Genuine Admissions: Curveballs, Part 2

As I’ve referenced before on this blog, I am the parent of a Loomis Chaffee senior who has been going through the college admission process this year. I also mentioned this in my introduction to the video that our head of school, Dr. Sheila Culbert, recently filmed welcoming our newly accepted students to Loomis Chaffee. In that video, I shared that on the day we were filming, March 18, I was supposed to be revisiting a college that my senior had been accepted to, but the revisit program had been cancelled due to COVID-19. Therefore, I understood not only on a professional but also a personal level what losing that opportunity meant to a family.

At that time, I was also working feverishly with my admissions team and our amazing marketing department at Loomis to figure out how to show the “special sauce” that makes up our community in a virtual format. Talk about a blend of the personal and the professional! Professionally, I was confident that the school would successfully pivot to this new challenge. We take our Loomis family motto Ne Cede Malis (yield not to misfortune) seriously — we have an innovative mindset in admissions, and that approach accurately reflects what is going on in the Loomis community as a whole. I knew that we would learn how to conduct webinars and online chats quickly, that we could make virtual experiences that connected accepted families with our students and faculty, and I had faith that those who had already visited us earlier in the year had a positive experience. In short, I was optimistic and excited about the challenge — albeit extremely disappointed I would not get to experience the thrill of meeting our accepted families during campus-based Pelican Preview Days myself (see Genuine Admissions: Curveballs, Part 1).

On the personal front, my daughter was understandably devastated that her dreams of captaining her spring sport, taking part in our Innovation Trimester (open only to spring term seniors), going to her only prom and celebrating the culmination of four years of very hard work and lifelong friendships at Class Night and Commencement (not to mention Springfest, Senior Trip Day, Musical Revue and other “lasts” of her Loomis career) was not to be. Initially, it made not being able to revisit her colleges seem like a minor issue in comparison. Fortunately, she had researched the schools during the application process, visited them (albeit in the summer), and had many resources at her fingertips to call upon to make a final decision. And yet, another celebration was missing — the experience of being on campus at a school that accepted her and wanted her to attend. So when she recently confessed, “I know there’s all this virtual online stuff, but it’s just not the same,” she was absolutely right. It’s not the same. And we can’t make it the same. Because what makes accepted student visits so different — and so GREAT — is that you are now IN when you visit. And everyone on the campus who sees you walking around wearing your nametag lanyard knows it and celebrates it along with you. It’s actually less about having to make the choice — most of those who choose Loomis already know it going into those days. It’s more about feeling good about the choice.

To our newly accepted Pelicans, however, take heart from the story I used to share with my Loomis seniors about how I chose my own college. I was not admitted to my first choice college (also referenced in a previous post — not that I’m still bitter), and the determining factor for the choice of the college I did attend was that it was the shortest distance from my first choice — only 45 miles away. My 17-year-old rationale was that when I transferred to “First Choice College” after the first semester, I wouldn’t have to move my stuff as far if I went to the college that was closest to it. TRUE STORY. No revisit, no webinars, no virtual tours, no videos … a map. That’s how I decided where to go. And where I stayed for four very happy and intellectually challenging years. Because ultimately, it was not any particular college that was a great fit for me. It was that I was a great fit for COLLEGE. And it’s a good thing, too, because if I hadn’t gone to “Closest to First Choice”, I wouldn’t have met that Loomis Chaffee classmate in the back of my poli sci class my junior year. And I would not be the Dean of Enrollment at Loomis Chaffee today.

Here’s the genuine admission about school choice: you don’t need to revisit, or even visit, a school to decide whether or not to go there. You are ready for the experience of a highly challenging, exciting, diverse independent boarding school or you would not be choosing in the first place. You do need to invest in the experience wherever you go. As I used to say in college counseling, students rarely transfer twice. Why? It’s not because the school they transfer to is so much better; it’s that they have learned how to make it work better the second time at a place that they have learned is a better fit for who they have become. So while I would encourage our accepted students to do more than consult a map when choosing their next school, at some point, you just have to close your eyes, take a deep breath … and make your choice.