The Search, S2, Episode Four Transcript

The Search
Finding your Place Transcript

Lee Coffin:     
From Dartmouth College, I'm Lee Coffin, dean of admissions and financial aid. Welcome to The Search.

Hurray, you've been accepted. Now, in a dizzying blink, the admissions pendulum swings from the college back to you. We've made a decision; now it's your turn. Channel Goldilocks as you think about this. Which one feels just right to you? When I say you, I mean you, my friends. Goldilocks didn't ask the bear which bed was most comfortable. She chose. Now you will choose. Sure, everyone around you will have an opinion about what one is right, and staying true to your own priorities will be a challenge. Own it.

If you can, surrender the notion of prestige as you assess your answer. Yes, an Ivy dean just said that. The rankings will not help you feel it, says me. Then again, maybe prestige is what counts most for you, and if so, stop listening. Your answer is clear: go with the option that has the highest rank. But sincerely, I would never advise you to do that. Where is your place? As your search has played out over the past year, this has always been the essential question as you've wandered from discovery to applying to deciding. I often talk about the three P's and define college admissions as "program, people, place." Place is the most challenging one to assess while we're all remote. Place is more abstract than program and people. It has different interpretations.

Place can be literal, geography, architecture, rural, cosmopolitan, woodsy chic, cows, pigeons, campus quads, crowds, distance from your parents, stadiums, you get the idea. Or place can be a vibe, and vibes are so important, but a bit harder to capture, they're slippery. So there's a key question that you have to each ask and answer: Can you see yourself here, wherever here is? Does a place speak to you? Are you excited by it? Does it feel comfortable? Or do you want to stretch beyond your comfort zone and be uncomfortable? College can be a time to experiment, to explore, to reinvent, or not. That choice is yours. What do you want?

So let's hash this out. My two wise and wonderful guests today work outside the admission process, but they're certainly adjacent to it, and they have firsthand insights from the undergraduate experience at Duke to help guide our thinking about this. So you get to see a team in action today, just like you would have had one of us hosted an open house and you came to campus and saw these two on a panel. So say hello to Mary Pat McMahon, who is vice provost and vice president of student affairs, which means she's the chief student affairs officer at Duke. Mary Pat and I worked together for several years at Tufts, where I was dean of admission and she was dean of student affairs. She's also worked at Bowdoin in student affairs and way back when, she was an assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Yale. So even though she's a student affairs person, once upon a time, she read some files. So Mary Pat, hello, welcome to The Search.

Mary Pat McMahon:  
Hello, thanks for having us.

Lee Coffin:     
Great to see you. So my old friend Mary Pat is joined by my new friend Gary Bennett. Gary is vice provost for undergraduate education at Duke, he's also the Bishop-MacDermott Family Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Global Health, and Medicine. A lot of fields there, Gary. That means he leads and coordinates undergraduate academic curricular and co-curricular policy. So Mary Pat and Gary, thank you for joining us. As you heard me tee this episode up, from your seat in the college environment, what jumped out at you as you think about this idea of finding place, now that the offers are out?

Mary Pat McMahon:  
The first thing that jumped out at me, Lee, is this idea of how you think about fit and place, and the 180 that somebody has to do going from "I'm putting my best foot forward, I'm putting my best essay," all the details, crossing all the T's, dotting all the I's, a pristine application through the effort and the labor and the intensity of that. Then when you start to think about where you're going to live, how you're going to learn, who you're going to meet and where your undergraduate experience is going to take you, where do you get to bring your messy authentic self? Not your fanciest shiniest self, but the one that really is ready to explore new areas, think about different aspects of who you are. Maybe that you know you're ready to open up new pathways when you get to college, maybe you're not sure what those pathways are, but you know that there's going to be risk involved. Intellectual risk, personal risk, opportunity to grow, opportunity to fail.

Mary Pat McMahon:  
What environment is going to be the one that supports that? Which is different than the environment that is ranked how or where, and I think it plays into everything else that you just said around what all the different vibes are. Because your vibe thing is important, because the person in you that is so ready to grow is the person who is the authentic and much messier version of you.

Lee Coffin:     
You've said that again, and I love that the first time you said, "Your messy and authentic self," because while I think messy and authentic are awesome qualities in an application, I think they get ironed out as the application comes into being and then as we meet people through that place, but then you show up. There is laundry to be done and there are exams to study for and roommates to meet and negotiate and all that fun stuff that happens during the first year.

Mary Pat McMahon:  
Yeah. It's years of time, it's not a half-an-hour interview. It's years of your life, which you can't get away with, you can, but you're better off not trying to get away with the polished version. You've got to go with your whole self.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. Gary, what struck you about this topic?

Gary Bennett: I had a much more pragmatic vision, which was, when you said place, the thing that went through my mind is the thing I sometimes tell students about, which is the first time that I saw Duke. It was late in the evening and it was cold, by North Carolina standards.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah, well,  cold is relative.

Gary Bennett:
I lived in Boston for a long time, it wasn't really cold, but I didn't know that then. I drove up what we call Chapel Drive and at the end of Chapel Drive is the chapel, and it is majestic. When you see the chapel for the first time, particularly as you drive up Chapel Drive and particular as you see it the way I did, clouds behind it and illuminated from the ground, and it just emerges and just takes over just your entire field of vision. It's captivating and it just represented everything I thought about the place and everything that I wanted to experience as a student.

The instant thought I had was, "I could see this every day and not get tired of it. This is a place I could live." The challenge that I see so many of our students, I see many students experience is they haven't asked themselves that question. Do you want to live here? We often talk about college of your home and part of living in a place is just its fit. Do you like the way the grounds look? Do you like the way the flowers bloom? Is this a place where you really feel like this messy authentic self can just, I don't know, just get where you can just experience the place to its fullest? There's some places that speak to you in that way and others that quite frankly don't. I fear for so many of our students that they prioritize other features of the university experience, and I just think that one, you can't miss that, because you're going to be here for a long, long time.

Lee Coffin:     
Well, you're inviting them to be a bit more romantic in the way they embrace the options they have. It gets back to that Goldilocks example of the fit is going to be personal. I often will say, the students say, "Well, what's best and what's this?" I say, "If you go into Baskin Robbins and say, 'What's your best flavor?' No one's going to give you an answer, because how I taste the ice cream, I'll say pistachio, my niece who works in an ice cream shop says, 'Only old people order the ice cream with the nuts.' I say, 'Okay, guilty.'" That reaction to a place is really important.

So people hearing the three of us say this are going to say, "Yeah, great. But we're still in COVID. We can't come to every place that has just invited me to join it." So what would you recommend as the proxy? I guess you can still drive up Chapel Drive and see it, if you can get yourself to Durham, maybe your campus is a bit more open at this point in North Carolina than in some states, but for people around the country who are saying, "I can't come," how do they get that place feeling? What would you advise them?

Mary Pat McMahon:  
I think the same way I would say to somebody if you're coming on a regular typical year, not to just go to the admissions tour and hear the general version of what information one should know about a place. I would say, "Stop four or five students that are not in the official capacity of talking to you about the place." I would say that here. I think there's ways to sample, and I would recommend sampling voice to voice. Can you find somebody that either you know from high school or that you found as a student leader, you can go on and see where student group leaders are, there's usually contact information.

Say you want to be involved in a dance group and you look and you see who the dance groups are, and I think most students who love their school will say, "I'd love to talk to perspective students." Particularly this year, and then say, "Can I just give you a call?" Texting, and I know people are more interested in texting in a lot of ways, so you can certainly do it that way too. Then to have some questions, sometimes I think it's hard to know how to start on the question of a cold call with a college student, if you're a high school senior, but they have all been where high school seniors are in general and I think they're all sympathetic to the predicament of being, trying to figure this big decision out without being able to come to campus and walk around and smell the air and reach around a little bit.

So yeah, I think finding an intrepid, doing an intrepid effort to find people that might have something in common with you and asking them some questions, I think go for it. That would be my first advice.

Lee Coffin:     
How about social media, is that a reliable place to sniff this out? Or is that too loaded? Yes-ish?

Gary Bennett:
Yes-ish. I'm inclined to say, this is the one time when going down a social media rabbit hole may be a good thing, at least to provide you a data point. Of course, we're all putting our best selves and our most excited selves, and we're all selecting from 37 images to figure out which one is going to go on Instagram, right? So you have to I think review those with a bit of a grain of salt, but I do think that doing a rabbit hole search of just the way that students seem to be experiencing the place by looking at their pictures.

I'm going to announce a little secret, which is I hang out on the Duke SubReddit on Reddit, and around this time of year I see lots and lots of folks asking questions about the place, and particularly in COVID, and I may or may not answer them from time to time. I don't say who I am or what I do, but I see a lot of students getting involved there as well. This is a time I think when certainly the work is harder, but I do think that you're going to catch people at the height of their empathy and people who are, I think many of our students and our faculty are really ... This is a time when people want to be generous to students who have a difficult decision to make.

Lee Coffin:     
So Gary, you were talking about place in the Duke sense of like, there's this romantic visual, the geography and architecture of campus spoke to you. That's how, when I saw my college for the first time, I had that same feeling. It was also a chapel, which is interesting too. I remember driving with my parents, it was Easter Sunday and dad loaded us all in the station wagon and we drove the hour and a half, and we pulled in through the gates and I went, "This is what I thought college would look like." I had this very strong atmospheric response. In some ways I think, when parents hear their kids have that reaction, they think, "Oh, that's silly."

Lee Coffin:     
But I think it's important, because the analytical work has happened, you've applied, you've presented your credentials, you've checked through a lot of the programmatic pieces that hopefully should have been part of your list or you shouldn't have applied, but are we giving people permission to fall into this emotional space? Gary, you're a psychologist, so am I overthinking that part of inviting them to be feeling more than analytical?

Gary Bennett:
I think that's exactly right. We want you to fall for the place. Students are going to invest a lot of themselves in these places over the next four years, certainly through their coursework, maybe through their service, but our student activists are investing in the places because of their love of place, right? The students who see us as we're walking across campus and point out the thing that we need to fix or ask us for the thing that we haven't considered, all of that starts with a love of place. So I personally feel like we desperately want that first. We want you to think of the place and feel those heartstrings a bit, because you'll be a better student and you'll be a more invested alum. Ultimately, these types of universities, the university experience is formed by the people who make up this community. So if you have a choice to love it, I hope you do.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. But how would you advise perspective students to filter some of the less rosy things they hear? Because inevitably, you'll pick up a student newspaper, you're on social media, maybe there's a protest while you're on campus, and if you're an outsider, that might seem off-putting or hard to interpret. But to me, it's also just a reality of, this is a community, it's an imperfect community, it doesn't mean it's a broken community, but it's part of the world and you have to learn how to move through it. So how, whether from undergraduate education or student affairs, where does that conversation happen? How do parents help students stay focused on what's really good information versus noise?

Mary Pat McMahon:  
First, I think there are plenty of people that will look at a school and say, "Okay, that's getting involved and creating change." I think this generation of high school seniors, this generation of college students are so significantly about creating the experience that they want.  So if I'm picking up a newspaper and seeing this school, people really want to see difference here and there's advocacy this way or activism that way, this is the high school class that's graduating in 2021. This is the state of the world. When you think about a college or university, it's really an incubator. So it's all good data, it's all good data, there is no noise, I think is my upshot.

Lee Coffin:     
Place is the geography, it's the vibe, is it city, is it rural? But place is also an academic experience too, and so there's this literal like, "I'm going to Duke because they have a good program in this and I want to major in that." So that's one thing, but there's also, place could mean a classroom, and how does this classroom experience on this campus play out?

Gary Bennett:
This notion of, "They have a good program in that or they're good at this or good at that," I often, and I'm sure you've talked about this or will be talking about this, I often wonder how people define that. Are we talking about the quality of the instructional program? Are we talking about the quality of the scholarship? Or are we talking about the national reputation in industry for say an engineering program? Are we talking about how other scholars feel about them? Or are we just talking about what other people tend to say on Facebook about that program?

For me, when I have my faculty member hat on, some of the best departments in the country in my area are not places I'd want you to study as an undergrad. They're seemingly good, these are great at producing graduate students and producing scholarship, they may do a wonderful job receiving grants and running studies, but almost in some respects because of the investments in those areas, they don't do as great of a job in the classroom, in the undergraduate classroom. Fundamentally, undergraduate students need to be concerned about what happens in the classroom and whether, if they're interested, they can avail themselves with opportunities to get involved with faculty and research opportunities. Those really have to be I think primary in this decision making process, these generic notions of who is good and who is on top, it just doesn't matter on a day to day basis for most students who are studying at some of these places.

Lee Coffin:     
What matters then? Before you wander too far away, so that doesn't matter, what does?

Gary Bennett:
Three things, the classroom experience, I'd say the level of competition and care. So we'll call them the three Cs, I just made that up, but we're going to go with that. So first I'd say the classroom experience, are faculty at that university in the department of interest, are they teaching the classes or are classes taught by others? When you're doing your search on the various course evaluation sites, what do students say about the instruction? Do they teach small classes or do they teach really large classes, and where do you want to find your place? At our institution at Duke, we put a premium on small class instruction. You have to want to be visible and honorable in that way. We have relatively few really large classes.

So it's important to know how that classroom environment is structured, and who is in the classroom? Who's at the front of that classroom? Because there are some kinds of universities in some programs where the faculty aren't doing a lot of the instruction, and that may not be a problem given the area you're interested in, or it may be. So I'd say that. The level of competition, it's that student ethos in and around the academic environment, is this a place where people tend to be reasonably collaborative in group projects? Or is it that people tend to work by themselves, be more stingy in those kinds of environments? Do you hear that faculties are premium placed on doing group work and developing community in route to having more collaborative interactions in the classroom? Those kinds of things are really, really critical.

The third one is care, I cannot overemphasize this. What's the infrastructure for providing advising, both pre-major and in the major? What's the infrastructure for providing academic support? If you're stressed out, where do you go? If you have some test-taking anxiety, as so many of us do, where do you go? If you need a learning consultation because you may have an accommodation for a learning issue, where do you go? Are those resources available and is the experience of help-seeking normalized in that environment? Those things I think, absolutely critical for making the academic decision.

Lee Coffin:     
What I love about that answer, Gary, is it hits its place, the place includes program, curriculum, how it's delivered, in what format, semester, quarter, trimester, it's also people. So a lot of these three Ps I talk about as admission considerations are very much centered around finding your place, because the combination of them makes the community, it makes the experience and ultimately it makes the equation for you to be happy. Which I think is an undervalued part of this, are you happy? Are you challenged? Are your peers interesting people to chat with at night or in a classroom? It's not just in the classroom, I've always said that some of my most memorable college moments were at 2:00 in the morning after I had a pizza delivered and we'd be arguing.

 I had one friend who used to say, "I'm a Communist." He'd be talking about Marxist political theory, and I had another friend who was very Republican and obviously they disagreed, and that was really interesting, as somebody who was neither, to listen to that conversation and to try and find my place in this political context, in that example.

Gary Bennett:
As you said that, Lee, as you were talking about that, I was also imagining, as you were talking about happiness, I was thinking about psychologists, we have a lot of views about happiness, but we could spend two hours talking about that. But it boils down to this point, which is it's not important to be happy all the time, it's important though to be able to bounce back when you're not happy. Place is a really important part of that. I was having a memory of college of midnight, 2:00 AM, sitting around with my friends in the dorm when I wasn't feeling really well, there was a way in which those kinds of, our dorms were structured in such way that we could get together in the common room and just lift each other up.

Occasionally, we would see this guy, he would pull up along the street near our dorm and he was a pizza delivery person, and invariably somebody had called for a pizza and wasn't available to pick up the pizza or randomly called it to be delivered to somebody else's dorm room. If you could meet this guy, he would sell you the pizza for five bucks. He would have the pizza and he was always there when we needed him. Those are the memories that I have, and it made me happy in the place.

Lee Coffin:     
P for pizza is like pizza is the prototype food of college too, I never thought of that. Yeah. Yes?

Mary Pat McMahon:
So there's something I really want to say, which is in my experience at multiple places where we have a community that gets pulled together from across the globe, a lot of students don't know senior year of high school, they may know or they may not know, that accessing those resources is going to be important. Because in my high school, when I went to high school, I didn't need any help. When I got to college, I did, as far as academic preparation, time management…So there's a huge gap for me between what I needed to do to smash it in high school and then what I needed to do to hang with my peers in college.

So that question of what do you need, study strategies, group work, speaking up in class, thinking about what kind of prep work, maybe if you don't have particular physics course that you might need to really help you in engineering at the beginning of your first year. But there's lots of different pieces in there and I bring that up here because I think, my belief is that a lot of high school students know that they're probably going to need some help, but they're worried that when they show up on the first day that it's going to be a sign of weakness and that they're going to have to hide the fact that they want help. I didn't go to office hours of my own volition until between my junior and senior year of college. I probably should have gone the first week, but I was trying to show people that I knew what I was doing.

I don't think that's changed in the time since, it's been a while now since I was a college first-year. So I just want to name it, because I think that can come through in the meetings, and in some ways maybe a virtual checking out of your campus environment allows you to do that a little better.

Lee Coffin:     
It's these hidden and important parts of a search that you get into April and I think suddenly things get really specific. A campus tour, virtual or in person, info session, a high flyover like, "Here's who we are, what we do." Then I've always been struck in April by all the very specific questions that come forward as you sniff out a place, figure out, "Is this my place?" It's important. I think what I'm certain of is give yourself permission to be as specific as you need to be. I think as we move through the month of April, the options on the college side, the admission office will be the facilitator now of a conversation with people like Gary and Mary Pat.

So I always say it's my job to duck out of the way, I hope you enroll, but you need to talk to people who are in this community and who will share this place with you. You shouldn't choose Dartmouth in my example, because you thought I was funny in an info session. You should choose it because you met Gary and said, "He seemed like the kind of professor I would like to have as a mentor." That's the heart of this place piece.

Mary Pat McMahon:      
That's right, that's right.

Lee Coffin:     
Can we talk a little bit about, Gary mentioned competitiveness as one of his Cs, and one of the ways it can manifest itself, people get in and you start wondering, "Is this my place? I feel like an imposter."

Gary Bennett:
Yes.

Lee Coffin:     
Yes, yeah. "How did I get in and do I really belong here? What's my place in this place?" It's a very, I'm going a little philosophic on that one, but what should people be thinking about now about this idea that they earned their admission, they're not imposters, but that feeling of "Am I good enough?" Is a normal part of this transition, and in this definitely of place, how is the place inclusive?

Gary Bennett:
I just got off the phone a little bit earlier today with a student of mine, an advisee who's entering her junior year. She is beginning to think about her career and how that dovetails with her academic program. Just underneath the surface there is this lingering question about whether she's supposed to be here. Just a little while ago, I told her, as I do with many of my students, "I just need you to hear me on this. I need you to trust me. You're amazing, you deserve to be here. You're going to be phenomenal in your career." There's a process to accepting that and to learning how to manage those feelings of being an imposter.

There are some of us who are still doing that work. I think that the mistake here is in imagining that people, our students in environments like these, that the notion of the imposter syndrome isn't epidemic in these places, and indeed it is. Everyone wonders whether they're good enough to be here. The students, the faculty, the administrators are all together in this. All I can say, and I know it's unfulfilling, but all I can say and all I do say to our students is just to remind them, "We're really good at this selection thing, our admissions' colleagues are really good at this, they've been doing it for a long, long time, they had a lot of people to choose from, they maybe make mistakes every now and then, but they didn't make a mistake on you." That I'm sure of.

I just think we have to remind each other of it. I happen to believe that being a little bit unsure of yourself is a good thing, it makes for better humans than people who are convinced about their own role and their own place. So I'm okay with it, but I just find that environments like these, we just have to accept there's a condition of membership in this community and just remind each other that we're supposed to be here.

Lee Coffin:     
So let me jump to a different definition of place, talk about residence halls. So if college is your home, that quite literally is your home, you sleep there. So you can't go into a residence hall, but people really want to know what's happening inside these buildings and how they look. All colleges and universities don't do residential life the same way.

Mary Pat McMahon:  
Correct.

Lee Coffin:     
So as families go through these virtual open house, what topics should they be listening for, particularly as it relates to the first-year residential experience? What guidance would you give them around these three, four things matter?

Mary Pat McMahon:     
Yeah. I think probably the things that matter are, with whom will you live and how will you both or how will you all be supportive? So in some cases, you might be in a suite. Most schools right now that I'm looking, as I'm clicking around on people's websites, are planning on going back to full regular typical academic year, meaning back to having roommates, fewer schools have had roommates this year. Then thinking about what the support structures look like in that building. So some schools have very robust onsite faculty and staff presence in a first-year building, some have first-year dedicated buildings, and then others have first-year's intermixed with returning students, which changes the culture significantly and there are campuses that you can do one or the other.

There are places that think a little bit more about how you might identify early in a theme house or a cultural identity based group, lots of that stuff is in the mix. So I know a lot of people coming in, I'm putting my residential life hat on for a second, a lot of people coming in, in a typical year, are curious about, is it going to be clean and tidy? Is it going to be sanitary? Generally speaking, most places manage that part okay. Then I think the next question is, "Am I going to have privacy and space and a chance to get my own academic work in my space? How much do I have to navigate space with other people?" Most places, you're going to navigate space with other people as part of that first-year experience, and engaging in the process in the summer will help you get connected to somebody with whom you have some decent amount in common to live with them.

It's going to be interesting in the post-pandemic times after a year of so much isolation for so many high school students, to then be in common living space with somebody else next year. Campuses have different policies on all-gender housing, they have different policies on sub-free or chem-free. There are schools, most schools have some kind of wellness or chem-free, knowing that some students will choose to go out and party and then come back, and the idea is the students that live in chem-free or sub-free are not choosing to go out and do stuff, and everybody's supposed to be following the laws for the actual living environment, it's very much student controlled and student directed. I'm not sure I'm answering your question.

Lee Coffin:     
No, you are.

Mary Pat McMahon:     
A bunch of data.

Lee Coffin:     
No, no, no. That was helpful. When you talked about gender, it sparked the question, as an admission officer, I see more students talking about gender fluid identities or non-binary identities, there may be transgender. A student who finds themselves in a moment, "What place is going to feel right for me?" Any thoughts for them?

Mary Pat McMahon:     
Yeah. All right, so if I'm somebody who is non-binary, gender fluid, and I'm a senior in high school right now and I can't come look at the school, I would call, what we have at Duke is the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, and I would ask to talk to the director and get a hand on how does housing work, what's happening in your school, there are a couple different websites that help people navigate that. That question seems especially important to call on and just get a sense of what's the support like, "With whom will I be placed, how much agency do I have, how much can I share about how I identify, so that I can get connected to a roommate that makes sense for me?"

Also, most housing and res life office teams, in 2021, there's plenty of students calling and asking questions about that. Looking at housing forms, getting a sense of how much housing offices are aware of what students might be coming in, as far as identities and lived experiences coming into the res halls, that's going to be a big one. Yeah, I'd look around on the website, and then I'd just call someone.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. How about climate more broadly? So a lot of applicants this year are writing about social justice, racial justice, socioeconomic justice, justice is a word that's very present in the files of the students who are about to be admitted. If you are specifically a Black, LatinX, Indigenous high school senior coming into this placed called college in the fall of 2021, given everything that's happened in the United States over the past year, how should we advising families to think through that, to feel that part? Because that's important too, and place is also the community around it, so some of us are in cities and the place and the college blur together. Some of us are more remote and the college is a community unto itself, and where does this question of climate and diversity intersect with place?

Gary Bennett:
I'd encourage families, and in this case I really mean families, to trust your instincts. In any one of these environments, there are many unknowns, and part of traversing early adulthood is learning how to manage the unknowns. I think in many cases, particularly for families of underrepresented students, part of the challenge is allowing students to enter into these unfamiliar places with full recognition that there will be unknowns and trusting that students will have the skills to navigate some of those new situations. I think that's just part of the process and it's okay, and the gift that the current generation has that my parents didn't have is that our students are connected with their parents all day long.

So I think what's really nice about that, for this question, is that some of the students I know get the best advice at navigating the complexity of these circumstances from their families with whom they remain pretty connected, and I think that's a really good thing. The only other thing I'd say here is that I think it's important, I think Mary Pat's point about getting a set of views and really making sure you're doing your precinct work and talking deeply with people in the community is a really good thing, and I would encourage families from underrepresented backgrounds to just be sure that they get a diversity of views in that work. There's a way in which we don't pay quite enough attention to the within-group diversity in some of our underrepresented groups.

All of our students aren't coming from the same backgrounds, some have lived in more homogenous circumstances, some have grown up in more heavily homogenous in a variety of different ways, and some have grown up in more heterogeneous circumstances. It's important to really situate one's thinking based on where a student's really coming from. So in that work, I'd just strongly suggest getting a lot of views from people who were here recently. You would make a major mistake at an institution like ours getting feedback from people who graduated 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago. Places have changed a great deal, so updating that information is really important.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. That's really great advice. So before we wrap, what do you think is the missed question that families passed in April?

Mary Pat McMahon:  
I think the missed question is, when I change my mind about the path, not if, because people, there's this thinking for certainty, when I change my mind about what I want to study, how I want to engage, ways I want to lead, moments I want to have, when I find out there's more to this place and then I grow and pivot and gyrate around in different directions, gyrate is the wrong word probably, what happens then? Does this place hold me and support me if I go way off script, because it's likely that I will?

Gary Bennett:
That is 100% my answer. I don't know the vast majority of students change their mind, change their opinions, change their identities, have a completely different outbound experience than the one they imagined on the inbound, and recognizing that is bound to happen. Is this a place where you feel vulnerable, where you can feel supported? Is this the place for that?

Lee Coffin:     
So finding your place is really personal, only you will know when it clicks. Parents, it's like when you bought a house, lots of houses meet your criteria, but each one was not your home. Here's the hard part, as you listen to Mary Pat and Gary and I about this topic around this question of place, this question of fit is more heart than head. So as a dean of admission, I invite you to stop thinking and start feeling, there are no numbers to crunch at this point, it's a reaction, it's a response, channeling Gary, it's romantic. Do you have a feeling that one of these options has tiptoed up to you and gave you a little kiss on your virtual cheek? Go with that, don't doubt yourself.

Lee Coffin:     
So Mary Pat and Gary, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to have this really thoughtful conversation about finding place for our friends that we'll meet this fall.

Gary Bennett:
Thank you, Lee.

Mary Pat McMahon: 
Thank you. Tons of fun.

Lee Coffin:     
So sometimes the romantic has to be twinned with the practical, so next week we introduce what I call the fourth P to your enrollment choice, price. Can you afford it? I hope so. For now, I'm Lee Coffin, thanks for joining us. See you soon.