In September, the mail began rolling in with truckloads arriving daily in December and January. This past Friday, the mail went rolling out as the last freshman decision letters left our building. We smiled, we, posed, we laughed. In an extreme show of dedication to the process, one of my colleagues took off in heels after the mail truck when we realized some letters had not been brought from the building. While this was certainly a time of celebration and revery, it is also a time of intense reflection. Those few moments, lovingly captured on various blackberrys and iphones by my colleagues, represent the culmination of months if not years worth of work.
My colleagues and I spent several years recruiting each class. Like other colleges, we buy lists of contact information for certain students. We send them mailed and emailed communications imploring them to investigate our beloved school. We spent months every fall traveling to different parts of the state and different parts of the country recruiting students at high school visits, colleges fairs, and evening programs. We spend thousands of dollars and man hours creating recruitment programs on campus and crafting a campus visit experience that will entice prospective students to apply.
Then, each year, my colleagues and I spend months selecting a class. From the first early-decision applications reviewed in late October to the nearly month-long committee process that takes up the bulk of March, my colleagues and I spend days, weeks, and months sorting mail, compiling folders, reviewing applications, and making tough choices. The process is part science, part art. It involves two cover-to-cover reviews of each of the 12,000 applications determining each individual’s academic and personal strengths. Some have such outstanding credentials that they can bypass the committee process and be admitted after a final review by the Dean of Admission. Those however are a select few among the select few. A vast majority of our applicants however go before a committee process. For 10 hours a day, six days a week, for three long weeks my colleagues and I break into two committees. We review the credentials of thousands of applicants all of whom are academically qualified and most of whom have something unique to offer our community. These decisions are always daunting, oftentimes hard-fought, and sometimes very emotional. Almost all of them are close calls. We take our task very seriously and we know that we are breaking more hearts than we are making dreams come true. Recently Tufts and Amherst, two similarly selective institutions, shared their processes with the Boston Globe. It was like reading a diary entry from our office. The sentiments expressed in that article are identical to those felt by my colleagues this past month.
So, on Friday, as the mail truck arrives, the letters loaded, and our hands waved, we all smiled gleefully knowing a cycle had come to close and we all reflected on the knowledge that another cycle was yet to come.
– Wendy Livingston