters.

Is Washington better than FSU? Perhaps. We really don’t know. Could U(sic)GA beat Alabama in a rematch? Maybe. But one “problem” the committee had was two SEC teams and one ACC champion with tons of talent and big cases to be made for their spot in the playoff.

Three teams from the South? Is that really a National Playoff?

Conversely, we can pull in one from the southeast, one from the southwest (or what some would simply call the Republic of Texas), one from the Midwest, and one from the Pacific Northwest. Now that does sound intriguing. That sounds “National.”

  1. Money matters.

And let’s be honest, these four teams have big fan bases and impact major TV markets. Michigan gets you Chicagoland and Midwest markets, plus any absolutely enormous global fanbase. Throw in a little (ok, a lot of coaching and sign-stealing controversy) and Meechagan means eyes, engagement, and bucks. Alabama is clearly a perennial powerhouse with a big national following, and they check the box for key markets in the South. Washington brings you Seattle and portions of the country the others don’t extend to as naturally. And Texas… Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and more. We are talking about big, big, big money. Yes, friends that is three “bigs.”

Admission Translation

Ok. Test time: Which of these principles apply to college admission decisions? What Is the Law of Supply and Demand? | The Motley Fool

  • People make decisions.
  • Numbers are only part of the equation.
  • Supply and Demand is the primary driver.
  • Geography Matters.
  • Money Matters.

Admission committees are congregating all over the country just like the NCAA playoff committee right now (with fewer flat screens and personal jets) to debate these same issues.

How many spots do we have available?

What is our mission?

Which students will help us shape a class?

Will this class help us grow our brand and build national interest?

Does the bottom-line work financially?

So, yea. The answer to the test is “all of the above.”

What does this mean for you?

  1. It means in the college admission experience many things will be outside of your control. You will not be able to influence or control who is making these decisions. You will not know all of the machinations and factors that they take into consideration. You won’t be able to control how strong the other applicants are that year, or from your state/region, or in your major.
  2. It means that despite having great numbers, maximizing what was available to you, and showing tons of preparation, fortitude, character, and potential, you may not get into some highly selective colleges.
  3. It means that it’s not you… it’s them. If you get deferred or denied or waitlisted this month or this year, it does not mean you are not talented or bound for amazing things in college and beyond.

Over the years, I’ve continually quoted my friend Pam Ambler who says, “The way college admission decisions are made is not how they feel.” Boom. Spot on. A defer or deny does not mean you are not smart or amazing. It just means you’ll go on to demonstrate all of that elsewhere. What can FSU do now? They can sit home and cry. Sure. But ultimately they will need to pick themselves up and go win their bowl game. Life lesson: Succeed where you get opportunity!

I could keep drawing parallels all day, but I’ve made a commitment to keep this blog under 1000 words, and I’m at limit.

Happy Holidays, friends.

5th Annual College Admissions Preparation Day

Re-upping this blog based on a few recent conversations with college and neighborhood friends who have kids in the admission process right now. Instead of texting or calling individually, I’ll just be forwarding this. You may call it impersonal– I call it efficient. Po-tay-toe, Po-taa-toe! 

Regardless, if you are a senior, or you are currently supporting one, I hope you will READ ON!

Text: “My daughter was deferred. We were SHOCKED! What does that really mean?” (FYI this was another school’s decision. If you are waiting on EA decisions from Tech, you have not missed anything.)

My first thought was, “Really? You were shocked? You know their profile and admit rate.” My second thought was, “I’ll deal with this on Monday,” and I put my phone on do not disturb (because that’s the kind of friend I am).

About 30 minutes later I was talking to another friend. He has one kid in college and two still in high school. He told me that after watching his older son go through the admission process he has been telling his current high school senior who is applying to colleges to be prepared to hear “no.” The dichotomy between these two approaches was both striking and instructive. More importantly, it made me realize we need to add another key date to the admission calendar.

August 1- Many colleges open their application.

October 1- FAFSA opens.

November 1- EA/ED Deadlines at lots of colleges and universities.

May 1- National Deposit Deadline.

PreparationSo, by the power vested in me (which is none, by the way) I pronounce December 1 as National Preparation Day!

By or on this day, henceforth, any high school senior applying Early Action or Early Decision to a college with an admit rate of less than 50 percent must put their hand on a large, preferably leather-bound book of some kind and take this pledge:

“I, (state your name), being of sound (though overly caffeinated) mind and (sleep-deprived) body, do hereby swear that I will not presume anything in the admission process. Upon advice of my wizened counselor sages, I acknowledge that I will not look at middle 50 percent ranges and expect that my scores, though in the top quartile, guarantee my admittance.

I will not look at middle 50 percent ranges of hitherto admitted classes and expect my scores, though in the bottom quartile, will be overlooked based on my amazing essay, parents’ connections, pictures of me in a onesie from that college, or the 12 letters of recommendation that have been sent on my behalf.

I understand the heretofore explicated concept of holistic admission is neither fair nor perfect, wherein I will likely not agree with, nor be capable of predicting all results, despite the complex algorithms I employ or the kingdom fortune tellers I visit.

Furthermore, I agree that I will not view an admission decision as an indictment of my character, a judgment on my hitherto demonstrated preparation, nor a prediction of my future success.”

Note: Slightly misused Olde English conjunctions does not negate the spirit nor effectiveness of this pledge.

So What Does Defer Mean?

Back to my friend who’s daughter was deferred… what does defer actually mean, and what do you do with that decision?

It means you have some work to do.

You need to send in your fall grades. You may need to write an additional essay or tell the admission committee more about your senior year extracurricular activities. Defer is a “hold on.” It is a “maybe.” Don’t like those characterizations? Fine—call it “tell us more.” They will be looking at how you’ve done in a challenging senior schedule, or if your upward grade trend will continue, or if you can juggle more responsibility outside the classroom with your course load. Bottom line is you have work to do. Are you going to get admitted in the next round? No promises. But if getting deferred is what helps keep you focused and motivated, you should look at their decision as a good thing. Finish well.

It means you may need to submit another application or two. 

If you’ve already got this covered, that’s great. You were ahead of Preparation Day. If not, then good news—many great schools have deadlines in January. The bottom line is you need applications in at a few schools with higher admit rates and lower academic profiles than the one that deferred you.

It means holistic review is a real thing.

If your scores and grades are above their profile and they defer you, they only proved what they said in their publications and presentations—admission is about more than numbers. At Georgia Tech we are knee-deep in application review. We have not released decisions, but day in and day out we are slating students for defer who have ACT scores of 35 or 36 and great grades. Is that “shocking?” It shouldn’t be. Institutional priorities, shaping a class, and supply and demand drive admission decisions. Similarly, if your scores are in the middle or below their profile, a defer also proves decisions are made using more than just numbers.

It means you need to check your ego and wait.

Does that sound harsh? Sorry—but sometimes, life is harsh. This is why you should take the pledge. It’s why have formally added Preparation Day to the admission calendar. Take the Pledge(Someone update the NACAC website!) If you are prepared for “no,” then a defer will not rock you as bad. Admission decisions feel personal. How could they not? Nobody loves spending a few more months in limbo. But this is not about you. This is about schools who are hedging their bets and wanting to evaluate you in context of their overall pool. Kind of sucks. I get it. But too many students do not send in fall grades, complete the deferred form, or send other information schools ask for because they’ve never heard of a “maybe” ( perhaps the first they’ve ever heard). Think of the admission experience as your first foray into your college years and start looking at maybes as good things. If you liked a school enough to apply, finish the drill. Give them reasons to admit you in the next round. It is called an admission process. There are rounds for a reason. Don’t go halfway and stop.

It means you need to look forward, not backward.

I was not going to text my friend back and say defer means to “put off or delay,” but technically that is the definition. For you it means to look forward to something in the future. DO NOT look back! DO NOT second guess whether you should have taken AP Geography in the ninth grade instead of band, or blame Mr. Thompson for giving you an 89 instead of a 93 that would have bumped your GPA by .00083. This is your MARTA bus moment.

It means control what you can control. 

People want so desperately to predict and analyze admission decisions that are influenced by macro institutional goals and made in rooms they will never enter. Defer means stay focused on the micro. This is your one and only senior year.  Do well—but more importantly do good. Don’t worry about those rooms hundreds of miles away, but rather the ones you walk into every day. Be a good friend. Be a good sibling. Be a good teammate. Go thank a teacher that wrote a recommendation for you. Hug your mama.

December 1 is here. Preparation Day. Take the pledge.

Listen to Preparation Day on the College Admission Brief podcast!: Spreaker | Spotify | Apple Podcasts