Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Early action activities in the office

We're all back from our travel -- here's the view out of my office window today:

In a few minutes the whole office will go downstairs and start opening mail. We will remove staples (even though we said do not staple, to err is human), flatten folds, and discard envelopes. Then, the mail will go to our scanners, which will scan it in. Each individual piece will be linked to the student's file (which is why it's completely okay to send your application in separate pieces, and for some pieces to arrive sooner than others). When a file becomes complete, it will be available for us to read electronically.

At the moment only four files are complete. Does this scare us? Not in the slightest. It takes weeks and weeks for us to receive and open every piece of mail. We usually aren't ready to start reading in the first week of November. So we just sit back and enjoy the foliage and the sunny weather.

We believe at this office that decisions should be made based on what an applicant says, not in how many words it takes him or her to say it (that's why we have no word limit on our essays.) We also believe that decisions should rest on the content of a file, not how long it takes to get here. The November 1 deadline should obviously be honored by each early action applicant, but no freaking out is necessary. If your application remains incomplete when we are well into the reading cycle, we will contact you.

That said, as of November 1, you will be able to log into the online application and check your credentials. However, I don't want anyone to panic when they see that a credential is not listed. Your credential could be in one of our many brimming mail bins. It could be in a stack waiting to be scanned. It could be in the electronic ether, waiting to be linked to your application. Once again, we will contact you if your application is in danger because something is not in our office. The credential checking feature is meant to reassure you, rather than to induce widespread panic.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What is a deadline, anyway?

Is the deadline when the application has to be in the hands of the admissions office? Is it when my application should be floating through the air, on its way to the admissions office? Or is it the date that I should give my teachers their recommendation forms?

No, yes, and definitely not.

The November 1 deadline is a postmark deadline, meaning that your materials should be postmarked by November 1. If you are applying online, you should click the "submit" button sometime on or before November 1.

Standardized test scores do not have to be in our hands by November 1. You do not have to send the scores by November 1. You only need to have taken the test by November 1. If your scores come out on November 2, 14, or 100, but you took the test before November 1, you will be absolutely fine. This is the same for the regular notification deadline of January 2.

Please do not rush your scores. Rushed scores come to us on paper, which must be entered by hand. Scores that are reported normally come to us electronically, which upload automatically. Even if you think you are very late, your scores will come to us faster when you do not rush them!

Just a friendly note from an admissions counselor who is getting a lot of worried emails.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Some days in the life of an admissions counselor on the road

Sunday, October 15

5 a.m. - I'm up. I didn't sleep last night because I was too excited, or maybe because I had coffee after noon.

5:30 a.m. - I've forgotten to call a cab to take me to the airport. I call directory assistance. They give me the number of a local company. I call. They're not picking up.

5:45 a.m. - I give up and walk out to the bus stop. It's chilly and I can see my breath, but for some reason I'm not feeling cold. Still excited, I guess.

5:50 a.m. - I'm eyeing the Mexican bakery across the street, which, unlike a certain cab company, is open.

5:55 a.m. - I walk down to a coffee shop. They're not open.

5:57 a.m. - I'm back at the bus stop in front of the Mexican bakery. They are open. It's so warm in there, the windows are steamed up. I'm beginning to feel the cold.

5:58 a.m. - The bus comes. I'm saved, but not from my stomach.

6:10 a.m. - I transfer to the blue line, on my way to O'Hare.

6:40 a.m. - Hundreds of other travelers and I get off the train at the same time, creating a bottleneck at the one escalator. The music in the transit area is really great -- an electric violin. After a moment or two, I realize it's an actual person playing.

7:00 a.m. - I'm checked in. I love those kiosks. I go to leave my bag at the scanner. There are hundreds of other bags waiting to be scanned. (Warning: foreshadowing!)

7:30 a.m. - I'm sitting at Wolfgang Puck's for a four-cheese omelet. Honestly, the food at Midway is much, much better than that at O'Hare. It's also much closer to campus, so I usually recommend that people fly into Midway. However, the two places I have go to all the time -- the West Coast (where I recruit) and Virginia (where I'm from) aren't well-served at Midway, which is a much smaller airport.

7:45 a.m. - Not that impressed with my breakfast, I head off to my gate.

8:20 a.m. - We board, and I promptly fall asleep. That's good, because I haven't brought much reading materials. I'm actually at a point in my life where I've read all the books I own, and pretty much all the books sold in airports (though it took 23 years).

Around nonn, west coast time - I arrive at San Jose airport. We go down to the baggage claim. The carousel is going around, but there are no bags. We wait long enough to make someone ask what's going on. Oh, by the way, none of your bags made it onto the flight. What?! How can a plane take off without anybody's luggage on it? Then I remember back to the sea of bags at O'Hare...

I call my mother, who I'm going to be having dinner with (plus Grammy and cousin Paul), and tell her the news. I pick up my rental car. They say our bags are coming in on the next flight, so I give them the address of the hotel. I drive up to mom's house, directionless, without my business attire, without my information cards, without anything to hand out. Also without the list of schools I'm visiting, and when. But my bags will be there at 5 p.m., right?

9 p.m. - Dinner is over, and I call the hotel to make sure my bags are there. No. I call the airline. The guy clickety-clacks at a computer. He says something about a flight coming from Los Angeles. When? 10 p.m. Okay.

9:30 p.m. - I drive down to the hotel and check in. I wait.

10:20 p.m. - I call the airline. They still think the bag came in at 5 p.m. They call the airport. The airport is closed, but will re-open at 5 the next morning. I finish watching What Not to Wear and fall asleep.

Monday, October 16

5:05 a.m. - I'm up and calling. The man calls the airport, and says they will call back.

6:20 a.m. - They haven't called back. I'm freaking out. I call again, and speak with a very sympathetic woman. She, of course, doesn't know, but assures that they will deliver the bag as soon as it gets to San Jose, which may be sometime in the next few years.

7:00 a.m. - I call the admissions office in Chicago. I ask Carol, our receptionist and Director of First Impressions, to read me the schools I'm visiting, and the times. Directions to these schools? Who needs directions?

7:40 a.m. - Visit number one in San Jose. I show up in jeans and a sweater. To my astonishment, no one really notices. I pass around a pad of paper and a pen I got from the hotel, and students sign their names. Good enough, I guess. We have a nice conversation about Chicago. One of the counselors gives me great directions to my next school.

8:55 a.m. - Visit number two.

10 a.m. - Visit number three. My cell phone has died, so no more pestering the airline, and I can't call ahead to my next school for directions. Luckily, the counselors are letting me print out Google maps wherever I go. In my day, schools didn't have the internet...

11:15 a.m. - Visit number four.

12:25 p.m. - Visit number five. Over thirty students show up. Maybe I don't need a suit or promotional materials after all... we should re-think this whole recruiting thing.

1:25 p.m. - I have a little time before my next visit, so I use the school's phone to call the hotel. It's there! I make my way over -- no map, remember, and not much working knowledge of San Jose, aside from its high schools.

1:45 p.m. - I have my bag. I change immediately and go to my last school in style.

2:30 p.m. - I'm up at a school in Palo Alto that couldn't have me during my normal Palo Alto day. Of course, I forget my information cards for the students to fill out. Otherwise, it goes really well. I drive to mom's house afterward. She has my box of materials that I shipped last week.

5:30 p.m. - I drive back down to Palo Alto for a college fair. I don't really know when I'm supposed to be there...

6 p.m. - I make it into the gym with my banner and heavy box of materials. They can't find my name on the list, though. I get a makeshift table in the corner. I was pretty sure I had registered... They serve a great dinner, though. A slow-to-medium trickle of students comes by through most of the night. A dad keeps coming by and saying "These students just don't know how good this school is!" I think that all the time. A few GSB alums come by to share their excitement about the GSB being ranked #1 the week before.

9 p.m. - I drive down to Saratoga and check into my hotel, and get ready to start this dance again tomorrow.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Early action applicants now have until October 20 to request alumni interviews

I love this blog, because it lets me make announcements so quickly.

We sent an email to our entire senior mailing list on Saturday (the October Update), which included information about requesting an alumni interview. Because we promised on the printed application that we would email applicants about this, we thought that it would not be fair to close alumni interview requests to early action applicants until after we had told them definitively how to request them.

The deadline is now Friday, October 20.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Early action applicants - request those interviews!

Early action applicants have until Saturday to make their alumni interview requests. To request one, just log into the online application, click "Request an alumni interview," and follow the directions (which mainly consist of clicking "Save"). If you have an interview, you are under no obligation to apply, and you do not have to turn in your application before you make your request, or before you are interviewed. When you request an interview you should get an email within the next two days, confirming your request. So far only about four or five percent of all requests have gone unmatched (normally because the student lives in an area with no alumni volunteers.) Over a thousand students have requested interviews.

Regular notification applicants can also request interviews, now until December 15.

Because we've been having problems with our emailing program, we haven't yet sent out the promised email to students who have filled out a Basic Information Form on how to request interviews. We hope those emails will go out today or tomorrow. If not, we may extend the deadline.

Also, students may have noticed that the credential checking feature is not yet available. Early action applicants can click "Check credentials" on November 1 and see the documents we've received in our office. This is the first year that we are reading applications entirely on computer screens. Once we work out the final kinks in scanning and linking documents, we should be able to start scanning in credentials, and we will make the credential checking feature available.

That reminds me: Do not staple!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Biggest Program Ever

We just closed registration for our upcoming Columbus Day Open House, which promises to be the Biggest Program Ever. We have about 530 students confirmed, so perhaps 800 or 900 guests. Luckily, not everyone who registers for these events shows up. Otherwise, it would be utter pandemonium.

To prepare, we're printing up class visit lists, carefully vetted with professors, and stickers for each individual class, so that you'll know where to go and when to get there. We are printing hundreds of schedules, handouts, meal passes, library passes, and gym passes. The PSAC board is stuffing hundreds of folders with information about the neighborhood and the school. We're buying scones and coffee for around 800 people, and setting out chairs all over Ida Noyes Hall, where we will be holding our sessions. We're confirming faculty speakers, notifying the parking lot that they will have more visitors, laminating signs, and telling the dining halls to cook more food. Dozens of tour guides are booked, lunch hosts are signed up, and sidewalk chalk has been bought to direct our guests to Ida Noyes.

What happens during these larger events that doesn't happen when you come for just a tour and an information session? We offer a wider variety of sessions, from pre-professional planning to community service. We serve breakfast and have a distinguished faculty member come to speak on the aims of a Chicago education (and they are very high aims, if I do say so myself.) We have more students and staff on hand to answer questions. The student panel at the end of the day is always a favorite.

But students can have an interview, visit classes, and do the tour and information session on any weekday. Seniors can also stay overnight on Thursday and Friday nights. For people coming from out of town, we offer Saturday tours, information sessions, and interviews in the fall. You are also welcome to make your own appointments with faculty, staff, and coaches, so that you can learn more about the parts of the university that interest you most. Plus, you may get more personal attention by visiting on a regular day. We have anywhere from 10 to 100 guests on our normal days, depending on the day of the week and the time of the year.

To schedule an interview or overnight, call 773-702-8650. There is no need to reserve space for a tour, information session, or class visit.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Stormy weather

Last night, severe thunderstorms on the South Side took out several campus trees, and the power in the admissions office. Students are surveying the damage as they walk to class on this deceptively sunny, warm day. So, some of our servers are down, and some images on the website may not be working. Austin and I are at the library, checking email and enjoying the working lights. Pictures to follow.

University of Chicago scientists observed that a hurricane in the Gulf of Alaska caused an iceberg to break up near Antarctica. Six days and over 8,000 miles away. Click the link to read about their harrowing helicopter ride to Antarctica to check it out.