Tag Archives: PJ

Approaching the Finish Line

As a distance runner for more than half of my life I feel like I just rounded the final corner of a difficult race.  The crowd is cheering, people are ringing cow bells and I can see the canopy of the finish line, but I am still not there yet.  This is the point where it takes everything I have to get through the last mile.  I will get there though, I’ve come too far and worked too hard not to finish with gusto.

Whether you realize it or not, we all – you, me, the Whitman Admission Staff and all the other applicants to Whitman – started this race together at the end of August.  That is when the college admission cycle truly took hold for seniors.  My colleagues and I hit the road and students started collecting and submitting application materials.  It has been a long time since then, seemingly a lifetime.  Applications have been submitted, materials reviewed and decisions are being made.  The finish line is in sight.

For my colleagues and I it is time to put on our favorite Pandora station or “victorious” playlist, we are making final decisions and about to admit our class.  For those of you waiting on us, hold on we’re coming.  Check out the “Songs to Wait By” one more time and know that a “Songs to Celebrate By” is about to be released, as well as our admission decisions very soon.

You have all run a solid race over the last four months, really four years, and deserve a crowd of people yelling your name.  Enjoy the last mile (these next couple of weeks), there is nothing like it, you went the distance and completed the college admission cycle.  When you cross that finish line, do it with gusto – you earned it – raise your arms and claim your moment.

A few words on the Supplement

Isn’t the Common Application great?  All those schools you can apply to in one shot, it makes the college application process so much less daunting.  While this is true (to an extent) many of you are thinking, or maybe yelling out loud, “What about all those supplements?!?”  Aghh, the bitter sweetness of only needing to type your counselor’s e-mail address, Freshman extracurricular activities and expected spring schedule once.

Supplements are personal, they ask probing questions and they require thought and time.  Maybe right now in the middle of December you don’t feel like you have much of either to spare.  I encourage you to dig deep.  These questions are asked for a reason and they are important.  Trust me, as much as you do not want to write a meaningless essay, my colleagues and I do not want to read them.  Yet, year after year we keep asking the questions, because they are important.  We want to know these things about you, in the case of Whitman: how you perceive diversity, why you are interested in our community of 1500 students in Walla Walla, and lastly how you think and express your thoughts.

For some clues on why these questions are important to us take a look at our website, Google these topics, page through that Whitman Admission handout one more time with “different eyes”, ask us some questions of your own.  See what we have to say, maybe you will learn something, you may get intrigued and excited, you may be struck by inspiration for your supplemental essays.  We want to see if and why these topics are important to you too.  Be deliberate, be concise, and give us a view into you and your motivations.  There is no “right” answer!  So stop taking the safe route and writing on what you think it is.

The Common Application has 456 member institutions; at the heart of each is a unique school and community.  This is what the supplements try to get at.  This is why we ask these pesky questions.  In your answers we hope to honestly find a little of Whitman and what we value.  Good luck Class of 2016, we look forward to reading your applications!

On travel, deadlines, and reubens

Growing up I used to go to this place named “Kelly’s” for lunch with my family. As you may imagine, at place named “Kelly’s” you couldn’t go wrong with the Reuben sandwich, well as long as you had a BIG appetite. This heaping ovular plate of corn beef, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, bubbling Swiss cheese and a couple well hidden slices of rye bread one needed to attack with a fork and steak knife was enough to intimidate even the biggest of appetites. Believe it or not, I see travel season as the California regional admission counselor for Whitman similarly. California is a large state! When I hit the road 53 days ago the flights, miles, visits and interviews were daunting, just like that steaming Irish culinary creation of my youth. My approach now is like my approach then, one bite at a time. Before I knew it, given some time and my fair share of iced teas the plate only had a few more bites, like my travel schedule today. The black travel bag and I only have 10 more days out on the road and I can’t help but feel satisfied by the accomplishment.

The afternoons after a visit to Kelly’s were understandably spent digesting, it really was gigantic sandwich! That is what I am looking forward to doing over the next few weeks with all the information I have taken in for the last two months. There are interviews to keep typing up, students to stay in contact with, profiles to organize, and lists to keep. It will be nice to be home, but to also move onto the next step, reading the applications. I have met so many interesting and promising students since September, it will be exciting to see how they present themselves. Applications will be coming soon too, the Early Decision I deadline at Whitman is November 15th. This is like sitting down to dinner in the evening after one of those Kelly’s Reubens, digestion beforehand is key. I will definitely be using early November to do just that, digest.

You all may be feeling like you are working your way through a Kelly’s Reuben yourself. There is the rigor and vigor of senior year, people like me keep showing up at your high school, you want to make a good impression on colleges, make good decisions on where to apply, and actually enjoy your senior year. The best advice I can offer is what has helped me, “one bite at a time.” Look at the applications bit by bit, don’t try to do all of them completely all at once. Otherwise you have a recipe for a hot mess that is not even worth trying to salvage as leftovers. You too will see a clearing in the ambitious plate you have before you. Don’t be stubborn like I was growing up, trying to take on a Kelly’s Reuben alone. Ask for help. Your friends and family are great resources for looking at essays and practicing interview questions. You also have some willing back-up in your college and admission counselors. We love this stuff and have an insatiable appetite. Slainte!


Congratulations on your admission to Whitman College!  Since our “Songs to Wait By” entry was such a hit, I thought I’d compile a list of songs to celebrate with.  Here you go!

Dancing in the Street – Martha and the Vandellas

Feel Good Inc. – Gorillaz

I’ve Got A Feeling – Black-Eyed Peas

Celebration – Kool and the Gang

We Are Family – Sister Sledge

At Last – Etta James

Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

Twist and Shout – The Beatles

Hey Ya! – Outkast

What I Like About You – Romantics

You Really Got Me – The Kinks

Such Great Heights – The Postal Service

I’ve Got A Feeling – The Beatles

I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick

Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede

Are You Gonna Be My Girl? – Jet

Keep an eye on the blog for entries all throughout April that will give you more information about Whitman and about Walla Walla for you to keep in mind as you make your decision

Some Advice for Juniors

As I sit here reading applications from all of the seniors interested in Whitman for the fall I can not help but page forward on my calendar a little bit to April.  This is when I will get to be out on the road again.  This is the time of the year that I get to work with juniors specifically.  I like this because the juniors have a broader perspective on the college search process; I am able to be identified as more of an advisor and counselor.  As a junior, and especially sophomore, you are not expected to have it all figured out right now.  My first tip for you in the college search process is to utilize the Whitman Admission Office and our thousands of colleagues on college and high school campuses dedicated to helping you out.  You would honestly be amazed how much we know, how helpful we can be and how nice we are.

There are a few big questions you want to ask yourself in the early phases of your search.  The first is, “How has high school been for me?”  Depending on your answer you want to evaluate what has made you happy and/or discontent.  “Do I want a similar experience in college, or one that could not be more different?”  Building on what you know is good, but college is also a great time to try new things.  “Do I want to stay close to home, or try out a new location further away?”  Laundry at home and Sunday dinners are hard to beat, but exploration and the unknown can be alluring.  “Am I determined to be awestruck by the bright lights of a city, or do I want to bask in the purity of unobstructed moonlight?”  Both types of environments are home to some of the best schools in the world.  “Do I want to go somewhere with national attention for its size, or somewhere where I will get attention as a member of the community?”  Football games, sprawling campuses and thousands of new people are really exciting.  It is also really cool to know others and be known, have dinner at your professor’s house and walk to class in seven minutes no matter where it is or you are on campus.  Lastly, “Do I want to be somewhere with a specific focus or population?”  The institutes of technology, religious, single sex and historically Black colleges make deep impacts on their students, as do the schools with a little bit of everything and everybody.  These are the first questions and the most important.  You will hear it until you are tired of hearing it, “College is all about fit!”  You need to be happy with the place you are for the next four years.

You also want to think about academics.  This has a few meanings.  There is the obvious question of, “What do I want to do as a career and study in college to get there?”  If you have an idea, look for schools with programs in what you want to study which meet your qualifications above.  If you are undecided look for places which have a variety of offerings, or where you can take a whole assortment of subjects.  Next, you want to objectively ask, “How have I performed academically over the last few years?”  You either need to keep the momentum going, or pull it together to be where you know you should be.  Colleges are very interested in your grades and like to see you consistently doing well or having your grades rise as time goes on.  Lastly, senior year is a blank canvas at this point, choose your classes wisely.  “Where can I continue to challenge myself?”  “What subjects do I want to explore as I prepare for college?”  “Am I interested in these subjects, and do I look interesting to colleges?”  “What will I be able to handle with all my activities and college applications to prepare?”  Senior year is a perfect time to push yourself with the rigor of your courses, check out the coveted electives offered, show colleges what you are all about, but also avoid burning out.  College will not be any fun if you do not make it through senior year.

OK, you have some reflecting to do.  Pick a rainy/snowy day, pick a period of time over a long weekend or school break, pick people’s brains.  Just make it happen.  We, I, Whitman, our thousands of colleagues are all here for you.  I look forward to seeing you on the road and answering some of your very important questions about Whitman.  You can actually see where the whole Whitman Admission team will be this spring at: http://www.whitman.edu/content/admission/whitman-on-the-road/travel/?state=all&range=current

Meet PJ!

Name: Philip “PJ” Petrone

College, year, major: University of Rhode Island, 2000, Marine Resource Development and Human Development and Family Studies

Grad School, year, degree/concentration: New York Institute of Technology, 2004, MS – School Counseling

Recruitment Territories: California

Other Office Duties: Fall Evening Receptions, Holiday Parties, Summer Picnics, Class Profiles

Favorite –

Color: Red

Ice Cream Flavor: Pistachio

Book: Challenges by Dr. Robert Ballard

Movie: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Taco Truck Order: 2 Carne Asada Walla Walla Tacos and 2 Chicken Walla Walla Tacos, then add the hot sauce myself

Favorite thing about Whitman: I love that the students are so balanced. They work hard and play hard, but the definition of each is different for every student. That makes campus a fun and interesting place to be. The 300 days of sun is not too bad either!

Favorite place to eat in Walla Walla: T.Maccarones

Running in Walla Walla

Do you get the REI or EMS catalog this time of year? You know the one with the runners clad in fleece vests wearing moisture wicking shirts underneath, lycra tights, a festive ski cap and gloves? They are striding across open terrain with the signature puffs of white streaming out of their mouths as they exhale into the cold winter air. That is what it is like running in Walla Walla during the winter, and a needed breath of fresh air for this transplant from Long Island, NY to Los Angeles, CA.

I love to run, and running in Walla Walla is a treat. It is interesting no matter where I go. The residential areas around campus are perfect for banging out a few miles before or after the work day. I can go from community to community taking in the architecture of homes built as Walla Walla was establishing a place on the map, and those that have been built in more recent years as Walla Walla has become a destination. The roads are not busy, the terrain is relatively flat and I am bound to come across a park or school at some point, no matter how far I am going.

Just beyond the easily manageable streets of Walla Walla lie the more challenging and picturesque “long runs” worthy of an REI cover which I like to set aside for the weekends or when I just need to get away. Approximately a mile north of campus the infamous wheat fields of the Walla Walla Valley begin to unfold. The miles are laid out along gently winding roads and rolling hills through the “amber waves of grain.” The sunrises and sunsets in the open fields are inspiration to go the extra distance. This is the perfect place to lose myself, but not get lost on an “out and back.”

When I am feeling adventurous and ready to push my limits the foothills of the Blue Mountains, rising up east of campus, beckon a distinct call. Bennington Lake and the miles of trails, both paved and dirt, flat and steep, have something to offer me all the time. They allow me to return to nature, observe local species and recognize my small place in the world. I can be surprised by the elements, staying sharp and agile amidst the unsure terrain. I always come home exhausted, but refreshed and feeling accomplished.

Running is one of the things that makes coming to Walla Walla even more fun and I know I have not even come close to seeing it all. I’m always looking for some company, so let me know when you are in town. We can explore new routes together. Happy Trails!