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Admission Anxiety - And Ten Steps to Reduce It

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 10:00

Alright gang, EA and ED application deadlines have passed. It's all out of your control, and now, the waiting begins. Congrats to all of our Early Decision admits who found out last week! In case you missed it, we had a great webinar last week called "You've Applied, Now What?" You can catch a recording of it here.

Speaking of being admitted to Tulane, Early Action decisions will be posted for most students the week of December 14th. No need to keep checking the mailbox or portal until then. Hopefully, knowing exactly when you'll hear back will reduce anxiety and stress a little bit.

Speaking of anxiety... that's what today's blog is all about. I am a firm believer in speaking openly and candidly about our mental health. I’ll be the first to admit it; a few years back, I had some serious anxiety. For you high school students, I suspect this feeling is not totally foreign, especially around this time of year as you await your incoming admission decisions. For me, I couldn’t shake the stress. To be honest, it was nearly debilitating.

Then it all changed.

Everyone has different ways of managing stress and anxiety. I know it seems somewhat dramatic to say, but for me, there was one main thing I can credit my anxiety-reduction to: meditation. I was a naysayer forever — I thought meditation was silly, too hippy-dippy, not for me. I was also certain that I didn't have the attention span for it. And then, I tried it. And... it worked. I am not saying it wiped out my anxiety, but there is no doubt it's had a profound impact on my life.

It has worked so much for me that I want to share some of my tips for reducing anxiety in your hyperactive high school lives.  It’s my hope that by doing a few of the things below, you can start to see some positive changes and maybe manage this crazy stressful and anxiety-inducing time of the year.

1) Meditate. All I'm saying is to try it. You have nothing to lose. Even just ten minutes a day. Remember, they call meditation a “practice” for a reason; you’re not going to master it the first time you try it. Or even the first ten times. But keep at it for a few weeks. I promise you, you’ll see remarkable results, just like going to the gym. I use Calm when I meditate and I can't recommend it enough — it's one of the highest rated apps of all time. Try the 7 Days of Calm free trial. I know others love Headspace. Think you're too bro for meditation? Well, Marines, pro-athletes, CEOs, and millions of Americans have introduced meditation into their daily life. This stuff is the real deal. My challenge to you: do it every morning for six weeks and email me if you complete this task. 

2) Don’t post all your college application decisions on social media. If you get into a school, that is great! No need to blast it all over social media, even though I know you are super pumped. As you get in, many of your classmates will not. Consider keeping your results off social media and you'll be inadvertently helping those around you. Once you select a school to enroll in, by all means post about it. But in the crazy ED/EA season, it goes a long way to show some humility. Yes, I know, I know, the idea of posting a video of you getting in on your TikTok is really enticing. I guess my suggestion might be, sure, film it and share it with your family and best friends (and maybe even your admission counselor!), but just be considerate of others. Those videos are so heartwarming to watch, but I get the sense the craze is getting slightly played out. 

3) Let Thanksgiving be a college-free zone. Everyone is going to ask where you applied, where you got in, where you want to go. Set some ground rules with the family.  Mom and Dad, you might have to lead this charge by sending this blog out to the extended fam before they arrive, if they are coming in this year (which I guess they're not supposed to?). Let this be a time with your family to decompress, truly enjoy each other's company, and leave all that college-talk for some other time. There's not much that can be changed now, so getting into stressful conversations over the turkey won't help anyone. Go play some football instead.

4) You can't control your thoughts. But you can control which ones you listen to. Here is something I learned about the concept of mindfulness from this great book I read called The Untethered Soul. Basically, your brain is like your college roommate. It’s going to be nagging you, reminding you of things, giving you its opinion in an endless narrative. The most important thing to remember is this: you can choose what you listen to. Imagine if all the negative or anxious thoughts you have came from an actual person; they'd kinda be a real annoying jerk who you'd never listen to in real life. After all, if you could control your brain’s thoughts, you’d only think positive things, right? As soon as you start thinking, “I’ll never get into this school," "I am going to bomb my calc test," just remember — you don’t have to listen to negativity. Just like that annoying roommate, you don't have to listen to it.

5) Take note of how much time you're spending on your phone. Moment tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone and WOW is this an eye opener. Most smart phones can also give you data on the amount of time you're staring at that screen. The data from studies linking phone addiction to anxiety and depression is eye-popping. This pandemic has made us more addicted to our phones than ever before and it's not good. Next tip on this list will help you cut down on your doom-scrolling: 

6) Don’t charge your phone right next to your bed. When you are on your phone right before bed, the stimulation from the phone keeps you awake and also keeps your mind racing. Instead, read a book (I just finished Born a Crime... best book I've read in five years). Study for a test. Do something besides sit in bed and stare at your phone. If you have to look at your phone before bed, adjust the Night Shift on your phone before you do so. This takes out the colors that make it hard on your eyes in the evening. Right as you wake up, don't grab your phone and check TikTok or Instagram. Just let yourself wake up. What good will it do to read aggravating political news before bed? Or wake up to look at someone else's filtered vacation photos? I made a big change recently and started charging my phone in the kitchen rather than the bedside table at night. I boldly suggest you try this. My second challenge to you: do it for six weeks and email me if you complete this task. 

7) Take it a step further and take a break from social media altogether. This one is tough, I know. Especially in the world we live in. It's remarkable how much anxiety it can give you when you are consistently comparing your life to your classmates and experiencing FOMO. One small step I recommend is getting rid of the Facebook app (parents) on your phone and only checking when you happen to be on your computer. Or student, pick one to commit to: Insta Story OR TikTok, not both. As it turns out, you're not missing as much as you think you are. Case in point — the people who don't use social media are always cooler than me and never seem to have any anxiety about not being on it. I've blogged about this before. Social media is you comparing your worst moments to everyone else's best moments. Last year, I finally did it: I got rid of Facebook. I am one year free of that monster and I have never been happier. You too can get rid of it! 
8) Learn to respond, not react. This is one that is going to take some time and won't happen overnight. But by practicing some mindfulness and maybe a little meditation, you'll get there. Simply put, reacting is the knee-jerk reaction to a situation. Responding is taking a breath, mulling it over, and then replying. Next time someone emails you something obnoxious, instead of immediately reacting with an equally obnoxious email, sit on it — even sleep on it — and write a well thought-out response. You'll be glad you did. Great example: if you get deferred or denied from a school, don't react. Respond. You'd be shocked how many students and parents send me expletive-laden emails when they are not admitted to Tulane. That is called a reaction.

9) Be patient with others. I was in the doctor's office last week with a mom and her baby. The baby would NOT stop crying. Everyone was glaring at the mom with a "shut that kid up" look on their face. Now, think of it this way — who is the only person in that office who wants that baby to stop crying more than you? Right. The mom. So be patient. I bet that baby will stop crying a whole lot sooner if the other people on the flight gave the mom a few compassionate looks of patience. Patience with others (your school counselor, for example) can lead to a remarkable amount of anxiety reduction of your own.

10) Exercise. But like, REALLY, exercise. One of the absolute best ways to reduce your anxiety is to get a really good workout in. Not just a casual jog, but something where you really push yourself. Take a boot-camp class, maybe even a spin class, but do something that pushes you harder than usual. If you're a freshman at Tulane, your first spin class is on me! Or go try Joe for his infamous ABT class at Riley. Or do my 45 YouTube workout! Vincent makes a lot of appearances.  

If you had told me a few years ago that I'd be writing a blog encouraging you to meditate, I'd think you had lost your mind! But here I am doing exactly that. Like I've said before, everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end. You'll get in somewhere, you'll go somewhere. You'll do fine in school and the drama with your friends will come and go. This goes back to deciding what you listen to in your brain. It's not always going to be perfect, but you can be assured, eventually things have a way of working themselves out. I am not saying all will be completely stress-free all the time, but over the course of the next few months, if you try a few of the tips above, you might just experience reduced anxiety in life, even at a time when you'd expect it to be higher than ever.

Good luck out there! And have a happy, delicious and hopefully college-talk-free Thanksgiving.

Enjoying the content of our blog? If you're a high school student, current college student looking for a change, or a parent seeking information about the college search and admission process, consider joining our undergraduate mailing list by filling out the form below. Not all fields on the form are required, only those denoted by an asterisk*. 
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Spring Scholars

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 09:00

Ciao Roma! Here I am last year with our Spring Scholars in Rome. 
Application review is in full-throttle mode! We've seen another healthy increase in the number of students applying for admission to Tulane this year including a big increase in Early Decision applicants. As we release ED and EA decisions over the next month (ED on 11/18!) a small number of students in this group will be admitted as Spring Scholars, our January admission program. 

If you were admitted as a Spring Scholar, congratulations! I thought I'd take a moment to share a few of my thoughts on this program. First and foremost: the most common question I get from Spring Scholars is, "Why was I admitted for the spring?" The answer has to do with how we review applications coupled with the increase in popularity Tulane has seen over the past few years. Our admission office is big on the holistic review process which means we spend a great deal of time creating a class of students based on everything you present to us in your application. Spring Scholars have excellent applications in nearly all regards. They've done amazing at their interviews, written great "Why Tulane?" statements, and had outstanding letters of recommendation in every application. When reading your application, we knew immediately that you want to come to Tulane and that you would be a great fit here. I suspect that our overall admit rate this year will be lower than last year's which was around 11%. That means that over 80% of the students who apply to Tulane this year will not be admitted for either the fall or spring. Simply put, we can't admit every academically qualified student who applies, but for a small group who we believe will be fantastic Tulane students, we admit them as a part of our Spring Scholars program. 

With those facts in mind, I have some suggestions for next steps to take if you have been admitted as a Spring Scholar. First off, get excited, and take some time to think about it. The Spring Scholars option is a final decision and is non-binding; you have until May 1st to decide. There will be no Spring Scholars switched to the fall semester at any point. Before you reach out with questions, take some time to read the FAQs for the program; there's some great info in there about housing (we guarantee it!) and Greek life (you can still go through the recruitment process!). I also highly recommend you connect with our Spring Scholars ambassadors to hear firsthand what their experiences have been like. We've also got the incredible Julie Slusky who is our point person for our abroad programs and the irreplaceable Kristin Guidry as our main point person for all things related to Spring Scholars. They are both here to help answer any questions you or your family may have. Just to reiterate, Mom, no spring scholars will be switched to the fall.
Your fall campus option! Next, consider your options for the fall. We're so excited about the fall abroad programming we offer Spring Scholars in Rome, Paris, Barcelona and London. You'll have the option to spend your fall term with a cohort of Tulane students at an incredible university abroad: The John Cabot University in Rome, Richmond University in London, the American University of Paris (AUP) or (for Architecture Students) the International University of Catalonia in Barcelona. Schools like Northeastern, Cornell, Miami, Delaware, and the University of Southern California also have freshman at these campuses during the fall. I visited both Paris and Rome sites many times and was tremendously impressed with everything I saw. All our sites have absolutely perfect locations, wonderful faculty and excellent student support. Each year, I do a full Tulane orientation session with both groups and also get some great feedback from our students there. 
Spring Scholars in BCN

If you'd prefer to stay stateside, you can take classes as a non-degree seeking student at a school of your choice, participate in a gap semester program, take a semester to work, or maybe participate in service. It's really up to you; we've listed all of your options here
Next, plan a visit to campus during our Spring Scholar Destination Tulane date. These events are tailor-made for Spring Scholars. You'll be able to meet other students admitted into the Spring Scholars program this year, hear from current Spring Scholars, and attend presentations from our abroad sites to get all your questions answered, including the questions you may have about studying abroad in the fall of 2021 in the Covid world. These events will be on campus February 18, March 18 and April 8 and virtually March 7th. 
Your potential fall campus!

I've spent a lot of time blogging about the difference between reacting versus responding in this crazy world of college admissions. We try to take as much of the anxiety out of this process as we can, but there's no way to avoid the ups and downs that come each year. Nearly every student we admit as a Spring Scholar is so ecstatic to join this group. Sometimes I will get a call from a parent that is less than enthusiastic about their child being admitted as a Spring Scholar. I often tell these parents to take some time to consider the opportunity the program presents their student. If Tulane truly is where you see yourself, we'd love to have you join us in January. You can join the Facebook group here. Currently, we have 213 Spring Scholars excited to start at Tulane in just a few weeks! The goal is to have around 150 for this next group. 
Our Tulane Scholars in Barcelona 

Julie, our Tulane Spring Scholar counselor and Lauren Rice our JCU point person! 

Rooftop study space at JCU in Rome from 2019

Snapped this shot while I Lime Scootered to AUP

Tulane on a Dime II: Where to Shop for Cheap

Fri, 11/06/2020 - 15:59
Do not underestimate this mall. It is the best mall I have been to. Ever. 

Welcome back to part II of our blog feature on ways to enjoy NOLA without breaking the bank! Check out our previous post about where to eat for cheap. Today, it's time to get in loser cuz we're going shopping! Thanks again to the students and admission staff who offered their suggestions to this week's post.

Riverwalk Outlet Mall: Y'all, I am not going to lie: the Riverwalk Mall is the best kept secret in NOLA. I went last week and purchased two pairs of overalls for my Halloween costume for $12 total from the American Eagle Outlet. Next on my list was 40% Crocs (sure, you can still knock Crocs. 'Till you get a pair) and then cleaned up on Under Armour workout masks and rounded things out with a sweet 60% pair off New Balance shoes. Seriously, this place has the best deals, it's unreal. 

Buffalo Exchange on Magazine: This isn’t super cheap but I usually go for their sale rack, which has some great stuff for under $10. Especially great for costumes (Tara, '22.) The staff is really nice and if you have pieces you’d like to exchange then they’ll work with you. (Rula from Admission)

Red White and Blue Thrift in Metairie: It’s cheap and there’s tons of options. Bonus tip: buy business professional at thrift stores. You can buy really nice stuff that’s not super used for wayyyyy less than you’d normally pay! (Lela, '22)

Goodwill Industries on Tulane: In terms of the mega-sized thrift stores in NOLA, this one is the biggest and the best. Great for anything from Mardi Gras costumes to Saints gear to everyday clothing and furniture. Under renovations right now, but head back as soon as they reopen! 

So much junk! (source)

Junk's Above: One of the more eclectic thrift stores in the city, this Mid-City spot is prefect for all your knick-knacking needs. From antique suitcases, old-school records to neat old maps, the saying here really rings true: one man's trash is another man's treasure! 

Habitat for Humanity Restore: Habitat Restore has super affordable home goods, which was amazing when moving off campus to furnish your home on a budget. The best find in my house was a wood tv stand for 5 dollars. (Didi, '21)

Tulane Classifieds: This site is a great way to find second-hand things from people in the neighborhoods around Tulane. Anything you find on this site will usually come at a great discount and are barely used. In my house, our couch was originally $1500 from West Elm and we got it for only $75! Both of these places are great because buying second hand is a great way to recycle and help the environment! (Didi, '21)

The Bead Shop on Magazine: Besides having an awesome selection, they have $10 jewelry making classes. (Ali from Admission)

Trash to Treasure is ah-mazing 

Tulane Trash to Treasure
: Tulane Trash to Treasure redirects these otherwise-destined for the dumpster dorm supplies, stores them over the summer, and sells them back to students and community members during the August move-in period at heavily discounted prices. All proceeds then go to local New Orleans-area nonprofits combating some of our city’s most pressing environmental and social problems. Literally everyone wins.

Enjoying the content of our blog? If you're a high school student, current college student looking for a change, or a parent seeking information about the college search and admission process, consider joining our undergraduate mailing list by filling out the form below. Not all fields on the form are required, only those denoted by an asterisk*. 
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14 Things Better Left Unsaid

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 11:03
Hey there! We've just begun the very beginning of reading season here at Tulane and are spending all our days (and sometimes nights!) inspecting your transcripts, pouring over your "Why Tulane?" essays, and reading all the incredible things your teachers and counselors have to say about you.

Speaking of things to say, today we're talkin' about things not to say. I've been doing this whole admission thing for going on sixteen years now, and in that time, there are a few frequently used words and phrases that I might suggest you (and your mom) steer clear of. I thought now, as we're in the thick of college application season, might be a great time to share with you all 14 words/phrases/sentences/ideas that are better left unsaid. 
Disclaimer—if you read this and think "oh no... I have said that! Are my chances ruined?" No! Not at all. This is one of my blogs that aims to calm down this admission frenzy. If any of the statements below apply to you, don't sweat it. Teaching moments, people! And for you parents, many of these things are pulled straight from a webinar I gave last week specifically to help you as parents in the admission process. Check it out!
Now let's get down to it...

"I heard that...." Examples: "I heard that Tulane only admits kids who visit," or "I read that you have to party to enjoy Tulane" or "I heard that Jeff is trolling your Insta stories." You get the idea. I hate to even utter these words, but sometimes the stuff you read online or hear from friends is actually fake news. If you have questions or concerns, just reach out to your school counselor or the colleges you are applying to and go straight the source. We aim to always be honest and as candid as we can be with you.

"Which do colleges prefer?" When it comes to how you spend your time, we at Tulane prefer that you do what you want to. As Director of Admission at Tulane, I will be straight up with you: I don't want your experiences in high school to be a constant stream of things you think will look good on your college application. This whole concept of doing stuff to impress admission officers has reached a fever pitch this decade. So when you want to ask, "Should I take this class or that class? Should I do this summer program or this one?" The answer? At Tulane, we genuinely don't have a preference. Do what you want, what will leave you fulfilled, and what makes you happy.

"Would you rather see the A in the regular class or the B in the AP class?" Heard it a million times. It's an impossible question to answer. We're looking to see if students have found an overall academic balance. Every student has a different personal academic balance that is a four year process.

"He/She/They/You only got in because they are [insert underrepresented minority]." You can also fill in [alumni] or [athlete] or really anything. Enrollment management is a complex thing, so you'll never know what goes on as a student is reviewed by our committee (or what they have included in their application). It helps to remember you are applying for YOUR spot in the class, not applying against other people for one spot in the class. It's just not a good look to ever say someone "only got in because..."

"I need to find my one and only perfect fit." I talk a lot about how I believe there aren't any bad schools, only bad fits. That said, there is likely more than one fit for you. Yes, you might have a top choice, but keep in mind that there are many great schools where you will totally and completely flourish. Don't put too much pressure to find that one perfect place where you'll have that a-ha moment.

"Safety School" There are no longer safety schools. There are Likely Schools, yes. But calling a school your safety a) might give you bad juju and b) kind of belittles that school and others who might be applying to it as their reach school.

"I was rejected!" Always remember this: if you are not admitted to a college or university, the school is denying your application for admission, not rejecting you as a person. Never forget that.

"You admitted Diane and Jack from my school and they don't even want to go there and/or are not nearly as qualified as my son/daughter." Probably one of the biggest things admission officers really dislike hearing.

"I am applying ED, I just don't know where!" That is the same as saying “I want to get married tomorrow, I just don’t know to whom,” or “I want a tattoo, I just don’t know what I want it to be.” If you're going to apply ED, the school should really resonate with you and feel like your perfect match. Then, you can make the educated and thoughtful decision with your family and school counselor to apply early decision.

"WE are taking the SAT this weekend." Mom/Dad/Guardian, I know applying to college is a team effort, but your son/daughter is applying. "They are," not "we are." Unless you're Aunt Becky.

"You only applied to [insert any community college/state school here]? But why? You are so smart. You could have gotten in tons of places." You never know the needs or desires of who you are speaking to. Maybe that school is that student's dream school or maybe family finances require a less expensive university.

"I know my son should be calling, not me, but..." I am just going to stop you there.

"This will look good on my college resume!" I have literally written an entire blog dedicated to this very subject.

There you have it. Again, if any of the above applies to you, don't sweat it! I have heard all of these a thousand times before. Go forth with this new knowledge and prosper!

Tulane on a Dime: Where to Eat for Cheap

Fri, 10/16/2020 - 13:40

A few years back, I read an article that's stuck with me since. Long story short, not everyone at Tulane has money to drop on dinners out on the town, or even lunch somewhere other than our brand new dining Commons. We need to do a better job here about making sure our students are aware of the socioeconomic diversity that Tulane has. Here's the good news: NOLA is pretty cheap, relatively speaking! Today is part one of a three part blog about how you can enjoy NOLA for very little — or any — money. We're starting with cheap eats. Today's blog is all about where you can eat within walking distance from campus without breaking the bank. Between Freret Street, Oak Street, and Maple Street, there are plenty of great spots that students can get some affordable and delicious meals. I surveyed our student interns and a few staff members and here's what we recommend. Let's check 'em out! 

Adam's Street Grocery: I'd argue that Adam's has the best bang for your buck in New Orleans. Their po boys are on Don Phuong bread (iykyk) and they've got a solid selection of snacks and drinks as well. (Owen, '14) 

Liberty Cheesesteaks: One of my Philly fraternity brothers opened this Freret Street staple a few years back and they're still sligin' up the cheapest and best Philly Cheesesteaks south of PA. Get it wiz wit! 

Empanola: This great spot takes Nola bucks so it's already included in your meal plan. But it's also not expensive place in general. They have a great Crawfish empanada! (Y’vonne, '23)

Singleton's Mini Mart: A lesser known spot for the Tulane crowd, Singleton's is just a few blocks off Audubon Park in the Black Peral neighborhood. They serve up a great mix of Vietnamese Po Boys and traditional ones as well. And you can't beat their prices! 

Favori: Another great NOLA bucks spot, Favori has a great spicy chicken wrap and you can walk next door to Insomnia cookies for a cheap dessert. (Y’vonne '23)

El Taco Loco: I think it’s better than Felipe’s (another Tulane staple.) El Taco Loca has great Al Pastor tacos. You can also walk there from campus and sit outside! (Tara, '22)

Lebanon Cafe: The best affordable and delicious Mediterranean food in the city, hands down. Located on Carrolton right next to El Taco Loco. 

Camelia Grill: Generations of Tulane students and alumni know all about this true icon of the affordable Uptown restaurant scene. The line out front might be intimidating, but it's worth the wait for their pecan waffles. They have new outdoor seating added for covid purposes. 

Pizza Domenica: In the pizza wars, Domenica might be the best. Head over for their happy hour half off pizzas to save some.... dough. Happy hour is every weekday from 3-5. (Alex, '21)

Mint Vietnamese Bistro: I love mint. It’s not super expensive. They have big dinner dishes for $9 - $11 and the service is super quick. My favorite dish is definitely the lemongrass chicken with rice. I save it for leftovers the next day too!! (Lela, '22) My addition- try their Vietnamese coffee! You'll be wide awake and happy all day.

Ba Chi Canteen: Order any of their bacos! This place is great because it’s within walking distance of campus and it’s also cool to get to experience the rich Vietnamese culture of New Orleans through their cuisine. (Didi '21) I'll add that this places has the best Bahn mi po boys in the city, for $8!

Barracuda: Come for the legit tacos, stay for the cute garden out back. It isn't walking distance from Tulane, but it's worth the trip! (Ali from Admission) 

Ancora Pizza: The Bianca pizza is my favorite along with the crab meat gnocchi.  Italian sodas are also a treat.  They also have pizza happy hour on Wednesdays with some of their most popular pizzas for only $9. Walking distance on Freret - what more can you ask for? (Becky from Admission)

Enjoying the content of our blog? If you're a high school student, current college student looking for a change, or a parent seeking information about the college search and admission process, consider joining our undergraduate mailing list by filling out the form below. Not all fields on the form are required, only those denoted by an asterisk*. 
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Eight Tips for a Great Teacher Letter of Recommendation

Tue, 10/06/2020 - 09:00
Hey high school teachers! Today, we're talkin' teacher recs. This is actually the second edition of a blog I wrote last September to this group of unsung heroes in the college application process. I've added a few pandemic-y tips in here this time around. While I have never been a teacher myself, I can imagine that there are plenty of teachers who view writing countless recommendations as a pretty daunting task to add on top of your already full plates, especially in the dumpster fire of 2020. This blog should shed some light onto what colleges are looking to glean from your letters and how you can write effective and informative letters on behalf of your students.

First off, I think it's important to mention that the vast majority of teacher recommendations we get are fantastic. Because of this, it's very rarely going to be this single letter of recommendation that becomes the deciding factor in an admission decision. Rather, they allow for our admission committee to gain a bit more insight into what the applicant is like aside from scores and grades. So if you're staring down a huge list of recs that need to be written between now and November, rest assured that you're making a great impact on this student but also you should not stress that the weight of your student's admission is resting on your shoulders.

So, here are some tips to get you going on this year's recs!
Have they made your 2020 life a little easier? What a time to be a teacher! You all truly are the heroes of the Pandemic. I know, it ain't easy writing letters for students when many of you have only seen a square of them in Zoom. So, I guess we might be wondering... has this student make this totally whackadoodle of a year a little easier for you? Do they unmute themselves so you knew they are laughing at your jokes? Did they struggle virtually but you knew they were doing everything they could to make it work? Was there just one small thing they did because they knew you were struggling just as much as they were? If so... tell us all about it. 

Share a specific story: We love it when teachers dive right in to a great story about an interaction or experience you had with this student. It keeps us reading and gives us a great picture of what the student is like. Rather than just stating the student's character traits, share a story that illustrates one of them.

Include a power line or two: When it boils down to it, once we read your letter, we're likely going to pull one or two lines from it that I like to call the "power lines." This is the one sentence or phrase that we'll copy into our summary and notes of the application, or the line that an admission officer will read aloud in committee when they present the applicant. Make sure you've got at least one noticeable power line that can be pulled out to summarize the whole letter. Like it or not, that one line is probably going to be the one that's shared when your letter is summarized. Chances are this line is in the first or last paragraph.

Consider your audience is probably a millennial: Here's something you might not have considered— a very large portion of folks who will have the first read of your letter are 24-year-old admission reps semi-fresh outta college. Plan accordingly.

Avoid application redundancy and remember this isn't a Counselor LoR: We get around 44,000 applications a year at Tulane and frankly, go through teacher LoRs fairly quickly. If we see the same achievements or same topic repeated, we might skim it. Connect with your student and school counselor so you can cross reference what you plan to write about with the student's essay, resume, short answer, etc. We've already got a list of their extracurricular activities and don't necessarily need you to repeat them all to us as they've been listed elsewhere in the app. We'd rather read about their academic character rather than a list of their achievements. Consult with your school counselor for support- one thing admission offices will often advise is that the Counselor LoR is the floodlight, the teacher LoR is the spotlight. Also note that they might be using the COVID-19 section of the Common App to let us know about their current circumstances; you might not need to rehash it. 
Talk up their academic experiences: Building off the above tip: we've got a letter from their school counselor that will mention some of the bigger picture stuff, so the teacher LoR is a good place to spotlight what kind of learner the student is: how they collaborate with others, how they participate in a discussion - do they take over the room, or deliver comments thoughtfully, include others, etc. Focus on the student's behavior, character, and ability to take academic risks in you class in particular. If you have taught the student for multiple years or know them outside of class as a faculty advisor, coach, club advisor, etc., it can certainly be relevant and appropriate to mention outside-of-the-class stuff, but the main focus should be on them as a student of Honors Chemistry or Precalculus or AP Latin.

Cut the Fluff: "My name is Dwight Schrute and I am a teacher at Scranton High School and I am writing a letter to support Michael Scott's admission to Tulane." We know all this already. We also don't necessarily need extensive background on your personal credentials or teaching history unless it's in the context of the student.

Ask the student for a "reflection sheet": Perhaps you ask your student complete a teacher 'reflection sheet' to help remember the good work the student did in the class or any 'ah-ha moments' or challenges/failures they overcame.
Keep it to a page: That's it really; just keep it to one page. 
And now, a few ideas for how to get the ball rolling and the narrative written. Last month, I published a blog about what colleges are "looking for" in our students. Check it out as it touches on a few of the ideas below:
Tell us about how the student interacts with adults: We love learning about how the student carries them self around their elders (for lack of a better word.) We want to know what they'll be like once they arrive on our college campuses, so detailing a story about their maturity or interpersonal skills can be valuable to us. 
Tell us about how the student interacts with people outside of their close social circle: How do they treat younger students? Students in different cliques? How do they treat your cafeteria staff? Their parents? Again, be sure you are making space for the counselor to share much of this, but if you have specific anecdotes about these, colleges won't mind getting your take too. 
Some questions to ponder that we'd love to know the answer to: Has the student demonstrated a willingness to take intellectual risks and go beyond the normal classroom experience? Does the applicant have any unusual competence, talent or leadership abilities? Where have you seen them outside of the classroom? What motivates this person? What excites them?
There you have it, teachers! On behalf of all of us on the college side, thanks for all you do. 

Guest Blog: To Submit or Not To Submit?

Mon, 10/05/2020 - 15:55

The question of the year for college seniors is definitely this: should I submit (or even bother taking) the SAT or ACT? Today's blog is going to give you the most candid answer we can give, straight from the Dean of Admission. Here are two things to remember, first and foremost: One, you are competing for YOUR spot in the class and not against anyone else. If you don't submit scores, you won't be compared to an applicant who does. And two, the answer to this question is not one-size-fits all. For some students, submitting a 31ACT makes sense, for others it does not. The Dean hints at this in question 6. Let's turn it over to Dean Satyajit Dattagupta for the rest of his answers. Thanks, boss!

By they way, you can meet Satya and get any other questions answered at our final Ask the Dean event on October 13th. 


I just cannot find a way to take the test. All of the test dates around me have been cancelled. Will I truly still be considered for admission at Tulane?

Yes, you will. At Tulane, we are 100% committed to give students an opportunity to be considered for the Class of 2025 regardless of their test submission status. Your world has been turned upside down due to this pandemic. 

Are colleges and universities aware of how hard it’s been to register and actually take the test right now?

Yes, unfortunately this has been brought to my attention multiple times. This is why I am emphasizing that you do not need to lose sleep if you cannot take your standardized test. I would focus instead on doing well academically in class and participating in extracurriculars activities that bring you joy.

I’m relying on a merit scholarship and don’t have scores. Can I still apply for the Deans' Honor Scholarship or Paul Tulane Award? Will kids with no scores still get those awards?

All students will be considered for merit-based aid. Our merit award criteria is being adjusted to accommodate test optional students. DHS and PT are highly selective awards. The process involves thorough and multiple layers of review. In addition to the strength of the essay, we emphasize the academic achievements of a student. In this test optional world, we will consider students for this award whether they have submitted their scores or not. 

I have decent scores, but I am really struggling to decide if I should submit them. Is there a general range you’d recommend we submit?

A good score will never hurt you. Our middle 50 % of ACT is a 31-33 (SAT is 1410-1510). We admit students above and below those ranges. I share this number with you to give you a sense of the middle ranges. This does not mean that you should not submit a score below that range. It is just a guideline. No dean can ever tell you that a minimum score is required to get accepted because of the holistic nature of the process. 

Tulane has an admit rate of 11%. Do you think that means 11% of students who submit scores will be admitted and 11% of those without scores will be admitted? Or is it not that simple?

It is not quite that simple. The process is layered and holistic. My advice is to not worry too much all these permutations. It all depends on the strength of the applicant pool. It is too early to tell. 

I am a junior right now. Do you think this policy will still be around next year or is it too soon to tell?

We will make a decision on next year in early spring. 

Any advice for how to not overthink this?

Don’t listen to too many people. Pick a few informed people (hint: your school or CBO counselor)  and seek their advice. Submit an honest application that is a true reflection of yourself. 

*    *    *

This is all great advice straight from the dean. I'll answer the last question too- my advice is pretty simple. If you think your scores make your application stronger, send them. If you don't, or didn't take the test, don't send them. Then, most importantly, trust us. Trust us at Tulane to give you a full and holistic review, regardless on if you have scores or not. Test optional means test optional. Also remember Tulane is totally-self reported for testing. You can wait till you have your scores and then make the decision to submit them yourself, for free. Submit your application (with or without scores) and then trust the process and know that you'll land exactly where you were supposed to. Easier said than done? We got you covered there too. Good luck, all! 

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Top Six Outdoor Spots in NOLA!

Tue, 09/29/2020 - 09:00
If you have read my blog in the past, you know I am big into health and fitness. I even teach a spin class called RIDE at a studio down the street from Tulane. With fall temperatures finally approaching, (all the windows in my house are totally open as I write this!) I love to take many of my workouts outside. Plus, with social distancing measures, now is a better time than ever to be spending lots of time outdoors! Whether it's a bike ride around town, a sunset jog through your favorite NOLA neighborhood or just an afternoon at the park, New Orleans offers a myriad of options for enjoying a life lived outdoors. In this blog, I’ll take you on a quick tour of my six favorite outdoor workout/lounging spots around (and slightly out of!) town. So grab that bike, those running shoes or just your picnic blanket and let’s go!
Crescent Park in all her glory! 

1) The Crescent Park: If you haven’t checked out this park that stretches from the very tip of the French Quarter through the Marigny and all the way down through the Bywater, make this place the first stop on your list. To me, this park is very reminiscent of the High Line Park in New York City. The Crescent Park is 1.4 miles long and over 20 acres set up in a linear fashion along the Mississippi River. The park offers some of the best skyline views of the city and makes for a perfect jog down the main running path. Access to the park is easily on Piety Street in the Bywater or the staircase/elevator right past the French Market. Trust me on this one- you’ll love this spot from the second you cross over the massive bridge at its entrance.

2) Couturie Forest: For the perfect shaded run for any nature-lover, head over to the Couturie Forest in City Park. They bill it as “a natural escape in the heart of the city,” and I think that is spot on. I love running around the wooded trails and getting lost here. Sometimes I end up at a huge lake; other times you’ll find yourself atop Laborde Mountain- the highest point in the city of New Orleans at a whopping 43 feet above sea level. The forest is over 60 acres and one of my favorite spots in town for a run.
Hiking around Jean Lafitte with Drew last month 
/* 1) ? '&' + : ''); var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(script, s);/*]]>*/3) Jean Lafitte Nature Trail: I love a cypress swamp, and you’ll feel like you are miles and miles away from any city when you check out this trail. Located just 30 minutes from town, it’s a great escape for a gorgeous hike through the bayou. I love this trial because you are guaranteed to experience some serious gator sightings. I think the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve is relatively unknown, especially being so close to town. But I don’t mind keeping it that way- the trail and preserve are peaceful and a total oasis. The boardwalk trial through the Barataira Preserve leads you to a stunning view of the bayou. 
4) The Mississippi River Trail- A.k.a. the Levee Top Trail, this has been a common spot to see me when I am training for various triathlons. It starts right in Audubon Park and will take you all the way out through River Ridge, Kenner and all the way out past Destrehan for a nice 40 mile round trip ride. You can even connect and take it up through Baton Rouge. The MRT offers 3,000 miles of trails from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, and our little strip in town is a great spot for a long weekend ride. You’ll see tons of pro cyclists and triathletes out there every weekend. Be forewarned- a few spots are currently close for levee work, so plan accordingly.

Esplanade running trail 
5) Esplanade Avenue: We all know the most popular spot for an outdoor run is St. Charles Avenue and the Audubon Park loop. For a change of pace, replace St. Charles with Esplanade (the streetcar drivers will thank you) and Audubon loop with the Big Lake Loop in City Park. Start your run anywhere in the Quarter or Warehouse District, head down the Moonwalk on the river and lower North Peters and hang a left on Esplanade. This shaded neutral ground will set the perfect scene for a run through the Quarter and Marigny, up through Mid-City and finally arriving at City Park. Feeling strong today? Take a few loops around the Big Lake in City Park before you make your way back down and home. It’s the same path you’ll see if you ran the Crescent City Classic. There is a reason- it’s one of the most beautiful running routes in the city.

6) The Fly: Any Tulane or NOLA college kid will know that the Fly will be on this list. Be sure to stick around for the sunset. It will make you never want to leave as you watch the tug boats and barges mosey their way upriver. Here, you'll see hipsters balancing on their slacks, frat boys playing cornhole, drumcircles, and locals just taking in the perfect NOLA evening. Bonus—bring some boiled crawfish for a true Louisiana experience when they are in season this spring!
Nothing beats the Fly at sunset

There you have it, folks! Now get out there and enjoy the great outdoors that NOLA has to offer!

The splendor of Jean LafittesThe end of the trail in Jean Lafitte. Worlds away from NOLA in only 30 minutes!
The Couturie Forest in City Park

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What Are We Looking for in an Applicant?

Tue, 09/22/2020 - 11:43

So... what are you looking for in an applicant?

A common question, but in my many years in this profession, it's always been the hardest one for me to answer. I've said this before many times in this blog; we never want for our applicants, especially in the Corona era, is to participate in specific activities, write about essay topics or in general just do specific things because they think its what colleges "want to see." There is almost nothing, literally, in this entire process that every university you are applying to is searching for in your application. Each of us have different institutional priorities and university missions and communities we aspire to create. I've also even written an entire blog about the mania that  colleges have created among high school students. Sorry again about that whole thing. 

Now, with that caveat in place, there are character traits that can authentically shine through your application that hint at what type of college student you'll be when you arrive on our campus in the fall. I took some time to survey the admission team here to see what personal attributes we enjoy seeing in your applications. Sometimes, they show up in your letters of recommendation and other times, they shine in a an extracurricular activity you enjoy.  And I'll say it again — these are not checkbox items that we search for in your application. Rather, they might help us to see if you'll fit in here and make a positive impact on the Tulane and New Orleans communities. None of these character traits are things that you can force upon yourself, but perhaps they are things that you can aspire to have. They'll make your college life more fulfilled and will allow you to add a great deal to your personal wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of the community you join in the fall. 

I surveyed the team here, and here's what we came up with. This might be one of the longer posts on this blog, but it was one of my favorite ones to write. We appreciate seeing applicants who demonstrate that they...

Are self-aware: You don't have any control over the family you were born into or the community you grew up in... but you can be aware of it. I won't shy away from the P-word: Privilege. In reading applications, I try to get a sense if the applicant is aware of their privilege, if they come from it. When I read applicants who have travelled the world for service trips and done internships with doctors and hedge funds (nothing wrong this doing these thing), I also want to see that the student is aware that participating in these kinds of things is only possible for a small percentage of people on this planet. The topics of privilege and self-awareness come up a lot in my blog: you'll see it in one of my essay writing tips blog as well as in the COVID-19 section blog. I also talk about it in detail on this webinar at 21 minutes. When you've completed your application, take a look back over it and read it with a few questions in mind: if I come from a place of privilege, am I aware of it? Am I using it for good? And, am I presenting my application in a way that shows a sense of self-awareness and that I can put my experiences into perspective? 

Have an interest in hanging with people outside their traditional social circles. I am going to pick on Long Island for a moment. WAIT don't get mad yet, 516-ers: I positively love Long Island. My grandparents have lived in Great Neck for almost 50 years, my dad grew up on LI and I have spent hundreds of amazing trips, personally and professionally, enjoying all the glory that Long Island has to offer. That said, I find that Long Island is so great that sometimes students from that region go to college elsewhere, but never "leave" Long Island — they seek out friends who are from the same area high schools they came from and share many of their same identities, backgrounds and beliefs. On the flip side, a lot of Long Islanders come to Tulane and create best friendships with kids from Texas and Mississippi and China and Los Angeles. I want students like that — who are not going to stay in the same bubble they were in in high school. You have four years in college where you establish relationships with anyone you choose. Do it, even if it's not the easiest thing or most comfortable thing to do. We learn the most when we learn from people who are different from ourselves. Don't miss the opportunity to create lasting friendships in college with people from different ethnicities, hometowns, socioeconomic backgrounds and, dare I say it, political beliefs. 

Are authentically themselves. This one comes from my colleague Angel Carter: "A lot of times, students go through this process and try to tell us what they think we want to hear and 10 times out of 10... we don't need to hear it! We want to hear from you about your stories and your experiences, not what you think is the most impressive or the most flashy. A tip that I always give, specifically for essays, is write your essay and tell your stories as if you were telling your family or best friend. As weird as that may sound, think about it like this: when we tell our family and/or best friends about our experiences, it's probably the most authentic that we are in telling that story. That's what I want to see in an applicant: you are giving us a sense of who you are and your originality." Amen, Angel! 

Have connected with teachers, young children or others from different generations. Thanks to Valerie Calenda for this one: "I love learning about students who have developed a strong bond with someone from a different generation in their school community or broader community. Bonds with peers are typical, but connecting with someone who is in a different stage of their life requires an open-mind and develops empathy. I once read about a student who regularly conversed with the custodian at their high school. While sharing about these bonds from a first-hand perspective is great, hearing about them in school counselor's letters of recommendation provides an additional perspective on the inter-generational connection." When you get to college, lots of your interactions here are going to be intergenerational. We want to see you are interested in forging these kinds of relationships. 

Are intrinsically motivated. This one's from Owen Knight: "Tulane students work hard in school because they legitimately like to learn. They aren't afraid to geek out about Neuroscience or their upcoming internship. Tulane students are pretty much all capable of getting a 4.0, but they won't ruin their life to do so. They aren't cutthroat and don't care what YOU got on the exam. They'd rather study together to make sure they are all prepared. They work hard in school because... why wouldn't you?" A.k.a., as we said in summer camp, it's OK to leave your "cool hat" at home. I want you to be the student who gets excited about the non-credit field trip your professor offers and rallies other students to go with you. 

Are not afraid to say they do not know or they are still learning. Rula Thabata provided this excellent one. "Oftentimes the college application process can leave students feeling like they need to be perfect, and we’re human and it’s okay not to be. Sometimes we do not know things as humans and it’s okay! For example, struggling in one class and doing better later on in your high school career is something we'll always be impressed by." I agree. I sometimes read essays where it's framed that the applicant has everything nicely wrapped up and totally figured out at 17 years old and all of life's struggles have sun-setted. I've mentioned this in my previous blog about your college essay. We don't expect you to have this whole thing figured out yet. No 17-year-old does! 

Are genuine and not necessarily well-rounded. Here's Sam Reich's suggestion. "When reading applications, I see hundreds of students who have resumes a mile long. They spend 20 hours a week volunteering, they're student body president and treasurer of the theatre club, they spend every summer building homes with Habitat for Humanity, they play six instruments, AND they have a part time job at the local pizza joint on the weekends. There's nothing wrong with being the Renaissance person, but it can sometimes make it hard to know what the applicant is genuinely interested in. Last year, I read an application of a student who had taught herself three different languages and spent time after school tutoring in one of those languages. She didn't have a list of activities a mile long but she clearly spent her time outside of school doing something she really enjoyed. And guess what? She was admitted to Tulane. I could tell that language was her passion and seeing that dedication to one particular area allowed me to learn so much more about her than if she had 16 different activities on her application. All that to say, find your thing. And don't be afraid to stick to it." 

Are balanced. Kristin Guidry offered this one: "I do not mean balanced in the 'well-rounded' sense; rather, I am looking for an applicant that has the ability to manage their time between academics, activities and social interests. One of the biggest challenges first year students face, at any institution, is the ability to balance the academic rigor of college with the abundance of interest clubs and social activities. I had an applicant share with me a couple years ago that when he got to high school he was invited to join a car restoration club at his school and he became completely engrossed in flipping and  restoring cars, so much so that his academics began to suffer because he wasn't adequately managing the academic expectations of his school with his social activities. He further shared that he worked with his guidance counselor to map out a plan for each semester in order to balance his academic workload with his interests and that now planning and balance is just part of his daily routine.  I have stayed in touch with him and he mentioned that he was able to help his roommate balance his interests during their first year! Applicants who can show that they have balance as part of their 'tool kit' in their application interest me. It also tells me that they will have a successful first year on campus." Tulane is going to throw A LOT at you if you come here and it isn't always easy to balance it all — and that's OK! We've got amazing success coaches that will help you find that perfect balance at Tulane. 

Are curious: Henry Marrion is bringing us home with this last trait: "Curious people are the ones who will make the most of their Tulane experience. They'll be most willing to explore the wonderful city that Tulane is located in, and they'll make for more interesting and involved citizens on campus." I think this one is perfect for Tulane applicants. It takes a specific type of kid to want to go to college in New Orleans. Those who thrive here are the ones who are the most curious to discover all the incredible thing this town's got to offer.

Now, with all that said, do not take this as the gospel. And certainly don't go chatting up your school's custodian just cuz you want a teacher to see you and write about it (talk about inauthentic…). But do use this as some light guidance for what we aspire our undergraduate population to be comprised of. Some of these things might come naturally to you and if they do, we'll get a sense of it without you even having to try, just by reading your application. But lastly... don't overthink this. Don't worry if you don't feel like any of the above come naturally to you. Be yourself and concern yourself less with what you think we are "looking for." Because at the end of the day, we're looking for you... to be you. 

Enjoying the content of our blog? If you're a high school student, current college student looking for a change, or a parent seeking information about the college search and admission process, consider joining our undergraduate mailing list by filling out the form below. Not all fields on the form are required, only those denoted by an asterisk*. 
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Our Top Ten Application Tips for 2020

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 15:32

One thing you can always count on us for at Tulane is transparency. We believe there should be no "secrets" in the college application journey. If you check out any of our webinars, you'll see plenty of candid and transparent information that will assist you in the entirety of the application process. I specifically recommend our webinars on Applying to College 101 and College Applications in the Time of Corona. We'll continue to share a robust list of virtual events on this page throughout the next two months. 

So... with September kicking off and back-to-school in full swing, we've brought many of our previous blogs and tips together into this superblog: The Top 10 Tips for Applying to College. Let's go! 

1) Do the optional statement: If the application asks "Why are you applying to [insert school here]?," take the time to write a thoughtful, insightful answer. Show you have done a little research, and really make your case as to why you think said school would be a good fit for you. If there isn't a question like this on the application, then send in a short paragraph as if this question was asked. You can read all about this in detail on my blog entry here. Quick tip — if you are struggling big time to write one of these, then ask yourself, should I really be applying here? TLDR: optional statements are anything but optional. 

2) If we see something, say something: If you had a real tough semester in your personal life during your sophomore year, and we see a strange dip in grades, let us know. If AP Calc wasn't your thing, but you got two tutors and worked every night for two months studying, but still got a C, let us know. The more insight you can give into your grades, the better. The best spot to do this is in the "additional information" section, or if applicable, the COVID-19 section. That said, don't feel like you have to relive any challenging experiences or share a tough personal story for the benefit of colleges. Your school counselor can mention anything to us that they feel is important for the admission committee to be aware of, but that you'd rather not relive via an essay or the additional information section. 

3) Pick an essay topic you enjoy writing about: It's that simple. We're more likely to love reading something you loved writing. We read thousands and thousands of these things, so make sure you get us engaged right off the bat. And remember, sometimes the best essays are the simplest ones — a slice of life or a moment in time. No need to dig for a tragedy, over embellish anything or try to change the world. Just be yourself. You can read all about my tips on the best college essays here. Don't worry about the topics you think colleges "want to see" (they don't really exist) or the topic you are dreading writing about, but your mom or independent counselor is pushing on you. 

4) Less is More: Tulane will likely see over 45,000 applications this year. Schools like UCLA and NYU get 75,000+ applicants. We go through applications somewhat quickly, so sending in a lot of extra stuff won't benefit you. So, how can you best share your story without overselling yourself? Resist the urge to send in multiple essays, 4-page resumes and multiple additional letters of recommendation. I even boldly suggest that you shouldn't feel pressured to fill out every blank on the activities section. Some of the best applicants we see are concise, precise and get to the point. You can read more about what I mean by this here

5) Avoid application redundancy: Take a 30,000 foot view of your application. If your activities section is all about tennis and your counselor letter of recommendation talks about tennis and your short answer is about tennis, what do you think your essay should be about? Anything but tennis! Decide where each "piece" of your application should fall and where your stories, passions and strengths will be shared. This might mean connecting with your school counselor (and it's a good time to get to know them better!). We read tens of thousands of applications a year, and as soon as we see something in your file that is identical throughout, there's a chance we'll skip over the repeated parts. You can also learn how to combine this tip and the one before it to stand out for the right reasons in the activities section

6) Get Engaged with Tulane: I don't mean ask us to marry you. I mean take some time to purposefully research Tulane to find out if we are a good fit for you. We want to see applicants who are authentically and genuinely interested in Tulane. You can easily engage with us by attending one of our many virtual events, a MET Event (with our friends from GWU, SMU, Northeastern and Miami!), or checking if we'll be at virtually visiting your high school or Community Based Organization this fall. The most important thing to keep in mind is be purposeful in your interactions with colleges. Got questions? Let us know, but only if you really can't find the information elsewhere. Don't overdo it; simply research your top schools and meet with admission reps during their travels to your hometown. I posted a whole blog about this last month. 

7) Be self-aware when using the COVID-19 prompt: Rather than re-litigating my thoughts on this new prompt here, I recommend you head straight to my blog written about this very topic. 

8) Be cool, man: Put your best foot forward when you're applying to college (and after you are admitted). I'll help: here are eight emails you should never send an admission rep. Be cool — especially when you don't think anyone else is watching. This goes especially for TikTok, Snapchat, Insta, Twitter — we don't check your social media platforms here at Tulane, but every year, we'll get screenshots of dumb things students put on Snapchat or Twitter. This is, by far, the #1 reason why I rescind admission to students. Just be smart, nice, and treat your peers with some compassion and respect. 

9) Do an Interview: With so many schools going test optional and many high schools going Pass/Fail, many colleges and universities have introduced interviews this fall. If a school you are considering is offering virtual interviews this year, do one! Virtual interviews with admission staff are brand new at Tulane this year and I've genuinely loved getting to personally interview hundreds of our applicants this summer. Any rising senior can sign up here. Participating in these casual (but evaluative) 20-minute interviews allows us to share with you the things we love about Tulane and allows you to tell us all about yourself and share the things you care about and are proud of. Put your best foot forward at these interviews but also don't overthink them — I can honestly say not one single interview I have conducted so far has reflected negatively on the student. Not one.

10) Test optional... means test optional: No one should be getting on an airplane to take this test. No one should be driving great distances to take this test. No one should be risking their health to take this test. We do not need the test from you, we do not expect the test from you and if you do not submit the test, you will still be given every possible chance of admission to Tulane. Remember this: you are competing for your spot in the class. If you don't send in a score, trust Tulane to not compare you to someone who did. We've always practiced holistic review here and we will continue to do so for every one of our applicants. Test optional means test optional. 

Now... get to applying! What are you waiting for?

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Apps 101: The "Why College X"? Statement

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 01:17

Ah, the "why are you applying to College X" question, a.k.a.: the optional statement. You'll notice a growing number of colleges and universities are now including this as a part of their application. As students apply to more and more schools, it's become difficult for us as admission officers to gauge a student's level of interest in our school. Today's edition of App 101 is all about this part of the application --- be sure to check out all five of the previous 101 blogs as well!
The optional statement is a perfect time for you, the applicant, to express to me, the application reader, why you are selecting us as one of your potential schools. So is it worth it to take the time to fill out that question? Let's just go through a (very hypothetical) situation. My boss, Satya, tells me, "Jeff, we have one more spot left in the class of 2024. You can only pick one more student." I come back to my office and notice I have two applicants left to read. They are identical in terms of grades, scores, extracurricular activities, and both have glowing recommendations. One took the time to write an entertaining, engaging, and smart essay about why Tulane is the perfect fit for her, her passion for studying public health, and her love of BBQ Shrimp from Pascal's Manale. The other student? Well, she didn't write anything—at all. The decision for me? An easy one.

Case in point: I renamed this blog and am no longer calling it the "optional statement," because it is anything but optional.

Now, we'd never get to a point where I can only select one final student from two. But, you get the idea. So... now that the question has been addressed, you might be thinking: "what makes a great optional statement?" Let's check out four great ways to write a killer optional statement for any school that you may be applying to. 

1) Tell a specific story. The more specific you can be about the school you are applying to, the better. We can see right though the generic answers, so be specific. Tell me about your tour guide (if you've visited), the thought process that drew you to a college in New Orleans, what resonated with you when you attended one of our virtual events. I remember vividly how one student last year told me about the literal blast of humidity that she felt the second she stepped off the plane at MSY. I have felt that blast a hundred times and I loved how she mentioned it. I like hearing specific stories about your research on Tulane. The optional statement is an opportunity for you to show your interest in the school, so even if you aren't able to visit, which most students can't these days. Be specific about why you are applying. We know New Orleans is a great college town and an amazing place to live. I want hear, why YOU want to live here, what attracts you to New Orleans culture, and how those facets factor into your decision to apply. Remember how your school counselor tells you to "show rather than tell" in your essay? Make sure to do that in your optional statement. I want to read a narrative about your new passion for Public Health or the great interview you had with a Tulane rep.

2) Holler at your hookups. Did your cousin go to Tulane and love it? Did your 9th grade history teacher tell you about his experiences as a masters student here? Do you love following that senior from last year on Snapchat and seeing all her cool shots of New Orleans? Tell us! And tell us who! Feel free to name drop people who turned you on to Tulane, especially if they are current students. Many of us recruit from the same region each year, so it's cool to see who is helping us in the recruitment effort. Our current students and alumni are your best sources of research on our school, so use them and tell us you did. Don't know anyone at Tulane? Find some students to connect with here. Reach out, set up a FaceTime call, and then mention the student you chatted with. 

3) It's not a 'Why College?' statement. As in, if I can read it and replace "Tulane" with "USC" or "Vandy" or "Miami," then it will not come across as genuine. Avoid generic essays here at all costs. We know we are medium-sized and are well respected. Delve deeper; we read thousands of these and can easily tell when it's an essay that's going out to all the schools you applied to (see point two above for tips on doing this). Horror story: last year I got an optional statement that actually said [insert school] where "Tulane" should have been. Yikes. Yes, I know researching colleges in a pandemic is... different, but each of these essays should be different too. 

4) It should not be all about you. Sometimes, we'll get an optional statement that is all about the applicant. It will be a description of a great service project they did or a sport they love to play, and then the last line of the essay will be "and I want to keep doing this at Tulane." You've got the whole rest of the application to talk about yourself, so instead, use this section to speak more on the connection between you and the school. Why is is a great match? Why are you a great fit? It's okay to draw on some of your own experiences, but you should only mention them in context of the school.

Writing these Why College? statements should be somewhat painless. If it's a school you love and can authentically see yourself happy at, writing about it should come naturally. If it's not, reconsider why you are applying there. Have fun with them and hopefully this blog helps in your writing process.

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Apps 101: When to Apply

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 03:00

ow... somehow this summer has sluggishly wound down and we find ourselves almost in September. Late summer also is the time for Princeton Review rankings- our new ones came out last night and we've featured a few above. I can say... I am pleased :-) 
The end of summer also means we are starting to get into college application season. Here’s my first suggestion for you: if you plan on applying early to any schools, take a little time in late August to put some work into your Common Application. Get going on that essay, input your extracurricular activities and start a few of the “Why College X?” statements. Does even the thought of doing this stress you out? I got ya covered. See my previous Apps 101 Blogs on the essay, the activities section, demonstrated interest, and the covid section. I recommend putting a little legwork in during the month of August for two reasons: 1) you know how crazy things are going to get once school starts at the end of this month; 2) if you put in some work now and then take a break from applications, you’ll be able to see your work with fresh eyes in a few weeks, and that’s really valuable when it comes to evaluating how your application will look when the committee reviews it.

Today’s blog is focused on the big question about WHEN you should apply to colleges. Colleges have made things pretty complicated these days with the various methods and timetables for applying, so I am going to lay out for you the four ways you can apply to Tulane and the benefits of each. Let’s go!

Early Action: Tulane receives the majority of our applications under our non-binding, early action plan. EA is a great way to get an early application in to Tulane as well as the biggest benefit of all: an early admission decision. If you apply to Tulane EA, which has a deadline of November 15th, you’ll hear back from us before January 15th and potentially even before our winter recess. If admitted, this gives you your entire spring semester to visit campus, weigh your scholarship options and use your entire semester to make an educated and thoughtful decision as to if Tulane is the best fit for you. Applying EA will make you the strongest candidate for our major scholarships: The Paul Tulane Award, the Dean’s Honor Scholarship and the Community Service Fellowship all require students apply EA in order to be considered. If you feel ready to apply by 11/15, I strongly recommend you take advantage of our early action method of applying.

Early Decision: I got you covered with all of your ED questions in this new video. First things first: if you are considering applying to a school ED, you should not be saying to yourself “I want to apply ED somewhere, I just don’t know where.” That is the same as saying “I want to get married tomorrow, I just don’t know to whom,” or “I want a tattoo, I just don’t know what I want it to be.” Rather, the school should really resonate with you and feel like your perfect match; then, you can make the educated and thoughtful decision with your family and school counselor to apply early decision. Our ED deadline is November 1st and is a binding contract and for us at Tulane, has our highest rate of admission. It’s the ultimate demonstration of your interest in a school and admission committees do take that into account when reviewing your application. Before making a decision to apply ED, you should have a very pragmatic and realistic conversation within your family about financial aid. We offer a comprehensive program for need-based aid for EA and ED, and your family should fill out the Net Price Calculator to see if Tulane is the right financial fit. It's important to keep in mind that ED students have a different pool of merit-based scholarship available to them and as this pool is smaller than other application rounds. ED is also where we admit a large group of Spring Scholars from. 

Early Decision II: In an effort to maintain fairness and ensure that our incoming class doesn’t get too ED heavy (a common complaint in the world of higher education these days) Tulane may offer an Early Decision II. Similar to ED I, ED II is a binding decision, and students admitted through the ED II timeline are committed to withdrawing all applications from other universities and enrolling at Tulane. If the Early Decision II timeline is made available, the Office of Undergraduate Admission will make the announcement in December, and students may apply directly into Early Decision II or switch their current application from Early Action or Regular Decision to Early Decision II. In each of the last five years, we have offered EDII. 

Regular Decision: Applying RD gives students and your counselors the most amount of time to complete the application process as our deadline is not until January 15th. If you need additional time to apply to Tulane, this is the best method of applying. We offer both need and merit based aid to our RD applicants, but keep in mind you won’t be able to qualify for our three application-required merit scholarships. If you apply RD, we’ll get an admission decision to you by the end of March.

And there you have it! Four options, four different ways to apply. If you want my candid opinion: consider applying in the early rounds. With the level of uncertainty in the world right now, having an admission decision from us in December will add a level of certainty to your life right and will give you and your family peace of mind moving into the spring semester. For more info, you can visit this site to see additional details about applying. The good news is that even if you are apply early, you still have at least three months to make this decision. 
Deep breath!

The Best Restaurants in NOLA 2020

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:50
This is always my favorite blog of the year to write! It's good timing too. During the month of August, many of the restaurants below will participate in Coolinary New Orleans and offer some incredible discounts on their favorite meals. Restaurants are a part of New Orleans' economic lifeblood and they need all the support they can get right now so even if you aren't ready to dine-in, most of these places are also offering take out. 
New Orleans is ranked time and time again as one of the best food cities in the world, so picking one spot is always tough. This is a list of my (and our admission team's) personal favorites and allows for a wide range of budgets and types of food. So forget Zagat and Michelin, without further ado, the Office of Admission presents to you...
The 13 Best Restaurants in NOLA: 2020-2021
My favorite restaurant in NOLA is.... a BBQ joint? You bet! (photoBlue Oak BBQ: New Orleans has an excellent collection of great BBQ joints, but in my humble opinion, Blue Oak is by far the best of the best. They have won Hogs for the Cause, our city-wide-BBQ-off, a number of times and their BBQ pork sandwiches are the best in the city. I love their vibe in Mid City- it's casual and family-friendly and has a great outdoor patio with long picnic tables that are very conducive to a socially-distant (and affordable) group dinner.

Mmmmm Saba is so good and now you can get Saba Cares sent right to Tulane! 

Saba: A his restaurant located just a mile from Tulane, Alon Shaya has cemented himself as one of NOLA's best chefs of all time. Saba has become an Uptown staple and offers incredible modern Israeli food which would make sense as Saba means grandfather in Hebrew. The pita and lamb hummus will probably change your life forever. Can't make it to the restaurant? Fret not- they offer college care packages that parents can easily order online that ship straight to Tulane. They have ample outdoor dining for a comfortable, socially-distanced family or friend dinner. 
Everything on the menu at Que Rico is incredible. Every. Thing. (photo)

Que Rico: Oftentimes, when folks think of New Orleans dining, they immediately envision the traditional Creole and Cajun food we are so well-known for. That said, NOLA is also home to some incredible Vietnamese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and now... Cuban restaurateurs. Que Rico cannot be missed as it serves up some of the most delicious Cuban food you'll find outside of Havana. This Magazine Street joint is perfect for a satisfying lunch or dinner and you can't go wrong with anything on the menu- but I recommend their chuletas fritas. Their Cuban coffee is also a can't-miss. My mother-in-law is Cuban and she told me this week that this was the best Cuban sandwich she'd ever had! If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. 
Chien and Nhat grillin' up everything from burgers to lemongrass beef at Farmacy. (photo)
Framacy: Fharmacy has a casual comfort food theme with a Vietnamese twists on some home style classics. The young guys behind the diner counter greet everyone jovially while manning the grills, calling out a regular’s drink order and bantering with each other in Vietnamese. They stack burgers and deli sandwiches, slice lemongrass chicken from a rotisserie for tacos and tend whatever traditional Southeast Asian dish they have as a special. Can't go wrong here. Thanks to my colleague Makenzie for this rec, another great minority-owned spot. 
Chef Jeffrey at Heard Dat (photo)

Heard Dat Kitchen, a true staple of the CBD, is well worth the trip off campus. From iconic dishes that have placed New Orleans on the culinary map to their signature dishes that Gambit Magazine described in their review as "dishes cooked with techniques that enhance flavors" you make one visit to Heard Dat Kitchen and it surely won't be your last. Heard Dat is a Black-owned business that my colleague Aidan says is his #1 in the city. 
Could Taqueria Guerrero be the best Mexican food in NOLA? We say yes! 

Taqueria Guerrero has some of the best, most authentic Mexican food in New Orleans. Located in Mid-City right off the Mid-City street car, Taqueria Guerrero has an extensive menu of all of your traditional Mexican classics for a low, student-friendly cost! It is one of my favorite restaurants, I recommend it to anyone who's new to the city. (Thanks to my colleague Nora for this rec of this amazing Mexican-owned business!) 
AVO is new to me, and jumped into my top ten best restaurants this year after two amazing meals there. Its a can't miss, and close to campus too! (photo)

AVO: Fairly new to the NOLA restaurant scene, AVO has jumped into my top ten after some incredible meals I have eaten here in the last few months. Located on Magazine street just a short drive from Tulane, AVO serves up some of the best New Orleans / Italian food I have ever eaten. The space is also gorgeous- perfect for a date night or Tulane-family send off dinner. AVO's meatballs are truly out-of-this world. Their head chef, Nick Lama, is a Top Chef Master's alumni, so you know you are in for a treat. 
Marjie's is opening again soon and when it goes, Go! (Photo)

Marjie's: In the battle for the best chicken int the city, there are many great contenders, but only Marjie's rises to the top. Their grilled yardbard is the best out there- and I am a chicken connoisseur too. Marjie's menu offers a melange of options but focuses heavily on Southeast Asian bar food mixed with local gulf-style options. They plan on reopening later this month and as soon as they do, put this restaurant on the top of your list to visit. As a white-owned business in a predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhood, they are keenly committed to creating a diverse workplace and investing both financially and through actions in the BIPOC community of New Orleans.
LPG is very local and very excellent. (photo)

La Petite Grocery: Honestly one of the best restaurants in NOLA and a true staple of the Uptown dining scene. They have plenty of outdoor seating and I have eaten here twice during the pandemic and felt totally comfortable the whole time. You can't leave this place without ordering their blue crab beignets. My personal favorite? Believe it or not, its their cheeseburger. Chef Justin Devillier is a Top Chef alum and a James Beard winner, so you know you've picked the right spot. 
There will be your life before the cauliflower at Domenica...
and then your life after it. It won't be the same. (photo)

Domenica: Everyone who knows me knows that, hands down, this is my top pick for the best restaurant in New Orleans. Domenica, located in the historic and gorgeous Roosevelt Hotel, serves up some of the best Italian-meets-NOLA (shall we say Italianola?) food in town. Order the cauliflower appetizer and prepare to have your entire existence on earth altered. After, complete the meal with their prosciutto pizza.
Bywater American is so cute and so good. (photo)

Bywater American Bistro: Last year, Chef Nina Compton was adorned with the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the South and- boy, oh boy- is it well deserved. Chef Nina opened her new spot, Bywater American Bistro, last year. When it opened, I went on a Thursday and it was so good that, I kid you not, I made another reservation for two days later. Quite frankly, they were the two best meals I have had in NOLA in many years. If you can, grab a spot at the bar and watch your entire meal be prepared in the fully open kitchen. My personal favorite is the fried gulf oysters, the blue crab dip and, for your entree, the duck. Prepare to be amazed! This is another one of NOLA's incredible Black-owned restaurants. 
If you are like me and you love Burrata, then you'll love 1000 Figs. (photo)

1000 Figs: Tucked into a tiny room in Mid-City, 1000 Figs has quickly become one of the best spots in New Orleans for healthy, delicious food. You can’t go wrong with the menu – from their incredible falafel platter and burrata plate with fresh herbs to their innovative salads and veggie options, you’ll walk out of the restaurant feeling like you've just eaten on the beaches of the Mediterranean. The menu stays fresh with seasonal herbs and vegetables from local Louisiana gardens. It’s a great way to support local business and local farmers. Thanks again to Nora for adding this incredible place to the list.
If you are looking for some of NOLA's best traditional foods plus so much more,
you've come to the right spot! (photo

Beaucoup Eats: A Black-owned restaurant with just about anything you could ask for, Beaucoup Eats offers all the New Orleans Favorites with some Caribbean and Asian flair thrown in the mix. They also have a hot bar with daily specials and offer "authentic New Orleans’s classic flavors in a modern healthier rendition." I also love that they strive to source their ingredients fresh, seasonal and locally from farmers in neighborhood-friendly gardens. The restaurant focuses on sourcing responsibly and minimizing waste, "while maintaining the traditional flavors our community loves."
There you have it! Now get to eating (or ordering take out!) here in NOLA.