So, it’s the middle of January and although it was an unseasonably warm day in Boston today, I still had applications to read. However, I learned quickly after joining the Admissions Office that it was important to take breaks from reading so I used one of them to take a quick walk around campus mid-afternoon today. I went by some of my favorite spots, the most important of which is the Great Court. That’s the place I head anytime I need just a few minutes of peace and quiet or when I need to clear my head. As I was walking around today I thought about why I enjoy reading your applications so much and it came to me about the time I walked by Building 66 (where I spent much of my undergraduate life). I like reading applications because they are a lot like doing jigsaw puzzles.
When I was very young my family started a tradition of doing jigsaw puzzles on New Year’s Eve. Now you need to understand that we have always done jigsaw puzzles starting with those big wooden ones that you give to very small children, moved through the medium size pieces with the pictures of animals and cartoonish type qualities, eventually moving to those with hundreds upon hundreds of pieces based on artistic masterpieces. The best part of the tradition however was starting a puzzle on New Year’s Eve and racing to finish before going to bed that night, constantly saying, “I’ll go bed after I put in just one more piece, I promise.” It’s not a surprise to me that my brother and I both still honor this tradition over the holidays as it brings back wonderful memories of times gone by.
So why do your applications remind me of jigsaw puzzles…think about it…each piece of information in your application folder, is like the piece of a jigsaw puzzle. When my brother and I do puzzles these days, we put the top of the box away, trying not to look so that we see the puzzle come alive as we put it together and that part, too, is like your applications. We get all the pieces when we read it, but we have no idea what it will look like when we start, only after we have read it cover to cover, exploring all the details do we truly have the picture of who you are.
The Part I is like the border. That’s where you tell us your name, address, school and information about your family. That sets the boundaries, forming the edges of what we will see and shows us just the very beginnings of the picture, hinting just a bit at what will be in the larger picture when it is done. Important note: my brother doesn’t like doing the border and leaves that to me, choosing to begin assembling details from the middle; must be why he’s an EC and not an admissions officer.
The Part II shows us the big areas of the picture. The areas that are kind of easy to put together because the colors all move from area to area easily. Larger areas of the design come out and we begin to see the larger themes in the puzzle. That gives us lots of the finished picture, but all the details are not filled in yet.
So what provides the detail…those are your school recommendations, the report from your school and of course, the interview report from your local EC. Those are pieces of the puzzles that fill in the in between spaces…sometimes they represent the sky, which while it all seems like a lot of the same color, in some pictures makes a huge difference in the final picture. Other times, the recommendation letters are the in between little pieces, between the flowers, and will contain very important little details that really make the picture complete. The interview reports will generally do that as well, fill in little bits of details about who you are and help us with our decisions. That’s why the interview report from your EC is valued so much by my colleagues and me.
One of my least favorite parts of doing a jigsaw puzzle is getting to the end and realizing there is a piece missing. Now sometimes it will seem very unimportant since its just one piece in the middle of a huge swath of color, but sometimes it’s that piece right in the middle and not having that piece makes the picture less than it can be. It is still pretty, it just doesn’t feel complete. That’s why having all the pieces in place in your application is important and why once we have all our data entry done we’ll give you a chance to send us anything that is missing. In the meantime, don’t worry because we’ll give you plenty of time.
So…now you know why I like reading your applications. I like learning about each of you, and the fact that reading about each of you reminds me of one of my favorite pastimes makes it even better. I’m looking forward to lots more puzzles over the next few weeks so thanks for sharing your lives with me, I’m enjoying it tremendously.
Back to my folders…and to meeting all of you :-)