People love stories, so I tell this one so you feel better about move-in day.
Years ago, when I was running the advising programs at Harvard, all of us were milling about in the sunshine, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new freshmen to “the yard,” where the first-year students live. Cars arrived through the brick gateways at their appointed times and were guided to the nearest door of the dorm where their children would take up residence. Excitement was definitely in the air, as it is every year when new students move into their dorms, with anxiety, anticipation, and no small amount of stuff.
As always, there were the usual body guards walking next to yet another newly shamed public official while his daughter and wife, trying to keep their chins high, went about their business as if they were just plain folk.
But this year, there was something different. A family, clearly in distress, was making noise, lots of it, on the other side of the yard, and the dean of freshmen was striding about in a greater flurry of activity than usual. From a long, low-slung sedan bearing license plates from somewhere far away stood a tall white man who could not be consoled. He wanted to know his daughter’s room number, and no one seemed able to help him, not for want of trying. The girl’s name simply couldn’t be found on any lists. And Harvard being Harvard just didn’t make mistakes about the names of the people moving in. After all, they had to place those letters in the rooms for new inhabitants telling stories about previous residents. It was all carefully choreographed. Where could this girl’s room be?
The dean of freshmen was on the horn to the head of admissions who was calmly assuring him that no mistakes had been made. Someone from her staff finally got to the office a ten-minute walk from the yard to look at the file. The girl hadn’t been admitted at all; she had, in fact, received a rejection letter, but had not had the courage to tell her parents. Chaos ensued. The family was heartbroken. For so many reasons. Not only had their daughter not gotten into her coveted school, but she had let them pack the car and drive up here, knowing or perhaps denying all along that the truth would out.
So, you see? Your move-in day will be fine. Here’s some advice on preparing for it, logistically:
I’m sure that very few readers of this blog have ever used a pen or pencil to circle jobs in the help wanted ads of a newspaper. Sometimes, I feel nostalgic for those days. At least you knew there was an actual job opening when a company paid to put something in the paper!
Things have changed a lot. I work with many job seekers who get discouraged when they submit hundreds of resumes and cover letters online but don’t receive a single response. Not even a rejection letter.
Here are 7 handy tips for any job hunters who are feeling low.
For some time now, I have worked one-on-one with people who want to organize their homes. I call it “home curation.” This work is fascinating because it is designed to align the home with one’s concept of the self.
When the apartment or house does not “match” the internal sense of self, there is a daily conflict in life that can be exhausting. Bringing the home environment into accord with one’s inner being is a liberating, relieving experience. You simply remove things that you don’t need or want and organize everything maximally for both aesthetic enjoyment and utilitarian needs. Every person I have worked with has talked about feeling a true sense of liberation, joy, and relief when we were done even though the process itself can be grueling.
This practice of curating people’s homes in accordance with their inner wishes and desires resonates very much with the current craze to amplify one’s social media image. It is no longer the case that our family name, clothes, address, phone number, and job title are the most prominent factors in the self we put out in the world. We are now defined by our social media selves as well. We have digital images that speak volumes about who we are, and we need to be ever vigilant that the online self matches our inner selves.
The difference between curating the social-media self and curating the home is that we have a lot of control over who enters our home, but virtually no control whatsoever over who sees our online persona and what they do with the information gleaned there.
We have all heard horror stories of high school students having their college admission rescinded because of something they put out on Instagram or Facebook (for example, the recent Harvard incident). It is not uncommon to learn about people who haven’t gotten a job offer due to an online presence that is not in alignment with a company’s values.
Why does this happen so often? Because the things we find funny or cool or awesome as teenagers and young adults can be less palatable to older adults who have a more highly developed sense of ethics, aesthetics, social norms, and responsibility to family, self, community, and the planet.
In this crazy online world, I urge people at all phases of life to curate their online selves, imagining what their future self might think when looking back on the photos and articles previously posted. All of it speaks to who you are and who you want the world to think you are.
By the time you hear this line in a job interview, you are so relieved that it is almost over that you might be tempted to think that it is time to relax a little. WRONG! Your response to this question can make or break the interview. Truly. I’ve seen it dozens if not hundreds of times.
I’ve probably conducted over 1,000 interviews in my years as a hiring manager. Lately, I’ve noticed people posing the following question: “What qualities are you looking for in the person you will hire into this position?” Or some variant of that inquiry.
Why would someone ask that? If you have read the job description, studied the web site, read the mission and vision of the organization, written a good cover letter that addresses the needs of the role and the firm, and paid attention during the past 45 minutes of the interview, you should already have a pretty good idea of the qualities we are looking for, or? This is hands-down the most annoying question I get. Pay attention and do your due diligence, and this question is completely ridiculous. If someone asks me this, I just think they haven’t done their homework. At all.
What are some of the best questions I have gotten?
My all-time favorite is: “What would you ideally like the person in this role to accomplish in the first three to six months? In the first year?” So far, the interview has focused on you, your past, your skills, preferences, education, professional goals and what you can bring to the organization. If the short- and longer-term goals for the role haven’t come up, this is the moment.
Another favorite is when the interviewee asks a question that shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have really done their homework. On me. Something like: “I noticed that you also worked at [company abc]. How would you describe the difference between that company and this one?” Interviewers are always flattered that you took the time and energy to pay attention to their career trajectory.
If you are dying to know what the rest of the hiring process will look like, you could finish up with that, but only if you are quite confident that it went well. This, for example, would suffice: “What is your timeline for this search?”
You do not want to waste anyone’s time. Be mindful of the interviewer’s busy schedule and let them know how much you appreciated their interest and time.
Finally, write a thank-you note IMMEDIATELY. It could be hand-written or sent via e-mail. It depends on the industry. Do not wait 24 hours if you are really interested in this position. Some candidates wait days. That is totally unacceptable.
Hiring processes are a grind. Hiring managers are always working under unrealistic deadlines and urgent operational needs. Make their lives as easy as possible. Come prepared knowing exactly what you can contribute to their organization. Don’t be long-winded. Speak succinctly and clearly. Dress impeccably. Have a firm handshake. Be confident. And good luck.
Your child’s seat in the first-year class at XYZ College has been secured via the all-important deposit, and your household is now being bombarded with electronic and snail mailings about the fall. Orientation for student, parents, families. Advisor outreach. Fall course selection. Housing. It seems to never end.
Your high school senior is exhausted, of course, having weathered the intense drama of the preceding months (in some cases, years) of the infamous college application process. But now it’s behind you all and time to turn to the graduation celebrations.
But what happens between May 1 and the day they walk across the stage and move their tassel from right to left may astonish you. As if aliens have inhabited your kid’s body. They don’t want to do any more homework. They don’t care about the looming final exams, papers, or projects. In fact, all they seem to want to do is sleep and play video games or be on social media. What happened to your previously gung-ho, energetic, focused teen?
The alien that has inhabited their body is the senior slump, aka senioritis.
Should you care?
I have seen colleges revoke admission even after the deposit if the senior slump was bad enough. Have I seen it often? Absolutely not. Everyone in higher ed knows what the senior slump is. But if the final grade falloff is dramatic enough the college might contact the incoming freshman to have a conversation. You see, they figure, they have a long wait list of people who really, really want that letter of admission that your child got, so they can be pretty fierce about the final grade report.
On the other hand, we are now in the era of Trump. What the heck does that have to do with your kid’s senioritis? Ever since the infamous executive order came out about tougher immigration, most colleges have been reeling. Would they attract enough international students to fill the coffers needed to keep the school running? (International students mostly pay full freight, so colleges count on them financially. A lot.)
Finance people have been scrambling to come up with plan b, c, and d to cover the cost of operations and personnel. Not to mention capital improvements, new faculty, and the list goes on and on and on. So, if they haven’t or even if they have “met their numbers,” they may very well not want to lose any students. Every summer, there is the so-called “melt,” students who say on May 1 that they are coming in the fall but who change their mind because they get off a wait list at a more preferable institution or decide to go to college abroad. That makes the summer even trickier for the admissions and finance folks.
So, my guess is that the Trump effect will mean that students and parents can rest a bit more easily if senioritis has made an appearance in your home. It definitely comes with a risk. Just less of a risk than it did pre-Trump.
By the time the deposits are made, everyone is exhausted, hopefully exhilarated, and ready to be done with the whole darned thing. The tension, stress, and ups and downs are almost inevitable these days. But now you have committed! You have purchased the swag. Time to relax. Well, in a way.
After the upheaval that has lasted for months or even years, it may seem impossible to return to so-called normal life, but that’s exactly what high school seniors' parents now have to do. You may not even remember what it felt like, you’ve been so swept up in the tsunami that is the college application process. But think back on the days when your child was just a sophomore or a junior and recall the things you did then that you haven’t done in a while. I bet there are a few. Like going to the movies or taking a drive. Or maybe you just want to sit still for a few minutes and enjoy a glass of wine.
It is now time for the whole family to hit reset. Like a computer that is acting strangely that is magically restored to normal functioning after hitting the infamous reset button that restores the default settings.
Amidst the preparation for finals, graduation, celebrations, and the summer, this is a great time to:
As the family contemplates the next chapter of the graduating senior’s life, tensions, emotions, and anxieties can mount. This exciting and joyful time can generate more tears than you ever would have imagined. The stress is awful, but given that as many as one third of college students don’t go back for sophomore year and almost half of all students who start college don’t finish, the emotions are understandable.
If you haven’t yet made the final decision on which college to say YES to, here are a few questions to ask that could help you gain clarity.
I sincerely hope this is helpful and that your decision-making will soon be behind you. There is much celebrating to do this summer!
I’m not talking about high school seniors who suddenly realize this is the end of the road for them as a couple since they are heading off to different colleges in the fall. I’m talking about parents and families. The college application process tests relationships among families who have known one another for years from the schools their kids have attended and the neighborhoods where they have raised them.
Envy, resentment, jealousy – we all experience them at various times in our lives, but they may not have been this close to the surface since we were in high school vying with our buddies for the attention of the object of our latest crush.
In fact, sometimes this college application process feels just like we are back in high school. The very nature of it pits students and parents against one another. Who got into an Ivy? Who got into a more selective college? Who got into all of the colleges they applied to? Did one of your friend’s kids get recruited to play a sport that your child plays, too? Who got fancy scholarships? Who didn’t?
In essence, we are leaving it up to the college admissions folks to determine our worth and the value of our children in comparison with the friends and acquaintances. Aren’t these the same people we have spent time with to cheer on our kids? With whom we have laughed, sympathized, carpooled, and made playdates? Whom we have considered allies and even friends?
Suddenly, the people we used to quickly offer a smile and genuine warmth are objects of negative feelings we are not proud to experience.
It’s now time to admit you’ve been having the feelings you aren’t proud of and rise above them.
Remember how proud you are of your child and their accomplishments. Be proud of the ways you’ve helped their friends and their friends’ parents and the schools. Reach out to friends and acquaintances and tell them how happy you are for them and for the community you have held so dearly.
High schools can also play a role in this process. I know of some schools that bring the whole community together and encourage open and honest conversation about the vagaries of this stage of life and urge people to come together to support one another through it. If your school hasn’t done that yet, this is a great opportunity to make a difference for everyone, for the sake of your better self, and for the sake of your children.
April is the Cruelest Month for College-Bound High School Seniors and Their Parents: This might make it easier
Once a college sends out their decisions, admissions officers and other so-called “enrollment managers” do not rest. Every day, they ask: How many students have deposited? In other words, how many of the admitted have committed to joining us in the fall? How many beds have we filled? How much tuition revenue can we count on?
As the numbers increase, everyone starts to breathe more easily. If the numbers fall short, wait lists become crucial so that the college can make their numbers. If the numbers fall very short, admissions managers start worrying about their jobs, finance folks have to go back to the drawing board, departments are required to slash their budgets, adjuncts are not rehired, and everybody gets grumpy and worried. It’s a cruel process for sure.
But it’s even crueler for the families who are making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. They are rushing around from one campus to another, if they can afford it, assessing the potential future homes for the “rising freshmen,” as we call them, appealing to financial aid offices for more funding, and scouring the websites for information that will make their decision clearer.
But there are a number of things that parents and kids can pay attention to that will make their plight a bit easier. And even if you have already decided, these are crucial things to keep in mind.
As I sit here in my hotel room in the 9th arrondissement of Paris (la di da), suffering from a night of overnight on a plane sleeplessness (oh poor me), I can’t get the dozens of bad cover letters I read last week out of my mind. Funny the things that get stuck in there. As I read them over the course of a week or so, I got more and more annoyed. Why do people think that others want to read these horrible, horrible letters??
Here’s one example:
“While I understand you are in no easy spot in determining the best fit for your organization, I can assure you that I am the candidate you are seeking to fill the position… Please reconsider me for the position. I wouldn't let you, or any one else counting on me, down. That I can absolutely guarantee…. Blessings.”
How many rules were broken in just these four lines?
This writer went on talking about himself endlessly. Which is what 90 percent of applicants do. They chart the course of their careers for the reader. But that's the work of a good resume!
This leads to the single most important rule about cover letter writing. Don’t tell me about you. Tell me what you can do for me, my organization, and the people who already work there. When you approach it that way, I will still learn about you, but, more importantly, I get the chance to understand how hiring you would be beneficial.
How do you do that?
Read the mission and vision statement of the organization, and cut and paste them into a document. Scour the website for other clues as to whether you are a fit. Think about whether you are a good fit, and, if so, jot down notes on how you might fit in and why this organization’s mission would get you up in the morning. What excites you about it?
Second, make a list of the essential and preferred qualifications for the job as they appear on the posting and then start writing sentences under each qualification that describe what you bring to each. What concrete work have you done that makes you the best candidate? How many years of experience do you have in each area? How did you measure success? Can you share an anecdote or numbers that prove it?
At this point, you will have a choppy but substantive start. Then the fun begins. Spend some time crafting the letter into a coherent, beautiful whole. And don’t start every sentence with “I.” Please.
Of course, you’re probably thinking by now that I’m nuts. How much time is this going to take? Believe it or not, hiring managers can tell how much time and thought you put into your letters and resumes. If you give the impression that it wasn’t much, then the hiring manager’s interest level will probably match it. Unless you are some sort of super star. But how many of those are there really?
In sum, don’t tell me the story of you. Tell me the story of what you can bring to the organization and the people to whom I dedicate the majority of my waking hours. If you do that, you might get the chance to do that, too.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.