Breaking the News to Colleges

Editor’s note: Our colleague and one-time Portland-based regional admissions guru, Andrea Hendrickson, penned this blog a couple years ago. She has since decided to become a counselor at a school closer to her home. However, because she loves her alma mater so much (yep, she’s a Lawrentian), she has enthusiastically endorsed our reposting this year. (IHRTLUHC)

As if the college decision process isn’t hard enough already…

You’ve spent at least a year compiling and editing a list of colleges, visiting, filling out applications, writing essays, waiting (ugh, the WAITING), filling out the FAFSA, waiting again, and now you have all (or mostly all) of your admit letters and financial aid awards in front of you. You’re weighing the pros and cons, or just out-right submitting a deposit to the one you know you’ve been waiting to enroll at since you visited.

All that’s left is to tell the other colleges who accepted you what you’ve decided. And it’s harder than you thought it would be.

Why? Not because colleges make it difficult to respond. You are getting a near-constant stream of emails, letters, calls, and postcards asking about your plans: check this box, respond to this email, unsubscribe (and we’ll get the picture)…

It’s hard because while we—the colleges, and the admissions counselors—were getting to know you, you got to know us. You found out that admissions counselors are people—exceedingly cool people. Maybe we’ve met half-a-dozen times over the last year. Maybe we have things in common (like obsessions with The Walking Dead or Macklemore). When someone spends time with you, connects with you, advocates for you in the admissions committee, it’s hard not to feel bad saying, “thanks, but no thanks.”

Don’t feel bad. Not even a little.

Whether or not you choose our institution, you are going to end up where you are meant to be. That’s all we want for you. That’s all any admissions counselor at any institution really wants for you. So don’t be afraid to tell us your plans. Fill out that card, respond to that email, reach out.

Our huge and heartfelt congratulations (plus a happy dance) on your college decision!

To pacing prospective parents, waiting for letters to arrive

This one’s for all of us who are parents.

I think I might know what you may be thinking…

As an experienced Parent of a College-Bound Student (it’s a real title, kind of like “Queen of England”), I’ve been where you are right now.

Twice. (And I’m about to go through it again a third time with my junior daughter.)

Six years ago (with my oldest daughter) and four years ago (with my son), I was anxiously sitting in the when-will-those-college-admissions-envelopes–finally-arrive-and-what-news-will-they-bring? seat. (If the truth be told, I wasn’t really doing much sitting. Rather, I was running around getting ready for the holidays, reading the Lawrence applications assigned to me, and listening for the mail truck to roll down my street.)

Even though college admission is my profession—which means I’m supposed to have a pretty firm handle on “how this process works”—these were MY OWN CHILDREN going through this process, which meant that most of my professional perspective sat on the sidelines while the mother in me took center stage. Like any other parent, I was excited and proud of my kids. If I’m being honest, I was nervous for them, too.

What if they didn’t get in?

What if they did?

I knew that the size of the envelope mattered. Big ones meant good news. Small ones… well, I didn’t want to go there, but I wanted to be prepared for it.

For those of you going through this for the second or third or seventh (whew!) time, you already know what I’m talking about. For those of you who are newcomers to this process, here is a quick intro to the three types of letters colleges generally send—presuming the college still does things the old-fashioned way like Lawrence does by using paper, envelopes, and stamps:

The “Congratulations, you’re in!” letter. Hooray! The letter we usually* want our children to get. It’s an opportunity to put a school in the “this might be my new home next fall” pile… and start a whole different kind of planning.

*I say “usually” because sometimes—for various reasons that we might never say out loud—we may hope our children don’t get into a particular college. (For example, it might be really really far away… like anywhere farther away than the home in which I have raised them…)

The “Not quite yet” letter, which usually says something like, “The Admissions Committee has decided not to make a decision on your application at this time,” and then describes their process about how they are deferring their decision so they can consider the application along with a different pool of candidates.

This piece of news is neither good nor bad; it’s procedural. It usually means that the Admissions Committee wants to get some more information (fall term or semester grades, an interview, a box of chocolate chip cookies, etc.) from the applicant. Some deferred students will ultimately get the good news letter. Some will not. Some will take themselves out of the running before that college ever re-visits their application. A deferral is not a time to panic, but a time for students to reach out to the admissions office to see what else they might want to provide in order to help that admission committee come to a decision that delivers the desired results.

The “We regret to inform you…” letter. We don’t even need to read the rest of the letter, because we know what it’s going to say: Ugh. But it doesn’t mean that we parents won’t find our blood temperatures rising to a simmer or boil, because—really?—how could this admissions staff not see the good qualities and potential in my child? Who do they think they are?

“They” are my colleagues. I have been on that admissions staff, and I can tell you that most of us did not get into this profession because we like saying “no” to people. We agonize about these decisions each year. In the case of Lawrence, I know that the reason we choose not to offer admission to particular students almost always lies in our collective belief (and it is a group of people who must share the belief) that the students, for reasons as unique as each of them, are not likely to be successful in our academic environment, no matter how much we may like them as people and want them at our university. To knowingly put students into situations where they are highly unlikely to be successful would be irresponsible on our part.

I can tell you, after all the waiting, those letters did finally arrive at my house (and with a couple, I know I hugged my mailman). Most of them elicited happy dancing in my kitchen, phone calls to relatives—and, at least for me, because I am a crier—tears of joy (with some of the letters) and tears of frustration with some of the others. As a family, we learned a lot about each other during the college search months and before I could blink an eye, I was crying (again), this time as we drove away after dropping each of them off at their freshman dorms, which, whether they are in the same city or a time zone or two away, were still too far away from their bedrooms upstairs for my taste. I am so proud of them, and they are thriving.

There I go again. (Did I mention that I am a crier?)

This is an exciting time for you and your child. I encourage you to embrace each step of the process (even the tough ones), enjoy these last few high school months, and feel free to contact me (or any of my colleagues in the Lawrence Admissions Office) if we can be of assistance to you.

Carin Smith
Lawrence University Regional Admission Director

“Why Lawrence?” Let our applicants tell you (in 47-ish words)

On our application for admission, we ask a fun little question: “Why Lawrence? It’s a short question seeking a short answer. 47 well-chosen words—give or take a few—should work.”

We appreciated some of the early questions from students about how to answer the question, along with their adherence to instructions.

  • “Can I go with 48, 49… maybe 50?”
  • “Do articles [“a” and “the”] count against the 47?”
  • “I have a few haikus. Is that cool?”

Posted below are some—but not all—of the entries that caught our attention. We asked students their permission to use their posts, and they gladly obliged, although some preferred to remain anonymous.

For future applicants to Lawrence, we hope you find some inspiration here for your 47 words, along with the comfort that there are many ways to answer the question, and the best answer is the one that is true to your voice.

OK, on with some of the entries.

From Elizabeth in Elgin, IL, a nice twist on the 1950s roadside advertising phenomenon of Burma Shave:

If a scholar lacks for fun,
Send him off to Appleton.
Bio, music, Russian Lit.
In Lawrence I have found my fit.
Lawrence lacks not for its fundin’
Evidence? Just see Björklunden!
Oh, let me be a racing cox
For Lawrence crew out on the Fox.
Offering just what I need,
Veritas est Lux indeed.
Burma Shave

Jillian from San Mateo, CA, dropped a little Greek on us.

Stimulating conversations, pianos and guitars, windy campus, MΩlΘe, study abroad, nurturing environment, LU-a-Roo, Cancer Biology, hands on learning, Appleton, SPAMALU, Japanese, Contemporary dance, college town, CORE, understanding not memorizing, Mathematics, varying seasons, CADY, music, Neuroscience, tapping toes, trees, integrative biology: cells to organisms, GLOW, creativity, community, intelligence, passion, determination, harmony.

Brittany from Libertyville, IL, shared with us a little-known, yet helpful tip about the Fox River (do not try this at home):

My tour guide told me that if one were to touch one’s body to the Fox River on campus, one would grow an extra limb. I hope to experiment on this and grow a third hand in order to master the art of the Double-Belled French horn.

Sarah from Minneapolis uses the signature sign-off from our admissions letters.

I want to live the Lawrentian way for life, not just four years. At Lawrence, I know my creativity would be fostered, and my writing ability would increase tenfold. Above all, I want individualized learning, and I want to be well and do well.

Harrison, also from Minneapolis, rocked the haiku (x4):

4 Haikus: 1.People say it’s dead / but Latin lives at Lawrence / roots to so much more 2.One-on-ones with profs / interacting afterclass / gives it all new depth 3.Spanish, English, film / top-ranked in all my majors / want to see the world 4.Students need a voice /LUCC speaks for them / I might run for prez.

Sam from Sacramento, did a great job preserving the anonymity of a semi-well-known Ivy school while showing Lawrence some love:

In exactly 47 words, Lawrence because: I can get Broadway shows right down the street. I can complete a senior project of my choosing. I can experience the outdoors. I can get a well-rounded “Schmarvard” class education. I can be something besides a number to a school.

Briana from Evanston (IL), on a favorite dessert around here:

Down to earth life (farms included), the opportunity to learn to play the harmonica I’ve had for years, and the pursuit of Breadpudding.

Emma from Wheaton (IL), gives us a Lawrence litany:

Why Lawrence? Blue-wrought iron railings at the Wriston Art Center; Björklunden; trivia contest; beach parties in the dead of winter;SLUG; tennis courts on the Fox River; fencing team; Con students; Freshman Studies; Francophone Seminar in Dakar; Convocation Series; Plato’s Republic; multi-interested students everywhere; the endless possibilities…

And, speaking of “multi-interested,” Arianna from Eugene (OR), captures the spirit well:

I am a musician. That point is indisputable. However, I also think of myself as a scientist, an artist, and an autodidactic bibliophile (yes, that’s how I think). Lawrence appeals to me because while the conservatory provides a strong musical community, the school allows students to pursue other interests concurrently.

Olivia from Clinton (NY), might be a budding spoken word artist:

An icy April visit: I walked along a campus coated in ice. Curiosity. Wonder.——————————————————————————— Chinese class: I was greeted by engaged students who welcomed me as if I were an old friend returned. Community. Acceptance. Zeal. ———————————————————————————–Lawrence: a place to revel in the excitement of education. Stimulates creativity. Fosters individuality. Champions diversity.

Grier showed us a bit of sass—the good kind—from Saint Paul (MN), also with footnotes:

Lawrence is awesome /Because it is so unique /And I am also //Here one is quite free /To learn whatever you want,* /To be quite nerdy //This now does conclude /My concise Lawrence essay /As three great Haiku**

*Apart from underwater-basket weaving
**Plural of haiku = whatever

Arianna from Bayside (WI) taps into her family’s history at Lawrence:

Embarking on a journey to a place full void of status quo, enveloped in life and learning, and achieving the sense of community that I have longed for since entering middle school. Where opportunity is seeping through the walls of the classrooms as well as the beautiful birches by the water at Björklunden. A place I will be able to call home for the rest of my life, just as my parents have before me. Why Lawrence? Because it is everything I could ever dream of in the next chapter of my life.

Max from Arlington Heights (IL) uses the space well.

Why Lawrence? 47 words? Here we go: Non-major musician? Conservatory is open to all. Non-major percussionist? Join LUPE. Anthropophobic? Nine to one student to faculty ratio. Want to learn Chinese? Associated Colleges in China. Study abroad in Minzu. Need a getaway? Björklunden. (If you can pronounce it.)

Joanna from Evansville (IN) captures the spirit of one of our professors, Julie McQuinn, perfectly:

Typical music history class: bland lecture about dead composers. Lawrence class: animated professor leading a discussion about music in Disney’s ‘Snow White’. Spacious campus, fun town, interesting people. Good place for a girl who lives to sing, and also loves AP Comparative Politics, being outdoors and talking sports.

Echo from Mount Prospect (IL) gave us warm fuzzies:

Because Lawrence is Lawrence. This question is kind of like, “Why do you love her?”; The answer (hopefully) cannot be found in a single characteristic, but rather a unique combination of characteristics that lets you make up your decision. I love her because of who she is; I want to go to Lawrence because it’s Lawrence.

Matthew from Washington DC, knows his nautical terms:

This prompt—word count taken from the two starboard digits of the year Lawrence was founded—is “Why Lawrence”. Out there, but not uncomfortably so. Lawrence’s intimacy, strong academics, and idyllic setting contribute to my interest in the school; I know it’s a place where I can thrive.

Eva from Beaver Dam (WI), with a few haiku strung together, a dropped in one of our favorite majors along the way.

Haiku to Consider:
Close-Knit and artsy,
College that will change my life,
Yes! Small class sizes!
Free to try and fail,
Liberal Education,
This is my purpose,
My major you ask?
It’s multi-interested,
Help me find myself,
I will now conclude,
Forty-seven words you said,
Consider me please!

Anmol from Middleton (WI) gave us a poem that really builds to a crescendo before giving us a giggle payoff at the end.

A poem: “47 Words”:
Teach me how.
How to learn.
How to sing.
How to be.
How to surpass limits.
Change my life.
Show me the light.
Forever more light.
Forty-seven phrases.
Scholarly, astonishing, fostering, distinguished.
Forty-seven descriptors.
Intellectual development.
Voice + Biology, Voice + Pre-Law?
Endless paths: learning and life.
Forty-seven million possibilities.
Word count:
Forty-eight words.

Hannah from Oak Park (IL) sent us a Lawrence postcard, ending with what may be the most essential thing.

Liberal arts education. Small class sizes with attentive professors. Surrounded by music. The infamous Trivia Weekend. Community, nature, and learning through Björklunden. Learning how to pronounce Björklunden. Gloriously cold winters. Interest houses, studentorganizations, and convocations. Beautifully green landscape and “green” architecture. International interest. Great community with great sandwiches.

Amanda from Williston, VT, spelled it out for us:

L is for Loving the Midwest, A is for Appleton’s small town charm, W is for Walking on a safe campus, R is for Really good cafeteria mac and cheese, E is for Enjoying Björklunden, N is for New Knowledge, C is for the Con, E is for the Experience.

One student nicely grabbed onto one of the significant features of 47:

Lawrence offers a uniquely holistic learning environment as well as a student body that fosters acceptance, understanding, and diversity. Also, given the significance of the number 47 in the Star Trek canon, this question is in and of itself a pretty great indicator.

A student from Albuquerque, finding that he only had 46 words, employed a familiar five-syllable word occasionally employed by haiku writers who need to complete their third line:

I am interested in Lawrence because I am looking for a well rounded education at a small liberal arts college. I am also a musician and I like the idea of having a conservatory and an exemplary music program built into the rest of the school. Refrigerator.

Hannah from Oak Park (IL) describes what she (and we) saw as a great match:

Lawrence University and I have a lot in common. It is confident in and proud of its unique identity. It strives for excellence and embraces diversity. And, with its request for a 47-word statement, it definitely has a sense of humor! We would make a great team.

Sater from Oconomowoc (WI)… who had us with “Well… Lawrence!”

Why Lawrence? Well…Lawrence! Greyfell: student created, written, performed. Freshman Studies ¡ coolest idea ever. Then, Senior Experience ¡ coolest follow-up idea ever! Inspirational. Fresh made food = yum! Informational. Professor Peter Peregrine and Professor Carla Daughtry. Bizarrchaeology! S.L.U.G. Dedication to green. The ability to gain “more light.” Enough Said. But…IHRTLUHC!

Madina from Dashogus, Turkmenistan gives us a blend of poetry along with pulls from course listings in our course catalog

1-1 Class ¡ my first reaction ¡ eyes popped out, jaw fell open Freshman studies ¡ smoother translation to college The friendliest-students and staff talk, reply to emails Code of Honor ¡ students take responsibility for their work Language program- LING 265,LING 310, LING 330… Eloquent colorful website! Diverse Clubs!

Lauren from Milwaukee

Lawrence offers qualities that excite me: a strong sense of community, open-minded students, approachable professors, emphasis on study abroad, customized classes, and a reputable conservatory of music. Bonus- I can learn how to properly pronounce and experience Björklunden.

Emei from Minnetonka (MN) shares a secret:

The most memorable recruitment e-mail I received described the typical Lawrentian as a “cool geek.” Secretly, I loved that label.There were plenty of colleges that fit what I was searching for–a Liberal Arts environment, serious academics and a close-knit campus. After many overnights on cold dorm room floors, sitting in on biology classes, meeting swim coaches and sampling some surprisingly great cafeteria food, I found a school that spoke to the cool geek in me. Lawrence is the one.

Kim from Albuquerque realized that Lawrence changed her mind about what a college can and can’t do:

Soon after starting my college search I became convinced that compromise was inevitable. I could study linguistics but not studio art, or I could live in a small community but I’d have to give up swing dancing. However with Lawrence I don’t have to compromise,it’s perfect.

A student from Portland (OR) gave us hope that the junk mail we send students (we can call it that; we write it) works:

You had me at your first brochure, with its funky type face and amusing narrative. I want to attend a school that, while being a serious academic environment, doesn’t take itself too seriously. I have always been someone that enjoys traveling off the beaten path, and I feel that Lawrence would be the perfect school in which to continue my journey.

Homemade food, old friends, great conversation, and environmental economics

If you’ve visited Lawrence University over the past few months, you may have spotted me behind a sliding glass window right off the main lobby of the Admissions Office in Hurvis Center, staring intently at my dual monitor.  But last Thursday evening I found myself in the mustard-colored Greenfire house laughing with old friends, their faces glowing in the warmth of funky lights.  And what made the night truly lovely was the special guest I encountered when I got there.


As a student I was very involved with Greenfire, one of the main environmental clubs at Lawrence.  The house, where a handful of club members live and cook and are merry (and where I lived all of my senior year), happens to sit right across the street from Hurvis Center, which means I have no excuse not to frequently visit my friends who still live there and consume their fresh food creations (and, okay, wash some dishes while I’m there).

When I stopped by Thursday for a group meal, held in the house four times a week, I walked into the living room and saw Professor of Economics, David Gerard, sitting on the couch with his plate in his lap, in deep discussion with two students.  (Professor Gerard taught me Environmental Economics during a particularly beautiful spring term at LU.  The morning we had class outside, I remember feeling almost overcome by the scent of blooming lilacs while we analyzed the value of putting a price on carbon pollution.)

On Thursday the Greenfire club was kickstarting a series of lectures held in the comfy old house.  When I saw Professor Gerard digging into broccoli mac and cheese, he was gearing up for his talk on the economic viability of carbon sequestration.  What always amazes me is just how deeply interested Lawrence professors are in their areas of expertise, and how willing they are to share that expertise with their students.  Professor Gerard enjoys discussing the economics of natural resource extraction so much that he gave up his entire evening to do just that with a bunch of millennials.

During dinner, the atmosphere was no different from the nights when the house is not hosting a VIP.   We reminisced, filled our plates with seconds, talked about our weekend plans, traded ideas for why the candied walnuts in the salad tasted so perfect.  And that’s something that makes my alma mater so special.  It’s not difficult to come across homemade dinners (besides Greenfire, there’s the Sustainable LU Garden co-op and the McCarthy Co-op), friends, mindfulness–even professors–all in one place.

~Caitlin Buhr (Lawrence 2013), Data Operations Assistant



We’ve added another application deadline: December 16

We have heard from more than a few students who experienced technical problems submitting their Common Applications for our November 15 Early Action deadline.

In recognition of those technical difficulties, and wanting to accommodate those students who don’t want to wait till Regular Decision to submit their applications, we have opened another application session—call it “Early Action, The Sequel”.

The deadline for this session will be December 16 with a planned notification date of January 15.

If you wish to apply by this deadline, simply complete your Common Application, choosing “Early Action” as your decision type.

We have one more application deadline after this one: January 15, our Regular Decision deadline, with an anticipated notification before April 1.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!