To no surprise, this January more than any other the focus on a new year and a new beginning has taken on major significance. With what seems like a never-ending slew of social media posts, podcasts, news segments and blogs on planning and goal setting, the promise of new and improved in 2021 is a greater focus than ever. Despite the fervor, google “new year’s resolutions” and you will find that most of the internet tells us not to even set them. This is not new; it is commonly understood that the majority of people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions more than a few weeks at most. Perhaps this is why one of my daughters likes to set “intentions” rather than resolutions (“less pressure!”). This year is different, however, in that according to Finder.com, 74% of the US population has set resolutions for 2021 — a 15% increase over last year (how they have determined this I don’t know, but it’s interesting nonetheless). Given the amount of airtime that has been given to celebrating “out with 2020!” and “in with 2021!”, this renewed resolution to set goals is perhaps not surprising. (As a side note, the first listed result of my Google search was a recent Good Housekeeping article titled “56 Best New Year’s Resolution Ideas 2021.” The title alone made me want to crawl back into bed.)
Genuine admission: I enjoy goal setting and planning. But doing it in January doesn’t translate to admission work. I don’t think I have ever bought a calendar or planner in January. Like others who work in education, my “year” begins in late August or early September when our students arrive on campus, bringing their energy and spirit that reminds us annually, like birds flying south, why we do what we do. So, too, every fall brings the kickoff of our recruitment season, where a good chunk of an admission officer’s days is spent traveling (virtually or otherwise), presenting, interviewing, and meeting people. For some of the extroverts and adventurers on our admission teams, it’s the best time of the year. Personally, I love the fall. I love sharing my passion for Loomis with people I meet, I enjoy traveling, and I get energy from connecting with others — even in a fall like this one, where my recruitment season was less physically wide-ranging than usual.
While our communal educational “new year” begins in September, unlike our colleagues in the classroom, in January our workday radically changes. For admission officers, January is the beginning of a completely new job in a very different season. For us at Loomis, by the end of the month recruitment season is over and review season has begun. This is a somewhat unique aspect of what admission officers do. For the winter months, we change virtually every aspect of our job, doing something completely different that requires almost an exact opposite skill set from what we have been doing all fall. We do not travel, present, or interview. We read. And write. And discuss. A lot. And then read, write, and discuss some more. It is a major change, but not an unwelcome one. There’s great excitement in reading that first application each year. It’s what we’ve been working toward since September — the big payoff.
Although it might seem that review season is a time that requires weeks of hyper-focused hours engaged in a highly solo enterprise, it’s not an isolating one (although, genuine admission: I do get sick of myself around mid-February). We may not be leaving our building very often during review season, but we meet new people every day. In one sense, we are doing the same thing we’re doing in the fall: making connections with students and learning whether Loomis might be a good match for them. We’re just doing it differently. It’s not without imperfections, to be sure; we’re trying to make the best assessment from limited information, we’re reading quickly, and the decisions we make are communal, not individual ones — there is an admission committee involved, after all. But this is the season that most truly reflects the “why” of admission offices. It is the activity most clearly tied to our fundamental mission, which, at Loomis Chaffee, is to enroll a school of young people from different backgrounds who will be inspired to a commitment to the best self and the common good. Rather than January being the time when annual resolutions are set or midyear curricular benchmarks assessed, it’s the time when admission officers begin the work that is at the core of our purpose. For this reason, I love the winter. I love reading what applicants share about themselves and their lives. I get excited about what they might bring to our community and how Loomis might inform their future selves. And I am inspired by my incredible colleagues on my team who bring the same passion to that work. I love seeing our mission in action.
Genuine admission: I’m a bit of an extroverted introvert, and a bit of an introverted extrovert. That’s probably one of the reasons why I work in admissions. The duality of our job means that it never gets boring — even if we are eager to shed our extroversion in the winter and our introversion in the spring (which is another season altogether and kind of a combination of both). I may not make resolutions in January, but the change of admission seasons each year brings new joy and excitement to different parts of myself for different reasons. And if you’re reading this worrying about the lack of planning that has led to an application still not filed for our January 15 deadline, it’s okay. I wrote a blog post about that very issue last January. That resolution not to procrastinate can be made before the new year begins again in September.