Celebrate Your Submission

Yes. I have heard you get better traction on posts if you have a title that includes “Tips” “Top” or something inflammatory. Yes. I know at best this title sounds paradoxical and at worst—actually, not sure what worst would be. Something really dark, I’m sure.

Good news- that’s not this blog. In fact, my hope is it’s the flipside of dark.

On Sunday night, along with my colleague, friend, and co-author Brennan Barnard, I submitted the updated manuscript of our book to publish a second edition.  I’m not going to lie, it was a heavier lift than either of us expected.

Originally, when we discussed the project, it sounded easy. We had a solid base. This would just be making some additions, particularly since the first book was published just six months before the world stopped… aka March 2020.

Yea- we’ll talk about the rise of test optional, the virtual visit world, changes to yield prediction, and the new and shifting ways colleges are recruiting students in 2022 and beyond. No problem.  But I sort of forgot about the fact that I also have a full-time job, a wife and two kids, other responsibilities in my community and around campus, and a constant desire to add or change “just one more thing.”

So, after a few months of periodic work on the book, I stayed up way too many nights recently until 1 a.m. editing, revising, snacking, re-thinking, and sometimes just straight procrastinating. Ultimately, however, as I’ve written in this blog before, deadline means DEADline, so Sunday night we finally hit submit. Done.

If you recently applied to college via an EA or ED deadline, I’m guessing this sounds familiar, particularly the snacking and procrastination part. Personally, I’ll put in a plug for Reese’s Pieces, salted almonds, and in a pinch, Fritos, but I’m always up for a good gas station run, so if you have suggestions, hit us up @gtadmission on your favorite social media channel.

My point, friends, is that when you originally started your application earlier this fall or summer, I’m guessing you also were like, Yea, I got this. Street address, date of birth, full name. Scoop of chocolate, scoop of vanilla.

And then you ran into the essay; the various supplemental questions for multiple colleges; the mental gymnastics of whether or not to use the Additional Information section; and of course, the always enjoyable consternation about whether or not to send test scores to each of the schools you are considering. Several hundred (thousand?) calories and dozens of hours killed later, you finally hit SAVE for the last time—and then—SUBMIT.

Here’s What I Don’t Know

I don’t know if people are going to love the new book. My guess is a few people will say the Hamilton metaphor doesn’t work or that the Jessie J lyrics seem forced.

I don’t know who else may publish books about college admission in the same timeframe. Last time a flurry of other books came out around the same time. Different angles, different strengths, and different audiences.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the world in the year ahead as this publishes. Did not have my money down on a global pandemic last time, I can tell you that.

Same Same

I don’t know how your essay is going to “read” in different admission offices on that particular day with a certain admission committee. Maybe they’ll love it. Maybe not.

I don’t know which students or exactly how many applicants are going to apply to the places you applied to this year. Over the last two years, Tech has received 10,000 additional applications- from 40k to 50k. Admit rates change, institutional priorities shift, etc.

And I don’t know what’s going to happen in your life or the lives of people around  you that may dictate how you weigh your decisions or make choices about where you will ultimately go to college next year.

Here’s what I do know

I do know applying to college is a big deal.

I do know you have worked hard academically in high school and contributed significantly to your family, school, and community over the last few years.

I do know you spent the last few weeks editing, revising, proofing… and snacking, of course.

I do know the world spins way too fast. And because of that fact, we need to be intentional about hitting pause and recognizing our wins.

I do know as humans we are prone to focus more on the things that go wrong or we are worried about, and that too quickly we move on to “the next thing.”

Celebrate Your Submission

And that leads us back to the weird title. Celebrate your submission! Some of you finally hit submit after all of that work and then just went to bed, woke up in the morning and ate your cereal like it was any other day. Others of you checked the clock on November 1 and thought, “Oh, good- it’s only 11:54 p.m”.…waited 5 mins and then hit submit (Yea, I see you. Hope you enjoyed Halloween!)

Come on, people! Where is the fun?! Where is the appreciation, the satisfaction, and the other tions?

When we turned in the manuscript, I walked out of the room, kissed my wife, cracked open a… LaCroix… (come on, folks, this is a PG blog), and then got on Amazon and ordered a pair of shoes I’d been wanting. You do you and I’ll…. wake up the next day and eat a huge plate of French Toast!!  (Look, let’s not get all judgy about other people’s celebrations.)

Yes. I realize you have not been admitted yet. I realize this is just submitting applications. BUT it’s a big deal. A BIG DEAL. So don’t drop the ball here. CELEBRATE. You put in a ton of work to get to this point. Good on you. When you get in, we’ll go next level on the celebration, but don’t go flying past this stage.

So, to recap: send us snack recs, creative procrastination techniques, and submission celebrations!

Proud of you. Seriously. Proud. Of.  YOU!!

Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose

You may not have been following Georgia Tech football in recent years. Suffice it to say, it’s been rough. Rough– as in three consecutive three-win seasons. If you are not an American football fan, it’s important to note- there are a lot more than three games in a season. Last month I walked by a man and his family looking at the field and overheard him say, “When I went here they played football down there. Now I hear they host some good concerts.” So, bottom line- not good. 

As a result, a little over a week ago, our head coach was fired, and assistant head coach and Tech alumnus Brent Key was named interim coach. In his first statement to the press, Coach Key stressed the importance of playing to win versus playing not to lose. His point was our players were worried something would go wrong and were playing tight as a result. He wanted them to feel empowered to make things happen versus waiting for things to happen. Well…in his first game as head coach, the Yellow Jackets (a double-digit underdog) traveled to Pittsburgh and beat the #24 Panthers. Clearly, Coach Key had unlocked (yea, I went there) something in his players.  

If you are a senior, my hope is you will also play to win versus playing not to lose in college admission and your final year of high school as well. Here’s what that looks like.

  1.  Trust yourself. Playing to win means believing in your preparation, intuition, and ability. Lots of seniors right now are stressed about their essay with EA/ED deadlines looming. Listen- you can write. And you have valuable stories to tell and perspective to share. There is no perfect essay topic, so don’t let that give you anxiety. Admission readers want specifics from you. They want to read something uniquely yours. Playing not to lose would be convincing yourself you need more multi-syllabic words or angsting over possibly missing a comma splice. Playing to win means being prepared, I.e. writing multiple drafts, having one or two others give you feedback, and then hitting submit with the confidence that you have done your best work.  

In the year ahead, I also hope you will trust yourself when it comes to the colleges you chose to apply to and those you decide not to pursue. To hear yourself you may have to tune out other voices. When you are deferred, waitlisted, or denied, trust other good things are coming your way. Success in college admission is not getting into your “top choice,” but being prepared, excited to play, and ready to take advantage of the opportunity wherever you end up. Playing to win will mean quiet confidence when the day comes to put your deposit down or close apps at other schools. Trusting yourself means knowing the choice is authentically yours.  

I hope your senior year is characterized by building friendships, preparing academically, and enjoying a unique time you’ll never be able to repeat. Take time to thank and appreciate the people around you who believe in you.  

2. Be Proactive. In the Pitt game and going forward, Coach Key wants his players to make plays, rather than waiting for the game to come to them. Good high school students, good college applicants, and good college students do the same thing. What is not done today that you need to take care of? Are you procrastinating on finishing your application? Figure out what it’s going to take and execute that plan. Are you nervous or unclear about what test optional really means at a college you are considering? Reach out to them. Do you need a teacher to write a rec letter for you, or your neighbor who is an English teacher to look over your essay? TODAY is the day! The college admission experience, if you will let it, can teach you lessons about how to succeed in college and beyond. Playing not to lose means hoping, worrying, and being tight or nervous. Playing to win means being proactive. 

I hope this is how you approach the rest of your senior year too.  A year from now your parents, teachers, coaches, boss, and the other supporting adults in your life won’t be there in the exact way they are currently. Are you waiting on them to provide, guide, decide, or drive?  I hope you won’t spend the year looking around waiting for others to create opportunities for you. To make a play you must move. What do you have to lose when you are playing to win?

3. Have fun.  I Googled fun and did not see pictures of people answering short answer prompts, brainstorming essay topics, or taking standardized tests. But let’s flip the script here. You don’t have to apply to college. Unlike the vast majority of the world’s population, you get to apply to college. We often call it an admission process, and that can make it feel like a grind. I believe that term makes this all seem transactional versus being transformational. Don’t lose sight of the big picture here. If you are reading this, YOU ARE GOING TO COLLEGE. That’s amazing! That’s exciting. Where? I don’t know. You don’t know. So, yea, there’s some uncertainty and mystery. Again, flip the script. Instead of that being what has you nervous, get excited and commit to having fun with the adventure of discovering.  

Ok. Let’s play this out and assume you won’t get into a couple of the schools you apply to. Playing to win does not mean everything goes your way or you control every down or play. Instead, it means you are on the field. You are in the arena. You get to see how and where your preparation, effort, ability, intuition, and excitement lead. That. Is. FUN.  

And again, same for your senior year.  Enjoy. Have fun. Laugh, smile, do things you want to do. For the love of all things holy don’t let college admissions dominate this final year of high school.  Playing to win means being relaxed, confident, trusting yourself, being proactive, and absolutely having fun. And, as always, hug your mama. 

Will Tech beat Dook (you run your spellcheck and I’ll run mine) on Saturday? I am not putting $ Down. But I know they’ll be playing to win- and I’m hoping the same for you in the days, months, and year ahead.   

 

What Are Your Admission Requirements?

Recently, someone asked me what has changed at Georgia Tech since I started in the early 2000s. Almost everything it seems. When I arrived, our undergraduate student body was a little over 11,000—compared to almost 18,000 now. The parking lots that littered the interior of campus have been replaced by green space or pedestrian walkways, and as a result golf carts, bikes, scooters, hoverboards, longboards, unicycles, and mopeds are the predominant wheeled devices/vehicles on campus. “Online” was literal, you needed a physical key to enter buildings, and the Atlantic Coast Conference included nine teams- all of whom were close to the actual Atlantic Ocean.

From an enrollment and admission standpoint this is also true. At that time, Tech’s first- year class was just over 2,000. In 2022, our transfer class alone will push 1,400 with another 3,700 students beginning as first-years. Our application count was lower, our admit rate was higher, and as a result our review process, admission timeline, and staff structure all looked radically different than today.

What has not changed is the fundamental question students ask—”What are your admission requirements?” READ: Please just tell me clearly and plainly what I need to do/have to get in?

There was a time when I could (and did) answer, “Sure. Get a 3.7 GPA, 1300 SAT, write a few lines on your essay, do some stuff outside the classroom, and we’ll see you in the fall.”

Now, you simply cannot give a purely quantitative answer, because GPAs are not uniform across schools, states, etc. With an applicant pool of 50,000+, it is the very rare applicant who has below a 3.7 GPA. Certainly, a big part of this is due to rampant grade inflation in our state and beyond. But it is also because the traditional 4.0 scale (extremely common two decades ago) is the exception now. At that time, 4.0 was perfect and you could not exceed it. Now, due to the weighting of courses and the proliferation of grading scales, providing any specific number as a minimum or requirement is misleading at best.

For instance, we recently looked at the 256 students who applied last year from a large public Atlanta Metro high school. 192 (75%) had above a 4.0 GPA. I have visited schools with GPAs evaluated on scales of 5.0, 6.0, 13.0, as well as others abandoning numbers entirely for narratives, graphics, or emojis. Tell a student with a 10.2 GPA they need a 3.7, and they’re thinking, “Yes! My Cs are really paying off now.”

This is why, when you ask what seems like a very simple and logical question, “What do I need to do/have to get in?” (especially of colleges receiving far more applications than they have spots available in their class), you’ll inevitably get long-winded answers, passionate hand motions, and at least two mentions of “holistic.”

What are your admission requirements?

Unlike my early days at Tech, I cannot give you two numbers or a formula. But I can still make you a promise. I can still tell you what you will need to do/have in your college admission experience (and your future college career) to be successful.

 DO Keep an Open Mind

As a senior, especially one reading this blog, you are inevitably receiving an absolute crap-ton (forgive the highly technical language) of information from colleges. Emails, brochures, postcards, and increasingly more invasive modes of communication (ads in your feed, text messages, pop ups of varying kinds) on a daily or weekly basis. I completely understand how this deluge of marketing material could seem annoying, but I’m imploring you see it instead as encouraging and broadening.

Even if you have never heard of a college that mails you something in the weeks ahead, take the time to open it. Be willing to examine what you see, read, hear- and consider what interests you or does not resonate. Ultimately, the willingness and openness to new ideas, and the earnest consideration of places, people, ideas, that are not familiar is not only the sign of a good college applicant, but a great college student too.

In my experience, the students who end up the most disappointed by the college admission experience are those with a fixed and limited mindset- those who are trapped and myopic about the idea of one place, one kind of place, or one definition of “good” or “best.” Conversely, students who finish their senior year satisfied, gratified, and confident in their college choice are often not the ones who got into their top choice or had a completely smooth experience. Instead, they acted like students in the college admission experience—they thought deeply, committed to a dynamic mindset, and were willing to question and test assumptions or information they acquired along the way.

What is required in college admission (and college as well)? An open mind.

HAVE a Support System

Go to almost any admission information session or listen to a panel of admission deans/directors talk for five minutes and you’ll hear a lot of focus on YOU.

They will say: YOU need to own this process.

They will say: We want to hear YOUR voice in your essay (not your mom’s, your best friend’s, or the one you paid for from some purported expert online or down the street).

They will say: Do you own work, think for yourself, and figure out why you care about going to college, pursuing a particular major, or anything else a college advertises or touts as a selling point.

I agree wholeheartedly. However, all of the talk about YOU can dilute how imperative it is as a college applicant to surround yourself with people you know and trust.

Over the course of the next year, the likelihood is you are going to face some disappointments, dark days, and bad news when it comes to comes to your college admission experience.

Perhaps this will be as minor as angst over your essay topic, having to wait months for decisions, or being deferred or waitlisted by colleges. For some this comes in the form of an admission denial, or not receiving adequate financial aid/scholarships to afford a school you want to attend.

The truth is college will bring more of the same. Inevitably, you will have classes, relationships, internships, exams, or situations that will force you to question yourself, your decisions, and your abilities. Good times, right?

There is no panacea here. But when it comes to keeping perspective; when you need to be reminded of who you are and the value you bring; when you need encouraging words to help you bounce back or try again, your support system will be critical. True as a college applicant- true as a college student.

So, I want to encourage you to highly limit what you share on social media about your college admission experience. Instead identify two or three people you can consistently talk to and walk with through applications, decisions, consternations, and celebrations.

What is required in college admission (and college as well)? A solid support system.

What are YOUR requirements?

Let me flip the question. Instead of asking what a college requires of you, ask what you require of them. Take time to write down and consider the types of programs, environment, support systems, etc. that you really want or need. Clarifying your requirements will be far more valuable than obsessing about admit rates, rankings, number of benches, or squirrel/deer to student ratio.

My hope is you will resist the prevailing urge to quantify and distill college admission into simple numbers. Instead, DO keep an open mind, HAVE a support system around you, ASK what you require of colleges, and I promise your college admission (and actual college experience) will be far more rich, meaningful, satisfying, and transformative.

Transition Tips for Parents and Families

This week’s blog is from Georgia Tech’s Director of Parent & Family Programs, Laci Weeden.  She shares helpful tips for parents and supporting adults on how to navigate the transition from home to campus. Welcome, Laci!

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

As high school graduation approaches, many parents and supporting adults are already thinking about next year with a combination of excitement, trepidation, optimism, and uncertainty. While knowing precisely what the months and year ahead hold, it will unquestionably be a period of adjustment.

Although your role and the dynamics of your relationship will unquestionably shift, you have a unique and important role in partnering with colleges to ensure your student’s success.  We encourage families to stay connected while also allowing space and time for students to develop and grow in their new environment.  Like so much of life, this is a delicate and ever-changing balance.

I like to think of the transition from high school to college like a tandem bicycle. When your student was younger, and their feet didn’t even reach the pedals, you steered, pedaled, and determined the path and destination of the bike. As your student grew, you began to feel them pedal and you listened as they shared their thoughts on the journey.

Now that they are ready to head off to college, it’s time to switch seats. Your student is now on the front of the bike and ready to take the lead, so naturally your roles will begin to switch as they steer their own course, find their own path in life, and pedal hard toward their goals and dreams. But don’t forget, you are right there on the bike, too – pedaling, supporting, and cheering them on!

Here are a few tips to help your student and your family with this transition.

  • Establish and agree upon a time to catch up and check in with your student before they leave for college.
  • Be happy and excited about the new college experience. If your student knows or can sense that you are worried, they are likely to be less confident.
  • Send care packages and cards from home, they love cookies!
  • Listen closely- sometimes beyond the words they say.
  • Encourage them to work on time management and create good study habits.
  • If they struggle, remind them that they have your support, but encourage them to find solutions on their own when possible.
  • Offer advice, not demands. Remember that your student is an emerging adult who will need guidance, but not commands.
  • Remind them to utilize all the resources around them. (And you feel free to reach out to campus resources yourself, if you need support.)
  • Encourage them to take advantage of campus and local opportunities.
  • Encourage your student to get exercise, eat healthy, and sleep. Health and wellness are critical to satisfaction and success.
  • Remind your student that you are proud of them, you trust them, and you love them. They really do need to hear this from you as some days are just hard.
  • Know that both of you will change and grow. You will probably find that a rewarding new adult friendship will emerge as they get into their second and third year of college and beyond.
  • Help any family members at home with the transitions, too. For some younger siblings, the transition can be confusing and a bit lonely. For parents and guardians, you will need to make some adjustments to a variety of things such as household chores, grocery shopping, and computer maintenance.
  • You have a new role as a parent and family member of a college student; you are becoming a mentor. Seemiller and Grace (2019) stated that Generation Z views their parents as trusted mentors and “eighty-eight percent say they are extremely close with their parents” (p.94). This is a shift from when Generation X went to college due technology and the ways we communicate, differing parenting styles, and the rising cost of college (Sax & Wartman, 2010). Your student will be dealing with adult responsibilities and challenges, and you can serve as a trusted advisor in this process.
  • College is a time to let your student take all the good advice you have shared with them over the years and put it to the test. When your student succeeds, celebrate with them! When your student struggles or is in pain, listen and offer support. Asking open ended questions will encourage dialogue and assist in their adjustment to campus life.
  • Your student will be developing critical thinking skills, learning from people who are different from them, and learning to be a global citizen, all while their brains are still developing. Provide your best care and support when needed for those challenging times and use the campus support resources available to help your student develop a plan of action and to develop resiliency.

As you well know, parenting is not an easy role. But you have done an outstanding job helping your student get to this point. Ultimately, as they transition to college, try not to worry too much. Trust the advice, values, and support you have provided. They’re going to do great- and so are you!

Sources

Sax, L. & Wartman, K. (2010). Studying the impact of parent involvement on college student development: A review and agenda for research. In: Smart, J. (eds) Higher education: Handbook of Theory and Research. (25) Springer.

Seemiller, C. & Grace, M. (2019). Generation Z: A century in the making. Routledge.

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

 

Selective College Admission is March Madness

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Have you ever had one of those moments when you see someone in a totally different way, or realize something that has been right in front of you for years?  

In my life, a few of these include- noticing the clock on the iPhone has a second hand, seeing both a duck and a rabbit in this picture, and well… my wife—it only took me seven years of friendship to recognize she was “the one.”

Watching the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Basketball Tournament this month I was embarrassed to realize that in almost seven years of writing this blog, I’ve never recognized the many parallels between The Big Dance and selective college admission. 

Selection 

GPA/Winning Percentage: In both the men’s and women’s tournaments, 68 of the over 350 Division 1 teams are chosen to participate. “The committee” evaluates and selects teams based on win-loss record, strength of schedule, i.e., rigor of competition, as well as a variety of other statistics. Like holistic admission review there is no predetermined formula for making at-large “bids” and awarding a slot.

In other words, your high school grades, like a team’s season record, matter. However, each year many teams with the same (or even better records) are not invited to the tourney, just as some students with the same, or even higher GPAs may not be admitted. On the men’s side this year, a good example is the University of Michigan (17-14, 56% winning percentage) receiving a #11 seed, while University of Florida (19-13 59% winning percentage) is left out entirely. While many people will call, email, or show up in person to argue that a 3.8 or 4.7 should have “been good enough” to “make it,” the bottom line in a selective process, is colleges (like the selection committee) don’t put GPAs into a spreadsheet, plug in a formula, and make offers of admission.  

Rigor of Curriculum/Strength of Schedule 

Listen to any admission representative from a selective college articulate what they are looking for academically, and they will inevitably talk far more about the rigor of your course choice than your actual GPA. When a reader opens your application, the first question is, “Where does this student go to school?” Their goal, as they read your school profile and understand your curriculum, is to understand what courses you could have taken versus what you chose to take. Ultimately, the selection committee wants to bring teams to the tournament who have been challenged and are prepared to play at the highest level. With college admission—same, same. 

Some spots are held

Yes. There are 68 spots available each year in the tournament. But… not exactly. 32 Conference Champions are automatically included, leaving 36 “at-large.” The same is true for colleges.

  • At Georgia Tech, for instance, 60% of our class comes from Georgia, even though only 17% of applicants are from the state.
  • Schools account for the number of recruited athletes who will be part of their class.
  • Some colleges have special programs for artists or other specific talents– and the overall applicant pool is simply not going to be considered in the same manner for those positions.

  • If  young Candler Woodruff (whose actual blood type is Coca Cola) applies to any Atlanta college, you can believe that spot is taken. Same for Leland Stanford VII applying to The Farm in Palo Alto. Two years ago, much ado (yes, I largely wrote this blog to use that phrase) was made about Gap Year students “taking spots.”
  • At Georgia Tech, we guarantee admission to valedictorians and salutations of in-state high schools. Go ahead and lump all of these examples into “conference champions” or held spots or a reduced class size.

Call it what you want. Colleges like the NCAA Tournament are going to create a diverse mix, but they do not go about this in a completely uniform (no pun intended) way. Fair? Perhaps not. But this is the Big Dance, friends. It exists for a purpose. It has a mission—and like colleges, it is a business. Not a conference champ? Get over it and play.  

The Waitlist… aka Play-In Games 

This year, in the NCAA Women’s tournament, Dayton, Howard, Missouri State, and Longwood all advanced to the first round, after having to win their play-in games. Each of them could have made an argument for why they should have received a higher seed, and another 20 teams could have contested they deserved the play-in slot. The parallels continue between holistic admission and the NCAA Tournament.

If you are currently on a waitlist, you have a decision to make. You can opt- out, cancel your application, deposit at another school, buy the t-shirt, and get ready to lace ’em up for that college in the fall. That’s not a bad or wrong decision, as long as you are fully committed to it. 

Or you can claim your spot on the waitlist (we have covered this before, friends). You are not just on the list typically, so read your email closely- and do what it says. While there is no guarantee you will “advance” (see Florida State, Incarnate Word, DePaul, Mount St. Mary’s), the magic of March Madness starts on the opening tip of the first play-in game… but you have to show up to shoot your shot. In other words, if a college you really want to attend offers you spot on the waitlist, don’t let your ego or criticism of the committee selection process hold you back.

Make the most of your opportunity 

The pandemic has shown a bright light on the power of deciding how we show up each day. Regardless of the circumstances around us, we put our feet on the floor in the morning and make a choice about our attitude, our investment, and our goals. You may not have been admitted to your “first choice,” or you may receive a financial aid package that makes your “dream school” financially unaffordable.

If this is the case, I’d invoke the now holy name of St. Peter’s, who became the first #15 seed in NCAA Men’s Tournament history to advance to the Elite 8. Along the way they knocked off #2 Kentucky, #7 Murray State, and #3 Purdue along the way. Some will call them a “Cinderella.” I say they made the most of the opportunity they were given.  

If you are a senior, it’s my sincere hope that in the weeks and months ahead, as you receive admission decisions and weigh your college options, you won’t concern yourself with the committee selection process, or what someone else “got” that you feel you deserved. Instead, embrace the opportunities you have been afforded. Lace ‘em up, keep your eyes forward not backward, and head into the fall ready to embrace your “One Shining Moment!”  

Learn more and listen to Q&A about this blog on the College Admission Brief podcast: Spreaker | Apple Podcasts | Spotify