Waiting Well in Uncertainty

This week we welcome Senior Admission Counselor Samantha Rose-Sinclair to the blog. Welcome back, Sammy!

If you applied to colleges for regular decision, it’s been a few long weeks now that you’ve been waiting on your decision. For the many Early Action applicants deferred from schools this year, it’s been even longer—we’re talking months. Long enough to have watched The Office 26 times back to back.

Still waiting…

While you’re suspended in the discomfort of uncertainty for so long, it’s easy to fixate, to try and find insights that fill in the gaps of what you don’t know. First-year profiles and stats? “How I Got In” YouTube videos? Common Data Sets? Checked them. A thousand times. You may find yourself hunting for signs, trying to decipher anything, anything, as an indicator of what’s to come. An email from Financial Aid? A new button on the admission portal? That could mean something, right? And then there’s daydreaming about life after the admission decision, and how much better things will be.

This is not me passing judgment. This is me speaking from experience. Let me level with you for a moment:

While I was halfway across the country waiting on a potential job offer from Georgia Tech, I jumped into a bottomless pit of internet tabs and YouTube videos about Atlanta and Georgia Tech every night. Every. Night. While I was waiting to hear if my offer was accepted on my home, I scrolled through the pictures on Zillow over… and over… and over. Before long, I had mapped out every grocery store, restaurant, and retail store within a 5-mile radius.

To bring us back a little bit closer to home, I applied to graduate school two summers ago. Slightly different than undergraduate admission, but the application bones were the same: transcripts, test scores, essays, recommendations, the whole deal. I obsessed. I tried to find all I could about how likely I was to get admitted. (You know when you’ve hit the third page of Google results you’re in way too deep.) In my interview, the recruiter quite literally told me I was going to be admitted a few weeks later, and I STILL kept at it.

Feel familiar? Truly, my hope for you is to be better than me. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Getting excited about a new adventure is a good thing.

Researching and virtually visiting schools so that you’re well prepared to make a decision in a few months is a good thing. But doing all the things I just described above? That doesn’t feel good. If you stop to think about how you feel when you’re doing these things, you’ll likely agree.

My hope for you is that you can recognize that moment, and act on it. Reclaim your time, and see this period of time between submitting applications and making a college decision as an opportunity. There are people you care about and things you can do in your last year of high school that deserve your attention now, so much more than the college admission fixation. I promise you, investing your energy in them will feel a million times better.

Trying to peg your likelihood of admission with “chance-me’s,” or thinking up various calculations of where you fall/versus application numbers/versus admit rates, can only provide a fleeting and false sense of certainty where there isn’t any.

It won’t help. I understand the instinct to want to know the unknown. Unfortunately, while you’re waiting for an admission decision, I’ve learned there’s not much you can research that will truly help you “know.”

Here’s a bit of tough love for you:

  • “How I Got In” videos provide singular anecdotal evidence of an admission decision, without insight on what actually lead to that decision in application review. Yet, they’re often presented as a guide or formula to admission, which is terribly misleading. Don’t put any stock into them.
  • “Chance me’s” lack context of the high school, the full student experience, application, academic history, or the applicant pool—all things that factor into admission review.
  • First-year profiles, stats, and data sets, though they’re more data driven, are a guideline of historical numbers. They are not an absolute guarantee of admission results, especially in selective, holistic environments where the important qualitative elements of a class are difficult to summarize. Last year’s first-year profiles also are missing another critical factor: for the most part, those students applied pre-Covid-19. The context of their class profile is completely different than yours.

Boom. There’s the tough love. I don’t want to leave you feeling defeated and without a compass.  However, I believe it’s helpful to realize the compass wasn’t reliable in the first place.

Here’s the good news: wait well, and know that certainty is coming. You’ve worked hard! You’ve done your part to submit your application. The ball will be back in your court soon, but for right now, you’re not going to be in the room while your application is being read.

With all else that you have on your plate, refocus your time and energy on controlling what you can control. Take time for yourself. Take time for your friends. Hug your mama.

A college admission decision does not define you—it is not a judgement of your character, abilities, or a predictor of future success.

Let’s add on to that: a college in and of itself will not define you either. So, if you feel stuck, fixated on daydreaming about how great life will be at this one college if you could just get admitted… rethink that perspective. Don’t give any one school that kind of weight—put that power back in yourself. You’ll explore new opportunities, invest in your own personal development, challenge yourself, and create new relationships in the coming years. That’s not dependent on one college—that’s all you.

The truth is, you will be great no matter where you go, as long as you take that excitement with you, and really show up wherever you end up this fall.

My hope is that you can take the pressure off of any given admission decision in the coming months, and can get excited for the bigger picture. Trust us, it works out.

On behalf of college admission officers everywhere, thank you for waiting with us, and allowing us the opportunity and time to dive into your accomplishments. We’re in the home stretch now!

Sammy Rose-Sinclair has worked in college admission for five years. She moved to Atlanta and joined Georgia Tech three years ago as a senior admission counselor on the first-year admission team. She uses that same love of engaging with students, families, and counselors to interact with the Tech Admission community as the coordinator of our social media channels (@gtadmission).

Myths and Misperceptions about the MBA

This week we welcome Katie Lloyd, Ed.D., Associate Dean, Evening and Full-time MBA Programs at the Scheller College of Business to the blog. Welcome, Katie!

Listen to “Myths and Misperceptions about the MBA – Katie Lloyd, Ed.D.” on Spreaker.

It’s never too early to think about your future. Now you might be shouting at the screen, “I just decided to attend _________! Of course, I’m thinking about my future.” Absolutely. Enjoy these noteworthy moments as well as your upcoming undergraduate experience. I hope it is only the beginning of a wonderful journey of lifelong learning.

College is an amazing time to explore new interests, activities, and relationships – and as you start to map out your future – an MBA is a great option to consider.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

There is a lot of jargon, myths, and misperceptions associated with an MBA degree, so let’s break it down.

First: What is an MBA? An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a graduate program for students seeking a general graduate business degree. In addition to learning the basics, MBA programs also allow you to go deeper into business subject matter. There are a variety of MBA program formats available. Let’s tackle some of the myths and misperceptions surrounding the degree.

Myths

Myth #1: I should go to graduate school right after college.

An immediate path to graduate school may be the best course of action for some degrees, however, it’s ideal to gain work experience before applying to business school. A few good reasons to wait include:

  • MBA programs are built on classroom discussion and practical application. Students with work experience can contribute more to discussions and typically make better teammates.
  • Employers want to hire MBAs who have prior experience – and some companies require a minimum number of years. The requirement varies across industries, but three to five years is typical.
  • Students who have impressive pre-MBA profiles will have more post-MBA opportunities. More experience can also mean higher salaries.

Did you know? Some MBA programs, including Georgia Tech’s, allow you to apply for deferred admission into an MBA program your final year of college. You are still required to work before starting the MBA, but the deferred application process allows you to secure an MBA as a possible future option sooner.

Myth #2: I need to be an undergraduate business major.

It’s true that a bachelor’s degree in business can demonstrate critical thinking and analytical or quantitative aptitude, but so can engineering, sciences, and economics degrees. Students who pursue majors outside of these areas may also highlight aptitude by taking statistics, accounting, and other quantitative electives. MBA programs review the difficulty of your undergraduate degree and your performance. If your coursework can’t easily affirm potential success in graduate-level business classes, strong performance on the GMAT or GRE can help.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

Myth #3: MBA programs only want applicants who are accountants, consultants, or entrepreneurs.

Absolutely untrue! While having an early career in any of these areas is great, it isn’t the only path to an MBA. Peace Corps volunteers, educators, engineers, veterans, architects, computer programmers, doctors, scientists, salespeople, journalists… they can all be qualified and compelling MBA candidates. Students who bring varied perspectives into the classroom encourage rich discussions and different approaches to problem solving.

Myth #4: MBA programs are only for Wall Street wannabes.

Just as MBA applicants bring a wide range of backgrounds into the program, MBA graduates also pursue a variety of careers afterwards. An MBA prepares you to make industry advances and significant career changes. You take a core curriculum in business fundamentals like finance, marketing, management, accounting, technology, operations, and strategy, and then can go deeper in one of them or specialize in something like real estate, sustainability, or innovation. Your classwork and projects, as well as extensive leadership and career development training, can lead to careers in almost every industry.

Did you know? Many MBA programs offer dual degree options that enable you to pursue two degrees simultaneously or consecutively. Popular options include the MD/MBA (medicine), JD/MBA (law), and MS/MBA and PhD/MBA in specific disciplines. At Georgia Tech, there are several dual degree choices. Masters or doctoral students who combine their studies can distinguish themselves in the hiring process and gain more long-term career flexibility. Also, it typically takes less time to complete the two degrees than if you were to do them independently.

Myth #5: MBAs are all about making money.

While many students return to school with the goal of increasing their salaries, MBA programs also help students build connections and do good within their communities. There are volunteering and community service opportunities, you can consult for non-profits, or even tackle environmental and social issues both during and after the program. Additionally, MBA students gain access to a new, diverse network that helps them build meaningful, often lifelong, relationships.

Photo taken prior to Covid-19 pandemic.

Myth #6: I need to leave my job to enroll in an MBA full-time.

Traditional MBA programs took students away from the workforce for two years. Now, there are many alternative formats. There are one-year accelerated programs, part-time options, online formats, and executive MBAs. The full-time, two-year option is still popular if you want to make a career change, as it allows you to gain relevant experience during a summer internship. Do your research and talk to admission offices to figure out which program may be the best for you.

Misperceptions

There are widely held misperceptions about most MBA admission processes. A few have been addressed in this blog series previously, but bear repeating:

Misperception #1: Most admission teams look for reasons to deny you.

While we look for certain desirable characteristics on your MBA application – we really are rooting for you! We have a lot of information to use in the evaluation process: undergraduate grades, leadership, work experience, recommendations, essays, test scores (sometimes), and an interview. You control these factors to a significant degree.

Misperception #2: Test scores are the most important factor.

While a strong performance on a standardized test (the GMAT and GRE are the most common) can help establish your quantitative aptitude, MBA programs emphasize other factors, too. In the past year, many programs have made the testing process optional, so the future of MBA standardized testing is a bit fuzzy.

For now, it’s best to think about taking a standardized test in your final year of college when your test taking skills are their sharpest. It may help you compete for admission and scholarships.

Misperception #3: MBA programs are expensive.

Yes, the cost is not negligible; however, many programs offer generous scholarships. And most candidates will experience bumps in salaries during or after completing the MBA. The typical candidate sees a return on their investment in 2 to 4 years and a lifetime of increased earnings.

I hope this knowledge about common myths and misconceptions surrounding the MBA arms you with one more option to consider for your future. As you begin your college experience, I encourage you to keep your goals beyond graduation top of mind and allow those goals to drive your decision making the next few years.

Now is the best time to be open to new opportunities and explore the unfamiliar. And you never know – perhaps the future will find you at Georgia Tech, achieving your goals as an MBA.

Dr. Katie Lloyd joined Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business in 2016. Bringing more than 20 years in graduate management education to Tech, Katie leads the Full-time and Evening MBA Programs as Associate Dean. She oversees all recruitment, admissions, and student experience efforts for these MBA programs. Katie is passionate about fostering a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative environment in which students and team members can reach their full potential. In addition to enjoying time with her husband and two children, Katie has been spending the last year learning how to paint.

Light in the Darkness

Listen to “Episode 29: Light in the Darkness – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

In the days following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, we have been inundated with social media posts, interviews, opinions, podcasts, and articles riddled with frustration, finger pointing, and fallout. News stories have aired everything from caustic political rhetoric to disconcerting details related to injuries, deaths, and arrests. At this point, hundreds of CEOs, presidents of boards, chancellors of universities and systems, and others in top positions of leadership have released statements condemning these events and expressing their outrage, sadness, and shock.

Simultaneously, we are watching the escalation of  diagnosed cases and hospitalizations related to Covid-19, and learning more about the threat of a new Covid strain. While the 24-hour news cycle would never tolerate succinctly summarizing the beginning of 2021, I think a fair and accurate word to use would be darkness.

Martin Luther King, Jr quoteIn stark contrast, admission officers are spending their days during this time reading essays, conducting interviews, and hearing stories each day from incredible high school students who are investing in their schools, families, and communities. While you would never know it, your descriptions of hopes, dreams, resolve, and purpose, and the indisputable evidence of your growth, resilience, and vision serve as precious gift. Sources of deep encouragement and optimism—or in a word: light.

My goal is to return the favor and provide you with some hope and encouragement.

As a high school student:

As 2021 kicks off and you head back to class, I hope you continue to pour yourself into your sports, clubs, activities, and work. If there were ever a time to dig in and contribute, it’s now. Make something around you fundamentally better this semester.

On college admission panels and during presentations people inevitably ask what we are “looking for.” In most cases, I think they expect us to rattle off some kind of formula that includes five AP classes, at least one award in the junior year, and sustained volunteer work. The truth is admission officers are looking for applicants who have been good students inside and outside the classroom in high school.  Simply put they want to admit and enroll people who will be deeply missed by their school and community when they graduate.

Take some time in the week ahead to thank those who have helped you and supported you along the way. Email your fourth-grade teacher, go for a walk with your little sister, send a note to your ninth-grade science teacher, and as always, hug your mama. Everyone could use some more light in their life right now. Embrace that opportunity.

I also hope you: practice listening; worry less about what people think about you; break out of any cliques or relationships you know are not healthy; be disciplined enough to intentionally put your phone away for specified times each day and week; and start each morning contemplating at least one thing you are grateful for in your life.

As a college applicant:

I hope you are confident enough to consider the opinions of others but think for yourself.

I hope you figure out why you are going to college and ask the questions that really matter to you along the way.

I hope you wait well. Concern yourself more with preparing for college in general than obsessing about the internal machinations and committee deliberations of any particular college.

I hope you will not use the term “top” or “first choice.”  Don’t take an offer of admission for granted, and instead enthusiastically celebrate each one as an exciting option and opportunity.

I hope you remember college admission decisions are not character judgments or predictions of future potential. Getting in, or not getting in, to a particular school does not change who you are, the feasibility of your goals, or define you in a substantive way.

I hope you will be humble and selfless enough to celebrate your friends in their successes and comfort them in their disappointment.

I hope you are proactive in initiating critical conversations with your family about uncomfortable topics like paying for college, loans, distance from home, your major of choice, and colleges you do and do not want to apply to or attend. I hope as a result of those courageous dialogues you and your family will be able to make a unified decision devoid of ego and rooted in authenticity.

I hope you are cognizant of what and how you post on social media related to your college applications and decisions.

I hope your ultimate college choice will be based on an authentic internal compass, rather than on external pressures or commercialized rankings.

Continue to Be A Light 

For some reason people tend to think of the actual college experience and the college admission experience as separate entities. The truth is the two are closely linked.

They are both about developing critical thinking skills, seeing a bigger picture, seeking diverse voices, researching information, being comfortable with some gray and unknowns, weighing options, questioning data, understanding historical context, and keeping a broad (ideally global) perspective.

In a time of division, disruption, and disillusionment, thank you for helping those of us working in college counseling and admission, to see evidence of unity, progress, and hope. Ultimately, as a high school student, a college applicant, and both into and beyond your college years, I hope you will continue to be a light.

What does being denied mean?

This is part 2 of a 3-part series looking at different admission decisions: what they do and do not, mean; what you should you do and avoid doing in their wake; and what, if anything, is different this year due to Covid-19.  

While nobody loves being told maybe (as discussed last week with deferrals), I think we can all agree that a straight “no” is even harder. 

Bad news: that is where we are going today. Good news: I have as much experience hearing “no” as I do saying it. I was denied admission as a high school student; again by a few graduate schools; and in more recent years for jobs at other colleges. I may not hold the record on university denial letters, but I could make a run at the title.  

Whether you have recently received a deny, or you are waiting on an admission decision to come in the next few days or weeks, the tips and advice below come from lived (and deeply felt) experience.   

Denied Admission 

Prediction: In contrast to last week’s prognostication about more defers (and likely waitlist offers) across the board, I think denies will be like the relationship of a couple in a romantic comedy or the stock market during this pandemic—up and down… not always in that order.   

While overall I do think the percentage denied by most colleges in early rounds will go down (see this blog for rationale), some of  the colleges releasing decisions around this time of year are currently reporting bigger applicant pools. If the college you applied to is not increasing its class size, even if they both admit and defer more students, the raw number of denies could essentially be flat or even increase. 

In other words, still a lot of dream killing and tears in December.

What does being denied admission mean?   

It means “no.” Band-aid off, short letter, 86, time to move on. Some of you may not have needed all of those examples, but as a talented student and likely a really great person in general, I am guessing this is neither a word nor a concept you’ve experienced often.   

Being denied admission means that based on supply and demand, institutional priorities, or some combination of the two, they are unable to offer you admission. It means that even if you cheer for their team each season or just overpaid for a hoodie from their online bookstore or have eight family members who attended, they have closed the door.  

While I do not love being the one to put it so abruptly, I’ve seen some admission letters take three paragraphs to say “No” and others leaving you wondering if that is really what they said at all. Hint: If they don’t say “Congratulations!” in the first word or sentence, it’s likely a “No.” I’m not going to do you like that. Trust me- we have to start quick and rough in order to provide perspective and move on. 

What should you do?   

Scream, cry, beat your pillow, cook, or eat a lot of something. Whatever it takes to begin clearing your head. We all have different responses and emotions surrounding notifications of finality. And since I feel like we have already gone there at this point, I might as well be the one to tell you this is not the last time you’ll encounter these kinds of disappointments.  

One thing you need to hear, and maybe repeat back to yourself in the days and weeks after being denied, is that however you are feeling is both reasonable and understandable. Mad? Sad? Frustrated? Disappointed? I get it.   

What brings you joy or clears your headDo those things. Go for a long drive, watch a funny movie, or eat a gallon of ice cream. What brings you perspective? Who totally gets you or can make you laugh or feel like the only person in the room? Be intentional about being in those spaces and with those people right now. 

Then you should start to move forward. Take some time to look at some of the college brochures laying around your room. Check your email from the last week and be reminded that you have lots of options and lots of choices.  

You are likely going to need to submit another application or two. If you’ve already got this covered, that’s great. If not, then good news—many great schools have deadlines in January. Look for colleges that interest you who have higher admit rates and lower academic profiles than the one(s) that denied you. 

What does being denied admission NOT mean?   

Being denied, especially from a selective institution (i.e. a lot of them releasing decisions right now) does not mean you are not smart, talented, capable, bound for future success, or a good person. These decisions are not perfect or perfectly fair.  

Being denied does not mean your effort to this point has all been in vain; that you did something wrong in your application; or that if you had either sent or not sent test scores the result would have been different. 

Do not second guess yourself—a denial from a college(s) does not mean that you are not going to get into the other schools to which you applied (an actual question/comment from my neighbor’s daughter last week).  

What should you AVOID doing?  

Do not look backward. Please do not accuse Mr. Wilson of writing you a crappy recommendation letter; tell Mrs. Jenks that if she had just bumped your 9th grade Geography grade from an 89 to a 93 (especially after turning in your amazing extra credit project on the “Primary Tributaries of the Mississippi River”) you would have been admitted; or question if you should have joined the Spanish club as a sophomore.  

Do not conflate or confuse the message. Please do not convince yourself the school that denied you was the only school where you could be happy (note: this is also true of relationships, jobs, etc. for the future). In my opinion, the terms “dream school” and “top choice” should be banned. 4,000 schools in the country. You may not feel okay right now, but you are going to be.  

Do not go for a long drive, watch a funny movie, and eat a gallon of ice cream simultaneously (just wanted to be sure you caught that “or” from earlier and did not think I was suggesting combining those).   

Please keep perspective. Do not send an expletive laced email rant to the college’s admission counselor cc’ing the President, Provost, multiple congressional representatives, and the entire Board. As I said earlier, this is all based in lived experience. In fact, we had one a few years ago that also copied—wait for it— our Governor, as well as the President and Vice President of the United States. (For those scoring at home I kept that one.)

Do not burn articles of clothing with that college’s logo. Instead, take a breath, do some good, and locate your closest Goodwill.   

Over the years I’ve written extensively about my own personal re-routes, as well as the experiences of students, family, and friends in hopes of providing solace when something you hope for doesn’t go as planned:

Please hear me say again: however you are feeling right now (or in the days and week after receiving a denial) is both reasonable and understandable.

What you need to avoid is sitting in that particular emotion for too long. Do not get stuck; do not stay down. understand if you do not want to hear or believe this right nowbut I can say with absolute confidence through repeatedly lived experience,  It Works Out.  

I’ll see you on The Other Side. 

If you would like to subscribe to receive blog entries when they post, please enter your email address in the “subscribe” box at the top of the page. We welcome comments and feedback at @gtadmission on Twitter.

What does being deferred mean?  

Listen to “Episode 27: What Does Being Deferred Really Mean? – Rick Clark” on Spreaker.

Recently we modified the final portion of our podcast to field listener questions from Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. If you have something you want us to tackle, feel free to tag @gtadmission.

A few recent inquiries surrounded how to prepare for the various admission decisions that will be coming out from colleges and universities in the next few weeks, and how/if we think anything will be different this year due to the pandemic.

Since we know you are busy with classes and your time is limited right now, we will hit the highlights of each possible EA/ED decision (deferred, denied, admitted) over the next few weeks and put a few podcasts out on these topics as well.

Deferred

Prediction: I think more students will be deferred this year by selective schools than they have in the past. Keep in mind enrollment managers are doing exactly what their job title says: managing enrollment (you come here for the deep stuff, I know).

Colleges are closely, and quite nervously, watching their spring enrollment numbers. What will retention look like if students were disappointed with their fall experience on campus, online, or in some hybrid delivery mode? If they take an additional financial hit, they will likely be looking to build an even bigger first-year class for the summer or fall of 2021.

Additionally, they have lots of questions about how to predict this year’s admitted student behavior:

  • Will yield go down as a result of test score optional policies?
  • Will international students be able to receive visas at pre-pandemic rates?
  • Will the financial fallout of Covid-19 deteriorate yield of domestic students?

All of this means they will likely defer a higher percentage of early applicants in order to wait and see what they can learn about vaccines, infection rates, economic recovery… you know, little stuff like that.

What does being deferred mean?  

It means maybe, hold onwe’re not surewe’d like to see more. Better than No? Yes. Ideal? Nope.

Being deferred means you have more waiting to do, and that is not easy or fun. This year more than ever before, though, I want to urge you to finish the drill. More defers does not necessarily mean more admits in the spring, but in many cases I think it will. And that is likely true from the waitlist too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  

You are likely going to need to submit another application or two. If you’ve already got this covered, that’s great. If not, then good news—many great schools have deadlines in January. Look for colleges that interest you who have higher admit rates and lower academic profiles than the one(s) that deferred you.

What should you do?  

First, read the letter, subsequent emails, and portal instructions closely. Then do what they say.

You are going to have some more work to do. Inevitably, you will need to send in fall grades, so finish this semester strong. Colleges that defer you will want to see how you’ve done in a challenging senior schedule (especially an abnormal junior spring term), or if your upward grade trend will continue, or how you are adjusting based on responsibilities outside the classroom. You may need to write an additional essay, have an online interview, or complete a form indicating continued interest or discussing updates on your fall activities.

What does being deferred NOT mean?  

It does not mean they are questioning your ability, talent, intelligence or potential match for their school. I understand we all desire instant gratification, but don’t miss the fact that the admission process can teach you some lifelong lessons (for example, some things are worth waiting for; some things do not happen your first time out; sometimes getting put on hold gives you a chance to reflect).

While both words start with “De,” being deferred does not mean you are denied. If a school did not think you were competitive or a good fit, they would have denied you. This sounds harsh but it’s true. Disappointed? Understood. 2020 has been a clinic in disappointment, so I feel you. But 2020 has also reminded us about patience, seeing the positives, and keeping perspective. You got this.

What should you AVOID doing? 

Please do not take being deferred as code for “try harder” by sending 18 additional letters of recommendation, stalking admission counselors on social media, going to see a fortune teller, or getting a tattoo of four-leaf clovers + college logo on your back.

In my opinion, particularly based on the enrollment uncertainty I described above, you should not write off a school you have strong interest in at this point in the cycle. Hold on, send us some stuff, tell us more– you can do that. Unless you have gotten into another college that is a better match for you, then I strongly encourage you to see this through.

Want to know more about being deferred? Read on. And on. And on.

Next week we will delve into what it means to be denied admission.