The Search, S2, Episode Six Transcript

The Search

Listen to Yourself

Lee Coffin:
From Dartmouth College, I'm Lee Coffin, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. Welcome to The Search.

Hello, dear accepted, but still undecided, seniors. It's time. It's time to answer the big question that has chased you for a while now. Where will you enroll? It's late April and the national candidates reply date is tiptoeing closer and closer, and it's whispering in your ear. It's saying, "Pick me." The class of 2021, dubbed by some of you as the COVID class, has reached the finale of an unprecedented college search. It was a search that was fully swallowed by the pandemic and we've danced with virtual choreography the whole way through, from saying hello to this moment when you get to make a choice.

So how does a cloistered senior decide? You can't visit. There's no personal way to walk around a campus and check out vibe. We can share a sense of place, but it's not firsthand. I've invited three wonderful counselors to join us today to tackle this topic. How do I pick? Then over the next couple of weeks as the hourglass runs out, relisten to this episode as many times as you need to, to have the courage to make a decision.We're going to say hello to three of them. Alphabetically, Bill Plunkett is director of guidance at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut. Diane Scott is the co-director of college placement at Academy of the Pacific Rim, which is a charter public high school in the Boston Public Schools, and Diane is also co-director of counseling at the Crimson Summer Scholars for the Boston area low income first gen kids, sponsored through Harvard. Darryl Tiggle is director of college counseling at the Friends School of Baltimore. He's the celebrity among us today. Darryl was recently named one of 10 counselors who change lives by the Organization of Colleges That Change Lives.

 

Lee Coffin:
Darryl, congrats on that national award. It's kind of like an Oscar for you, isn't it?

Darryl Tiggle:
It is, indeed. Thank you so much.

Lee Coffin:
In your offices, is April a fun month? Is it a stressful month? In the beginning of the search, you've got your juniors who are just getting going, but that's a different topic. Now you've got your seniors who have been admitted, maybe they've been wait listed, maybe they've been declined and they're disappointed, but you've got a lot of emotion in your schools. Is that a fair way of thinking about April?

Diane Scott:
Yes. I was going to say yes and yes. Exciting and stressful. You get all these 11th hour inputs from a lot of other people, too, and I think that stresses kids out often.

Lee Coffin:
Tell us a little bit more about that. What are 11th hour inputs from parents or from relatives? I mean, who's weighing in at this point?

Diane Scott:
I don't know about Bill and Darryl, but I would say all of the above, right?

Lee Coffin:
All of the above.

Diane Scott:
Really, listening to admissions contacts and particularly current students, but then hearing the one-off experience that they read on the internet or heard from somebody else that wasn't great, a relative, a friend. I heard this about that school, and then family, of course. Our families often, we're a mostly first gen community, so sometimes that is well informed and often well informed by the family concerns, but not necessarily thinking and knowing about the college landscape as a whole.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah. Bill and Darryl, does that sound familiar from your seats?

Bill Plunkett:
Definitely. There's certainly a variety in some students who are very enthusiastic about their plans that have already been set for a long, long time, and some that are experiencing a lot more angst. I think as much as possible, we try to bring the conversation back around to who are you? What do you want? What are you looking for out of these next four years? Who are the kinds of people that you want to be able to spend this next chapter of your life with? I think those of us with a longer term developmental perspective in thinking about, this is one of the many transitions that you will encounter in your life. There are so many changes that are ahead of you. For our students, this is everything, especially with so many students who have been working so hard to this point in taking their education and their activities and everything that they've done so seriously. To have the uncertainty that's now ahead of us can be really unsettling for them, but trying to assure them that things have a way of working out is often what our conversations come back around to.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah. Making me think about mindfulness. It's almost like we need to help them take a breath and focus on what matters to them as they make a choice. As you're counseling students in your schools, what are the two or three topics that you say, "Okay, focus on this."

Darryl Tiggle:
I think the piece of advice I try to give my crew every year, and I capitalize on my passion for fishing, I tell them to think about where they're going. I prefer to feel like a big fish, but I tell them places where you'll be not a small fish. That's something I think helps them imagine what their life will be like on that campus, because most of the research about academics and all those other pieces, maybe even the social environment, they've done and they've tried to process, but I think being able to imagine where will they go and thrive and prosper is how I tell them to think about it. They all know I'm a fisherman, so they do.

Lee Coffin:
Is the end of the search similar to the beginning of the search? There's conversations I know you all have with juniors as the training wheels are just starting to turn and you say, "Think about your priorities. What are your negotiables? Do an inventory of the things that matter to you." Is that a list to come back to now as a way of reminding each of them, "Okay, my search was framed around this idea or this aspiration or this non-negotiable." Is that still true? Is that a fair way to pose the question?

Bill Plunkett:
I find myself asking a lot of the same questions. To me, I think the process is the same, but it's just so interesting to hear the different responses than we'll get than we did maybe a year, year and a half ago, when students were just starting out on this journey and the growth that's taken place. That's what we try to remind students of, that you don't have to be this finished product at this point. Even the four years ahead of you are about growth and where you're going to go. It's so much more about what you bring to the campus experience rather than where you go, but recognizing that you have a lot of life left ahead of you.

I definitely think that's the process that we follow and expecting that answers could shift from day to day or minute to minute.

Lee Coffin:
I've started thinking about this as, when they're juniors, following a high school curriculum where an intro to fit. We're having a conversation with them about, "These are the ways in which you imagine yourself on a college campus." Then you flash forward 12 months. We're in advanced placement fit. AP fit is the course that's on the curriculum right now, where they're, I hope, in a much more sophisticated moment of self-reflection.

Diane Scott:
Yeah, I think that's very much true, and I do think we come back to the same conversations that winnow down 4,000 colleges in the United States to a list. Really, where you're going to thrive, not just survive. What place, of all these that you've chosen that have now chosen you, are going to give you the relationships and the experiences that will allow you to become that next best self? Also, to Bill's point, it's the next step in your journey, and it's an important one, but we stress a lot the experiences and the relationships. Particularly serving a mostly low income first gen population, there's so much of, "I just have to get the job, get the degree. It's all about helping support my family," and that's all very important, but also trying to have that moment of mindfulness and breath right now. You are into these places. These ones seem financially sustainable for you and your family, which is really important, and of those, which one's going to give you the best place for you to thrive and grow and develop as a human being?

Lee Coffin:
That seems like a challenging question to answer.

Diane Scott:
It is. My colleagues here can help me, but one thing, in the pandemic it's unfortunate in a way that kids can't go and visit campuses. That's certainly wonderful when you're there and you have that "aha" experience. You're maybe eating in the dining hall with people and just having conversations with admissions reps and students, but students who are not working in the admissions office, excuse me. But we say to our students that in a way, there's some equity in the process being brought about by the remote environment, right? Nobody can travel around, so our students aren't at a disadvantage there, and admissions offices have been very creative with the things that they're offering for students to really get in there. Not just have a virtual tour, really much more depth virtual tours. I'm sure Bill and Darryl are finding this, too, but a lot of connections with professors, with current students, panels of underrepresented students. I think there's a lot of ways in the remote environment for students to do a very kick the tires kind of approach.

Darryl Tiggle:
I've been really using the same message Diane has in terms of reassuring them that they're in the same boat with everyone else in terms of their inability to go out and see places and touch them and to, as best they can, use the incredible social media and other skills they've developed even prior to the pandemic to reach out and connect with schools. I think it's really at this point being able to study more the heart than the head factors, right?

You know what the academic environment is like, but think about what are students saying about their lives outside of the classroom socially? What are they saying about how much access they've had to career opportunities, to their professors? Was it super hard to get a research opportunity? Those things, I think, will help them understand what their lives will be like, where they already know how good a place it is academically and otherwise.

 

Lee Coffin:
That's a really key point. I think April can be overly analytical for especially high achieving students who know how to take a test and they know how to follow guidelines, and this almost calls on a different skillset, which is set aside that pragmatic itch that you've got and be a little more romantic about the atmosphere and about the place and the people, but also just the tingle. When I was at Tufts, I had a young man came up to me at one of the open houses and he had this big smile. I said, "What's the smile?" He said, "I just have these butterflies in my tummy right now." I said, "That's really important. Those butterflies are talking to you." I said, "What do you think they're saying?" He goes, "I like it." I said, "Then you've just picked your college, I think."

Bill Plunkett:
It really often does come down to trusting in your heart what feels right about a school and hoping that it works out. There aren't too many schools out there where I would say that a motivated, conscientious student is going to go and not thrive. If you are willing to invest and put effort into making a place great, surrounding yourself with the right people, you're going to have a positive experience. Take a little bit of that pressure off making the perfect decision and ultimately I think what we keep coming back to is thinking about what's right for you? Who are you as a learner, as a person? What's the kind of environment where you see yourself being successful? You're definitely missing out on a whole lot if you're just going to line up every school academically. So many have such positive characteristics. Look at that time outside the classroom and how that's going to be spent and how you fit into it.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah, I just recorded a welcome for our admitted class and the point that I really tried to drive home with them was, when we offered you admission, it was a reflection of the application they filed, but also this assessment of fit. We saw a fit between us and them. April now was a moment to show them that that fit is true, that it's a reciprocal sense of fit. I often think parents struggle with this romantic part of the search as they assess the decision, what the decision will cost. I've had moms and dads over the years say, "She tells me she loves it, but she can't articulate why." I say back, "That's okay. They may not have words to be able to explain the feeling that's pulling them somewhere, but that's valid."

Darryl Tiggle:
The parents have a fantasy about the place that they may not even be processing the same things that the children are looking at when they're looking at the colleges. I think really having the students understand that this is maybe not their first big decision, but a decision that's, again, the mindfulness and the thoughtfulness and really being able to, in a way, determine the next place they can go and be great. That's a way to, I think, help them understand how they should be looking at the opportunities in front of them.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah. It's not uncommon for people to be surprised by, "Oh, I got into two, three, four, five." I had a student last year say she got into 20. I thought, "Oh, my God." Let's set that one aside, but let's say you've got six, seven, eight offers of admission. You have a really wonderful decision moment. When and how does someone need to start narrowing that down?

Darryl Tiggle:
I think they should be able to immediately rank a top three. They need to come to grips with the fact they can only go to one, and then maybe top three A, top three B, right? If we've corrected for each place costing the same amount of money, I think in terms of looking out from the horizon they started out with and said, "If I can go anywhere in the world, what is my dream school?" If one of those six is the dream school, I think really investigating that one closely and seeing if their initial instinct and their time through applying and engaging the place was correct and saying, "Yep, I was right. It's such a good place. I got into other places that were equally good, but I've always known this was the right place for me." I think talking with students who are, and I guess with the pandemic being different, that are current freshman, maybe sophomores, but current freshman who have experienced what it's like to be a new student, but also what it's like to be a student during the pandemic totally will help them understand how that school is inviting and helping their students transition into college.

Diane Scott:
Totally agree with Darryl. Most of the students with whom I work would say they have a top two or three they're hoping for, right? Then you're looking at where you're in. The families with whom I work for sure, unfortunately, it has to come down to the strongest financial aid award, right? A family might zone in. "That one's the best award, that's where you're going." And a student might say, "But I really, really want to go this one." To us, it looks affordable and sustainable, even though there's a small difference. Really educating the family on and helping have a meeting with the student and family about, "Why are those reasons that it makes much more sense for the student's experience to go to this other school and how do we see it as still possible and still doable without putting undue strain on the family?"

We also, we talked about heart factors, which I love, and I'm a heart person, but we also go back to some of the data to fine tune. You're into these three great places that you love. What are you going to look at now? We look at things for our population again, but who's doing some of the best first gen supports? We look at programs like FYSEP at Dartmouth, like Smith's First Generation Orientation program. Who has signed onto the ImFirst.org commitments or been designated by the roup, which has certain criteria to meeting to support first gen students. We look at the graduation rates. There's a couple organizations, College Results Online and then also the College Navigator through National Center for Ed Statistics, that show the differentials by race. We are talking very honestly with students and families about, we want to see a zero or low differential for graduation rates for Black and brown students.Some of those things are data points that can be really informative with all of the heart things we've been talking about.

Lee Coffin:
It's definitely not either/or. You can't surrender the analytical, but all analytical, I think, makes the wheels keep spinning. What if there's a wait list sitting on the side of the room waving at you? How should someone be thinking about a decision with maybe a wait list or two being possibilities?

Bill Plunkett:
I had a conversation with one of my seniors this morning that, to me, was a perfect illustration of how, if you push it to the back of your mind, maybe it just falls out of your mind altogether, since now he's a lot more focused on some of the amazing schools that he has been accepted to. That's usually the approach. Say, "Okay, if there's a school that you really feel strongly about keeping around, as much as possible trying to put that to the back of your mind and focus on the great institutions where you were accepted."

This year, I think it's really hard to predict the timing and how things will play out, so certainly not getting overly attached and invested while also recognizing that things could work out in a really funny way and asking a student, "Look, mid-August rolls around and you all the sudden have an opportunity to attend that school, what would you do? Would this still be a possibility?" Some students may say, "You know what? I really do feel so strongly about it that it want to keep it on my list." And that's great. Other students are going to say, "You know what? It's just not worth it. I have these other places that I feel really good about, where I know I would be happy." They're able to keep going without that other option waiting in the wings.It really does depend on the individual student and where they are. I think it's really difficult to look at the numbers there. You can try and assess your chances, but ultimately I think so much more of it comes back to the individual student and where they are in the process and feeling about their list.

Diane Scott:
I was just going to say, I'm so glad you brought that up, Lee. I was just about to say, "Could we talk about wait list?" Because that is such a tough one. It can be such an emotional component, and I love what Bill was saying. We talk about it as, you really have to think about that's not an offer yet. Right? Kids want to hang onto it, "But I really want to hold out for that." We have to talk about making a decision by May 1 with what's on the table, because it really isn't an offer yet and may not become one.

I'm imagining doing this work this year. I don't know about you all, but I feel like I have no idea what's going to happen with wait list activity. I don't want to even try to predict. Really trying to focus students in on what's on offer right now and how are you feeling about those schools?

Lee Coffin:
When should they decline an offer? May 1 is the national candidates reply date. Some of us adjusted it to May 3, because the 1st is a weekend, but that first weekend of May it's kind of like, "Pick a chair and sit in it." But can they say yes sooner? Should they say no sooner? Darryl?

Darryl Tiggle:
As a Quaker institution, I tell them, "Think about your community here within our gates and the community around the globe. Once you decide to accept your admissions phase, it helps both the college move further along in their enrollment procedures and if there's someone who might be on the wait list somewhere, you're getting off of the admitted student and becoming enrolled somewhere might help a wait list student down the road."

Lee Coffin:
One of my pet peeves as a dean is an offer of admission that never gets a response. We get to May 1, 2, 3, and it's still sitting there without a yes or a no. I'm like, "Just click the button." It obviously becomes a no, because it's an unresponsive offer, but to Darryl's point about community, I often look at a file and think, you're sitting on a seat and there's some scholarship dollars connected to it, perhaps, and my one plea to the admitted students of the world is, when you make a decision to go elsewhere, just say no, thank you, to the places that you are declining so that we know.

I think people just forget. They just make a decision and they move on, but it's one of those admission courtesies that I would invite people to, or at least parents, ask your kids, "Hey, did you say no, thank you, to the places that offered it?"We get to May 1. One of the other things that I think gnaws at some students is this worry that they might get it wrong. They're going to make a choice and then they'll regret it. Let's help tackle this little bogey man under the bed. What should they be thinking around getting it wrong? Can someone get it wrong?

Darryl Tiggle:
The only way I think they get it wrong is if they go into freshman year thinking they'll be transferring for sophomore year. I think that's a recipe for disaster. I think really focusing on going to a place and immersing yourself there and becoming successful. Then, if it doesn't work out, you'll know it once you arrive there, but doubting that they've made the right choice before they get there, I try to help them with that.

Diane Scott:
I absolutely agree with that, and I would say, at least for the students with whom I work, I would extend that even through first semester. I would say there's also no perfect place. There's no perfect institution. It really is about what you make of it for yourself, who you surround yourself with, the classes you take, the activities you engage in. You're supposed to make some mistakes with that, right?

For example, I went to Stanford. I'm from Louisville, Kentucky. I was one of two people that I knew from Kentucky at Stanford at the time, and it was a huge adjustment for me. The first three weeks, I'd say, I was pretty miserable. I had a wonderful experience overall. We get a lot of requests right away, September, October, "Can you send me my transcript?" Well, let's unpack that a little bit. Let's have a conversation.I think a lot of times the adjustment issues are thought of as, "I made the wrong decision," and that's not necessarily true. Let's take some time to get used to you as a college student and you're in a new place and you're in a new environment, and how can you max that out for yourself?

Lee Coffin:
Let me push a little bit. Let's say someone makes an enrollment decision and they're moving through next year, and they do realize something shifted. My priorities are not what they were when I was a high school senior. Transfer admission is an option for students. In California, it's the norm for people to go and do a transfer into another university. In other environments, transfer admission may be rare. There maybe just a couple of seats in any given fall that are open to new sophomores or new juniors, which would be the two classes someone could join.

But just pragmatically, Bill, when you see someone coming back to Staples and saying, "Okay, I need to do a transfer," what are the issues that most commonly pop up when someone takes that step?

Bill Plunkett:
You see a variety, and often it's very practical considerations around cost or distance. I can see that being that much more of a factor moving forward. We see a number of students who believe that they're ready to go out to California or Colorado or some other amazing, romantic place, and who realize that it's not everything that they were expecting and find that it would be beneficial to stay a little bit closer to home or where finances just aren't working out. That comes up, I would say, just as frequently as anything else. I think we see our share of students who may not have performed at their best throughout high school and may attend an institution and find that they're doing really well. They get good college grades and are able to use that as a jumping off point to another institution that they feel like would better serve them in the long run.

It happens, I think, far more than people realize, even at excellent high schools that are preparing students for the next step. It's really about finding different places along the way that may better serve them in the long run. We see a lot of students who were convinced that they knew exactly where they wanted to go and ended up at a place that was a little bit different than what they had expected, and just as many students who go to their sixth, seventh, eighth, 20th choice on their list, but find that it's amazing and report back wonderful things about that school, we're seeing.I think we talked about this last year. Obviously those are positive conversations and we never want to see a student who isn't happy, but there is a way. If a student is miserable at a school, of course we want them to exercise patience and really work things through and give it every shot possible, but if at some point it just isn't the right fit for them, there's the ability to transfer. They're young. There's plenty of time ahead.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah. I think the two takeaways are hashtag it's not irreversible, and your counselors in high school are available to help you with some of the infrastructure even after you become graduates of that institution. I don't want to make more work for the three of our friends here, but part of your role is to support their college counseling as needed beyond the time when they're actually in 12th grade. That's helpful.

Diane Scott:
And I think we have an important role in helping pick them back up. It's not that you made the wrong decision. You made a decision and now you're learning from that decision and what your experience is feeling like. I don't know if you all experience this, Bill and Darryl, but often when students are miserable and wanting to transfer, then they start not doing well in some way, shape, or form, and sometimes multiple. Trying to make sure that they realize this is just an option. Now we're taking step number two and let's see where we can find that's the best place for you to take step number two.

Lee Coffin:
Let's talk about gap years. It's growing as an option for some students who get to the end of 12th grade and say, "I want to do something else for a year before I start college." Last year we saw a large number of students on a lot of our campuses postpone their enrollment because of the pandemic, but I'm wondering if it's possible that some of your seniors this year may get to the end of 12th grade and say, "Whew, this last year and a half has been quite a journey. Maybe I should take some time between virtual high school and college." Or, "I've always wanted to go do X. Here's my moment to do it."

As we mind the gap, as they say on the British tube, what should they be mindful of if they're thinking, "Hey, maybe I'll do something else in between high school and college." When does that happen and what's worth considering?

Darryl Tiggle:
I think I most often end up speaking with students about it as we're beginning or already running through their journey. They ask about, and this is maybe in a pre-pandemic time, their curiosity regarding gap years. I say, "Look, if you've got a good idea, if you've got a passion to do something that's outside the classroom, gap year is a wonderful vehicle to do that, but let's pretend like we're going to college next year, apply and get into college, also pursue your gap year, and then make that decision once you've gotten into college, once maybe you've decided where you're going to enroll, and then defer your matriculation for a year and then embark on this journey."

This year, and Bill and Diane, tell me if you've seen it as well, some students, and this has happened before, think that maybe going to a gap year and then applying to a school plus, that the gap year might strengthen their overall profile to be more viable at a more selective school. Those are the two ways in which I've seen students and families ask me about.

Bill Plunkett:
I would agree, and that's exactly how we approach counseling if a student were to ask earlier in senior year back into junior year, to go through the process and then request deferring for a year if that's, in fact, what you decide to do. To me, the biggest factor would just be that there's purpose and intention behind what you're doing, and that purpose and intention doesn't have to mean worldly ambition in the traditional sense, but there has to be a reason why you're pursuing something and having some sort of structure or specific goals to be working towards in order to make that the most meaningful experience possible.

Lee Coffin:
Diane, how does finances play into a gap year? If someone from a low income background wants to pursue a gap experience, does financial aid usually hold for a year at the college side? And how might a student fund a gap experience?

Diane Scott:
Yeah, I was quiet a first in that, because we don't do a lot of gap year business, because it is a totally different conversation. There just aren't that many opportunities for somebody who's not going to go right to college. We have had, for example, a student did a global citizen year and had a great scholarship for that. If that is what somebody wants to pursue, totally agree with Darryl. First, we do the apply to college and let's talk about this and build towards that as we go, but we haven't done much business with that.

On our side, prior to the pandemic you already look at if a first gen kid is saying, "Well, maybe I won't go right away," that sometimes never becomes matriculation. Let's really unpack that and work on that together. Then with the pandemic, you already see nationwide that some of the declining enrollment, delaying enrollment, is impacting lower income communities more. I'm concerned about it for this year and we'll have to tune in next year to find out what happened.

Lee Coffin:
When you're serving low income or communities of color and they can't go to a campus right now, I mean, this has been a very turbulent year around the racial reckoning in the United States, and for students from an underrepresented community or students who are interested in having diversity a very robust part of their undergraduate experience, what should they be thinking about right now as they assess the campuses that have invited them to join?

Diane Scott:
Well, that's certainly a big part of our conversation with students. Thankfully, our school is small and a pretty tight knit community. I have a lot of families where I've had three, four siblings in a family, lots of cousins and so forth in our school community. Students avail themselves of every opportunity they do have with students they don't know using social media, using the panels of current students that admissions offices are offering online, but they also talk a lot with current students that they know who are students like them, students from their communities, and really try to say everybody has nice statements about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but what's the real deal? What's the experience feel like? What's the vibe? Even if there have been incidents on campus, or how has the community responded to the incidents in our society?

Students really do want to know what's going on and how that's going to feel.

Darryl Tiggle:
Seeing what the schools are offering in their own marketing and webinars and other things that they're presenting. If they're addressing diversity and BIPOC issues and other things that are going on in the world in a really direct way, whether it be speakers that are coming to campus or the like, that's going to be, they're going to be super showcasing that on their websites. I think it's to encourage students for whom that importance is part of their criteria, that they let them know that we're a place where we're having those discussions. See what they're putting on their websites. See what kind of marketing they're putting out there that says the words Black Lives Matter or says the words inclusion, is a really strong and good statement.

Bill Plunkett:
We also encourage students to dig as deeply as possible, certainly talking with as many people on campus. I think it's always been the case, but especially this year, whether it's students or faculty or admission representatives. Rarely will you find people who aren't willing to talk and answer questions. Social media, school newspapers, and alumni magazines can also be really beneficial to get to the meat of what's going on on campus, certainly with organizations that a student may be interested in joining and participating in, but also what the flavor on campus is like and looking at climate and culture to really assess what the conversations look like and whether or not this is a place where I might fit into that.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah. I think this issue is maybe the most significant one that is harder to do without being on the campus itself. That doesn't erase it as a really important issue. I'm just, I think it's important to help people think about how to feel it and how to own it.

Diane Scott:
Yeah, a lot of the admissions representatives that we deal with are the senior recruitment director for multicultural students on their campus, or however it's titled on a different campus, but we'll often have students who are admitted and making the decision reach back out to them and be connected to folks on campus, either students who are running student organizations, people who are running different student affairs offices and [inaudible 00:37:21] spaces, to have conversations by phone, by Zoom, because that is a really important part of the assessment of whether or not you want to be somewhere.

Lee Coffin:
Okay, last question. It's the day after someone has enrolled. The college search, wait list notwithstanding, the college search has concluded. Now what happens?

Diane Scott:
Woo hoo. We are celebrating.

Darryl Tiggle:
I'd go fishing.

Lee Coffin:
You'd go fishing. But stuff happens. They move from admissions into pre-matriculation pretty quickly. To the parents, what I've noticed over the past 10 years, since Facebook joined the world and then everything that followed, community builds really quickly among students in these social media spaces. It's been striking to me how in the not-so-distant past orientation was the week before classes started, and I think orientation begins almost immediately upon getting in and the wheels start to turn.

But as you move through May into June, and then through the summer, and then late August approaches and it's time to take all your crates and your comforter and your Mac Book and go, what are these first steps? What are you each seeing as counselors at the end of the senior year? The prom comes and all the other festivities that go on to the conclusion of high school, but on this fading college admission, it's post-admission really, what are the things that students should remember to do?

Bill Plunkett:
One thing I would say is more in regards to what they should not do, because certainly we hear from enough admission officers who say, "There are some things that could really trip you up through the process," but one of the major downfalls is if a student is presenting themselves poorly on one of the online events or through an accepted students group or something like that. Be really sensible about what you're putting out there to the world, as hopefully you have been to this point to earn that acceptance. I would say that's one thing. Overall, I think while this admission process has not been easy for the class of 2021, if anything I hope the silver lining in all of this is that it's prepared them that much better for college once they do arrive on campus.

At least what we see from our students and what's expected of them in terms of time management and self-advocacy, they're negotiating school in a very different way than what students before them had to. I think that's going to bode well. That's going to be more like what they're experiencing next year. Yeah, they've been through the ringer with standardized testing, cancellations and all the rest, but having survived that, I think with the long term perspective that we have, we try and reinforce that that's going to serve them best in the long run.

Diane Scott:
Our students, right away they get the pre-enrollment checklist. At least for our students, they sometimes go, "Oh, my gosh, are you kidding me? I'm not done? I thought I was done. I said I'm coming." We do try to have that mindful pause just to celebrate. This is a big, big deal, especially in my community. Often first gen, it's like you, your family, we have a lot of immigrant families that are like, "This is why we came here," so let's just slow down for a minute. Then we say, "We are there to help you with those pieces along the way. It's not overwhelming, don't worry." But it's unfamiliar for them. You got your housing form. You got to go get your forms from your pediatrician, all that stuff, but we'll help you through that. First let's celebrate. We'll get through that paperwork.

And then I think it's really great that you're right, orientation kind of starts right away. We say engage, get excited. Get yourself involved in the community. Meet people. See what's out there for you, so you can have this building excitement until it's time to go.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah, because I watch them come together on campus. For us, it's really September, and they're friends already. It is really striking to see them leap from their phone to the green and be like, "Oh, my God, it's Darryl," and there's Darryl now in person dancing around like the Snoopy that he is. It's fun. It's different. For parents, it's different than what you will remember as the transition from high school to college. It happens more quickly and there's more familiarity to it. That's a plus, I think, of social media.

The other thing I would throw out there, just as a ... I mean, Bill went to things not to do. There's a really important sentence in the offer of admission letter that I think kids don't even read. The sentence says something like, "This offer is made with the assumption that you will maintain the level of academic and personal characteristics that distinguished you as an applicant." The academic piece, your transcript better look like your transcript looked when we read it. A couple years ago I had a student pop a couple of really low grades in the second semester and when we inquired, because we do, he said, "I didn't think I needed to pay attention anymore. I got in." And we said, "Guess what? You just forfeited your seat." That's an awful moment all the way around. Rare, but just be mindful that we are looking at, the letter asks you to send final transcripts at the conclusion of your senior year and we look at them and we pay attention to what those grades look like.

Lee Coffin:
But the second part, to Bill's caution on social media, naughtiness that happens after the offer of admission but pre-matriculation is still actionable. I'll just leave it at that. We're not looking for reasons to reverse it, but we've invited people into a community and we're expecting those community standards to hold from the day we say hello to the day you arrive on campus. I think that's a surprise to a lot of seniors. They're like, "What, you're still working on this?" Until I say hello on that matriculation ceremony, yeah, you're still on the clock with us.

Darryl Tiggle:
Finish strongly, because you're actually getting closer to your arrival to college. That's where you really need to wrap it up. I always just chuckle. I have, every couple years, a young woman or man will come up to me and say, "Mr. Tiggle, how many C's can I get? How many can I get?" I'm going to tell them zero, I'm going to keep telling them zero.

Lee Coffin:
Yeah. Darryl, Diane, and Bill, thanks so much for joining me on The Search, and for giving our listeners around the world the benefit of your wisdom as they think through a big decision, an exciting decision. My advice to all the seniors as they wander from today's episode to the enrollment deadline is take a breath, think about what matters, focus on my three P's, your program, place, and people still matter at this penultimate moment, but so does another P that I just thought of, the pulse. What's your pulse point telling you about the college that you will call your own? Then once you feel it, embrace it and then don't look back.

As you listen to yourself, part of the conversation you're having is what you might study, and every college doesn't offer the same major in the same way. More importantly, your curiosity is going to bring you places during your first and second year that you can't imagine today. Because you're going to meet professors, and peers, and you're going to take courses that shift the way you understand what it is you're good at, what it is you're passionate about. You're going to have new ideas. And something that is not even on your radar as a high school senior might tickle you into a course of study that will be wonderful, and you just don't know how to think about it right now because it's invisible to you.

Our next episode is going to help you think about program in a way that moves beyond this very transactional question, "What's my major?" to how does this cornucopia of intellectual opportunity that college represents move you forward? How does your curiosity guide you? How do you meet courses and the professors who teach those courses and find something new? We'll have a conversation with three members of Dartmouth's faculty who are going to reflect on their own journey from high school to college, and then from college to being a professor.

Until then, I'm Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College. Thanks for joining us.