Wow, it has been over two months since my last entry … have you all missed me?
As the calendar creeps closer and closer to September, all the signs are out that summer is sadly coming to an end. Families are squeezing in those last minute vacations and/or college visits. Students are either just going back to school or preparing by buying new clothes, school supplies, and other academic fare. High school seniors are beginning to stress about their college applications. And for me it all means that it is time to stop procrastinating, end my long summer hiatus, and get back to blogging. Yes, yes, yes … I am back and better than ever.
Before moving forward though, this first entry should be about looking back. As I begin this return entry I am struck by two incessant thoughts. The first thought running through my mind is actually more of a tune … “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Yeah, hit it Rockapella. (If you have no clue what I am talking about, check out this Wikipedia entry: Click here.) Why am I thinking of this song? Well for some strange reason I envision you faithful Hopkins Insider fans wondering over the last two plus months where I had gone (“Where in B’more is Admissions Daniel?”). So my absence from blogging can be blamed on my desire to be immortalized by Rockapella.
My second thought is less befuddling and specifically led to this entry’s title. Basically, I am flashing back to my elementary school days when that first assignment upon returning to school was to write an essay on what I did over my summer vacation. Unfortunately I do not have any great stories like back then, when I could write about going to camp or baseball games or amusement parks or vacations with my family. I do remember though in third or fourth grade I wrote one my best “summer vacation” essays because I did it as a top ten list. I remember getting an A+ on the assignment with multiple “+” signs and numerous smiley faces.
So in that vibe, I present my top ten list of what I did during the summer of 2007. (As far as the order of the list, it is mostly in a chronological fashion dating back to my last entry on June 18th.)
(1) Connecting with the Class of 2011 through Facebook
Much of my summer has been a mix of vacation and work. After my big Bahamas vacation at the end of May, I was luckily able to spread out a number of mini-vacations and extended weekends throughout July and August (more on that below). But while at work during the summer I needed to keep myself busy. One of the best ways I found to stay productive was by communicating with all the incoming members of the Class of 2011 through our Facebook group. Every few days (and yes sometimes multiple times a day) I would log-on to Facebook and check out the new array of questions. A group of the Hopkins Interactive students and I helped answer questions and enjoyed it immensely. We hope all the incoming freshmen really found the group to be helpful.
One of the best outcomes of the Facebook group was our Blogging contest, where we selected four incoming freshmen to be featured on our Guest Blog. You can check out their entries right now: Click here. We actually even got a bit of press — check out this Baltimore sun article: Click here. The Facebook group for the incoming freshmen was such a success we will be repeating our efforts once again (this time in January with the release of ED notifications) and also have plans to launch a prospective student Facebook group. More to come on that in the fall.
(2) Summer Recruitment Travel
In the middle of July, I packed up a rental car (a nice, white 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee) with boxes of JHU recruitment materials. I drove north, picked up my Mom in New Jersey and then headed up to New England. First stop was Providence, Rhode Island for the Brown University Summer Program College Fair. I always enjoy my return visits to Providence having spent four years of my life in the city (wink, wink).
The college fair was overwhelming and exhausting. Two hours of sweat due to the summer heat and poor ventilation in the OMAC, but at the end I walked away easily having connected with more than 700 students. By far the best college fair I attend every year.
Our next stops were Harvard and Phillips Andover for more Summer Program College Fairs. Though neither event had the same turnout as the Brown fair, both had better ventilation and again I met some great students. I wrapped up my summer college fair circuit with a stop to Yale’s Summer Exploration College Fair. As far as how that event was … well, let’s just say we will be sending an alum to it in the future.
I really have begun to enjoy summer recruitment travel as it is more relaxed, you meet some wonderful students, and I get to travel with my Mom. This year while driving from location to location, my Mom actually wrote a guest blog entry which I will post before the end of the month.
(3) Lots of Lilly Time and a Visit to Cape Cod
As I mentioned, a good portion of my summer was spent on vacation with family and friends. By far the best part of having time off is I get to spend it with my niece Lilly. She has passed the 18 month mark (though she is already in 2-year old clothing … 95%tile baby!!!), and every time I see her there are new teeth, new sounds, new toys, and new expressions. Never did I imagine how much joy one small little person can bring to everyone who is around her.
Though I did miss Lilly’s first trip to Sesame Place, I was able to accompany her, her parents, and her grandparents on a lovely trip to Cape Cod. It was a enjoyable long weekend, and I got to see where my parent’s went on their honeymoon. The whole clan wore white polo shirts with Lilly labels like Lilly’s Uncle, Lilly’s Dad, Lilly’s Grandma, etc … and Lilly proudly wore her shirt that read simply “Lilly.” As far as visiting Cape Cod … well let’s just say I much prefer Newport, R.I. more.
(4) eduWeb Conference
At the end of July, I attended and presented at the eduWeb Conference that was held in Baltimore. I actually got invited to present at the conference about Admissions Blogs after my appearance in the Washington Post back in February. Since the conference was being held in Baltimore, I was able to have two of the Hopkins Interactive bloggers (Esther and Michelle B.) join me as co-presenters. The attendees of the conference were mostly marketing and web people involved in higher education marketing, so we tailored our presentation to a discussion of why an Admissions Office should consider blogging as a recruitment tool. We also discussed how we created Hopkins Interactive and how it works, and concluded with a look at the system from the student blogger point-of-view. It was a great time, and the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. We love to share ideas, since many of our ideas have been borrowed (stolen???) from others.
(5) Lengthy Reading List
One of the great joys of summer time is I get to catch up on my reading. This summer I really enjoyed a wide range of books. In fiction, I enjoyed three James Patterson books and was pleasantly thrilled by “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” In non-fiction, I read “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” (the book selected for all the incoming freshmen to read) and “Colleges That Change Lives.” I thoroughly enjoyed both book but for very different reasons. I also perused a copy of “A is for Admission” and it bothered me more often than I expected so I just stopped caring and chose not to finish it. I also enjoyed the third autobiography by professional wrestler Mick Foley, “Hardcore Diaries” … call that a guilty pleasure.
But to be honest, my reading list for the summer of 2007 will only be memorable because of the experience of reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” The book arrived from the UPS man at 10am on Saturday, July 21 and 28 hours later (I slept a bit), I read that last quintessential line. I wish I was an eloquent enough writer to tell you what a joy it was to read this last novel by the genius J.K. Rowling. For me it was perfection, and made me cherish the other six chapters so much more. I can’t wait to re-read them, and I can only imagine the joy in the future sitting with Lilly and discussing Harry, the Weasleys, Cho, Hermoine, Rita Skeeter, Snape, and all the rest.
In all that has been written about this final chapter in the Harry Potter series, no one article summed it better in my opinion than what Stephen King had to say recently in Entertainment Weekly. He tackles how the reviews of Deathly Hallows failed to did it justice and answers those who wonder whether kids will ever read the same way again. Read the article here, it is excellent.
(6) Summer Visitors “Discover Hopkins”
For anyone in the Admissions field, summer time not only means time to rest and re-charge it also means lot and lots and lots of visitors. Throughout the summer months I covered a number of weekly information sessions where I tried out a new session order, some new material, and even some added humour. Still fine-tuning though.
The big events were clearly the two Discover Hopkins programs that I assisted with at the end of July and in early August. We tried a new format with these Saturday visit programs from previous summers and since each program I covered having nearly 800 people attend, I’d say the Admissions team once again did a fantastic job. I’d also say that with the volume of visitors who trekked across the Homewood campus this summer it is quite clear that Hopkins is still HOT! Oh no, more applications!!! (Just kidding.)
(7) Final Transcript Review
Unfortunately not everything this summer was enjoyable. Due to the fact that one of my colleagues was on maternity leave, I stepped up and assumed one of her chief responsibilities – the review of final transcripts of enrolling freshmen for declining grades. Going into this project I thought it would be pretty simple … we have about 1200 enrolling freshmen … Operations will process the transcripts and pass along any with serious declining grades … I would review … take the serious cases to Dr. Latting … and that would be that. Nope, not that easy.
First, I under-estimated the number of files that would come across my desk. We set the declining grades barometer at 2 or more final grades of C or below. I expected a handful of transcripts to cross my desk, and though the 60 or so files I did see is really not a lot I was surprised.
Second, I expected that all students would request their transcripts be sent and that all schools would easily follow through. Boy, was I wrong. Thankfully, I had some great people helping me track down these transcripts but I was surprised by the nearly 150 of students and schools we needed to contact. The phrase “Oy Vei” is really the only way I can summarize that process.
In the end though, the hardest part by far was dealing with the students who had serious declines in their grades. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that the conversations I had in late July and early August regarding final transcripts with students, parents, counselors, and especially Dr. Latting, are conversations I never want to be involved in again. Listen carefully … once you commit to a college, high school is not over. And when we say your admissions can be revoked we are not just stating an idle threat. There are a number of students who found that out the hard way this summer.
(8) Summer Movies Galore
I could post a whole other blog about my opinions regarding this summer’s movie line-up. (Actually I have thought about starting my own movie opinion blog but I am just too lazy). To keep it simple, I thought I would just sum it up this way:
MUST SEE: Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up, Superbad, Simpsons Movie, Harry Potter V
ENJOYABLE: Transformers, Pirates III, Ratatouille, Ocean’s 13, Die Hard IV, Hostel II
RENT IT: 28 Weeks Later, Shrek III, Spider-Man III, Hairspray
WHY, OH WHY?: Chuck and Larry, Evan Almighty, Fantastic Four II
(9) Procrastinating and Puzzles
As my favorite quote goes, “Procrastinate now, don’t put it off.” Thanks Ellen. But it is true … the one time a year that I can get away with procrastinating is the summer time and I make the most of it. Want proof … how about a two month delay on blogging. This summer I relied on one of my most trusted procrastinating tools: Television and especially cheesy VH1 shows and the old main-stay of Big Brother. Lilly was also a great outlet for my procrastination. But I also added an old favorite from my childhood … doing jigsaw puzzles. Yeah I know I am strange, but so far this summer I have completed 6 jigsaw puzzles with the assistance from my Mom and I have 4 more to do before Labor Day.
(10) Hopkins Interactive version 3.0
Amidst the procrastinating, puzzles, movies, reading, vacation, and much more, I have been working diligently on the next version of Hopkins Interactive. New things will roll out over the next few months, but the brainstorming so far is getting me quite excited. There will be new bloggers, new content, and a whole lot of “cool” advancements. To celebrate, I decided the Hopkins Insider blog needed a make-over too. Do you like? Stay tuned for much, much more.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my summer vacation top 10 list. I decided to keep it at ten items, and sadly that meant stories about my swimming adventures with Soze and his dolphin toy, or my poker winnings, or rooting on the Mets in their pursuit of the World Series couldn’t be included. Oh well, there is always my next blog entry … which I promise will not take another two months to post.
Enjoy the last days of summer … CHEERS!