Part I of 2: Last words from MB Seniors


The end of the academic year is coming, and one office  ritual involves collecting the REQUIRED FINAL TRANSCRIPT REQUEST from each senior. This form confirms the college or university destination (or alternate final plan) in writing; it also confirms any waitlists that are ongoing and enthusiastic.  Our staff is likely  to know all this information, but it is helpful to record everything from the point of view of the student.

David, Jill and I also look forward to two other questions that are embedded in this document.

One is  “Do you feel you were admitted to one of your top three (3) college choices?”  Parties outside our office ask us this question regularly about seniors.  We feel the reply contains more integrity if applicants themselves supply the answer.

The other question we can’t wait to peruse as the forms return is “What did you learn…..or how did you grow/change during the process?”  The responses are fascinating, thoughtful, candid–and truly represent a slice of the student experience in the college process.

Some learn lessons about administration and breaking down a large assignment.  “I learned that the best approach to the application process (especially a long one ) is organization: calm, diligent and patient.”  “Start early,” adds another member of the Class of 2014.  “Good to know when preparing my resume for jobs.

Several seniors emphasized that they improved their expository skills as they completed a range of long and short essays.  “The college process helped me become a better writer,” shared one student who will attend an Ivy institution.

Other seniors discovered insights about their personal philosophies and places in the world.   “Logic is good, but gut feelings are often better,” observed one young woman.  “I had to come to terms with a new set of standards by which to assess myself,” reflected one young man.

Other seniors discovered their approach to the future.  “I would likely be happy wherever I ended up,” confessed one early decision applicant.   “I did learn that I definitely wanted a school where I could practice my faith,” concluded another senior.   Considering her preliminary major and career-related choices, one student offered the following summary:  “I realized passion beats money in life.”

I will post more advice and observations from the Moses Brown Class of 2014 next week.  Members clearly learned and discovered a tremendous amount during their college searches and applications.

by Helen Scotte Gordon


The First Day of May

Wednesday, May 1, is a significant day: the deadline to submit a deposit (or letter of commitment) to hold a place in one freshman class.

On Wednesday of this week, a lengthy, adventuresome chapter closes for most seniors.  (A few will steadfastly carry on with a waitlist pursuit…but relatively few.)

May 1 marks the conclusion of a long sequence for many Moses Brown families.  Most students have worked exceptionally hard in a demanding program for many years–while playing a time-consuming sport or participating in our performing arts or leadership organizations. Supported by their parents, these students have also visited a multitude of colleges, completed applications,and endured multiple Saturdays of college-related testing. At every family holiday gathering, seniors have been asked “where do you want to go to school?”

For those not involved in making a deposit or selecting a college by May 1st, it’s a harder decision than it appears.  In many cases, it requires a good deal of consensus among family members.  Financing, for example, is key.  Many colleges extend generous grant monies per year to candidates they really like and wish to attract to their campus. This is welcome assistance to Moses Brown families who may support another child or two in independent school–or perhaps another child already in college. But what to do if a student’s first or second choice has accepted him or her–but not extended any money (or very little)? By necessity, money impacts many college decisions. We need to be sensitive to  the influence of financing on choice.

Geography also represents a big deal breaker–usually more for parents than students. Seniors are often ready to cross to a different coast, experience a different city, or explore unfamiliar airports. Because the adult has a different role in the family, a parent has to worry about the “B” plan if a MB graduate becomes sick on the west coast without a car, etc. These are important things to consider–but they can be negotiated and figured out.  Ultimately, some people just like to travel and organize trips more than others–and this should be discussed within a family.

Then there is the choice of major or career in terms of choosing a college. We are very impressed with one student in our office. She knew music school (her top choice) might be a hard sell for the family–from price to future job prospects. So she wrote up a “business plan” and presented it to her parents over dinner–identifying the summer she would seek an internship….and how she would find a way to take a number of business courses to add to her music background. Her parents approved and signed the contract!

Senior families need a lot of space and room at this time of year. Rather than pressing them for answers about the “big choice” and how close to May 1 it will be made, it’s better just to acknowledge how tough a decision it is–and how many variables are involved.  It is also important to note that May 1 represents a first formal goodbye within a household; it is the moment the  college plan becomes real and determined.

Seniors and their families are typically tired at this time of year. Let’s remind them it will soon be time to celebrate their accomplishments!

by Helen Scotte Gordon

A visit to one of the Colleges That Change Lives: Centre College



Four former Moses Brown students attend a small college with a distinguished academic tradition in the center of Kentucky.  All four (three young men and one young woman)  play lacrosse competitively.

Centre College is of one of forty plus institutions reviewed in the book Colleges That Change Lives.  (If you are starting a college search and have never skimmed this guide, you really should.  The places featured in this volume provide an outstanding liberal arts education and actively help each student develop his or her true potential.)

The Centre curriculum is rich with international study and travel.  Majors and minors related to other continents and cultures abound here.  Students regularly go abroad during the semester, summer or  January term.  “It is simply the norm here,” summarizes one administrator on campus.  Costs and financial aid packages do not change because of international travel.

The “Centre Commitment” assures that students graduate in four years, that they travel abroad at least once, and that they engage in one or more internships.  Centre believes that tuition-paying families deserve this pledge.


I am endlessly intrigued by campus amenities designed  for the current generation of undergraduates. I love discovering my NSB (“Never Seen Before”) each trip.   At Centre, the new suites built for upperclassmen feature fire pits in the outdoor common areas!


Another “NSB” on this liberal arts college campus is a substantial glass blowing facility.  The art faculty includes a Centre College graduate who is a renowned glass blower.  He is eager to share his passion with both beginners and more advanced students.  One Moses Brown alumnus, Prescott W ’10, even has a portion of a shelf in the glass blowing studio devoted to his creations.  (Prescott is an Economics major at Centre.)



During my visit to Danville, Kentucky last week, I loved the glimpse of early spring, rolling farms and grazing steeds.  I savored homemade biscuits and enjoyed the friendly manners of all I bumped into on and off campus. The towns closest to Centre (Danville and Lexington) have a nice vibe and plenty of activity.  (The Lexington airport is extremely easy to fly in and out of.) I was impressed with the beauty of the Centre campus.  Most importantly, I admired the way faculty and staff are absolutely intent upon providing the best education possible to students–and the way in which they help families finance a top-flight experience.


by Helen Scotte Gordon

Waitlist pursuits: grit, sincerity and a bit of hope required

Call me crazy, but I love a waitlist.

Please, do not misinterpret!   I don’t love the fact that seniors are waitlisted every year.  But these decisions are part of the college application landscape, and we have to negotiate them.  I like the creativity and challenge these quests demand.

Waitlist offers aren’t going away any time soon.  Imagine, for just a brief moment, that you are the director of a college admission office . (David duKor-Jackson: does this raise memories of the recent past for you?)  Your job, as dean of admission, is to enroll a precise number of freshmen in the first-year class by May 1st–also known as Candidates Reply Date.  Do you presume that you will collect  hundreds of enrollments by the specific date without fail–as well as the accompanying deposits of six hundred dollars each?  (…In a fairly harsh economy, no less?)

Most deans who love their jobs would not presume this feat; they therefore depend upon a “Plan B”–that’s the waitlist margin, to use if and as needed.

Seniors  and parents, on the other hand, just want to be done with the application saga.  Most students desire a clear admission decision (accept or deny!) and wish to conclude the long sequence in early April.

That’s where we, the college office, come in with a last blast of energy.  Waitlists are an April reality.  If you look at them on the bright side, a waitlist decision presents a silver lining: one last chance, one last opportunity at X or Y College.  (I love that sense of possibility!)   I say:  let’s do our best to advance the cause! I don’t think we want to look back with a senior at a later date and wish we had utilized the extra inning represented by a waitlist decision.

Sincerity and regularity of contact:  those are the hallmarks of an MB waitlist plan over the course of six or eight weeks in the spring.   (Most colleges let Moses Brown students know what they are going to do with waitlist candidates in late May or before Commencement–rarely later. )

So, I know it’s a lot to ask a senior to forge ahead in the college process after all admission decisions have arrived. We know it’s hard for weary  parents to roll up their sleeves for another inning.  But we have had some nice waitlist successes in recent years (MB students have been admitted from places such as Harvard and Emory), and we would love to help any student who has a genuine desire to pursue a alternate list offer.  We have LOTS of ideas to share.

Pursuing a waitlist requires extra stamina and some hope.  There are, after all, no guarantees that an acceptance will emerge. Most admission deans, during the month of April, don’t have a clue whether they will utilize the waitlist.  That all depends upon the enrollment numbers just before and after May 1!

We also understand that pursuing an alternate list offer can be a a lonely road.  My husband, (an informal observer of the college office and process for a long time), recently noted that some seniors must be very aware that their closest friends are completely done with the college process (and celebrating a liberation from related tasks and deadlines), while their own search marches on.  In the college office, we provide support, resources, advice–and company during the last stretch.

by Helen Scotte Gordon

GAP Year Dreamin’

 Since we distributed our GAP year materials to seniors and parents last week, I have been  thinking about transitional opportunities for students after high school graduation–and before beginning college full-time. 

There are books, guides, and websites that offer ideas, and professional consultants who can help seniors design a semester or year-long GAP experience.  I’m particularly impressed when a student digs deeply to formulate his or her own customized plan. 

On our Naviance survey, as students enter the college planning process,  we ask: “What would you dream of doing if you elected to take a GAP (transitional) year after MB?”

I recently came across a very inspiring, insightful and genuine reply.  The student wrote:

Assuming I was already accepted into college for the next year, if I was given a GAP year after MB, I’d probably spend the whole summer as I usually do, working at Camp J.  Because J is an overnight camp, this would probably take up the large majority of my summer. 

After that, with more time, I’d probably pursue my EMT/Emergency Medical Technician certification (if I hadn’t already received it), preferably with an intensive course at Boston Emergency Medical Services.  In my opinion, especially as I am considering med school, having experience and showing your interest in medicine could add to your application.  (In addition, it’s also something I want to do.) 

After finishing the course, I’d probably weigh my options and look into travel.  Obviously, it all depends upon funding–I wouldn’t expect my parents to pay for me to travel for a year without doing something productive.  Traveling and seeing  foreign family, hopefully for longer stays, would make for a great year.  Any time spent at home, I’d probably look into getting a job and working as an EMT, both to gain experience and to save money for college. 

I admire this student’s financial wisdom–as well as the multi-faceted consideration of a GAP year. 

by Helen Scotte Gordon