Thick Envelopes, Tough Decisions

In the next few days students across the country (and around the world) will be opening their mail hoping for what, back in the day, was the thick envelope from one’s top choice school. This week, many students will get the news by pressing a computer key, but the feelings of hope, anxiety and anticipation will still be there. By the weekend, students invited to join the Wesleyan Class of 2013 will be comparing notes, preparing to revisit campus, and trying to imagine themselves thriving in this distinctive environment.

In meeting applicants over the last several months, I am humbled by the extraordinary talents of those hoping to join our community. The competition, especially this year, is very intense. Many smart, accomplished and hard working high school seniors will not be accepted. There isn’t anywhere near enough room at our small university for all the qualified people who want to be here. That’s why the Admissions team works so hard in finding the right fit between applicant and school. As many of you know, our applicant pool surged by more than 22% this year, and that means the staff of Admissions had to give the same level of attention to thousands more applications. I am proud of the work they’ve done and grateful for their efforts.

Many current students, staff, faculty and alumni will be asked to offer final words of advice: What kind of place is Wesleyan really? I trust we will offer honest appraisals, giving our visitors a sense of what it’s like now, as well as the potential we see at Wes. As I always say to the tour groups I meet on campus, Wesleyan is not for everybody. Some people want a more structured environment where their education will be more institutionally directed. Others want a more homogeneous climate in which they can find people like themselves who are working toward similar goals. Students like this would probably be happier elsewhere. The folks who thrive at Wes are those who have great academic (intellectual, artistic) potential, who are open to experimentation, are excited by independent learning, and want to engage with a campus culture that values difference and community. Wes students learn how to be more effective in whatever field they choose to apply themselves, and in the process also discover some of the core things they really love to do. In this way, as graduates, they take with them the discipline and the capacity to continue doing those things about which they are most passionate.

More than thirty years ago I received that thick envelope and began imagining what I could achieve at Wesleyan.  Today, when I look around campus, I see all the great things that students, faculty, and staff still can achieve. Even with our long history, Wesleyan is very much a school in the process of realizing its potential, and those who join the class of 2013 will help us do just that.

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1 thought on “Thick Envelopes, Tough Decisions”

  1. I have to say, I do understand the very difficult process that, especially small colleges and universities that are highly selective, go through in selecting their class. And I, better than most, understand that it is extraordinarily important that the kids who are qualified and are “rejected”… what an awful word!! should absolutely not take it personally. I am a mother of 4, and this year is my 4th child’s year to select a school. All of my kids have done well, and ended up at excellent schools (Williams, NYU, Tufts, and likely Colgate) but not without feeling the brutality of the process. My second, who had a 94 average as she was graduating from high school, SAT’s right around 1400, and writes incredibly well, was rejected or wait-listed at all 7 small liberal arts schools she applied to, including Wesleyan. She ended up creating her own year abroad, and applied again to schools while she was in Europe. She ended up at NYU, graduated Suma Cum Laude, with a double major and a minor, and now has an excellent first job.
    Kid no. 4 also applied to Wesleyan to be a part of the class of 2013… her high school average is also 94, classes are all upper level; SAT’s slightly low end of the median, but still very respectable. She composed an amazing self made supplement stating from the heart why Wesleyan was her first choice school, and how at home she felt there when we made our visit, etc. Well written and genuine, she included in this supplement short essays that she had sent off to other schools, clearly showing her interest, talents, and capacity. No one from our high school has been accepted to Wesleyan in something over 10 to a dozen years. And still, she was rejected. Unlike the other rejections that she received, or any of my other kids have received over the years I have been a mother in this process, this one seemed particularly unpalatable. She is clearly qualified, clearly shows her strong interest and capacity; she went above and beyond in sending in her application; and, no-one from our small upstate NY high school has been a part of a Wesleyan class in well over a decade… I am not sure what gives here???

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