In T.S. Eliot’s poem The Wasteland, he notes that “April is the cruellest month.” For the world of college admission there’s more than a little truth to that. After we mail our admission decisions in late March and enjoy some much needed time off (I’m talking a weekend, not a week,) it seems three days later we move into overdrive to organize our Admitted Students Programs and answer questions for admitted students and their parents. At the same time, we are having often difficult conversations with those students who were not offered admission. Most of our time, however, is spent wondering who will accept our offer of admission. Overnight, it seems, the shoe is on the other foot. After months of high school seniors sitting by the mailbox (real or electronic) waiting for our response, we find ourselves doing the same. All of this wondering about class size literally keeps me up at night. Yes, part of this worry comes from space and budget, but a very large part of the worry/excitement is due to the fact that in a community as small as HMC, each student who joins us makes an impact. We (OK, I) hover over the wonderful people who open our mail, eager to see who will be joining the HMC Class of 2017 and who has decided to go elsewhere.
These elsewhere decisions are met with mixed emotions. All of our admitted students have amazing options, and it’s hard for any of them to go wrong. As you might imagine, we wouldn’t have room if everyone we admitted took us up on it, but there’s still a moment of disappointment each time someone opts to go somewhere else. We have spent a lot of time getting to know each of our admitted students, and there’s a moment taken for each as they head off to their next step.
May 1 for us is a postmark date, so that means that we may not know until the 5th or 6th where we are with our class and whether we will be able to go to the students on our alternate list. For those of you on our alternate list, rest assured that we hope we do. Each student is on our alternate list because we believe that he or she has a great deal to offer our community. One of the best moments in an admission counselor’s year is to be able to make that call or send that e-mail offering a student a space from our alternate list.
And then, it happens.
At some point in mid-April, sometimes in the middle of a day, we officially start recruiting the Class of 2018. While I’m still not sleeping wondering about the Class of 2017, I find myself at a college fair talking to prospective members of the class of 2018 or even 2019. We have to remind ourselves how to answer those beginning-of-the-process questions. Right now I am in New England, in the midst of a swing of such college fairs, and even in this, my twenty-first year, I am excited by the options all of these students still have open to them. I’ll end with a mention of the other group of students on my mind at this time of year – the Class of 2013 – who will be graduating in 20 days. They too have amazing opportunities ahead of them, and I’m immensely proud of them and the role that Harvey Mudd has had in getting them to this point. Now back to the Class of 2017, or is it 2018?