Tag Archives: Joshua

Travel Tunes

We have a special tool that we use in the Office of Admission when the drives get long and the layovers are frequent. It comes in the form of a CD, and it includes selections from all 10 admission officers. Who among us rocks out to Gangnam Style in a hotel room and who prefers to listen to Eric Clapton as they drive through the fall foliage? See if you can guess! Check out what we’ve been listening to over the last few months:

1) Make the Road by Walking–Menahan Street Band
2) Free–Ben Kweller
3) Brick House–The Commodores
4) Bright Side of the Road–Van Morrison
5) Chelsea Dagger–The Fratellis
6) Who Loves You–Four Seasons
7) Goodbye Porkpie Hat–Charlie Mingus
8) Into the Mystic–Van Morrison
9) Some Nights–Fun.
10) Autumn Leaves–Eric Clapton
11) Ain’t No Sunshine–Betty Wright
12) Mad Season–Matchbox 20
13) Madness–Muse
14) The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down–The Band
15) Gangnam Style–PSY
16) I Want You Back–Jackson 5
17) Wagon Wheel–Old Crow Medicine Show
18) What a Wonderful World–Louis Armstrong
19) Coming Home–The 88

Imagery From Our Travels, Part I

As we approach a time of year when many of us are out of the office, traveling from college fair to high school visit, we often have the opportunity to share stories from our adventures only after we return home to Walla Walla. But this travel season, through this blog, we’re able to share images and tales from our travels not only with each other but with all of you!

For this first installment of visuals from of our time on the road, Joshua Ian Smith, Associate Director of Admission, has sent us a few pictures from his time in Asia. Take a look at the wildly beautiful passion flower, a produce stall in Bangaluru, and the skyscrapers in Hong Kong.

Spring Visitors’ Day is Around the Corner

Spring Visitors’ Day is just around the corner, Friday April 8. We’ll roll out the red carpet at 8:45 am with registration, and take a bow at 4:00 pm with a student panel and performance. In the interim you’ll have opportunities to hear about signature programs Whitman offers, ask questions of faculty in a range of academic subjects, learn more about the Financial Aid and Admission process, and more. And lunch is on us! Please RSVP.
Note: If you can’t decide whether to visit on a Visitors’ Day or at some other time, here are a few things to think about. One way or another, we hope to see you on campus!

Visit! But Why? When?

As you and your family try and determine when and if to visit your favorite colleges, of which Whitman is obviously one (for here you are), I’ve compiled a few thoughts to assist you in the process. Know that I am unabashedly of the opinion that you ought to visit the colleges and universities you are most strongly considering, because I’m a firm believer that “fit,” often defined by intangible and difficult-to-articulate qualities in prospective students’ own perceptions of a campus, is one of the singular most important facets to your college search. Feel and fit are best gleaned from experiencing a place and a people for yourself.

The first major determination to be made is to decide if you and your family will make visits before application deadlines (sometime prior to the November, December, or January cut offs for receiving applications at respective institutions), or after you receive your admission decisions (April). Some colleges may fall into the former camp, others into the latter. Consider that for certain of your reach-schools, it might carry financial incentive to wait until you hear back from the college before spending the money traveling thereto. On the other hand, you might not want to cram all your college visits into the few weeks or weekends open to you in April. Visiting in the late Spring also carries with it the intangible disadvantage of postponing the decision – some students (and some parents) may want to have a good sense for their short list of favorites much earlier than two weeks before deposits are due. On the whole, these are decisions for you to make as a family.

Another major question is what type of visit experience you want. You can schedule an individualized visit almost any time during the academic calendar, you may opt for a scheduled campus program such as one of our Fall Visitors Days, or you can visit when the College may not be in session. The logical drawback to visiting during a College break (which deters many families) is that you might miss the opportunity to visit classes, see the students “in their natural habitat,” interact with professors, etc. The major divide more often lies between visiting on a Visit Day or some other time. In fact, it’s such a substantial question, I’m devoting an entire post just to this quandary.

Visitors’ Days versus Regular Visits

Should you visit on your own terms or on planned Visit Days / “open houses” at your favorite colleges?

An individualized tour provides a number of visit options. You are much more likely to see the natural state of the campus and student body. You will have better chances of small information sessions or even interviews / meetings with your Admission Officer. You are similarly going to be more likely to see actual classes on campus. You might be able to stay overnight and are more likely to be able to eat with current students in the residence halls. And the list goes on – thus is the “individual” nature of this kind of visit.

On the other hand, visiting on a Visitors’ Day (like the one coming up next Friday, November 12) also affords you some special opportunities. We are more able to pull together key leaders across campus, be they staff from the Intercultural Center to Athletics, or faculty from Biology to Asian Studies, and provide you with access to an array of common interests explored and questions answered. In a room full of prospective students and families, that question about Financial Aid you forgot might very well be asked by someone beside you. Finally, and perhaps most exciting, is the prospect of meeting not just current Whitman staff, faculty, and students, but a great many potential future classmates!

Whitman offers several of these types of visitor events. We offer two Fall Visitors’ Day, often most attended by current high school seniors finishing up their reconnaissance of prospective colleges before they complete the last of their applications. Younger students often attend these as well, to get ahead of the game. We also offer a very similar Spring Visitors’ Day in early April, in this case more commonly attended by current high school juniors getting an early jump on their college search. Finally, Admitted Students’ Day in mid-April affords applicants who are at the end of their college search and have been offered admission to Whitman the opportunity to see campus one more time. This is often a particularly exciting Saturday because it has so much less to do with stats and figures, staff and faculty, even the Admission Office itself – it’s all about the students! These talented young women and men know they are admitted, they know the choice is theirs now, and they come to see what their future class at Whitman could be like. It’s a wonderfully vital and invigorating weekend!

What is best for you or your family is really a question only you can answer. Many of the benefits of the individual visit – such as class visits, overnight stays, and interviews with Admission Officers – are impossible to offer on a Visitors’ Day due to simple numbers and capacity limits. And the verve and momentum of a hundred prospective students generated naturally on a big Visitors’ Day is equally impossible to manufacture if you visit on a solitary afternoon in early December. It’s all about fit and feel, even at this stage of the process. What is right for you?

Fall Visitors’ Day is almost here!

This Friday, October 8th, is Whitman’s first Visitors’ Day of the 2010-2011 year. We are rolling out the red carpet for prospective students and their families. The master schedule of events is available online. As the coordinator for Fall Visitors’ Day I (as well as our second FVD, coming up on November 12th), let me highlight some of the exciting goings-on Friday:

  • Welcome from President George Bridges
  • Faculty Panel on Signature Programs
  • Tours of the Campus
  • Student Point-of-View Discussion
  • Admission and Financial Aid Presentation
  • Off-Camps Studies Overview
  • Intercultural Center & Student Engagement Center Discussion
  • Outdoor Program Slideshow
  • Introduction to Athletics at Whitman
  • Discussions of Whitman’s most Popular Majors and Special Programs

The festivities will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Reid Campus Center and will conclude in the Maxey Hall at 4:00 p.m. We expect to see around 200 prospective students and family members on campus – we welcome prospective families as well as the broader Whitman community to attend any activities going on throughout the day. While you can of course schedule a visit for almost any time of year, we certainly welcome your attendance and participation in the first of many exciting visitors’ days!

Be Real

Steve Singer, director of college counseling at Horace Mann School in the Bronx since 1985, is just one recent voice in the growing din that rises from the tumult of those of us ‘who know’ in education. And to what end do we heralds cry out? Don’t buy into the hype and pressure that our media and culture propagate; don’t succumb to the SAT obsession and the branding of big name schools. In short, “Feel free. Be yourself.” Consider Steve’s remarks:

But if [applicants] and their bedraggled parents — poor and otherwise — want to “beat” the system, they have to give up a most cherished fantasy, reinforced every waking minute by friends, relatives, dry cleaners and, if you are so fortunate, the doorman: you attend a “name” college, or you are relegated to the dustbin of human existence.

Do not let them do this to you. Rebel. Be ornery. This is a buyers’ market. Take advantage. Have a great senior year. Apply to the usual suspects. They are good colleges. But write your applications in your own voice. What do they want? The average admissions officer works about 70 hours a week for a salary that will require at least one roommate in a tiny apartment. She or he can’t spend more than, say, 15 minutes per application.

I have incredible institutional pride for my alma mater. Whitman is my home, my community, and my biggest credential. It represents a sort of ‘Golden Age’ in my life and embodies some of the values I hold most dear. My best friends all seem somehow connected to this place. There is literally no end to the satisfaction I get when talking to families from Alaska, southern California, Arkansas, Oregon, Maine, Australia, Andrha Pradesh, Xi’an… and the list goes on. Whitman has a name. This place means something, and not only to me. How else could I get through those 60+ hour winter weeks?

Still, I spend the majority of my correspondence, presentations, interviews, information sessions, and conversations at college fairs trying to talk families “off the edge.” Students are dealing with so much pressure. Enough! No name is worth that. “Don’t jump,” I want to scream! Not for Whitman. Not for Harvard. Not for anyone! Read Steve’s article from the New York Times. Like many before him, and I’d wager many more to come, he’s really a calming voice of reason amidst the insanity that wants to cleave like the parasite it is to higher education.

How can I prepare for an interview?

Once students have a sense for what to expect, they often follow up with the question, “How can I prepare for my interview?” My advice is easily summarized in two quips. Be Yourself, and Respect the Process.

“Be Yourself.” Our ultimate aim in meeting with you, in getting to know you that little bit better, is to help (and never to hinder) you as an applicant. We don’t come to be impressed by a fancy suit or a litany of hardly-attended activities. We want to know how you really think of yourself. Come prepared to discuss what you value. Why are you motivated, and to what end? What are you passionate about? How do you embody life of the mind? What impresses me most about an applicant is seldom the quantity, or even quality, of what they’ve done or the courses they’ve taken. The most stunning students are always the ones who seem most unabashed about who they are and what they do. They’re not searching for validation from me, but are entirely satisfied with who they’ve become. They commit to their activities for themselves and no one else. When you are who you want to be, and you do what you want to do, and you’re comfortable with that? You bet that’s impressive. So while I absolutely recommend stretching yourself, going the extra mile, broadening your horizons, all that – if you haven’t by the time I’m interviewing you in your senior year, it’s too late to impress me in those ways. At this point, relax, and just be you.

“Respect the Process.” What I mean here is kind of a simple reminder of good decorum. For example, I would caution against profanity when describing how poor a school or teacher is, for example, not because you’re always wrong, but to respect them and us – ‘the process,’ as it were. Similarly, I appreciate it when students, however they choose to dress (business professional, business casual, outdoorsy, hipster, etc), do so appropriately. I’m not here advocating turtle necks and long sleeves/skirts by any means, but I would recommend thinking of your wardrobe in terms of a semi-formal interview, over and against what you might wear out with friends on a Friday night, etc. Again, I wouldn’t worry too much if you forget to turn your cell phone off, but I also don’t recommend answering calls during your interview. Do you see what I mean? For my final word to the wise, don’t shock us for its own sake (advice worth heeding in your admission essays as well). You may have a passion for something taboo, in which case you may well indeed leave us stunned – but it should be from your heart, not from a cunning attempt to make yourself ‘memorable.’ At any rate, I hope this helps relieve some anxiety you have about an admission interview. If you have more specific questions, leave a comment below!

What can I expect in an interview?

If you are (or will be at summer’s end) a senior visiting campus, or you chance upon a wandering Admission Officer during our travel in the fall, here is what you can expect should you find yourself scheduled for an interview. You can anticipate a friendly face engaging you in a congenial conversation about you, what you love, and why you love it. After 20-40 minutes of one-on-one dialogue, your family are invited to join the conversation (if they are with you)  to get any questions they have resolved. It may be more formal than a Saturday night out on the town, but is certainly not meant to be a high stress environment. Relax! In fact, most interviews are comprised of students and families asking us just as many questions about Whitman as we have about them. Are you merely the summation of your GPA, test scores, and activities? Just like you’ll want to know more than the statistics the college guides give about us, we likewise love to get a slice of that “something more” that you’ll bring to Whitman’s campus!

These interviews are highly recommended because they can be a sort of “safety net,” an additional chance for you to illustrate your unique story in splendorous array. But they are not required, so we won’t heft a ‘poor’ interview against you as the sole reason to deny you admission. I can’t remember a single applicant that the Admission Committee denied because of poor posture, strange attire, or a lack of eye contact during an admission interview. What I do recall are the many applicants who forgot to highlight their deepest passions or list their many activities in their applications. Their interviews provided greater perspective on how they conceived of themselves and what drove them. That’s what we want! Let us see you for who you really are. That’s it – it really is that simple: be yourself.

What goes through my head when I’m reading your application?

Consider the Mona Lisa, simply because it is one of the more famous paintings in history. If I were to review the Mona Lisa, I could take one of two paths. On the one hand, I might spend hours scrutinizing every facet of da Vinci’s iconic painting, from the most minute of brushstrokes, to the dramatic scenery in the distance, to the posture and gaze of the woman herself. No pattern of cloth, curl of hair, or suggestion of fidelity would be lost in my meticulous appraisal.

The alternative actually requires much more time and study, though its focus is broader and its study cumulative. This second path would require intimate knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci’s entire surviving corpus, a familiarity with the Italian Renaissance and its many expressions, the broad context of the 15th and 16th centuries in which da Vinci’s life and work are framed, and a comprehension of oil and wood panels as media. From this broad context, the beauties of the Mona Lisa are readily apparent. With even a cursory glance, the viewer is captured by the women’s expression. The imaginary landscape stands the more poignant, and the subtle nuances of the woman’s hands, cloak, hair and smile race to the fore. The charm of this approach is that each new piece I analyze adds to my knowledge and context for the next! Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Annunciation, Virgin of the Rocks, and Last Supper are the more unique and appreciable because of my newfound familiarity with Mona Lisa. Moreover, other artists and their work come into sharper focus as well. Michelangelo, Verrocchio, and Raphael become framed by and distinguished from da Vinci, and each respective work then begins to take on an enriched character and significance.

Such is the path of the Admission Officer, by analogy. Though I am woefully ignorant of the world of art criticism, I am similarly tasked with reviewing an applicant’s file for all of the rich strokes, subtle nuances, and characteristic choices they might employ. I began reading files in much the way that I first outlined above – and the investment of time and energy into each file as a stand-alone entity was monumental! What’s worse, at first I carried little from one application to the next, which meant I hardly ever left square one. As my experience grew, and the sheer volume of applications demanded I spend less then several hours per application, I began to see similarities, harmonies, and contrasts.

Now when I open an application, I spend just a few minutes gathering all the vital contextual clues. I want to know who you are as a person, so that I can frame your academics, essays, and activities with who you see yourself as. I begin with biological points such as gender, age, and ethnicity. I want to know if and to what extent your nationality, religious preferences, political ideology or sexual orientation might be informing your application as you write it, so that it can similarly inform my reading of it. Questions of culture, class, and even what city or high school you are writing from often impact your responses and essays dramatically. For example, the kind of high school you attend matters when we consider your unweighted grade point average. Are you a first generation college student? How familiar are you with Whitman? Do students from your high school usually go to four-year colleges? Once I get a broad sense for the angle from which you are coming and the perspective and life experiences that might be informing your application, I can read your transcript, teacher recommendations, and essays for all they are worth. It’s not just about static data, but how you view yourself. The joy is in the discovery of all that you are and love and want to be – which makes your writing in particular a highlight for this “critic.”