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

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

April 1st musings from one college advisor (no tomfoolery!)

UMiami School of Architecture

UMiami School of Architecture

Last week, from start to finish, LOTS of admission decisions arrived in the on-line accounts and household mailboxes of Moses Brown seniors. More than a few parents said to me, “I don’t know how you do this year after year.”

We (college office members) pursue the application process every year precisely because April 1st always rolls around– and the many small tasks, constant deadlines, and important conversations with students and parents culminate in offers and opportunities.

The last week in March is always intense—but in a rewarding, meaningful way. The long, arduous wait for all involved (students, parents, college staff, and faculty supporters) is largely over.  Happy results are celebrated.  Disappointing pieces of news are managed within an atmosphere of trust and support; our seniors balance sadness with resilience.    There are always some remaining waitlist pursuits.  (I personally love waitlists; they represent a final challenge, an extra “inning” if you will.)  You might think a busy college counseling office might heave a huge sigh of relief and hang a sign on the door that reads “CLOSED FOR A  BRIEF NAP” (hung slightly askew). Yet college advisors feel an ongoing desire to help students reach dreams and sort through maximum options. …So we don’t post the imaginary sign until waitlist pursuits are resolved, final transcripts are sent to colleges, and summer vacations truly arrive!

The week leading to April 1st includes some humorous moments. One senior regaled us with tales of her mother driving around the neighborhood in search of the mail carrier . (As the story goes, the parent also recruited a person working on a household project to scan a few blocks!)

Students also shared perceptive observations. One young woman explained that while she was not accepted at her first choice college, she was delightfully surprised by the allure of other options. We applaud the changes that develop in the thinking of students over the course of senior year.

The solidarity among college advisors near and far is also reassuring to me during this “big” week. On Facebook, one of my experienced southern colleagues asked of no one in particular: “What do the admission gods want???” We basically know the answers, but it’s still amusing to hear someone (probably pacing around a college office) toss out the question. One local independent counselor called at the beginning of the week just to say: “Hey, how’s it going over there at MB?”. I thought the gesture was lovely.

And then there is the inevitable day that most members of the Ivy League release decisions. They tend to post on-line late in the afternoon. This day is a festival of clock-watching and counting down of minutes. At the appointed hour, I tend to do something different every year. Last Thursday, I decided to tidy my office and make various to-do lists (some necessary and some not). For comfort, I stayed in touch with my MB college office colleagues by computer. I chatted back and forth via email with another local college advisor. “I am keeping a vigil at my kitchen counter,” she described. I tried not to indulge in snacks, treats and caffeine all day long. I did allow myself one delicious chocolate milk from Wright’s Farm and a couple of holiday pastries. Fortunately, I did not commit excessive nutritional damage.

I love the candid emails students send as decisions arrive. One young woman simply wrote: I GOT INTO ____!!!!! Nothing more, nothing less. (The caps underscored the enthusiasm.) One young man concluded his email with the following sentiment: “The household is a very happy one.” That warmed my heart.

Above all else, it’s a humbling stretch of time. Most students receive a cross-section of replies they hope for; but some are disheartened because they really, really wanted a specific place. Many students and parents are thrilled with the results—but worry profoundly about the financing of college. (That is a daunting challenge for every  family). Other students summon the strength to carry on with a waitlist or two. Yet others are sorting through the perils and pleasures of Twitter and Facebook. This involves sharing happy news while avoiding immodest public displays. (It’s also tricky to show support for those who post favorable returns without feeling competitive or envious.) Parents: luckily, we did not have to negotiate this complex social labyrinth.

In the end, from a big picture standpoint, the week leading up to April 1st is always a memorable one. I’m deeply proud of the accomplishments of MB seniors and the extraordinary reputation of our school in the college world. I am indebted to my colleagues, Jill and David. I admire parents who are working hard to support and foster the independence of their children; I also commend all the Moms and Dads who strive to provide excellent opportunities for their children. We are all to be congratulated!

By Helen Scotte Gordon