Tag Archives: Reading

Winter is Coming

A curious thing happened yesterday, and it happened again today. On Tuesday, November 19, Walla Walla had a high temperature of 57. It was balmy and rainy, and was almost too warm for the heavier jackets many of us had finally pulled out of the closet after their long rests, donning them in anticipation of the colder months and gradual decline in temperature. I know that I at least was forced to take my jacket off on my morning walk to work, and again as I walked home in the evening.

Then the curious thing happened. The day ended, night set up over a warm Walla Walla, and we all sequestered ourselves in our homes, our apartments, our residence halls and houses. We forgot about the outside, at least for the few hours we were indoors, enjoying the wonders of climate controlled housing. We went to sleep, not thinking too hard about winter or fall or the weather at all. Then, Wednesday, November 20th, Winter, which had been a long time in coming, finally decided to show up. In the space of a day, we went from a high of 57 to a high of 37. Today, Thursday the 21st, we have a high of 34 and a low of 25. Tomorrow, Friday the 22nd, we have a low of 19.

Winter is officially here.

The onset of winter means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For our students from Southern California, where winter temperatures often range in the sixties, this can be a confusing and rather chilly time of year. For students from the east coast and several other midwest states, it’s just a drop in temperature not really worth noticing (side story: I once told a student I was interviewing that it got cold in the winter. When she asked how cold and I told her it would set up around the 30’s and stay there, she laughed at me. She was from northern Minnesota). For all of our students, it means both Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break are just around the corner, respites from the long, hard battle of the Fall Semester.

In the world of admission, winter is exciting on both sides of the desk. For high school students, it means applications are just around the corner (I will admit this might be more nerve-wracking than exciting, but bear with me), with their college admission decisions not far behind. Through the end of November and all of December, the scattered flurries of applications pick up in intensity, escalating into a full on blizzard of submissions to colleges. Essays are edited, letters of recommendation are written, and applications are double, triple, maybe even quadruple checked, all before finally hitting that submit button, or before sealing the envelope, slapping on the postage, and throwing it all in the mailbox before second thoughts can form, lest the envelope be opened and the application worked on even more. It’s a hectic time, a very busy time, and depending on where you are, probably a very cold time.

For us here in the Whitman College Office of Admission, winter means similar things, but it also carries other connotations. To start, it means that the long travel season has come to a close (I apologize for the lack of updates caused by my month on the road). All of us, minus our regional representatives, have found our way back to the office, to home base, where we are now busy both catching up on work and sleep put aside during the month of October, and settling back into our daily routines. It also means, for us, that reading season is just over the horizon. The first of our two Early Decision deadlines just passed, and we’re now sorting through all of the shiny new applications, getting ready to tackle them. In another couple of months, once January hits, we’ll be hunkering down in our offices, bundled up against the cold outside with more applications than you can shake a stick at for company. It’s a hard process, but in many ways it’s also one of the most exciting parts of the job, the next step in the admission cycle as we work towards building the next incoming class, in this instance the class of 2018.

So pull out your winter jackets if you haven’t already, wrap up warm with your favorite scarfs and blankets, and get ready for the winter months. They’ll be cold, of that there’s little doubt, but I can absolutely guarantee they’ll be exciting.

Until next time.


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.

Songs to Read By

I  generally like to keep my music upbeat when reading applications; it helps me set and sustain a good pace and keeps my energy level high, even when I’m pushing through into the third or fourth consecutive hour.  In no particular order, some of my favorites lately have been:

1) Ophelia – The Band
2) And Your Bird Can Sing – The Beatles
3) Into the Mystic – Van Morrison
4) Morning Sun – Al Barry and The Cimarons
5) Animal – Miike Snow (Punks Jump Up Remix)

So now you can probably guess my picks on the Songs to Wait By list last week. My favorite place to read is by far my house. Lucy, my puppy dog, can hang out and is more than happy to distract me for a minute or two in between each file. That way I can start each one with a fresh eye. Snacks are also in close proximity, a clutch component of being well-prepared for an afternoon of reading.

Welcome to Reading Season!

Well, it’s been a crazy three weeks or so as the January 15 regular decision deadline has come and gone, leaving support staff inundated with sorting essays, importing test scores and common applications, and printing golden “complete” letters, informing anxious students we do indeed have all the components of their application. Soon after the kind ladies upstairs work their magic, the various pieces arrive in our reading tool in a .pdf file ordered common application, transcript, Whitman supplement, teacher recommendations, and finally, interview notes. The switch to electronic reading is relatively recent; I just graduated from Whitman last May and when I started as a student worker five years ago compiling and sorting the paper files was a major part of my job. Now students digitize any and all paper we receive.

Anyway, back to the present; while it would be a neat trick if the completed files automatically migrated from upstairs to officers’ various computers, it’s just not that simple. Due to major discrepancies in the number of applicants from various geographic locations, not all officers are able to “first read” all the students from their territories. While PJ, the California officer, is an absolute file master, there is simply no way he can keep up with the massive number of Cali applications, and so officers with less populated applicant territories, like myself, pick up the slack, especially if we’ve had past interaction with the student. These decisions are made by the all-powerful kings of distribution,  Josh and PJ. For the most part, however, the majority of any territories files, even Seattle and California, are first read by the area officer. After the initial vote, the file is distributed again to a “second reader,” and from there a decision is made, either admit, deny, committee, or waitlist.

If the two readers disagree on their votes or an application hits a committee trigger (recent C, test scores or GPA below a certain threshold, to give a few examples), but at least one officer wants to admit the student anyway, the applicant will be discussed in a committee of 6-10 admission officers in early to mid-March. Knowing all this, students can rest assured their application is receiving a thorough vetting.

Right now distribution is really beginning to heat up as more and more files are processed.  Batches of files go out twice  a week in groups between 15-60 at a time, and are due back one week later.  One thing I’m really loving about reading season so far, besides all the amazing applicants, is the fact officers are given one whole day and two half-days out of the office each week to focus on reading (it’s hard to focus on anything for too long here).  Kicking back with a good essay on The Great Gatsby and a cup of coffee on your own couch hardly feels like work. Of course, I might change my mind hundreds of files and a few months later…

More songs we’re reading by

OK, we’re really in the thick of reading your lovely applications. We do get short breaks to revel in our Men’s Basketball victory over top-seeded Whitworth and attend the many lectures happening on campus, but after those are done, we return to our files and our reading music: