Day one at NACAC reminded us of two things–We come here as much for the people as we do for the workshops, and the vast majority of the people working in admissions are smart, honest, and interested in doing what’s right for kids.
We have to start this entry by acknowledging that it seems as if everyone attending NACAC has worked with or heard of Arun. And all of them seem to like and respect him. Alex and Kevin have had absolutely no qualms riding Arun’s coattails throughout our stay here. And what colorful coattails they are. Yesterday, Arun was sporting a look that involved a pink dress shirt, red track jacket, and blue pinstriped blazer–yes, all at the same time. Alex and Kevin admitted that while we would look absolutely ridiculous in that outfit, Arun somehow managed to pull it off. We’re kicking ourselves for not photographing him. One counselor and at an elite New York private high school admired Arun’s look with the comment, "Wow, look at you! You look so LA glossy." Thus far, nobody has referred to Kevin or Alex as "glossy."
Kevin and Alex chatted with Rick Bischoff, Dean of Admission at Caltech (and former colleague of Arun’s) about their recent move to the Common Application. For many schools, this generic application makes it easy for kids to apply without putting much thought or effort into the application. Caltech, however, requires that students submit a supplement that Rick described as "formidable." The supplement includes four short essays, one long essay, and a request to "…fill the rectangle on the application form with something you think is interesting." But what struck us was Rick’s reasoning for Caltech asking so many questions and his excitement about seeing the responses. They’re not doing this to make things harder for students. Rick expressed how much the admissions office really wants to get to know these kids, that "If you spend your lunch hour solving math proofs with your friends because that’s what you do for fun, we want to know about it!" He said the handful of applications they’ve received so far have given them great insight into the applicants behind the perfect grades and test scores.
Arun met the Dean of Admission from Dickinson. Having just completed our visit of Dickinson, Arun could have wowed the Dean with his extensive knowledge of the school. However, we both liked Dickinson so much that Arun simply became, in his own words, "A giddy schoolgirl." We hope the Dean appreciated his excitement.
We enjoyed dinner with several former University of Chicago admissions officers and one current Yale admissions officer. When the bill arrived, Arun generously paid for everyone’s dinner. As the table expressed their sincere gratitude, Arun turned to the Yale rep and said sarcastically, "You’d better take a lot of my kids this year!" It got a great laugh from the table even though his gesture did nothing to improve the admissions chances of any of his students.
We capped off the evening with a reception sponsored by Tulane. We chatted with several of their admissions officers who explained that they are "100% operational" after suffering with the rest of New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina and are in fact, "new and improved" after all of their rebuilding. Alex shared the expereince of one of his students who can’t stop raving about Tulane in spite of the fact that he was displaced by the hurricane and began his freshman year at Columbia. The admissions officer actually took down this kid’s name in the hopes of encouraging him to share his experiences with potential students.
And so ended the first day of NACAC. Lots of good people, lots of good conversation, and Arun’s tri-colored outfit. We’ll be back tomorrow with more tall tales from our stay.