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Ben Jones

Sep 24, 2005

Fall Travel Days 4,5,6: NACAC Conference

Posted in: Visit

The NACAC conference happens each fall. About 4200 admissions people (adcoms from colleges and universities, GC's from high schools, independent counselors, admissions-related vendors, etc.) descend on a city (Tampa this year) and attend classes and networking sessions. There's a "college fair for guidance counselors" where all the colleges/universities set up booths (as they would at a normal college fair) and then GC's come around to network and ask questions. There are keynote speakers at the beginning and end (this year these were UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski, who was AMAZINGLY inspirational, and columnist Dave Barry, who is always hysterical).

I got up at 4:30AM on Thursday to make it to the airport in time for my early flight and didn't get to sleep until after 2AM, so that was a pretty long day. We got to Tampa around 11AM, checked into the hotel, and registered for the conference. The first big event was Freeman Hrabowski's incredible speech, after which Marilee and I went in search of a wifi connection so we could deal with the critical emails that were sure to be clogging our in-boxes. We located said wifi connection in the lobby of our hotel, to the tune of $10/day. Ouch.

At 5:30 PM, we got the MIT admissions crew together for a dinner reservation at Bern's Steakhouse. This had been recommended to me by my uncle, who'd told me earlier that "it's worth going to Tampa JUST to eat at Bern's." We dramatically exceeded our MIT per diems but it was worth every penny I had to spend - I don't think I've ever had a steak that good. Bern's has a menu that in some ways is more of a textbook than a menu - covering every last detail on how best to age, cut, and cook beef. Amazing dinner.

After dinner we hit the town, where I got to see a lot of my old pals from the Harvard Admissions Institute. The first day of NACAC is mostly social. Some of it is frivolous, but it's also where everyone checks in with each other on the coming year's truly important admissions-related issues.

To me the critical thing going on right now in the admissions world is the movement to "take back our field." Marilee is firmly on board, as is the rest of our office. To sum it up, admissions should be a process, not a business. Here's a plug for Lloyd Thacker's Educational Conservancy. He's fighting the good fight, and thank god someone is.

I was a bit appalled at the opening ceremony for NACAC. NACAC is deisgned to promote dialogue and improve admissions across the board. Period. But after the keynote speaker, NACAC's president introduced a "special guest" whose company had donated $115K to NACAC. She proceeded to plug said company, a partner of USNWR (and we all know how I feel about that). The good part was that it generated quite a buzz over the next few days between college and HS professionals. "NACAC is not for sale" became the mantra. We'll see.

Woke up early on Friday and mostly attended NACAC sessions, including a session on why it's so hard to get women to consider careers in engineering and then Marilee's panel on the current stress-fueled climate in selective college admissions. Both were great.

Then the college fair for GC's, then back to the hotel with Matt to work on our Blogging In Admissions presentation for today.

Friday night's dinner was also great. Matt had heard of a place in nearby Ybor City called Columbia. Authentic cuban cuisine complete with a cabaret show. AWESOME. Overheard from Edmund: "this makes me want to get my flamenco dance troop back together."

Headed back to the hotel after dinner to work more on the powerpoint for today's blogging presentation. Finished at 3AM - I forget how productive I am in the wee hours of the morning. I used to be nocturnal - but having kids fixed that. It's funny - as soon as I'm away from home my body reverts. Maybe I'm a vampire. Except that I hate the sight of blood.

Woke up today and headed to the convention center to do the blogging presentation. It was well attended and except for a minor technology issue (they forgot our projector which made us have to start 10 minutes late) I think it went really well. To those of you who attended - thanks so much for coming, and thanks for all of the great questions!

Matt and I had some lunch afterwards and then met up with the rest of the MIT crew to attend the Dave Barry talk. Good stuff. Then a bunch of emailing, and a trip to the airport for my flight to Philly, for which I am currently waiting.

Note to self: remember that the Tampa airport has amazingly fast (and free!) wifi.

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Tomorrow: the Philly central meeting at Germantown Academy.

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