Where am I? Where have I been?

A number of my readers have been in touch over the past few weeks asking why I don’t post as frequently as I used to. (And yes, one of those readers was my Mom.) In no way should my infrequent posting since the summer be taken as a lack of interest in the Hopkins Insider blog. In fact, I have so many “in draft” posts that once my schedule relaxes a bit I will be able to post on a more than a once a week basis.

As my regular readers can attest to, one of the common themes of the Insider blog has been how busy the life of a College Admissions Counselor can be. Well, I have reached a whole new level of being busy … so much so that I am getting less sleep each night than back in my college days (when all-nighters and procrastination were the norm). Now my dreams have become all screwy. Last night, I dreamt about a high school friend I haven’t seen in 13 years, Damien. (Yeah I think Damien = Devil’s son is a key to his unusual appearance in this dream.) Well Damien and I were walking in a dark alley in, I think New York City, when we realized we were being followed by penguins. (Penguins because I watched March of the Penguins last night.) So we go inside this open door and now we are in one of those stores where you get to paint your own pottery. (Have no idea where that comes from.) The store is filled with high school aged students, and guess what — Damien lets them all know I work for Hopkins and I review college applications. As you can imagine, the dream now becomes a nightmare. Students start coming up to me with their pottery, asking for advice and also my signature (I guess I was a celebrity sort of). The dream ended thankfully when Carlos Delgado of the Mets (Let’s Go Mets!) came up to me and started asking in-depth questions about Med school acceptance rates. I am scared to go to sleep tonight.

What is creating these nightmares and keeping me so busy you ask? Well, the re-launch of Hopkins Interactive for one (see the P.S. below). Also, I am working with the Whiting School of Engineering on a unique marketing campaign to reach prospective Engineering students (more to follow in November). Add to that, tons of web revisions the past few months and preparation for two Open Houses in the coming weeks. And oh yeah, although it feels like I just returned from two weeks of travel, it is time for me to head back to New England for another week (10-22 through 10-27)(see Group Travel events). Truly, no rest for the weary –but I wouldn’t trade this job for anything.

Despite the hectic schedule, earlier this month I did get to spend four Pittsburgh2days in Pittsburgh at the NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counseling) National Conference. This was my 5th national conference, having previously attended events in Long Beach, Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee. Next year is Austin, then Seattle, and then the conference will come to Baltimore in 2009 which will be quite cool. The NACAC National Conference is a unique event where admissions counselors representing colleges Pittsburgh4_1 and universities from around the world join high school college/guidance counselors. We discuss all types of issues surrounding the college search process and definitely address current events and trends in the realm of Pittsburgh3college admissions. It is a time when higher education professionals from both sides of the desk get to look at the big picture, share thoughts, and contemplate the future. (OK, honestly, it is also a great social event.)

Sounds interesting, right? Well, here is a run down of what I did during my four days in the ‘Burgh:

  • Arrival: The drive from B’more to the ‘Burgh was lovely until I arrived in Pittsburgh and could not get to the Convention Center. Yes, I knew where the center was and could see the entire time I was in the city, but for an hour I could not get there. After going over my 7th bridge, I took an illegal left turn and voila, I was in the parking garage. One hour wasted, and the opening session missed. Things though got much better after that…
  • Session A: After registering, getting a very cool bag (once of the best perks of attending conferences), and chatting with a few friends, I headed to my first session — A Time to Talk Technology. I always like to attend a few sessions that deal with new technologies in the college admissions recruitment and marketing field, and this first session did not disappoint. The discussion focused on issues of Facebook, College Confidential, and “uncensored” web guides. As well, we got to “swap strategies” and I learned more about RSS feeds and how others schools are using blogs, message boards, chats, video, etc. Finally, this was a time for the college counselors in the room to remind us admissions counselors that they don’t love technology so much!!!
  • Evening #1: I took it easy the first night, had dinner with some friends, watched my Mets, caught up on some TV (love my Tivo and love my Slingbox), and then got a good night sleep.
  • Day Two – Counselor’s College Fair: One of the highlights of the conference started at 8:00am on Friday. Normally I don’t enjoy two and a half hour college fairs, but this was no normal college fair. Imagine 400+ colleges and universities in alphabetical order lined up in an exhibit hall. Then imagine that the attendees of this fair are not high school students but rather 1000+ high school guidance / college counselors. Clearly not a normal college fair. Basically, the premise is the high school counselors get to meet with the admissions counselors and get updates and ask questions. As well, this is a time to talk about potential applicants and make contacts. Being that I am one of the Admissions counselors who enjoys working with guidance counselors, this is something I look forward to at each conference. This year did not disappoint as the time flew by and I also got to spend 2+ hours with my boss, Dr. John Latting.
  • Session B: Next up was my second session and I decided to not do a tech topic but rather check out Through the Eyes of a High School Student. This session was promoted as a chance to speak with actual high school students — “a student panel discusses and answers audience questions about what admission professionals do and if they really help high school students through the college search and decision process.” An interesting idea – Yes. A helpful session – NO. I love focus groups with high school students, but for them to be effective the students selected need to have experiences that represent the typical high school student. This is where the session failed. First panelist – a freshman in college whose college search was for a local art school … she applied to one school which she knew she would be admitted to. Second panelist – another freshman in college who applied to two local community colleges only. Third panelist – a high school senior who was only considering local colleges. Fourth panelist – a high school senior whose entire college search was based on what Division I Swimming program was going to recruit him. Final panelist – a high school senior doing a national college search. So, all in all, of the five panelists only one of them was “typical” and the kind of student I wanted to hear from. To add to the disappointment of the session this one “interesting” panelists spoke the least. Also, no time was given for audience questions. I left having pretty much wasted an hour, but knowing a lot more about how it is to be a recruited Division I swimmer. Oy vei.
  • Lunch: After that disappointing session it was time to have a good lunch. And where do you lunch in Pittsburgh — well clearly Primanti Brothers. Oh yeah!!!
  • Session C: Next up was the second highlight of the conference – Back from the Abyss: Promoting Purpose, Values, and Ethics in Postsecondary Education. Maybe not the best session title ever, but it was the main presenter that was the draw for me — Lloyd Thacker of the Education Conservancy. Over the past few months I have mentioned Thacker and his book College Unranked and how intrigued I have become on the ideas discussed. So this was the session I was most looking forward to it and it did not disappoint. I will not comment much here as I continue to work on a “Thacker post” for the near future. What I will say is that as I walked out of the session I felt inspired and passionate that part of my work in my second decade in this profession will be towards helping reintroduce ethics, values, and purpose back into admissions practices. (Wow, that was a bit over-stated, but in fact that is how I felt after leaving the session and still feel today.)
  • D Session: Time for a second tech session. As interesting as the first, but now as I think back I can’t sort out in my mind which ideas, topics were discussed in the A or D sessions. Oh well, not a big deal as I have a ton of notes and a lot of new ideas for the coming months and year.
  • Keynote Speaker #1: Time to head into the Ballroom to hear from one of the conference’s main speakers – Jonathan Kozol. Wow!!! I read Savage Inequalities back in college and I am about half way through The Shame of the Nation, so as I sat down I was already familiar with Kozol and his ideas. I must say one hour later I was both inspired and saddened. Inspired that there is a man like Kozol that has seen so much and still can have an amazing sense of humor. Saddened because the state of education in inner cities is so horrific. Take same time, read these books!!! This was truly a powerful and “eye-opening” session that some time later I am still thinking about.
  • Evening #2: Can’t really blog  about this…
  • Day Three – Session F: Highlight #3. The Blog Revolution: Admission Officer Blogs. After sleeping in (it was needed), I headed over to the convention center to do what I came to Pittsburgh to do — PRESENT. Yes, instead of sitting in the audience during a session, now I got to be on stage. For the session I was joined by Matt McGann of MIT, Ben Jones of MIT, and Emily Roper formerly of Olin College of Engineering but now of Tufts University, all Admissions bloggers like myself. The session was the four of us sharing our experiences with Admissions blogging, and providing our audience reasons for using blogs along with advice and suggestions from our personal experiences. This was one of the best experiences of my career to date, and proved to me that what I have been doing with the Hopkins Insider blog and Hopkins Interactive is the right direction to go. Woo hoo!


  • Keynote Speakers #2: I must say that walked into this final session not expecting much. It was promoted as Neil Howe and William Strauss talking about how events such as September 11th and Katrina have impacted student and parent behavior and expectations – “an experience to remember.” Though interesting, after the Kozol event the day before I was looking for something a bit more uplifting. Well thankfully Howe and Strauss delivered with an amazing discussion on generations. They spoke about Baby Boomers (my parents), Generation Xers (that’s me), and Millenials (that is most of you), and what characteristics and behaviors are expected from people from these various generations. And then they related this all to the college experience. My favorite part of the discussion was how today’s parents of college-aged children are Baby Boomer parents and they can be described as “Helicopter Parents“. Well in the nest few years, college-aged children will more likely have parents from Generation X, and these parents will become “Stealth Fighter Parents.” Ha Ha Ha — OH NO! Check out this Wikipedia entry for more.
  • Evening #3: Typically the conference ends with my attendance at  the Conference social. But this time, a friend actually invited a group of us to see the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Detroit Red Wings. Yes, that is hockey! Besides being a huge Mets and baseball Pittsburgh1fan, I also love me some hockey — so I jumped at the opportunity. A good game overall with the Red Wings getting the shutout 2-0. You got to love a hockey game played in an Igloo. And oh yeah, Pittsburgh fans are crazy!!!

I hope you all have enjoyed my trek through my NACAC experiences. Feel free to use the comments with any questions or if you just want to tell me what you think of Season #3 of LOST so far.

Until next time…Cheers!

P.S. In my last couple of entries I have alluded to something happening on 10.16.06. Well, something is coming, but it is not coming on 10.16.06. Obviously, I am talking about the re-launch of Hopkins Interactive. There is a lot more involved then originally projected, so we have postponed the launch until we are positive everything is set to go properly. I hope just a one week delay, but it could be end of the month. Stay tuned — the new site will be AWESOME!