Beyond Admission

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Recently, our family took holiday pictures. The photo shoot was scheduled for a Saturday morning and neither of our kids wanted to go. To be honest, I was not looking forward to it either. Thankfully, the session was only scheduled to last 45 minutes and it was at a local park. How bad could it be?

Actually, it was terrible. It was exhausting, frustrating, and maddening all at the same time. Our son was super-hyper (thanks in no small part to my rookie mistake of making pancakes that morning) and he kept running or falling down during the staged walking pictures or trying to climb on top of me from behind during the posed seated shots. Meanwhile, our daughter could not muster anything close to a natural smile, which was driving my wife crazy. I guess on some level this sounds reminiscent or uncomfortably familiar. Happy Holidays, right?

In the end, of the hundreds of pictures the photographer took that day, we were able to find 3-4 usable images for the requisite collage holiday card (granted, one of them is my daughter literally grabbing and pulling my cheek, but we are selling it as playful not annoying).Director of Undergraduate Admissions

Ultimately, what message goes out to our friends and family? The Clarks are doing great! They look really happy and unified.

This is also the story you see every time you go to social media. People post their best pictures (or edit and filter them until they are close to perfect). And we all post comments, quotes, articles, and stories that make us look smart, cute, funny, popular, (insert adjective you are trying to be known for here).

Almost comically, colleges do the same thing in our brochures and websites. When was the last time you saw a student crying in a viewbook? You won’t find a shot of a grungy dumpster or a dead squirrel or roommates arguing. The message is always, “come here and your life will be amazing!”

What is so unfortunate, especially this time of year, is when you feel lonely, unconfident, insecure, or depressed, it is easy to look around and believe you are the only one struggling. It is easy to think everyone else has it all figured out and their life is perfect. Here’s the truth: they don’t, and they’re not. At any age, we need to be reminded of that fact.

So before the holidays get even more rushed, consumed, and complicated by travel plans, shopping, and obligations, I want to close 2018 with two very simple messages—not  about college or admission–we’ll get back to that in January.

You are loved. Look around you today and this week. Take note of the people who text you, want to spend time with you, give you cards or gifts, go out of their way to help you, or simply offer a kind word in this season. Too often we brush these gestures off and become desensitized to what a gift it is to be part of a community. At times we mentally or physically isolate ourselves as we question if we are truly accepted, known, understood, or loved. YOU ARE!

Check out this article featuring a graduating senior who initially left Tech due to substance abuse, depression, and apathy. You’ll read about his detachment and isolation, as well as an unwillingness to seek help. This is not a unique story. It occurs every year, at every high school and college, all over the world.

If you are going through a tough time right now, I hope you will be reminded people are all around you who want to help—and they can relate, even if they’ve never acknowledged it before. Your friends are not too busy. Your parents love you more than you could possibly know. If you are struggling right now, don’t do so alone. Reach out because you are loved.

You are called to love. I have been a part of interventions for friends who were deeply depressed. I have been through QPR training. Even with those experiences, training, and knowledge, I still feel ill-equipped to initiate conversations with friends and family I know are hurting, isolated, or depressed. It is never easy. It is never comfortable. The good news is we are not supposed to feel “ready.” We are just supposed to feel love.

I’ve talked to several Georgia Tech seniors in the last week who, on the surface, have it all together. They lead clubs, held prestigious internships, and excel in school. Yet each of them has talked about rough and lonely times. Importantly, each has also talked about one or two people who have been their rocks and their solace in those moments.

If you know someone who is hurting, reach out to them. You don’t have to have all the answers. All you need is the time and desire to be available. This is not complicated. We are called to love.

Happy Imperfect Holidays, friends. See you in 2019!

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Sweet Summertime

This week we welcome Senior Associate Director of Admission Mary Tipton Woolley to the blog. Welcome, Mary Tipton!

Hello SummerAh, summer. The time of year to sit back, relax and enjoy life. Maybe for some, but not for those of us in college admission! In the admission office, “summer” is the time to wrap up the enrolling class, reflect on the year behind and plan for the year ahead. Summer is in quotes because it goes by so quickly!

As a parent, I’m glad to only have 10 weeks to find camps/babysitters for my child, but as a higher education professional, it’s challenging. We are busy checking final transcripts for enrolling students (yes, we really do check your final transcripts!) and other required documents. In just a couple of weeks 300 first-year students will arrive on campus for the summer term, so the timing of these final checks is critical. If you swing by our office this summer, you’ll find us wrapping up the past year and planning for the year ahead.

Students, you are likely doing the exact same thing. Whether you’re already enjoying your summer or slogging through the last few days of school, follow our lead and make it a summer!

Assess the year behind

Take time to reflect on the year that has passed, determine what you can learn from it, and decide what you need to work on in the year ahead. What worked well? Where do you need to make improvements? Our staff is taking a deep dive into important areas like our visit program (which now accommodates over 40,000 visitors per year!), training, and professional development. Meanwhile, our transfer team is still finalizing decisions for fall transfer students—their summer hasn’t even started yet!

Ask Yourself:  what classes did you enjoy most? Where do you have gaps in learning that you can work on over the summer? My six-year-old is reading (mostly) every night to make sure she continues to improve before starting first grade in the fall. Maybe you need to go back over work from the past year to ensure you’re ready to move forward in the year ahead. Maybe there is an activity that you want to improve in the year ahead – can you run more over the summer to earn a faster time, or study robotics to improve your team standings?

Prioritize tasks for the year aheadAsk Yourself

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know we changed the way we review first-year applications. The team-based reading approach was a huge success, but I’m already thinking about how we can move our process forward and provide staff what they need to manage application volume in an efficient and effective way. Our transfer team is looking for opportunities to revise the way they review applications to manage the volume and priorities they have been asked to meet. We also have staff planning fall travel. I’m still old school, but have learned the hard way over the last few years that waiting to schedule high school visits until August does not end well! On top of planning for next year’s application cycle, our campus visit team is planning events for next year. They are constantly looking for ways to accommodate everyone who wants to visit campus, which is no small feat!

Ask yourself: what are your goals for the year ahead? Maybe it’s to improve your grades, find a job, get involved in something new, or take on a leadership role. Whatever it may be, now is the time to think about how you’re going to get there. If you’re going to be a senior in the fall, getting a jump on your college applications will be critical to ensuring your sanity in the year ahead (trust me!). Many applications, like the Common Application and Coalition Application (both of which we accept) never close. That means essays and activity pages are available now, while you have time to reflect, write and refine.

Make it a summer!

No matter what is on your agenda for the summer – working, summer camp, vacation – I hope you’ll take time to reflect, plan for the upcoming year and have fun! Summer is a time to recharge. We do that by attending conferences, going on office retreats and taking some time off to be with family and friends. We all need that kind of recharge to be successful in the year ahead. If part of your summer plans include visiting Atlanta, I hope you’ll swing by campus. It’s called “Hotlanta” for a reason, but we still offer tours all summer – no matter the temperature and humidity!

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What’s Now?

“Let’s get a FastPass for Everest, run to Pandora, and then we can be to Epcot by noon.”

“If we alternate getting lunch while the others stand in line, we’ll only have a 30 minute wait each.”

Life is too important to be in a hurry
I happened to see this on a wall the day I was writing this blog post. What’s Now is a real thing.

These were just a couple of the “suggestions” I heard during our day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom last week. I’ve previously confessed to eavesdropping, but this time was different. These were not even conversations but rather commands called out over shoulders from 10 yards ahead as one family member looked manically at the Disney App and the others ralked behind (part run/part walk). You know, ralking—that  awkward gait where you attempt to keep more than two family members together in a crowded space that won’t allow a complete run, and  either hip alignment, lack of practice, or perhaps pride prohibits all out power walking.

Then of course there is the next level of determination and commitment, which I experienced first-hand. Without glancing back, a man yelled, “Can you hold it for the next 30 minutes? We gotta get to that side of the park NOW!” No response. I looked behind me and was pretty sure I saw his family a few yards back– all with large refillable Disney cups. This was not going to end well. Then, at a slightly louder volume, “Well…can you?!”  He finally slowed slightly, looked back expecting to see his family and instead…me. Confused and irritated he furrowed his eyebrows and quickly shook his head as if he had smelled something noxious. I’ll admit I wanted to nod my head courageously and say, “Yeah, I think so.” Instead, I just raised my shoulders, tilted my head slightly to the right and simultaneously squinted my left eye as if to say, “Probably not.”

What’s Now?

On some level, thinking about what’s next is all very understandable. There’s nothing wrong with trying to maximize life. Looking ahead is natural and having a plan is important. Organized, strategic, ambitious people accomplish amazing things, and if you’re reading this I’m guessing you have a lot of that in you. But there will always be a next.

I call this frontwards photobomb.
I call this frontwards photobomb.

At 17 it’s college; at 27 it’s a relationship or a job; at 37 next is a vacation or a house; at 47 and 57…. As you can see, somehow now becomes far more elusive.

Sometimes the plan, which is all in theory, needs to take a back seat to the tangible present—to the moment of now, where you can stop and reflect. While the next things are important, the ability to be mindful of the value of the things in the now is what builds and preserves relationships, brings smiles, makes memories, and allows you to remember exactly why (or if) the next thing is so important.

Don’t Wish Away Now for Next

As a senior in high school, especially in the spring, it’s easy to be completely focused on “What’s Next?” You are looking ahead to AP or IB exams; trying to figure out if you can get a job and fit in some trips this summer; or thinking about graduation. And, of course, the question of “Where are you going to college next year?” has not gone away.

If you are admitted to your dream school: You are fully committed— shirt purchased, bumper sticker on, the whole nine yards. The final weeks of school are simply an albatross and a nuisance. Tests, classes, and requirements are just a long line standing in your way to the ultimate ride.

If you are maddeningly debating between your college options: You have pro-conned this thing to death. You bought an eight ball. You asked Siri. You’ve flipped coins. You’ve got Venn diagrams including geography, size, major, and ROI. What’s next? is the only question consuming your mind.

If you are on a waitlist: First, on behalf of admission directors, VPs and deans everywhere, I am sorry. Really. In a perfect world there would be no waitlists. In a perfect world we’d all walk right up to Flight of Passage with a FastPass and enjoy the ride. Waiting can be frustrating in general, and The Waitlist Sucks in particular. The “what if’s” of both the past and the future are driving you crazy. You just want answers!Adventure

I’m asking you not to wish these final weeks of high school away. Do not let them be about just surviving or making it through. Days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years, and it happens fast, my friends. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”

Listen.  You don’t owe me anything, but regardless of your current college plans I’m still going to ask you a favor. Take some time today to pause. Take a moment longer at breakfast or lunch and breathe. Go for a walk and look around. Consider and appreciate this moment in your life. For just a bit, forget about what’s next. Think about the people who helped get you to now, or those around you who are hurting right now, or those you know who need to be celebrated or encouraged now.

Tell your friends you are really going to miss them next year no matter where you all end up. Go back and visit the coach or teacher who inspired you or encouraged you in the ninth grade and would love to hear about where you are now. Hug your mom. Then walk out and come back in and do it again.

All of these folks are going to sorely miss you. While they love hearing you talk about what’s next and they’re legitimately excited for you, it also hurts. It’s the epitome of bittersweet. Share a few precious what’s now moments with them this week.

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Don’t Cheat Yourself

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great break and are ready for school to kick back off. Okay, well, one out of two ain’t bad.

Today’s Disclaimers:

  • Today’s post is for high school seniors.
  • If you are not a senior, you are still welcome to read it.
  • This post acknowledges the presence of both drugs and alcohol in the world.
  • An acknowledgement, unlike a Grammy speech or a film credit listing “Grip #2,” is not an endorsement.
  • Eight years ago none of these notes would have been necessary.

Let’s Get Started

Two mornings a week I go to an interval fitness class at 5:30 a.m.  It’s not easy. You gotta really push, commit, and keep working. And that’s just the getting-up-and-driving-there part. Oh, and the workout is tough too. What I love about it (after my eyes are fully open and I remember how to breathe again) is the accountability. I like being around others who work hard and expect me to do the same. The 5:30 a.m. crew is tight. Let’s be honest, anyone working out at that time of day is a little off their rocker—and we celebrate this in one another.Own Your Workout

I also like being coached. David, the owner and trainer, is a rock. With both a competitive sports and military background, he does not mess around. Sometimes I go to the class to hear one of his quips or signature phrases. One of my favorites typically comes about halfway through a round when he sees people struggling. He’ll yell “Don’t cheat yourself,” and we are supposed to respond, “Treat yourself!”  Sounds cheesy but if you knew him, you either A: wouldn’t think so, or B: wouldn’t say anything. Don’t let the glasses, big smile, and four kids fool you—he’s a bad man. Apparently, our early morning class does not muster as much gusto as the classes later in the day when we reply. While I attribute this to time of day, David does not cut us any slack. “I said, ‘Don’t cheat yourself!’” “Treat yourself!” we yell in unison.

So seniors, since I don’t expect you to show up at the 5:30 a.m. class (although if you do, tell him I sent you because I think I get a $50 discount) here are a couple of classic David lines to help you make the most of your final semester.

Don’t quit on you!

I love this one because it’s so convicting. When you’re on your fourth circuit and have the choice of weights, it’s pretty tempting to go lighter. When you’re given a range of 20-25 crunches and you’re exhausted, 20 sounds pretty darn good. But you got up for a reason, right?!

Don't QuitAcademically, this spring, you could likely let up a little bit and still pull off decent grades. Unless you suddenly drop the weights on your foot, colleges are not going to bat an eye when they receive your final transcripts in June. So this is not a threat—it’s an encouragement. If you are reading this, you care. If you are reading this, you’ve likely already been admitted to at least one college (and I’d not doubt you have scholarship offers as well). As you start your final semester, I challenge you to keep working.  Don’t stop strengthening and stretching your muscles. As a senior in the spring, it’s not about getting in anymore, even if you are still waiting on some decisions to come out. Forget us. You owe it to yourself, your teachers, and your classmates to complete your set. This is about finishing strong and being as prepared as possible when you head off to college this summer or fall. And trust me, people are watching. Classmates, siblings, kids two classes below you who idolize you. Don’t quit on you… or them!

“Own Your Workout!”

 This phrase is actually a sign on the wall at the gym. Own.YOUR.Workout! Sure, David’s going to challenge you. Sure, there is the accountability of the rest of the class. But ultimately, it’s all on you. When you work out or study or practice anything, it’s not only about today, but what it sets you up for in the future– positive or negative.

Socially, this spring, have fun. Senior spring should be filled with lots of great moments and “lasts.” Last games and seasons, theatrical productions, musical performances, trips, prom, spring break, graduation. All good stuff. Enjoy your time with friends, classmates, teammates, co-workers. Don’t wish it away or try to rush through it. Be present, be involved, and also be smart. Again, this is not a threat. I’m not telling you to not drink at prom because it will result in you being suspended. I’m not telling you not to spray paint the school or put a goat on the roof because you might get expelled.  I’m not telling you not to get high at the beach this spring break because you could get arrested. And I’m not telling you don’t put lewd or bigoted pictures or content online because your admission offers could be revoked. I am telling you this because I’ve seen all these things happen within the last three years. I am telling you this because I won’t be there, your parents won’t be there, your coaches and teachers won’t be there. When you walk into any of those situations, it’s your choice, your decision, your reputation, your future. We can’t pick up the weight or put in the work, and we won’t finish the drill for you.

Ultimately, all we can do is stand at a distance and lovingly implore you not to quit on you, and to own your workout!

I said, “Treat Yourself!”

(Yes, yes. I can hear you. Well done.)

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Don’t Procrastinate… Get Started!

“Man. It really smells like pee in here!” I said scrunching my nose, cocking my head downward and to the left, and painfully closing my eyes. My son, who at the time was five, looked up from playing with his Transformers with a look of absolute bemusement.

“AJ, any idea why?” He shrugged his shoulders and quickly went back to insuring that Megatron (not Calvin Johnson… he loves him!) and his cronies were defeated by the Autobots. I proceeded to look through every sheet, drawer, and cubby in his room. Nothing. No soiled item or area. No article of clothing stuffed into a pillow case or sheet crammed in a corner. So I did the only logical thing… I opened a window, hastily sprayed Febreze and left shaking my head.

Image result for TRANSFORMERS AND TOYS AND OPTIMUS PRIME

Three days later, while I was out of town, my wife had a similar experience. This time our son watched with the rapt interest one has while viewing an African watering hole at midnight. “Who else is coming? What might happen next?” After rifling thoroughly through his room and strewn belongings, she asked him lovingly but repeatedly why it smelled distinctly of urine.

After the third time, it apparently dawned on him. “Hmmm…wait. I know why, mommy. I think it’s because I have been peeing in my floor vent.” Silence. Stunned silence.

And then, and only because of her incredible patience and God-given restraint, she laughed and asked calmly, “You what?!”

Yep. Come to find out that for an unknown (but likely multi-week/month) period of time, my man had been using the floor vent as a urinal. I actually Googled it. It’s more common than you’d think.

Why? You might ask– and with good reason. Quite simply, “You know how when you’re playing, and you don’t want to stop, and the bathroom seems so far away…that’s when.”

Several hundred dollars and a new duct system later. Let’s put it this way– it’s a good thing she discovered it and I was out of town or we might also have had a broken window or door to put back on its hinges.

Get Started!

Why do I share this with you?  Well, if the increasing temperatures, slower schedule, and nightly baseball games were not a hint, it’s summer! A few weeks ago, we posted another blog on this: “Make it a Summer!”

In that blog, we talked about using your time to write college essays, visit schools, talk to graduated seniors or friends returning home from their first year of college, etc. But we looked at the analytics on that blog and realized that perhaps the clicks on the piece on writing  was not as high as we’d hoped.  And so I wanted to come singularly back to that part.

If you are a rising senior, I’m imploring you to use July to write your college essays and supplemental questions. You have an entire month.

Here’s how you can get started:

Week One (July 1-8): Read the prompts from Common Application and Coalition Application. Consider what you might write about. Think about them when you’re at the pool or the gym or driving (but mainly think about driving). Jot down some ideas. Who knows, you may be inspired by fireworks on July 4, so consider voice recording on your phone. That is how I start my drafts and get ideas out and recorded. Whatever works for you.

It does not have to be formal or sequential. During this week also write one supplemental essay for a school you know you are going to apply to. Georgia Tech’s are here.  Generally speaking these are shorter and most schools only require 1-3 additional short answer/supplemental writing samples. And many schools simply ask you to submit something you have already written, so consider your options if you find that to be the case for a school you’re interested in.

Week Two (July 9-16): Get your first draft done. Chip away. One paragraph at a time. One page at a time. A little bit of time each day. If you know you are applying to a school that does not accept the Common Application or Coalition Application, then you may need to write two essays this week. Not a problem. Allocate an hour a day for that entire week. You got this! Use this week to write another supplemental essay for the same college or a different one this week.

Week Three (July 17-23): Get this to an editor (not a co-author). Hint: You should ask them if they’re up for it during week two and tell them they’ll have it on July 16. Check in with them on July 20. “How’s it going?” Have you taken a look yet? Can I clear anything up for you?” Plan to meet with them or Skype/FaceTime with them by July 23. Write another supplemental essay this week.

Week Four (July 23-30): Second draft. Take the edits and make your improvements and enhancements. Consider how you can add description or make your essay more unique, personalized, authentic. Write your fourth supplemental essay this week.

July 31. Treat yourself. Ice cream, a new shirt, a movie or show. You do you, because at this point you have a long essay and four supplemental essays done. Your editor should be up for reading a few supplemental essays this week, especially if you brought them along for the double scoop or enticed them with an Amazon card.

Now use the same method in August for any additional supplementals or long essays. This way as your fall ramps up with sports, school activities, and normal homework and other papers, tests, etc., you’ll be good to go for making October or November EA/ED deadlines.

Why Do I Care?  

Last year, of our 31,500 applications, 1/3 were submitted on a deadline day or the two days prior. Now, I’m guessing that when these applications open on August 1, you are not stumped by some of the initial questions, ie. Name, Date of Birth, Address. (If you are, please call me, and we’ll discuss if college is right for you.)

So what takes so long to submit? Why is meeting an October 15 or November 1 deadline tough when you have 10-12 weeks post August 1? I’ll tell you why… “You know how when you’re playing, and you don’t want to stop, and the deadlines seem so far away…”

Trust me. Get started! You don’t want admission readers looking for Febreze after reading your essays.

We moved last year. I really like our new house. One of the features the real estate agent did not point out but I most appreciate is that the vents are in the ceiling.

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