Genuine Admissions: Curveballs, Part I

On the evening of March 10, 2020, the day our admissions decisions were released, I received an email from a student who had not been offered admission to Loomis Chaffee for the fall. The email read:

Dear Mrs. Thompson,

Although the decision made by the Admission Committee was not what I expected, I truly appreciate the time and consideration that was spent on my application. I would like to wish the incoming 2020 class and the faculty of Loomis Chaffee the very best in all of their future endeavors.


Malcolm (not his real name)

I had a few reactions to this email. The primary one was to contact this young man’s parent(s) and congratulate them on a job well done. How many 13-year-olds have the grace to send an email like this to a dean of enrollment he has never met— at a school he was not offered admission to — to thank her for taking time to consider his application?? The second one was “Wherever Malcolm goes in life, he’s going to be a total winner. I wish it were Loomis.” It reminded me of the time I sat next to the dean of admission at my first choice college at a dinner thirty years after he denied my application and I had the chance to tell him about my incredibly successful life as a college counselor. HA! He should have admitted me after all! Not surprisingly, my seniors at Loomis used to love that story which I shared in their class meeting each year as they prepared to receive admissions decisions from their top choice colleges. The point of that story, of course, was that you end up where you’re supposed to. It’s all going to be okay. You get curveballs, and it’s how you respond to them that determines the outcome — not the curveball itself.

Malcolm admitted in his opening line that our admissions decision on his application was a curveball. Obviously, he expected to be admitted to Loomis. Whether this was because he had an outstanding academic record, or he was admitted to what he considered a more selective school, or whatever reason, he did not expect a “no.” And yet, despite that curveball, not only was he rolling up his sleeves and moving on, he actually sat down and took the time to write me an email. He looked up my email address online, he composed it, and he sent it without expressing one word of bitterness, anger, questioning or blame. He simply thanked me and wished our community the best.

How much we can all learn from young people.

This is one of the main reasons why I work at a school. My students make me better every single day. When we in the Admissions Office were thrown a curveball this past week with the cancellation of our highly anticipated Pelican Preview Days, I will confess I was absolutely crushed. I did not take it in Malcolm style. My response ranged from disbelief to anxiety to sadness, not quite grasping that the students we worked so hard to recruit and ultimately accept would not be able to experience the best part of the entire process — visiting the Island now that the choice of attending Loomis was actually real. While I will expand more on the topic of decision making in Curveballs, Part 2, the fact remains that I was not 13-year-old Malcolm. I was 50-year-old Amy, and I was not handling this curveball well.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I received Malcolm's email that I was able to fully invest in moving on from the loss of our on-campus accepted student programs. All of those files I read, all those letters I signed, all those students I was looking forward to meeting face-to-face after feeling like I “knew them” already — it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept it and work with my team to find other ways to help those students determine whether Loomis was the right fit for them for the next step on their educational journey. Thanks to Malcolm, I leaned into the curveball. And we here on the Island are determined to hit that curveball right out of the park.

Thank you, Malcolm, and every other student who has handled a curveball like not getting into a top-choice school with this kind of grace. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors. The way you handle curveballs shows quite clearly that another institution will be very fortunate, indeed.