The Search, S2, Episode Three Transcript

The Search

Decision Daze Transcript

The Search Episode Three: "Decisions Daze"

 

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

The long admission journey for the class of 2021 is almost finished. But before we reach the milestone of decisions being released and the cheers and disappointment that unavoidably accompanies such news, especially in selective admissions, I'd like to pause and offer some context for the decisions that are being released. The media has shared news of an admission cycle with historic application volume, and the simple admissions arithmetic means, when applications go up and the number of seats remains constant, fewer offers of admission can be extended. I'm not celebrating that point, but I think it's important to own it. That in a selective admissions environment, our goal is to say yes, but saying no is also part of the work. It's not the part of the work that brings me joy, not a part of the work that gets me up in the morning and brings me to my desk, but it is part of a search.

And I thought this podcast would be incomplete without a conversation about more than just how we read, but how we decide, how we have to make choices because space is limited. And during the long days of committee deliberations over the past days and weeks, colleges have shaped an incoming class from large and talented cohorts of applicants. Admission officers have listened as our colleagues introduced one student after another, and we digest the merits of a file. We debate. Sometimes we argue. But more often we reach consensus about the students we see as the best representations of the community we're trying to create. One by one we fill a seat in the class, until there are no more seats to fill. And that's an important point to underscore as March turns into April. The admission process is additive. We are adding students to a class one by one, rather than deliberately knocking someone out.

And the other part of it that I keep coming back to is the organic subjectivity that is part of the decision making in colleges, like the ones where I've always worked. Places that are blessed with many more applicants than we can reasonably welcome into our community. And that subjectivity is what creates the nervousness. And so at the penultimate moment before decisions land, let's talk it out. I've invited two admission officers and a college counselor to think about the ins and outs of decision making. Being admitted, being wait-listed, being denied. And to help you think about absorbing whichever one of those decisions or whatever combination of decisions lands in your inbox at this moment of your senior year.

So welcome today two admission leaders. John McLaughlin is the interim Dean of Admission at the University of Pennsylvania. And Peter Wilson is the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Chicago. So hello, John and Peter.

John McLaughlin:     
Hey Lee.

Peter Wilson: 
Hi Lee.

Lee Coffin:     
We also have a perspective from the other side of the desk as Kate Boyle Ramsdell returns for her third visit as a guest on the search. So Kate, it's really great to have you back as we continue this conversation with now your senior class. So hi Kate.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
Hi.

Lee Coffin:     
So John and Peter, let's start with the two of you since you are emerging or about to emerge from reading and you're making decisions. Describe what happens after all the reading finishes. We've read the files. Now how does the decision get made?

Peter Wilson: 
We put five to six of our admissions counselors with a senior admissions officer in a room…I guess this year in a Zoom room… together where we discuss all of the applicants. And in our office we do it by geography, because each one of our admissions counselors reads by a specific geographic territory in the United States and in the world. So the admissions officer, admissions counselor for the specific territory will present their admissions cases and the admissions files and students to the admissions committee. And we'll talk about why they're going to be a good fit for the University of Chicago.

Lee Coffin:     
When you say they get presented, is it a PowerPoint? What's somebody presenting? Is it like a trial where there's a jury and you're the lawyer pacing around in front of them saying, here's the evidence? What does that sound like and feel like?

Peter Wilson: 
Sure. So when we're sitting in committee, we all have the student's application up in front of us. So the quantitative data, you will see, as a member of the committee. You'll see what grades look like. You'll see what the test scores look like. You make a great comparison of, they're kind of the lawyer convincing us that this is the place for that particular student. And they'll reference teacher recommendations, the school counselor recommendation. They may talk little bit about the context of the high school. Since there's so many high schools in the U.S., no matter how long you've been in the admissions profession, you don't know every high school, but the area admissions counselors, that's their responsibility.
        

So they may tell you a little bit about the context of where the students coming from. They might read a little on their extracurricular activities and why they think they might be a good fit for our institution. And then the committee, like a jury, they do vote. We hope for a unanimous vote because we want the committee to be excited. And typically by the end of the conversation you have a unanimous agreement among the folks in the committee.

Lee Coffin:     
Okay. John, describe committee.

John McLaughlin:     
For us at Penn it's kind of an iterative process. So one of the unique things for Penn and a handful of schools across the U.S. is that we do a team-based evaluation. So every application is being reviewed by multiple people at the same time, through different stages of the process. And by the time we get to the final committee in which admin decisions are being put on files, that will involve multiple admissions officers. There will be a representative from the academic school or program. There will be someone who chairs the admissions committee, which is generally a senior admissions officer, someone who's had many years of experience working in the field and working in our office. I wouldn't describe our territory managers as advocates as much as experts in terms of what the student has done, what the opportunities available to them may be, how they've taken advantage of them. With the benefit of technology and more eyes, we have the opportunity to really collectively do a deep dive into the file at the committee phase.

Lee Coffin:    
Kate is that what you see from the school side as you work with colleges?

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
That is what we see at places that do a holistic review, right? I mean, there are certainly schools that are so large and their volume is so high and their process is different that it might not be quite so comprehensive on the first pass. But those are schools that don't say that they do a comprehensive review either. And so typically those schools are pretty clear about how they admit kids. What I think is interesting is the way you describe it as so human. And I think that we often have families who forget, or can't quite understand that piece of this. And it's the part of the work that I have valued for 20 years and the reason that I still love so many of my colleagues on both sides of the desk, certainly, but have so much respect for the work that you all do. It's hard.

Lee Coffin:     
And it's messy. That's what people say, "Oh, it's not very efficient." And it's like yeah, but the decision making, there's so many moving parts and those moving parts click into place in March. We've read them, and we're starting to shape. And I wonder in this topic of shaping, admission officers talk about this all the time that we're shaping a class. One of the things I always say to the Dartmouth admission committee is, step one as a reader is to say, "who's qualified, who can do the work in the curriculum we offer?" And the good news, bad news is most of the applicants pass that threshold.
        

Step two is you read it and you say, who's compelling, who has knitted together a story that resonates with the community that we're trying to build. And the good news, bad news is a majority of our pool, much bigger than the actual admit rate, passes that test. And then step three is this shaping. What are some of the considerations we bat around as we're shaping? So there's size and balance, is the class balanced in whatever way you want to define balance, what other things pop out of a selection process, where you're like, okay, we need a bit more of this and a little less of that.

Peter Wilson: 
Lee, sometimes as admissions officers, you hear the myths of the admissions process. And one of the ones that I know that I hear a lot of is, well, I have to be a well-rounded student to go to a place like Penn or Dartmouth or U-Chicago. We of course love well-rounded students. We love students that do one or two things, but what we really want is a class that's well rounded and we need people who do all of those different things. So when you show up on our campus, you're going to be surrounded by people who are different from you and have different ideas. If we had 1,850 student body presidents starting on our campus in the fall, it would probably be an absolute disaster on our campus.
       

So I think we're thinking about everything from, where are students coming from? So do we have students coming from the 50 States? Do we have students coming from different countries? Are we thinking about specifically where, so rural versus metropolitan versus suburban? Are we looking at socioeconomic diversity to make sure that we have a wide range of students on our campus? Looking at racial and ethnic diversity, looking at academic diversity? So we can only have so many pre-meds or bio majors on our campus because we only have so much lab space for them to use. So we as admissions officers and directors have to be careful to make sure that we're admitting a class that fits the constraints of our university.

Lee Coffin:     
Which is so practical. And I think a lot of families hearing this are going to be surprised by such a pragmatic consideration in the way we make decisions and shape. And John, you're at a large university with multiple schools.

John McLaughlin:     
Yeah, I mean I was thinking as Peter was outlining some of the considerations that come to mind and they're definitely front of the mind for us as well. And at Penn where not only in admissions, we ask, are we serving the institution at large? We are also accountable to each of our undergraduate schools and programs. So Penn is relatively distinct in that we have four undergraduate schools, multiple selective coordinated dual degree programs and specialized programs. And each one of these schools and programs has a sense of how they see their optimal community within the community taking shape.

Lee Coffin:     
Well, and what it's occurring to me as I think about this with, it's not unlike the conversation Kate has with juniors as a college counselor, mapping out priorities that define the searches it begins. And here you get to the end of the search and the college has its own set of priorities that it is assessing and shifting and filling.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
For sure. I was thinking a little bit about that as you all were talking and you think about the criteria that kids set forth, and we say some grow and some shrink and over time you learn more. And that may be the data piece that really helps them to stand out at the beginning. But to me, it is, it's also that soft tissue side of how are we sewing together a community of people. And that's where there's so much nuance.

Lee Coffin:     
The other theme that I've heard from students, most recently my own niece, who was very worried about the other students in her senior class, who were applying to the same schools as she was. And I kept saying to her, Mia, it's not the admissions hunger game. You don't have to look over your shoulder at all of your peers, but let's talk about that. Does dynamic, particularly at schools that are popular in some high schools, I mean, maybe Kate, you might maybe start this, what's that dynamic like? The pool within the pool.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
We try to start from the beginning of the process and say to our kids, it really doesn't work that way. That there isn't a limited number of spots for one high school and to the points you were all making so beautifully, you're admitted to colleges for a whole constellation of reasons.

Lee Coffin:     
But yeah, we do as admissions officers refer to the high school docket. And I've had questions kind of in the spirit of my niece, Mia. Can you take more than one or two? Is there a quota? Kate just kind of suggested there is not. But Peter and John, is there a scenario where five kids from a high school apply and five kids get in?

John McLaughlin:     
There definitely is the possibility of that happening. At least at the University of Chicago I don't say, well, we have to not take one of them. If we have five amazing applicants from a high school and they're five great fits for the university, why would we not want them on our campus? But the same goes the other way. Where there might be a year where five applicants apply and none of them are good fits or that they're not academically ready to come. And we don't take them. So I think a lot of times students will say, "well, U-Chicago doesn't like my high school because no one has gotten in." It really doesn't have anything to do with whether we like your high school or not. It has to do with who's applying in that given year.
     

When you look at places like any of our three institutions that are selective. If you just look at the numbers themselves, with a 10% admit rate and if you have five students apply, that means half a student is admitted. Which obviously can happen. And so some of it is, if that's the way you're thinking about it just from the numbers standpoint of what's the selectivity of that school and how many students applied and we have to admit a full student. So it may be that some years there just isn't room. And there's some years where it's an amazing group of students that have applied. And we really want all of them on our campus that year.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. I had a moment when I was at Tufts and I was at a school group, there were 12 applicants. I brought 11 of the 12 to committee as recommended admits. And the committee after they stopped laughing one of them said, "just because you're the dean doesn't mean you can get 11 and 12 into the class. Now I wasn't the dean in that role, as the reader each one of them, one by one had merit that I thought we should consider. I said, "so let's meet them one by one and see what happens." And we took nine of the 11 and my colleagues were surprised by that. And I thought, I told you, these were nine awesome kids and the other two were on the wait list.
      

Then the following year we went one for 20. It's just that cycles have their own rhythm to them. And I've heard guidance and college counselors say, "this is an extraordinary class" or "this senior class is a little softer than the class last year." And so there's almost this personality of the cohort and sometimes I think that shows up in the way we meet them as applicants too.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
And then there's a lot of mythology that gets built in high schools around those decision ebbs and flows, because sometimes they can, for just circumstantial reasons, last for two or three years. You have sort of a boom cycle, right? Then you have two or three years or four years where really very few kids or no kids get into a place. And because institutional memory is so short and kids aren't around for very long, they paint with really broad brush strokes, whether or not your school has a good relationship with this school or what that looks like and obviously none of those things is true, whether then what they perceive to be true in that moment, that's what they're living.
       

We try so hard to get our kids not to think of a negative decision, as being about to them as people and that's very hard. Especially when you talk about it in the way that you all do, which I think is important, it is about people. But it isn't a referendum on their excellence or their character or their ability. It's really so much more about what you need in that moment at a school.

Lee Coffin:     
When the letter says, I regret to inform you dot, dot, dot, which is leading to the opposite outcome that people hope. When we're talking about selective admissions or highly, or most selective admission, but we'll say probably selective. Is a no always a decision that says there's no merit here?

John McLaughlin:     
Absolutely not. When we think about the depth of our applicant pool and so many tens of thousands of talented students who want to be part of our communities, to some extent really it is a function of how much space we have available on our campus communities. Our class size is 2,400 and we have 56,000 applications this year and so consequently we are going to unfortunately say no to a lot of incredible people. But I think we recognize that, because we see how talented these young people are that although we don't have space for them at Penn, we have complete confidence that they are going to be successful regardless of where they attend college.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. A decision could be, an accept, which that's the hoped for outcome. It could be a deny. Sometimes it's a wait list and sometimes it's a defer. Where we say, we like you, but we'd like you to come in the spring semester or next year, not this year. The wait list can be perceived as limbo for some students, you didn't get in but you didn't get denied. John, what does a wait list mean?

John McLaughlin:     
It's a good question and I think the answer actually varies from year to year, in part because we are trying to end up at 2,400 in our class. We all have a enrollment goal, the class size, and that's where we need to end up. And we admit more students in order to get to that goal because we don't know how many people that we admit will say yes to us and come to Penn. And that variable yield is something that we do our best to try to anticipate, but we don't always get it right.
     

There are times where a lot more people say yes to us than we expect, or fewer people say yes to us than we expect. And we may over enroll, or we may under enroll. If we find ourselves in a position in May, when people say, make their final decisions around whether to join our community, if we are over 2,400 then we're probably not going to use the wait list as extensively as we might if we were under that number. But we don't know where we're going to be on May 1st when we're making these decisions. And so we need to be prepared. From year to year it could be, no students off the wait list. It could be hundreds of students off the wait list. So it really depends.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. And Peter, as a decision is a wait list an almost admit, or a soft deny?

Peter Wilson:  That's a great question Lee. I would say the majority of applicants we list is an almost admit.

Lee Coffin:     
Kate, I'm on a wait list. What do I do?

Kate Boyle Ramsdell:  So the first thing you should do is read the instructions that the college sent to you. If they say to stay on our wait list, log into your portal and check a box, do it, do it right away. Read really carefully all of the things that you get. And then I would say, wait a little bit. Some colleges may decide that they need to go and start pulling kids off their wait list in late April. So it would be really important that you've told them that you're interested. You don't want to wait too long. I would say, John, you captured everything so beautifully that people want wait lists to be ranked on my end. I want to know where I am on the wait list, but the truth of it is they're typically not. And so just trying to explain that to families and kids and to say sort of again, and as painful as this might be, you are who you are and you bring to the table what you do and if that fits what they need, you're going to get a nod.           

And if it doesn't, again, it doesn't mean you're any less qualified or any less great. You just don't fit what they need. So that's what we do. And then sometimes I think it's helpful to furnish a little bit of new information occasionally, if a college lets you do that. Like, did you get third quarter grades? Or have you continued to do something in your community? And maybe since you applied, you've done 250 more hours of community service, worth sharing, right. Or have your circumstances changed in any meaningful way that might help them think about who you're going to be on campus.

John McLaughlin:     
Another practical consideration is, consider the options that are in front of you and get excited for them. And see yourself at those institutions that have invited you to join their community. Just because the level of weightless response may vary from year to year. And so prepare for the possibility that it doesn't work out, hopefully it does, but prepare for the possibility that it doesn't and start getting excited for the other options that are right in front of you.

Lee Coffin:     
Peter, students use the word "reject" and admission officers often say "deny" or "decline." Is that just semantics or is there a meaningful difference philosophically between rejection and denial?

Peter Wilson: 
I think that's a great question Lee. I would say when you're not admitted to one of our schools, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. We're not rejecting them because in the sense that they are qualified, they're amazing individuals and so I think that's one of the reasons that we typically use different language. But as a student, it's an action that's being taken out on you and I can completely understand why it feels like a rejection. Even though on our end, we know and as John mentioned, we have way more qualified applicants in our pool then than spaces for them.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. I think of an admit as an invitation. You're invited to join a class, a community, and you have limited space. It's a supply and demand kind of proposition. And a decline is just the inability to extend an invitation to everybody. But Kate, as you hear the three of us talking about this, bring us to the reality of it.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell:  It all sounds so nice when you say it the way that you do. I would say, you use the word invitation, think about being a teenager and what it means to be invited to a party or not. And one of the things I'm particularly aware of all the time is that by the time we get to April and May, most kids in high school are about to make an enormous transition away from something that has been a part of their life for a long time. And the people who live with them and exist with them and maybe raise them or birth them, are also going through that major transition. So there's this huge heightened kind of emotive state that's already existing. And I wrote a note to our families as I do every year at this time and I talk about that. But I also said, "and we are also on the tail end of a pandemic year."     

And so the deep, deep, deep disappointment that some people are going to feel, I think is going to be also in relation to this huge existential threat that people have felt for a year. So I don't want to be all gloom and doom, but I think it's multilayered and it's complicated. And I agree with John 100%, that if you take the long view, kids land really well and sometimes it takes them a long time to know that. But I do worry sometimes that when we say that to kids, it doesn't feel that way. And it certainly in the short term, though it can really feel that way in the long term.

Lee Coffin:     
A lot of schools use software like Naviance or Score that have scattergrams that plot the decisions of recent classes, this person got in and this person didn't. Does that make sense when decisions come out?

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
I would say the data to the untrained eye will disclose only part of the story. And most of the time when families have access to that data at home, there's no texture, it's just a green dot or a red dot or a blue triangle or whatever it is. So they try to make sort of sweeping judgements or generalizations about what that data means. But if you're looking at a highly selective school, you could have lots of kids with really good grades and scores, getting wait-listed and a relatively different subset of kids, perhaps with lower grades and lower scores being admitted, those dots are all over the map. I don't think they're the end-all though.

John McLaughlin:     
A little data are a dangerous thing. Because there're so many misunderstandings or misconceptions about this work and this process, students and families are trying to grip on to anything that can maybe help them make sense of this process and outcomes. But even the data that are available aren't always contextualized or deep enough to be able to really provide meaningful insight.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
One of the things that makes me worry about colleges more than anything is that, because selectivity numbers get so touted in the press and it's what gets talked about, and the lower it is sort of the better the school. I do worry that they can scare away kids that you may want to see in your pools, that you don't get to see. Who otherwise would be really, really interesting members of your communities. Who don't necessarily go to schools like mine, where they get lots of information. So I know that your staffs worked really hard at that, but to me, that's one of the sort of downsides of highly selective admissions, it may scare some really good kids.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah, well that data point, as I said, it could be prestige, it could seem like an impossibility, like why bother? This admit rate is too low. I have no hope. And you always have hope, you just have to try. But Kate, I asked Peter and John to describe what happens in the admission office after reading is done. Same question to you. Describe what happens in a high school as decisions are released, because it's something we don't see.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
Sometimes you hold your breath a little bit. We've had years where the full spring concert is happening at the exact moments that all of the Ivies are releasing. And you wish that weren't the case, but it's hundreds of families and kids who are playing instruments and coming to watch their friends. In this era now scurrying off in the corners with their cell phone in hand, trying to get an admissions decision. And that happens in all different ways at all different schools. So what we started just to share with kids is be in a safe place when you open your news, and safe takes on lots of different meanings, right? Like be not driving your car, if you're driving your car or be emotionally safe. Maybe don't be with a group of friends, three, four or five of whom are all going to be hearing from the same school at the same time. Or don't be alone if you really think you're going to need somebody to be with you. Or be alone, if you need to be alone.

Lee Coffin:     
Yeah. I think that's really important advice because one of the things I've noticed in recent years is this new trend of people opening their decision, live on social media. You see the clips later and it's usually the euphoria that gets beamed around virally. But I imagine there's a lot of sad moments that you want to delete pretty quickly. So Kate, in a school, try to woo them away from that itch to share right away.

Kate Boyle Ramsdell: 
Yeah. That's what we do. I think one of the things that I find very hard to think about and manage is, I think about my kids who are first-gen kids who nobody in their family has ever had this experience and the sort of hard work and euphoria that comes with it. And I never want to dampen that. I don't want to dampen good news for anybody. But at the same time, you're right. It's like, given the complexity of how kids get admitted to college and that what we're saying, you're still a great human being if you don't get in. And so I think again, it's hard, it's comparative, social media magnifies things. I would argue that some parents and guardians are even worse than their kids, when it comes to posting and announcing the way that they manage their own euphoria and so we have to think about that too, as we talk to people. But you want people to be proud and you want them to be excited and you never want to take that away from them. There is a degree of humility that I think should be always encouraged.

Lee Coffin:    
Yeah. My dad and I have the same name. And when I was a senior in high school, he would get the mail and he opened my decision letters and he'd come in and throw them on the table and say, "you got in, you didn't get in." And I'd say, "Dad, this is not your moment." And he said, "well, my name was on the envelope." I said, "you knew it was for me." But to your point, I was first-gen and this was exciting to him to see what was inside and the bad news was, he continued to do that into my college years. When my grade reports would show up, he would open them and I said, "good grief."

So another school invited me to do a zoom with their seniors recently to talk about peer-to-peer reactions after the decisions are released. Specifically microaggressions that one senior might display against a classmate who got in. Kate, I'm sure it happens. How do we control that?

Kate Boyle Ramsdell:
I would say just remember, you never know the whole story. You absolutely don't know the whole story of somebody's life or their talents or their background. And so it's easy to make a lot of assumptions. I guess I would start there. And this is true, we often say mean things when we feel sad about ourselves and we lash out when we don't think things are fair. But I think there's often a lot of anxiety and pressure and other things that are at the root of why kids do what they do.

Lee Coffin:    
Yeah. I've been thinking about this a lot this year, because one of the things that will be pretty present in the media at the end of March and early April is just how large the pools were this year in a lot of very selective spaces. And as a function of bigger pool, same size class, admit rates will go down. And I'm trying to figure out how to wrap my own arms around it as our decisions are being made. To be candid, there have been moments when I've been momentarily immobilized by the volume and the number of noes that I see moving through our bins. And I made peace with the admission journey I've been on this winter with, to focus on the yeses. So let's feel good for a second and talk about the moments when we can do that. Peter, what gives you joy about saying yes.

Peter Wilson: 
So as a double alum of the university of Chicago, I know what they're going to get when they get here. And I know I've had the experience that they may see when they get on campus and that they're going to have resources, work, they're gonna have the best faculty in the entire countryside, John and Lee. And that they're going to have a tremendous, incredible four years. They're going to graduate with a job or acceptance to a graduate or professional school. So it feels a little bit like welcoming them to the family.     

We do get to know them very well. So when you know their story, maybe what they went through when they were in high school or that they worked. I had one of my favorite admits of all time was a manager at Five Guys, 40 hours a week during his senior year. And not only did he do that, but he also got straight A's. He was a leader in his high school. It's an incredible feeling to know you're welcoming them and that they're going to be friends with other folks on campus. They're going to teach people what it's like to have been them and share their viewpoints with the other 1800 or so students you've admitted.

Lee Coffin:    
John.

John McLaughlin:    
Yeah and I appreciate the question Lee, because I think we have spent a lot of time on the pressure and challenges of declining students and the necessary selectivity. But as you mentioned our job is to bring people in and to create this class. I think that ultimately is what sustains us. The recognition that we as admissions officers and admissions leaders are providing amazing and incredible people with the opportunity to contribute and benefit from what we offer in our communities here. Despite the challenge and frustration that comes from not being able to admit everyone that we would hope to, we see thousands and thousands of young people who have incredible goals, dreams, and aspirations, and the intelligence and wherewithal to actually realize those goals and change the world.
         

We're thrilled when we can make Penn be a part of that journey. And we know for many students Penn might not necessarily be a part of that journey, whether it's because we don't have space for them or they don't choose us. But we're thrilled when it works out and they can join our community and we can be part of that journey. So that I think is what sustains us through this work. It gives us hope right, and we all need a little hope. When we see the incredible talent, desire, passion and commitment of the young people in our applicant pools and in our classes.

Lee Coffin:    
Yeah. The part of the admission process that I hold almost as an admission sacrament, not to be too poetic, is when I signed the acceptance letter. And in this digital world I still cling to my pen and put a ink signature on a letter at the end of each round, because that, to me feels like the moment where the invitation becomes legit. Like I'm saying, "on behalf of the admission committee, we invite you to join us, to begin study with our faculty" at Dartmouth (not Chicago) "in the fall of 2021" in this case. Scribbling my name on all those letters is joyful. As much as my hand goes numb after a while, but it is sort of this firework finale in a weird way of saying from the beginning of a search through the application, through the reading, through the decision-making here it is, here's a letter.
      

I still have my letter from the spring of 1981, that's in a scrapbook somewhere. And I kept it, to Kate's point about first gens and their excitement, that was my life changing moment. Now I got into college and then they gave me financial aid—we'll talk about it in another episode—but it was the letter itself. I probably read it dozens of times that spring because it was exciting. It was sort of, I did it. And as admission officers, now that I'm on the other side of this, it's exciting to be able to shape a community and imagine them coming together in this place where we each work and make that place come alive.      

They're not just beautiful buildings. It's people. I think this conversation about how we choose selectivity, what it means we've covered a lot of ground. I think my summary sentence would be, it's not random. It is a human one by one shaping exercise that is subjective because it has to be, we're making choices. But it's an informed subjectivity and the yeses are the goal. The opposite of yes is not a rejection of your merit or your humanity. John, Peter, Kate, thanks. Kate, thanks again for coming back on the search and John and Peter to see you again soon.

Kate Boyle Rams:      
Thanks Lee.

John McLaughlin:    
Thank you, Lee.

Peter Wilson:
Thanks Lee.

Lee Coffin:    
We've now reached the moment in the admission storytelling where people have been accepted and this podcast shifts gears and we'll have a few episodes that will be the equivalent of a virtual accepted student open house. And we will begin those electronic panels with a conversation with two colleagues from Duke who are going to help us think about finding your place. So for now, I'm Lee Coffin from Dartmouth college. Thanks for joining us.