Friday, January 27, 2012

Lucky us

Recently I was visiting a junior boarding school and I had the rare privilege to surprise an applicant by handing him in person his offer of admission and a $10,000 academic scholarship. The timing worked perfectly (thanks to coordination with his current headmaster) that we were able to receive the necessary school documents and get him through admission committee ahead of my visit.

Over my career I have had the opportunity on occasion to tell a student of their admission in person or over the phone before they got our packet, but this may well be the first time I have hand-delivered it. I have to say, it’s an impressive packet. We put a lot of time and effort in the design and presentation of our offer of admission and in our scholarship awards, and when they can be presented together, it looks darn good. After all, the greater the yield from your first round admits, the less you depend on your wait pool and the more selective you can be.

But I think I will remember forever watching this boy open the folder, start to scan the letter, and, like the sun easing over the horizon in the morning, see a smile start to slowly spread across his face. When he hit the key line in the letter that confirmed where he thought this letter was going, his eyes got huge and his smile even bigger and his head shot up like a jack-in-the-box as he looked at me. And then he looked right back down to finish reading the letter. When he was done, he looked up and he said nothing, the bright glare reflecting off his braces sending the message of his delight. I simply smiled back, shook his hand, said congratulations, and went on my way. We had only a minute for this transaction but it was a wonderfully powerful, simple minute.

By complete coincidence, his parents were up visiting that Sunday afternoon. I had the opportunity to speak with them and congratulate them on his offer of admission and his scholarship. When I saw them, they had not yet seen their son or his packet but they later wrote to me, “we were unable to pry the folder from our son’s fingers over lunch.” I love picturing that lunch in my head! It will carry me through some of the inevitable frustrations that always accompany this time of year in admissions.

We are in the business of changing lives by giving students the remarkable opportunities that come with admission to our schools. What a privilege.

Lucky us.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


So what does Tebow have to do with independent school admissions? I’m not sure I know. But one can’t help but to be caught up in Tebow-fever. It’s the day of the big game: Tebow vs. Brady. (Actually, Denver vs. New England.) And there is not one but two Tebow articles in today’s Wall Street Journal. That’s right: I’m not talking about the Denver Post or the Boston Globe. I’m talking about the country’s leading newspaper on business and economics. Two articles on professional football and on one particular player. And there’s an article in today’s New York Times and probably numerous papers around the country I did not have the time peruse. And there’s a good one posted to I read earlier today.

Personally, I abhor the excess of professional sport. Individual players make more than the payroll of teachers of most schools and probably some small school districts. And they seem to attract fans who would die before they approved a school board budget that would have an annual impact of $100 in taxes but they pay ten times that amount for season tickets to their local pro team. These premier and famous and overpaid athletes are more often than not—much more often than not—poor role models, have questionable values, and fail to use their influence and fame for good. There are exceptions, of course. Cal Ripken comes to mind. Tebow is currently the most well-known of them at the moment.

Did you know he wasn’t even the starting quarterback for Denver this season? That he saw little play at all last year? And now look how far and fast he has come. Impressive everyone is now talking about him given that he spends so much of his time helping the poor, dying, underprivileged, and downtrodden. He flies the suffering and hurting to every Denver game, home or away. And it’s not just a token. He spends time with them before and after the games, and attempts to corral others to do the same. He speaks of his faith, virginity, Baptist parents, and personal values without shame or hesitation. More than without shame or hesitation, he speaks of them with conviction, humility, sincerity, and power.

He’s a one-man brand and he attracts fans and haters alike. (Yup, sadly one of today’s articles was on those who have grown to hate him and anxiously, sadly await some fall or stumble, personal or professional.) But he is very clear in who he is, what he stands for, and in what he believes. He has won countless fans with his clarity and drawn many followers.

If he were an independent school, he’d be full with waiting lists. Long waiting lists. So what can we learn? Yes, many seem to dislike him and can’t wait for him to fail tonight but many adore him. And isn’t that the compelling argument for a strong brand: to strengthen the loyalty of those you seek and help those who are not a good match to go find their own Tebow elsewhere? Good luck to them.

Know who you are. Own who you are. Share who you are. And do it like Tebow: proudly and genuinely. And the right matches will be lining up at your admissions office door.

The great thing about tonight’s game is that whether or not Denver marches forward, Tim Tebow isn’t going to change.

Thank goodness.