Reading season has commenced. Actually it began a few weeks ago, but now I am finally getting a moment to step away and update the blog. To be truthful, I am procrastinating a bit right now from reading application files ... heck, I needed a break. When in the office and I need to procrastinate I typically will download songs off iTunes; or go for a walk; or look at new electronic devices on Amazon that are way out of my price range; or take a quick nap on my couch (shhh!). But today I decided to "procrastinate" by updating you all on what has transpired in the world of Johns Hopkins Admissions these past couple of weeks (and share some pictures too).
As I said, reading season is here and will be for the next four months. With the approach of winter, the Admissions staff goes into our own form of hibernation, though we don't really get to rest. In fact, the next four months can only be described by one word - overwhelming. For the members of the Admissions committee, every waking hour of our lives become dedicated to reading and evaluating applications. In fact, come to think of it, this overwhelming sense is not just reserved to our waking hours, as most of us have dreams (nightmares???) about application files, letters of recommendations, paper/folder cuts, grading scales, aaaaahhhhh!
OK, I am calm now. So let's look at a time-line of the last two weeks in JHU Admissions, as the reading season began:
Hopkins Interactive re-launches. Sorry I couldn't resist plugging the new site once again. It is amazing, isn't it???
Training files are distributed to the counseling staff. What are training files you ask? Well, they are actual, complete Early Decision applications that are distributed to each member of the reading team. Each one of us does a complete evaluation of the files and write-up our decision support sheets (what we call pull sheets).
Why do we all read the same files you ask? Well, I say you ask too many questions (sorry, cheesy blog writing joke). We all read the same files so that at our Early Decision Reading Retreat we can all discuss our personal approach to evaluating the same applications. By reading the same files and then later discussing our differences, we can move towards an approach where each of the Admissions Committee members is reading and evaluating applications in similar ways.
OK, yes I see you raising your hand, Yes, you can have one more question -- go ahead. Hmmm...I am glad you asked what an Early Decision Reading Retreat is. I will answer your question in just a second -- read on.
Ongoing - the entire month of November
Before continuing to detail what the Admissions Committee members have been up to, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the most important components to the reading process. OPERATIONS!!! Just as their is a team of Admissions counselors responsible for reading your applications, there is an equally important team of Admissions staff members responsible for processing all of the application materials. My colleagues who work in Operations are the first to touch your application materials, and with out them no one would ever be admitted to Hopkins. The role of operations, in short - ;), is to open your mail, download your online applications, enter your information into our applicant database, file all your application materials, sort and distribute files to the admissions readers, and make every attempt to complete incomplete files. Basically, Operations is responsible for everything short of evaluating the applications.
The Johns Hopkins Admissions Operations team and their team of student workers are an amazing group of people, who do a truly difficult job professionally, efficiently, and effectively. With out them, the counseling team could not do their jobs. I personally thank them, and encourage you all to thank them too if ever provided the opportunity.
Enjoy some pictures of the operations that have taken place over the last few weeks:
Early Decision Reading Retreat: Every year on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, the members of the Admissions committee gather in Annapolis for a full day retreat to discuss the approach to reading and evaluating applications for the coming admissions year. This retreat is an opportunity for the team to gather at the commencement of reading season to make sure we all are on the same proverbial page. This is the time where the Director, the leadership, and each member of the committee begins to comprehend what the expectations and overall goals will be for the year. This is our chance to to define the admissions process for the year.
This year's retreat was quite productive and effective. We discussed the vision for the year and what should be our approach to reading. We also spent ample time going through the various training files to come to consensus on many issues. We also had a great lunch in downtown Annapolis -- it doesn't always have to be all about work, does it?
I will write more about some of the topics discussed at the retreat in my next entry, sometime next week. Stay tuned.
The official first day of reading!!! Woo hoo. The first file of the year is always a momentous occasion. My first one was actually quite good ... maybe this will be an easy year for reading.
30 minutes later: This is not easy anymore...
November 22 - 26
Thanksgiving Break. For anyone who reads Admissions applications, Thanksgiving is not just a time to see family, enjoy good food, watch some football, and a start to the holiday season. Thanksgiving also signifies the start of the "working holidays." Yes, when you work in this profession you read applications on Thanksgiving, on the 8 nights of Hanukkah, on Christmas eve and Christmas day, on New Year's eve and New Year's day, on MLK day, on every weekend from now until the end of March. You still get to enjoy the holidays, but with the added company of manila folders and applications.
November 27 ---->
Well, reading season is in full effect now. This will be a long four months, but it will also fly by. If the past week is any indication, I am going to need to stock up on Extra Strength Tylenol, Wild Cherry Pepsi, and tissues. Why tissues you ask? (Back to those darn questions you!!!) Well, because I have actually been brought to tears twice this year. In my previous nine years only two applications ever made me cry. And in just two weeks now I have doubled that amount. If that isn't proof of our holistic approach to application reading, I don't know what is!!!
Enough procrastinating ... I need to get back to reading. That ED decision release deadline is just 19 days away. AAAAAHHHHH! (That was for a paper cut not the impending deadline.)
I thought to end the entry I would share some pictures of how I set-up when reading applications:
What should you notice in these pictures: well first, the iPod is crucial. I am not sure I would get through as many files as I do each day without my eclectic playlists. Also, notice the laptop with the Hopkins Interactive web site open. You can never get to much of the H.I. web site. The blue binder has all my reference papers. A calculator is important as well as a variety of pens, post-it notes, blue-out, and a staple remover (I hate staples!!!). A glass of water also helps. For me to effectively read everything needs to be properly organized -- I am quite anal retentive when it comes to this set-up.
And finally, I would be neglectful if I didn't introduce you to the two people I refer to when an application stumps me. They are quite helpful when making those decisions -- they have a sixth sense for evaluating college applications. Say Hi once again to Lilly and Soze: