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A Festivus for the Rest of Us! Or, The Impossible Task of Picking NOLA's Best Festival

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 07:30
Ahhhh French Quarter Fest! Here in Louisiana, we like to say that we have more festivals than days of the school year. And we do! Mardi Gras technically kicks off festival season, but things really get going in March and continue into the summer. In honor of French Quarter Fest this weekend and Crawfest last weekend, I thought my annual run-down of the best fests in town would be a big help.

New Orleans is the self proclaimed Festival Capital of America. We do in fact have more festivals per capita here in NOLA than in any other region in America, and this time of year, the problem we usually have is picking which festival to attend each weekend. If you're looking for a comprehensive guide, NOLA.com has a really good one here. I mean, how many cities can you live in that actually require an iPhone application to keep track of all of the festivals?

No matter who you are, I hope you get to experience some of the many festivals in New Orleans. If you happen to live here in NOLA, you have probably attended many of these. If you are planning a visit to town or a trip to Tulane, it's always a great idea if you can coordinate your visit with one of these great events. I know I am leaving a ton off of this list, so buyer beware, this is just my own personal top ten!

10) Tennessee Williams Literary Festival- This one's a hoot. The climax of this festival, honoring the bond between New Orleans and famed author Tennessee Williams, is the Stella Yellin' competition. Participants take to the streets to shout their best and most vociferous STELLAAA, a la A Streetcar Named Desire. The winner usually is not only quite loud, but very theatrical as well. Tennessee Williams fest celebrates the happy combination of art, music, literature, and food that New Orleans is renowned for.
STELLLAAAA!!! (courtesy of Where Traveler)
9) Louisiana Seafood Festival- This one is pretty self-explanatory, but mmmm it sure is good! Whether it's oysters, crawfish, blue crabs, red fish, or really any kid of Gulf Coast seafood, you'll find it here. Celebrity guest chefs put on great demonstrations, and the food is killer. This fest is always part of the Vieux to Do, a weekend of festivals that includes the Cajun-Zydeco Music Festival and the French Market Creole Tomato Festival. It's always an awesome weekend down in the Quarter when these three festivals all take to the stage(s).

Strawberries. Everywhere. (from LouisianaTravel.com)8) Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival- Where else can you get a decadent deep-fried strawberry but at the Louisiana Strawberry Fest? This festival has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is located around an hour's drive outside of NOLA in a small, quaint town called Ponchatoula. Ponchatoula grows some of the best strawberries in America and dedicate a whole festival to them during the peak of strawberry season. Don't miss the crowning of Miss Strawberry Festival either!

FQF Banners just went up! (photo from DavidNOLA)
7) French Quarter Festival- Over 750,000 locals and out-of-towners visit the French Quarter to celebrate everything NOLA during this mega-fest. Every year FQF gets bigger and now claims the top spot as the country's largest free music festival. Over 800 musicians take the stage over this four-day festival that spans virtually the entire French Quarter. While 65 of New Orleans' best restaurants set up shop at the fest for you to get a taste of all the different foods this city has been made famous for. The festival has a distinctly local flavor; from the food to the musicians, FQF really does show New Orleans in all of her glory.

Voodoo! 
6) Voodoo Fest- Now in its 20th year, this is one of the most popular festivals of the year for Tulane students. I attended all four years that I was a student at Tulane, and got to see some amazing acts at this Halloween-weekend music festival. It all goes down in City Park, not far from Tulane's campus. Tulane even offers shuttle buses to get our students out to the fest. Last year's lineup included Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and the Killers, among others. Last month in the semi-same genre as Voodoo is Buku which features Lana Del Rey, A$ap Rocky, Sza, and a number of other EDM heavy hitters.

The best. 
5) Po-Boy Fest- Also a Tulane student favorite, Po-Boy Fest is probably the only festival in America that celebrates the preservation of the humble sandwich. Of course, for anyone who has ever been to NOLA before, you know that we don't call them sandwiches. Or hoagies. Or subs. We call 'em poor (po) boys. Po-Boy Fest occurs on the entirety of Oak Street, just a few streetcar stops up from Tulane's campus. Last year over 30 vendors offered up their own unique interpretations on the New Orleans classic.


4) Jazz Fest- The mother of all New Orleans festivals. Officially named the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Jazz Fest enters its 50th year in 2019. The festival occurs over two weeks in the spring and is home to 12 stages and over 460,000 attendees per year. While music may be the centerpiece of this festival, food and art are close behind. You'll try some of the best food in the world here at Jazz Fest—whether your preference is alligator-on-a-stick or the famous Crawfish Monica, there is something for everyone. And don't be fooled by the name, Jazz Fest is way more than just jazz. This year's headliners include Dave Matthews Band, Katy Perry, Jimmy Buffett, Chris Stapleton, Bob Seger, Santana, Van Morrison, Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Revivalists, Leon Bridges, Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas, Gary Clark Jr., The Head and The Heart, The Doobie Brothers, Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley, the Indigo Girls and.... the Tulane University Jazz Orchestra! (I kid you not, Tulane's jazz band gets to annually play at Jazz Fest!). Best part? Tulane offers free shuttles and discounted tickets for our students.

Jazz Fest from above! (http://www.rockthebodyelectric.com)
3) The New Orleans Red Dress Run- This one takes a little bit of explaining, and is one of those festivals you kind of need to see to understand. The RDR also may admittedly be for olders students to attend after turning 21 years old. Many cities have Hash House Harriers, running clubs that also enjoy imbibing as a part of their run. The Red Dress Run is one of the largest of these events in America. New Orleanians take to the streets and meander through the the French Quarter and the Marigny. The one caveat is that everyone must wear a red dress. That's really it. It's a great fundraiser for a number of local charities, and there really is no point to it at all, except to have fun in the streets with your friends. And it is fun. Really really fun.

2) Crawfest- Did you know that the largest student-run music festival in America is held right here at Tulane? Every April, Tulane students take to the LBC Quad to revel in a day's worth of free food and music. This year was our biggest yet—with two stages, 7 different bands, and 20,000 pounds of Louisiana crawfish. It's all totally planned and executed by our students and is one of our best and most famous traditions on campus each year. This year's headliner were Ra Ra Riot, The Stone Foxes and Welles and previous years have seen Moon Taxi, The Funky Meters, Galactic, Lettuce, and Givers. And lest you vegetarians fret, there are plenty of food options if you don't indulge in eating mudbugs. Every year the Green Club and Veggie Club co-sponsor a large-scale veggie boil during Crawfest. Crawfest is big and has been featured everywhere from the Huffington Post to LiveforLive.



And now for my number one festival in NOLA.......

1) New Orleans San Fermin- Okay, this one also takes some explaining. Every year, in the city of  Pamplona, Spain, revelers take to the streets to run and avoid being gored by bulls. Well, not wanting to be outdone, a number of years ago New Orleans created their own version of the event: the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans! We take to the streets of the French Quarter early on a Saturday morning in July, wearing the traditional white and red seen in Spain. And then... the bulls arrive. Since we are weird here, our bulls are actually women. With bats. On roller skates. Over 20 different teams of Roller Derby Girls from around the country, including the Big Easy Roller Girls, are actually the "bulls" that you are trying to avoid. This one is really a sight to see. I don't even really know how to describe it... it's just all kinds of fun.

Those bulls look pretty. Pretty scary. The opening ceremonies of San Fermin in Nueva OrleansHere's me running from the bulls last summer
Steer clear of the bulls! 
So there you have it, folks! My favorite festivals of the year.

New Orleans is the best town in America for celebrating that joie de vivre that is so pervasive here. I hope you'll be able to come in town to enjoy even a little part of that!

Graduation Bucket List

Wed, 04/03/2019 - 09:00
Alright, Class of 2019, believe it or not, it's already April. That means you're in the home stretch. Many of you will be sticking around for a little while longer to complete one of Tulane's graduate or master's programs. A large group will also join the local work force here in town or get involved with volunteer and service organizations. But for many of you, your days in NOLA are numbered, and it's time to start saying your goodbyes to what has most likely become your favorite city in the world.

So in consideration of the last couple of months you have here, I give you my list of bucket items to check off before you split town. I tried to pick some feasible, affordable, and realistic things to do—so go out and enjoy this town—one last time! Oh, and be sure to say hi to me in the coming years when you decide you miss NOLA too much and you must make a visit. Which you will want to do, all the time.

1) Go see Soul Rebels at Le Bon Temps on Thursday night. If you have yet to see this band at some of the various festivals around town, then you will surely be blown away. It's a killer show and incredible experience that will leave you sweatin' and dancin' for hours. If you want the quintessential NOLA music experience, Soul Rebels at Bon Temps is it. Schedule here.

Bacchanal (source
2) Sunday evening at Bacchanal in the Bywater. I just happen to have done this last week. Grab a group of friends and get a table sometime early-ish (around 7:00). They sell wine by the bottle, there is always a great little band, and you can order food from their amazing menu. You'll wonder why you didn't come here every Sunday.

3) Fly Day Afternoon- Head to the Riverbend Daq Shack before and be sure to bring lots of blankets. I know this seems like a no-brainer to spend an evening at The Fly, but stick around for the sunset with your crew. It will make you never want to leave as you watch the tug boats and barges mosey their way upriver. Be sure to mingle for the last time with the hipsters balancing on their slacks, the frat boys playing cornhole, the drumcircles, and the locals just taking in the perfect NOLA spring evening. Bonus—bring some boiled crawfish for a true Louisiana experience.

Bourbon Orleans Pool (photo from hotels.com)4) Hotel Pool Hop. Grab a small crew and pick a hotel pool and crash it for the afternoon. The Roosevelt, The Drifter and Bourbon Orleans all have great pools, but if you want my top recommendation, go hit up the Ace Hotel in the CBD. This is rooftop pooling at it's finest. Also, take the streetcar there. It's easy to forget how awesome the streetcar is if you haven't ridden it for awhile. Once you have had your fill of sun, go to Wednesdays at the Square, a free weekly concert series in Lafayette Square. Great food, free music, and a great all around vibe. This list is a great one for all hotel pools (caveat- some you might have to sneak into!)

5) Hit up City Park for a day. This has got to be one of the most underrated parks in America. Do the sculpture garden at NOMA, then grab a picnic lunch and eat it on the Great Lawn. Also check out the mini golf course, City Putt and the highly underrated succulent garden inside of the Botanical Gardens. End your day by hiking the little trail in the Couturie Forest to one of the only hills in NOLA and come out overlooking the lake. Then, head out to catch the sunset over Bayou St. John with some po-boys to-go from Parkway. A beautiful day in a perfect park. For other great outdoor spots in NOLA, check out this blog I wrote.

The end of the trail in Jean Lafitte looks out over this. Gorgeous! 6) Hike the Jean Lafitte nature trail in the Barataria Preserve. This is around 30 minutes away from NOLA on the West Bank, and is a great little hike over boardwalks through the cypress swamp. You're guaranteed to see a bunch of gators and other wildlife and you'll end the hike on a raised platform overlooking the vast wetlands that surround our city. Easier than a swamp tour and free too.

7) Walk Magazine from downtown to Uptown on a Saturday afternoon. It will take you a full morning but you'll be glad you did. So many great shops, restaurants, and little things you probably never noticed before. Start down by Felicity and Mag, and walk all the way up to State Street. Stop in the places you've always seen but have never been to. Buy some t-shirts that you can only buy here in NOLA. Storyville, Parish Ink, and Dirty Coast are great spots to do this, but also buy shirts from your favorite places. You'll look pretty fly wearing that Bulldog t-shirt in NYC this fall. I am not sure if Ms. Mae's sells shirts, but if so, buy me one.

8) Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf on Tuesday. I know, I know, it will be hard to tear yourself away from the Boot on Tuesday, but you will be so glad you did. This will be one of the most crowded, sweatiest, and best experiences you've ever had on a Tuesday. Jam out, lose yourself to the music, and have a night that no other college student in America can have.

Crescent Park9) Ride the Algiers Ferry. This will give you the best view of town from the other side of the river. The ride is free and only takes a few minutes, and then you'll have time to meander the West Bank levee. The best time to go is at sunset. Then you can head back to the city and start a night out in the Quarter. Another option is to check out the Crescent Park. You can access it at the entrance near the end of the French Market. Some of the best views of the city can be had from here. Be sure to grab some Pizza Delicious with your friends before you walk over to this fine park. From there, you can Blue Bike over to Studio Be (see next!)

Studio Be (source
10) See Some Art - Three of my top picks: Studio Be, Ogden and NOMA. You've probably seen Brandan "B-Mike" Odums' art all over town. It's inspiring, thought-provoking and absolutely stunning. Head down to his gallery in the Bywater to see an incredible collection of his work. On the opposite side of the city, the New Orleans Museum of Art has such an incredible collection of world famous artists from Monet to Degas. They always have great travelling exhibits as well. Lastly, On Thursdays from 6-8 PM the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has free live music for locals- a great time to check out the galleries and hear some local tunes.

11) Find an organization you can support, even after you leave NOLA. This suggestion came in from my friend Sam Klein. If there is an organization or group you got involved with here through public service, stay involved with it after you leave town. It will keep you connected to NOLA in a great way and you can check back in and volunteer on your future trips back to town. Give to them on Give NOLA Day and stay plugged in so that you can volunteer your time either remotely or when you're back in town for a visit.

12) Write a few thank you notes. If you really connected with a faculty or staff member on campus, let them know how much you appreciated the time they gave you over the last few years. If you interacted every day with someone who works at Bruff, leave them a note to let them know how much you loved getting to know them. A note of gratitude can go a long way. Let someone who impacted your life at Tulane know how much they mean to you. Take it a step further by asking your favorite professor or mentor out to lunch before Graduation. They love that kind of stuff!


Wander. Get lost. Explore. Visit a new neighborhood. Take photos. Make the worlds best "last week in NOLA" album ever. Just take advantage of every last bit of quirkiness, beauty, and mystery this city has to offer. We sometimes get trapped in the Tulane bubble as many college kids in cities do, and for those fortunate enough to get to stay here after college, you'll begin to discover the countless things that we locals get to experience in a post-college world. Take some time to experience as much of this as you can in these last few months if you have the unfortunate task of moving outta town.

Best of luck, seniors. Go forth and explore. See you at graduation!


Me chillin' at the Crescent Park. It's a very neat, industrial-style park. 


Ace Rooftop = heaven on earth 

Explore! More of the trail in Jean LafitteNOLA from the Algiers Ferry (photo courtesy of myNewOrleans.com)

It's Going to be Okay

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 09:00

Now that final admission decisions across America have started to go out, I wanted to post this very important message to every single high school senior around the world right now who did not get good news from their top choice school:

It's going to be okay.

I promise.

I know, what you must be thinking, "that's easy for you to say Jeff." But hear me out. Over the past week, I have gotten emails from students who have been denied or waitlisted from Tulane asking, "what did I do wrong?"And, "what is wrong with me?" The answer to both of those questions is: nothing. Tulane was very excited to send out thousands of letters of admission over the past few months, but we also had to send out five times as many letters to students who were not admitted. Around the world right now, there are students just like you who did not get into the school they really wanted. Students who got denied from their top choice school. Students who are thinking that this is it... it is never, ever going to be okay. I'm here to give you a two-phased approach to how you can re-ground yourself, get back on your feet, and seriously, be okay.

Phase one: Do not let this process define you.

What the college admission committee thinks about your application for admission is not what they think about you as a person. It's not a reflection of your character or potential. Admission Offices around the country have internal goals and requirements that they are looking for, and just because you don't meet them, doesn't mean you aren't going to be a great college student somewhere. In some senses, parts of the admission process are beyond your control. Tulane could have filled up five freshman classes with students who are academically qualified to attend, but we simply cannot admit all those students. You might be applying to a school that is looking for more female engineers and you happen to be a male liberal arts student. Maybe the school has a finite number of spaces in its film studies program and as much as they'd like, they can't take every amazing, aspiring screenwriter who applied. Maybe a school has a board of directors telling the admission office "we need higher ACT scores" and you happen to not be a great test taker. Colleges are not denying you as a person, they are denying your application. What I am saying is, as tempting as it might be to find faults in yourself, try not to. Instead, take a step back, regroup, and keep going.

As my colleague and good friend Jennifer Simpson from Campbell Hall School in Los Angeles wrote to her students, "When life takes a detour, it is only human to feel the wave of difficult emotions that unexpected outcomes often unearth. One of the greatest gifts this process can give you is the ability to come back to that center and that sense of self that this process forces you to look at in the first place. What do you know, deeply and sincerely, to be true and authentic about yourself, your gifts, and your potential? This is sign of an incredibly healthy young mind and strength of character that no college admissions decision can or should ever be able to take away." Amen Jennifer!

Phase two: Know that in all likelihood, you're going to go somewhere, and you're going to get a lot out of it.

Take a look at this interesting article in The Atlantic. According to the article, "there are more than 4 million 18-year-olds in the United States, 3.5 million of them will go to college. And just 100,000 to 150,000 of those (somewhere around 3 percent of the entire age group) will go to selective schools that admit fewer than half of their applicants. College-admissions mania is a crisis for the 3 percent." Three percent! That means 97% of college-bound students are heading to schools that are not considered "selective." The article continues:

"The college-admissions process, which millions of 18-year-olds consider the singular gateway of their young adulthood, is actually just one of thousands of gateways, the sum of which are far more important than any single one. While hundreds of thousands of 17- and 18-year-olds sit around worrying that a decision by a room of strangers is about to change their lives forever, the truer thing is that their lives have already been shaped decisively by the sum of their own past decisions—the habits developed, the friends made, and the challenges overcome. Where you go to college does matter, because it's often an accurate measure of the person you're becoming."

Yes!

After you've had some time, check out this great piece by Frank Bruni about which schools the CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies attended. You might be surprised by the list.

In the end, it's less about where you go, and more about the steps you've taken to get there and what you do once there. This has been said time and time again. Parents, this goes for you too, as was noted in this Huffington Post article. My favorite line from the article: "I am going to teach my children that they can be successful doing whatever they want if they follow their dreams and work hard. Going to the best college won't make that happen for them. Giving them the freedom to flourish in their own way in their own time will."

Even Directors of Admission Get Rejected

I want you to close your eyes for a moment. I know, it might be hard to read this with your eyes closed, but maybe metaphorically close them. Picture yourself nine months from now. You are packing your suitcase to head home from your first semester of college. It probably had its ups and downs, you've made some new friends, and learned a lot about yourself. But, for most of you, and for the most part, you'll be feeling okay. Maybe even a lot better than okay. You've likely gotten over what went down last year and are settling into you first year of college, and the rest of your life. And you know what? You're doing pretty darn good!

I want to tell you one last story. This is a story about a young Jeff Schiffman from Bethesda, MD. At 17 years old, he applied to the flagship university in North Carolina, his dream school. His sister was a junior there at the time and having the time of her life. It was THE school for Jeff. The only school that he could possibly attend. The only place he could be successful and happy. On December 15th 2000 (gosh I'm old) he got a letter in the mail. Said flagship North Carolina school did not want him nearly as badly as he wanted them.

That was it. Life was over. If I wasn't going there, I wasn't going anywhere, I told my dad. Life as I knew it... was over.

A few months later, the kind folks at Tulane University sent me a letter of admission in the mail. In my mind, it was no flagship NC School, but maybe, just maybe, I could be happy there. And just maybe, it would be okay.

Two years ago, I was named the Director of Admission at Tulane University. So I guess what I am saying is: even Directors of Admission get rejected. No matter how you feel today, how you felt this week, and how you think you'll feel next year... you are all going to be okay.

Trust me.

Waitlist... Now what?

Tue, 03/26/2019 - 09:00
Well it is official; our decisions for the Class of 2023 will go out on March 28th. For those of you who are placed on the waitlist, here's a blog to answer all of the questions you may have.

What is the waitlist, anyway? Every year, colleges and universities have a group of students who are qualified to gain admission yet these institutions are unsure yet if they have space available in their class to enroll these students. Colleges monitor the number of students who accept their offer of admission and will pull from their waitlist in order to create the size and desired makeup of their incoming class. Its a necessary part of the enrollment management process at many schools yet we also understand the frustration and anticipation it can cause for our applicants.

So, who is on the waitlist? While Tulane does not release the exact number of students who have been waitlisted, I will tell you that the group is not huge, but there are a sizable number of students who make up this group. The number will get smaller as we ask students if they would like to remain on the waitlist over the course of the coming month or two. I will candidly say that in response to the feeback we've heard about large waitlists, our waitlist this year his half the size of what it was last year.

Is the waitlist ranked? No, it is not. All students on the list are in the same boat, none are necessarily stronger than others.

So, will you go to the waitlist this year? That all depends on one main factor: space in the freshman class. We have a finite number of spaces in the class, and thus cannot admit every single student who is both qualified and interested in Tulane. As we get closer to May 1st, we compare our numbers to previous years and predict how large the class is going to end up. If we are seeing that our numbers are a bit lower than we would like, at that point we can admit a few students off the waitlist. If the numbers are up, it is less likely that we will be able to admit anyone from the list.

What has happened in previous years? Some years, we admit a group of students off the waitlist, some years it is zero. As you might know, Tulane had larger classes in the last three years and as such there was no movement from the waitlist. This year we admitted a substantially smaller group of students so as to not over-enroll the class. This might mean some movement from the waitlist this year, but time will tell. We'll let you know as soon as we can!

If I am admitted from the waitlist, will there be financial aid available? Yes, there will be, for students who qualify based on their application. You can also apply for need based aid through the Office of Financial Aid.

What can I do to strengthen my case? For the most part, the ball is in our court. It will come down to numbers; this is why we need to wait a few weeks to see how many students have replied that they will indeed enroll. There is no need to send in additional documentation at this point. Be sure to reply to every one of those emails we send out asking if you would like to remain on the list. If we don't hear from you, we will assume you are not interested. My personal tip? Only request to stay on the waitlist if you are pretty sure you'll enroll here if you are offered a spot.

Should I come down for a visit to campus? Only if it makes sense for your family to do so. It will not have any bearing on your admission decision. There is no need to meet with your rep on campus or come down for an interview. A simple email letting them know you'll be visiting will do.

When will I know? We will give you a final update by June 1st at the very latest, but hope to do so sooner.

So... doesn't that mean I need to have a backup plan, in case I am not admitted from the waitlist? Yes.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions. Feel free to email your admission counselor with any questions at all you may have. Best of luck!

13 Tips for Parents in the Process

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 09:00
Today's blog is dedicated to all the moms and dads out there. Let me start off by saying one of the best parts about my role as Director of Admission is that I am exactly halfway between the age of the students I recruit and their parents. I can easily recall what my application process was like and the challenges that went along with it. I am also close enough in age to the parents to understand all the questions and concerns that stem from the parental side. That said, I present this blog to you with one major caveat: I am not a parent myself. As such, I cannot possibly understand what it's like to guide a kid through the process of applying to college. What I can say is I have interacted with many parents over the last 14 years in this profession. And from that, I have developed a pretty comprehensive list of ways that you, as a parent, can be a great partner to your kid during the college search process.

This blog is motivated by one of the icons of my profession, Deb Shaver, Dean of Admission at Smith and a mother, who I recently heard speak on this very topic. Some of my tips borrow directly from Deb's talk so give credit where credit is due. 
Alright, here we go.... thirteen tips for all the moms and dads out there!

You do not want to be more memorable than your student. This one says it all. At the end of the day, it is your son or daughter enrolling in college, not you. We want to know what they will be like when they get to campus. We want to know how they'll react to setbacks, how they'll interact with adults, and how they'll carry themselves into adulthood. If you end up taking over the admission process (and that includes interactions with your school counselor) it becomes difficult for us to judge the student on their own merits. Occasionally some parents go so far that an admission officer might stop and think "man, if this is what mom is like in the admission process, what will she be like if her son actually enrolls here?" That's the kind of thought you don't want your child's admission counselor to ever have. 
Let your student do the legwork. This is their first foray into life outside of your roof. Let them call admission offices with questions, interact with tour guides, etc. Yes, we know you'll have to pick up the slack sometimes and we fully expect the complexities of financial aid to fall on parents, but let them give this one a shot. It's likely going to be one of the first major life tasks that they take on. They might make some mistakes along the way. That's OK. All the guidance and support you’ve provided your child up until this point has prepared them to take the reins. They’re ready to take charge of their college search because you’ve done everything you can to prepare them. 
It's OK to contact us, just don't fake being your son or daughter. I was walking by the main admission desk last week and happened to pick up the phone that was ringing. A (very obvious) mom-voice on the other line said "Hi, I am calling to check on my application status." Now, I know what the voice of a 50 year old lady sounds like. I responded with, "Sure... what is your daughter's full name?" "Actually, it's for my son" she replied. I have to think the parent would eventually realize that I knew she was not a teenage boy, but I digress. The same goes for emails. It's OK to email us from your account with questions, but don't sign it with your kid's name. The tone of a parent email is drastically different from a student email. So is your handwriting, so that thank you note I got from 17 year old Ralph written in cursive was not convincing. We love hearing from parents in this process, and it's okay to contact us. But, don't try to pretend to be your kid. 
Avoid using the word "we": When chatting with admission representatives, "we" are not taking AP Calculus. "We" are not applying to six schools. Tulane doesn't offer formal interviews with admission staff here, so we meet with students and parents together. Again, allow them to take the reins in this process and be an individual and memorable applicant on their own. We love hearing from parents during our on-campus meetings, just make sure it's a family effort. 

Everyone's kid is the best. Usually this one starts with "I know you hear this all the time, but..." Yes, yes I do. All the time. This goes back to my caveat that I am not a parent myself so I cannot understand the love that you feel for your kid. I get that. But, I have never sat with the admission committee and said, "You know, I was on the fence about this kid but then his mom called and told me how kind he is and how great/sweet/thoughtful of a kid he is." I know there is such a strong parental desire to do what's best for your student and I know you want to advocate for them for admission or for scholarships. But again, I've never in all my years had a parent tell me their kid is average. Resist the urge to share with admission officers how wonderful you think your own kid is. Their application, recommendations, and academics will speak for themselves.
Recognize this process has changed from when you applied to college. When I applied to Tulane, the admission rate was triple what it is now. I probably wouldn't be admitted if I applied to Tulane today. The process of applying to college was a lot different in the 80s and 90s. There was less of a mania, the concept of "enrollment management" hadn't really entered the vernacular yet, and students weren't applying to 15 schools. Literally everything has changed, so the "back in my day" approach won't work. Set your expectations accordingly.

Expand your college horizons: There are over 5,000 universities and colleges in America. I have blogged many times about how there are no bad schools out there, only bad fits. Just because the school is not a top 50 in USNews rankings, or maybe you've not even heard of the school before, does not mean your son or daughter won't have transformative and incredible experience there. I've blogged about the concept of everything being okay in the end before and I think it's worth a read. We're so lucky to be in a country with so many amazing options from community colleges to Ivy Leagues to big public schools. Along those lines...

More selective doesn't mean better. It just means more selective. This one's a great Deb Shaver quote. Rates of admission are not related to how "good" of a school it is or the experience your son or daughter will have there. Avoid looking at admission rates as a gauge of the school's strength.

Don't add to their stress. Chances are good that your son or daughter isn't dying to talk with you about the college application process. Trust that they are doing what needs to get done. Pick one night a week that can be designated as college night. Maybe Sunday dinners are the right time to have a college check up. This will help decrease their anxiety in the process. If they're looking for other ways to de-stress throughout the process, I've got them covered.

Be kind to your school counselors. Your student's school counselor will be their best advocate. Be great partners with them (also going back to tip #1) and foster a relationship that is professional but friendly. Many school counselors have a lot on their plate, especially those at large public schools.

Talk to your kids about consent: Sexual assault is a major problem on college campuses across America. Any school that tells you that their campus does not have sexual assault issues is not being truthful with you. Colleges should be prepared to tell you about their resources and you should prepare your student to be knowledgeable about them. Talk to your sons and daughters about Title IX and what to do in a situation where they need to report a concern. Talk to your sons about the concept of consent and how to be an ally. Tell them that, at Tulane for example, 74% of sexual perpetrators are friends, acquaintances, or romantic partners of the victim. Make sure they are fully cognizant of the concept of consent. And definitely communicate how the use of alcohol can result in someone not being able to give proper consent.

Help plan the college visits: I have talked a lot about how mom and dad should take a back seat in the college process, but here's one spot where your kid will truly appreciate your assistance: planning the college tours and visits. Southwest Airlines flies direct to NOLA from 24 different cities, usually for reasonable rates. We've got some great hotel discounts, too. Plan a great trip for you and your kid to visit campus. Pick a few good restaurants, find a couple fun things to do, and if the budget is there, make a little vacation out of it. I've got you covered for your two day trip to NOLA. If money is tight, plan a great day visiting colleges near your hometown with a few fun activities mixed in.

The sticker on the car is not your grade as a parent. Aside from tip #1, I think this last one, another wise nugget of wisdom from Deb, is the most important one you'll get. Someone whose kid is going to Harvard is no better of a parent than the one whose kid is going to Santa Monica City College.  Everyone finds their own path to college. This is your kid's first chance to fly. You've done a great job getting them this far and don't think that "how good of a school" they go to is any indication of your skills as a parent. If you are still concerned about this, Amazon is having a great deal for Harvard stickers, only $8.99.

There you have it! Again, I am no parent myself; this blog is purely from an admission perspective. I hope this helps some of parents out there get a sense of how you can best partner with your son or daughter in this process.

Queer in Admission

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 15:26
There is a lot of pride here in the Office of Admission at Tulane. Today, I wanted to introduce you to some of the students and staff on our team who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Meet six people who are Queer in Admission! You can get to know all about the queer community at Tulane and in New Orleans by joining our on-line chat this week. The chat is completely anonymous and is a great opportunity for everyone—gay, straight, questioning, unsure, etc.—to connect with our team and learn all about experiences we've had. Let's meet some of our team, a few of whom will be chatting next week!

Shahamat at HRCShahamat Uddin, Roswell, Georgia; Majoring in Political Economy and Gender & Sexuality in the Middle East. I am currently doing an exchange semester in Washington, D.C. interning at the Human Rights Campaign. Last semester, I studied abroad in Morocco where I was able to hone on in my queer activism, working with an LGBTQ community that is criminalized by their national government. At Tulane, I have found acceptance for my identities through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Center for Academic Equity, and Center for Public Service. I am affirmed by the communities I am in such as Tulane Emergency Medical Services, Rhyme Verses Rhythm Slam Poetry Team, and the Muslim Students Association.
Favorite Queer spot in NOLA? Oz.
Any advice for a prospective LGBTQ student considering Tulane? Wherever you go to college, dive deeply. As LGBTQ people, we often have to live dual lives, but the truth is, you don’t have to be the same queer person you were back home. Use college to meet people in the community. Being a part of the LGBTQ community means that you already have a network of the some most accomplished people in their fields. Homophobia, transphobia, and overall LGBTQ discrimination does not exist in a vacuum at Tulane, or any college across the world, but Tulane will be there for you when it happens. The same applies for my fellow queer people of color. Our intersecting identities makes it really rough, but you are never in it alone. College is a time to learn about ourselves and Tulane taught me how to deal with adversity. We can either let it destroy us or we can use it to build our character and come away stronger; the power rests within us.

Danny on campus at Tilton Hall 
Daniel Shevlin, Bradenton, FL; Majoring in Musical Theater and Political Economy. My experience as a gay man in New Orleans and Tulane has been shaped by the theater community. I have found such a supportive and engaged community of LGBTQ+ persons, as well as allies, working with numerous theater companies in the area. I have been able to grow my personal network to include people outside of Tulane’s collegiate community. I am so grateful for the friendships I have maintained from the theatre and LGBTQ+ communities in New Orleans, and I know many of these will last far beyond my years as a student.
Favorite Queer spot in NOLA? The AllWays Lounge. Best drag shows!
Favorite Queer event/experience in NOLA or at Tulane? Southern Decadance! It is one of a kind!
Any advice for a prospective LGBTQ student considering Tulane? The best part about the LGBTQ+ community at Tulane is that it provided a safe and encouraging environment to discover more about myself while transitioning to college, but at the same time it didn’t limit me to being defined only by my sexuality.

Jorge at Mardi Gras Jorge Nunez, Admission Counselor, Cidra, Puerto Rico: Hey guys! I am Jorge Nunez and I am an admission counselor at Tulane University. I am also a current student working towards my Masters of Liberal Arts. As soon as I moved to New Orleans, I knew this was the perfect place for me. The city embraces diversity and you can truly be yourself. Tulane is no different. As a staff member and a current graduate student, I have always felt welcomed, and I love that I can share that with other queer students that are looking for a community that will welcome them.
Favorite Queer spot in NOLA? Phillips Bar.
Favorite Queer event/experience in NOLA or at Tulane? I love Red Dress Run! This event is not necessarily a queer event, but it is a good example of how the city really embraces queer culture. The purpose of the event is fundraising and a lot of people actually take part of the race, but everyone else just uses it as an excuse to wear a red dress and hang out in the French Quarter.
Any advice for a prospective LGBTQ student considering Tulane? Do some research about the different queer-oriented programs on campus, learn about the O (Office of Multicultural Affairs), events and other support groups on campus. Reach out to current students and ask them about their experience on campus, and of course feel free to contact me as well.

Corinne (on right) and their partner! 
Corinne Waston, Admission Counselor; Philly PA: I’m a queer non-binary admission counselor from outside Philadelphia. Coming to Tulane as a student opened up a world that I didn’t even know existed in high school. Going from being a lone queer to having a loving, substantive community truly changed who I was and how I thought. Now that I’m a staff member, I enjoy helping all young people navigate the hellacious process of applying to college/growing up… but I especially love working with queer youth. I’ve been there—trying to figure out who I was—and I know it can be an uncomfortable and trying time (read: it ain’t cute). Tulane and New Orleans can help you grow into the adult you want to become!
Favorite Queer spot in NOLA? The Orange Couch coffee shop.
Favorite Queer event/experience in NOLA or at Tulane? So many to choose from! Seeing Laverne Cox speak through TUCP; making friends through OGSD clubs; meeting my partner through an OMA-sponsored mentor program; queer movie nights. There is a home for every kind of person of any identity, both on campus and in the city!

Neill (middle back row) and his LGBT Kickball team! Yes, that is me in the front row. 
Neill Aguiluz, Associate Director of Admission Operations; Baton Rouge, LA: When I was a student at Tulane, I didn't spend much time in specifically queer spaces, and it's really because I always felt comfortable and welcome on campus and all over New Orleans. I get asked a lot by students about gay or queer neighborhoods, but it's hard for me to answer with any one place because it feels like queer culture is spread throughout the fabric of the city itself. What's so nice is that I've always felt that New Orleans and Tulane are places where you can be completely yourself, no matter what that means for you.
Favorite Queer event/experience in NOLA or at Tulane? Stonewall Kickball! It's my first time joining an expressly queer organization, and I've really loved getting to meet similar people who still come from different backgrounds and walks of life.


Thanks for meeting us, hope to chat tomorrow! I'll be joining the chat as well to talk about my experiences with all things queer at Tulane and in NOLA.

One last photo... Here is my partner Drew and I about ten minutes after I asked him to marry me last month!
Luckily he said yes. 

Some Thoughts on Social Media

Thu, 03/07/2019 - 10:50
Sigh. (sourceAnother Mardi Gras has come and gone, and as always, it was another great year. In following with the Catholic tradition on Ash Wednesday, many folks around the world will give up something (meat, for example) during the Lenten holiday leading up to Easter. This year, I'll be giving up Mardi Gras. JK, I'll be giving up social media.

Also JK.

If I can't give it up for good, I can at least give y'all seven things to consider in navigating this complex world of social media that we are living in. I've been thinking about social media a lot recently, particularly its impact on the minds and morales of high school students. I am glad I went to high school in an era pre-Instagram, so take my thoughts here with a grain of salt. It's my hope that following a few of these ideas may lead to a happier, more fulfilled college experience.

Don't stress too much about those class of 2023 Facebook groups. I can tell you this first hand: students painstakingly select their 20 Facts and, naturally, you'll select ones that make you come across as the way you want everyone to view you. So, don't be dismayed if you read other students facts and it doesn't line up with who you are or who you want to be. No one is listing a fact that says, "I come from a middle class family so I won't have a ton of extra money to eat out in NOLA," or, "I am worried about how often I'll be expected to go out at night," or, "I am nervous that people won't accept who I am in college." We only post the stuff that makes us look fun, cool, easy breezy and normal. No one is like this all the time IRL. There are a lot of people who look at these groups and grow concerned with who they'll be going to college with. Don't stress too much about the way you present yourself or how you perceive everyone else in the class. On the same subject, you'll meet your crew in college, just not over GroupMe, not over social media and not even in person in your first week at college. For most people, it takes at least until sophomore year to really find your core group of close, life-long friends.

Don't post all of your admission decisions on social media. I've blogged about this one before. With the Ivy Leagues releasing at the end of the month, many of you might be admitted to additional schools soon. And when you are, rejoice! Celebrate! Scream and yell with your family. But don't take to social media and say "got in to X school! and Y school, too!" Because for every kid who gets into selective schools like Tulane, there are ten times as many who are not going to get the same good news. Be cool, be compassionate, be respectful of those around you and those in your community who got the small envelope.

Don't worry too much about finding a roommate on social media. If I could give any stressed-out roommate finder one piece of advice, it would be this: GO RANDOM. Trust  me. Go random. Why? If you go random, it takes 100% of the pressure off both immediately and when you actually move in.  Short term, you won't have to stress right now to find the perfect roommate (based on their... Netflix shows?) If you find a roommate who you think and expect will be your best friend, you are potentially setting yourself up for some big challenges down the road. You want your roommate to be someone you get along with but not your best friend. Your roommate should be  respite- someone outside of your close social circle. The pressure to make things perfect is totally gone when you go random and trust me, roommate situations are never perfect.

Don't forget that first semester of college is the world's biggest "my life is amazing" social media competition. If there is one thing that meditation has taught me, specifically the meditation app Calm, it's that social media is you comparing your worst moments to everyone else's best moments. Once you arrive at college, the race is on. Who can share the best stories, who can snap the most epic football games and who can show off just sitting around and soaking up each other's awesomeness? Here's the reality: college is going to have its ups and downs. Even at a school ranked #4 for happiest students, our students here have good days and bad days. But on social media, we never share the bad, only the good. So next time you are feeling the inevitable blues that you'll get in your first year, stop reaching for the phone because all you'll see there is everyone else's manicured, curated, best-of-the-best moments. Instead, go for a run. Go to the gym. Hang with your (randomly assigned) roommate. Meditate. Just put down the feed; you'll be glad you did.

Don't plug your phone in next to your bed. There are hundreds of studies out there about the negative effects of sleeping with your phone next to your bed and I am not just talking about the ones that say you could accidentally light your pillow on fire. I am referring to the idea that filling your brain with other people's cat memes and avocado-toast-on-portrait-mode posts right before bed is not healthy. You will not sleep well right after reading news about politics in America. And trust me, you don't want this to be the first thing you read in the morning either. Instead, get a (gasp) clock radio. In the words of our gradation speaker two years ago; "nothing good comes from Tweeting at 3 am." Amen. You'll be surprised how much making this one small change can have an immensely positive impact on your daily life. Give it a shot.

Stop worrying about your followers. Who cares how many people follow you? Who cares who these random people are? Post stuff you enjoy that your friends enjoy. Stop worrying about the perfect angle or which filter looks different from the other. One big tip I have is this: take fewer photos. When you take eleventy photos of the same thing, then you are going to go back in and examine the minute differences between each one (thereby wasting even more time) before picking the one you think is perfect and then deleting it because you might have possibly picked the wrong one. (Jeff Schiffman is most guilty of this more than anyone else.) Instead, just take one photo. There are numerous studies out there that say the fewer photos you take, the more you actually will remember.

Think before you post. Take a guess as to the most frequent reason I rescind admission to students. Drinking at prom, you guess? Cheating on a final exam? You'd be wrong on both fronts. The most frequent reason I rescind admission to students is dumb stuff you do on social media. Listen: we are not trolling you. We are never looking for reasons to get you in trouble. Almost 100% of the time, someone else screenshots something offensive you have said on social media and sends it to me. I (think I'm) one of those cool mom-admission counselors and I can see the best in anyone in this stressful college application process. But being a jerk on social media to your peers in your community? This is one thing we have little patience for. How you behave on social media is important to us. I know people make mistakes in the past (we literally all have) and I know everything can be a teaching moment. But stuff like this? It gives us here in the office of admission major pause and it reflects poorly not only on you, but on your entire high school and community. Think before you post.

Admittedly, I could stand to take my own advice with a few of these tips, but I'm working on it. Whether or not you ever decide to take a social media hiatus, these are some steps you can take that will improve your social media use as you prepare to head off to college.

Myths of the Gras

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 09:30
Happy Mardi Gras from team Tulane Admission! Happy Mardi Gras, world! Another carnival season is upon us and the city is bursting with excitement. I sometimes forget that the rest of the world doesn't have Mardi Gras like we do. In terms of importance for us, it's like Christmas, New Years and 4th of July all wrapped up into one. Not in town for the big day? Listen to our Spotify playlist with all the best tunes of carnival while you read this blog.

If you have never been to Mardi Gras here in New Orleans, there are a few myths that I think would be useful to dispel, because there are a lot of common misconceptions out there. This year, we've even made a great video so you can learn the truth about the Greatest Free Show on Earth!



1) Mardi Gras takes place on Bourbon Street: FALSE. Mardi Gras takes place everywhere. I LOLed on an airplane this week when a woman asked me when the Mardi Gras parade was. As if there was, like, only one of them. We also have a little joke when you ask "can you give me directions to the Mardi Gras?" Mardi Gras is everywhere. It is a state of mind, a place here, there and everywhere. In the most literal terms, Mardi Gras can be located along the parade route. There are over 80 different parades, or krewes, as we call them, during Mardi Gras. The main parade route runs from Napoleon Avenue (just a mile from Tulane) and goes all the way down St. Charles Avenue into the Central Business District, down Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter and then to the final stop wherever the krewe's ball may be. Some parades take different routes (Mid City for Endymion, Treme for Zulu, not to mention all the parades in the suburbs). One parade, Thoth, even takes its route all the way Uptown to Children's Hospital so the young patients can experience Mardi Gras even though they are hospitalized.
2) Mardi Gras is raunchy: again, FALSE. Admittedly, there are certainly parts of the Gras that get wild. But that is not the case for a lot of it. In fact, the culmination of many of the Mardi Gras parades is their famous balls. Nearly every parade will have a ball at the end of the parade route. Men dress in tuxedos, ladies in formal gowns and the party will start a few hours before the parade literally rolls into the ball. Balls are held all over town, many at the convention center and some at the Super Dome. You've never seen a party like this before either- some are attended by over 10,000 people and are headlined by big-name acts like Carrie Underwood and Maroon Five, both of whom have played at balls recently. Mardi Gras is about costumes, parades, balls, floats, food, music and culture. It is so much more than just a party. 
3) Mardi Gras costumes are rare: FALSE. Just ask any Tulane kid what they wore during Mardi Gras. Wild haircuts, fun jerseys, colorful leggings and outlandish costumes are commonplace among our student population. Mardi Gras day (Tuesday) sees the Quarter filled to the brim with costumes galore. People spend all year working on their costumes for the day. Every year at noon on Fat Tuesday are the Bourbon Street Awards, which name the best costumes of the day. A few years ago the winner of the best group costume... um... well you may recognize him. That's right, the Bulls and Matadors won best overall group costume! This year my same group will return with A.C. Slater andcrew... stay tuned!
Here's Adam, one of our admission reps, as a 610 Stomper. In his words: ""Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Moves"--That's the slogan of the 610 Stompers and of my new group of over 130 friends who I will have the pleasure of sharing the streets with this Mardi Gras! In their tenth year, the Stompers are a group of every day guys looking to bring joy to our fellow New Orleanians through dance, and I look forward to marching in seven parades in my first year with these incredible guys!"

4) Mardi Gras is not for families: this is the most common misconception of all, and certainly the most FALSE.  Mardi Gras is, above anything else, a family holiday. The streets of Uptown are lined with children of all ages, and it is a huge part of coming of age in the city of New Orleans. You'll see kids on floats, on ladders, catching beads, and running through the streets donned in all green, gold and purple. Mardi Gras is more of a family holiday than people outside of New Orleans realize.

Here is Kristen, one of our admission reps, dispelling one of the biggest myths of the Gras. Mardi Gras is for every age; especially kids! "This year will be even sweeter because my daughter will be riding on the queen's float as a 'Lady in Waiting' in the Krewe of Thoth that parades on Sunday."
Mardi Gras is my most favorite time of the year. The food, the parades, the music, the people and the culture that make this city so unique really come out to shine in this month-long celebration  It's always a favorite of our students, too. If you have never been, add it to your lifetime bucket list. Every American should see the REAL New Orleans Mardi Gras at least once!

Hail Bacchus! The Baccagator float parades through the Warehouse District.The Mardi Gras Tree on campus in full bloom post-Gras. It is a big tradition on campus to throw your beads in this tree in the Academic Quad after you have walked back from the parades. The Tulane Marching Band marches in many Mardi Gras parades every year.

Endymion! Here is the inside of the ball. (from Pinterest
My Fat Tuesday homemade glitter shoes. Don't be jealous.
Also doubles as Saints shoes.



TBH, the Friday before Mardi Gras is usually the longest work day of my life. Get me to those parades!

Two Days in NOLA

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 09:00
One of the most frequent questions I get from prospective students and their families, in addition to where should we eat in New Orleans, is: "We've never been to NOLA before... what should we do?"

New Orleans is a fabulous town in so many regards, so it never surprises me when we end up on the list for Travel + Leisure's World's Best Cities and land in the top ten. Last year, the New York Times said we were the #1 place in the world to visit. It would take well more than four years to experience everything that New Orleans has to offer. I've been here for 16 and still discover new and incredible things to check out every day. (By the way, want to see all my favorite spots in town? Follow my NOLA here, and there rest of the admission office here!)

But... what if you only have two days in town? At the risk of providing you with some of the more typical tourist options, I am going to offer you a nice itinerary for the first-time visitor to Tulane and New Orleans. Consider yourself a non-typical tourist, but someone who still wants to see the most important stuff.

So, let's get going with Two Days in NOLA for the First Timer!

Day One:

Arrival:

Arrive in NOLA in the early afternoon and check into your hotel. We've got a number of hotels that we recommend that offer great discounts. If you've never been to New Orleans before, I would recommend staying somewhere close to downtown. New Orleans is a very walkable city and staying downtown will give you access to all we've got to offer. I'd recommend staying in the Central Business District (CBD) or the Warehouse District over staying in the French Quarter. The Quarter is amazing and definitely a place to check out during your time in NOLA, but can get verrrrry busy and difficult to navigate, especially on the weekends. The CBD and the Warehouse District are just a few blocks from the Quarter and provide some of the best hotels in town. My top three picks would be the Ace, the Old 700 or the Pontchartrain Hotel for something a bit closer to campus. All three offer Tulane discounts and all are super local, boutique-y and give you that great, authentic NOLA vibe. Skip the big box hotels if you can when you're here... you're in NOLA!

Afternoon:

You're heading to the French Quarter to spend the afternoon around Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral. Jackson Square is the center of everything in New Orleans. Do a full lap around the square, peek in St. Louis Cathedral (which dates back to 1718) and check out the local artists, performers and tarot card readers that post up around the square. Then, dig in to some beignets at Cafe du Monde, because no NOLA trip is complete without them. Mosey down to the French Market (which closes at 6 pm) for a bit to grab some tchotchkes and fresh oysters. Before it gets too late, stroll back up Royal Street (one of NOLA's 15 must see streets) to jam out to the street performers and check out the amazing stores like Cohen Antiques and MS Rau Antiques. If you must, head over a few blocks to Bourbon Street to say you saw it. And then run away from there very quickly because you are not a tourist and only tourists hang on Bourbon.

Evening:

Go eat. I have a whole blog dedicated to this. I could save you some time and just say go to Domenica.

Royal Street in all her glory. Photo: Four Seasons of Food blog
Day Two:

Morning:

Time for your campus tour! I recommend the 9 am tour before it gets too hot in the afternoon. Sign up here. After the tour, be sure to spend a little time in Audubon Park, Tulane's front yard.

Afternoon:

Now it's time to really act like a local and head over to Magazine Street. Magazine is 6 miles long and has some of the best shopping, dining and drinking in town. It's also the place you're most likely to see Tulane students hanging out during their nights and weekends. Once your campus tour is wrapped up, head back to the Office of Admission, and then right out front to St. Charles Avenue to pick up the downtown streetcar. It's $1.25 and a great way to see the city and you can get a ticket and see arrival times on the new MTA app. It's also the nation's only national historic landmark that is mobile. Hop off the streetcar at Washington Street. This will put you in the heart of the Garden District, another must-see. Stroll around to see Commanders Palace and the beautiful homes that surround it, particularly on Coliseum, 2nd, 3rd and 4th streets. In just this area alone, you can find the home where Benjamin Button was filmed, Ann Rice's house, Sandra Bullock's house, Beyonce and Jay Z's house, and Archie Manning's house.

Once you've had your fill of the Garden District, keep walking away from St. Charles until you hit Magazine Street and make a right. The area of Magazine Street between Washington and Louisiana is where it's AT for lunch. Want to really get a taste of Tulane? Head straight to the Rum House for lunch. Or Basin Seafood. Or Red Dog Diner. Or Slim Goodies. I could go on and on. If you instead make a left on Mag., you'll soon find District Donuts, Stein's Deli and all kinds of other great dining options. The list is endless.

One of the incredible houses you'll see in the Garden District. This one belongs to Sandra Bullock. Photo: Zimbo.com
Evening:

You've had some time to nap off your full day of eating and walking, and maybe you head to the gym, or even take one of my spin classes. Now, it's time to see what this music scene is all about in NOLA. After dinner, grab an Uber and head down to Frenchmen Street, considered by many to be the local's version of Bourbon Street. On Frenchmen, you'll find four blocks of some of the best live music in the world, from jazz to blues to gospel to reggae to rock n roll, Frenchmen has it all. My top choices would be the Spotted Cat, DBA, and Three Muses (which also has great food!). Spend a few hours bopping into any music venue you'd like. Most are free or relatively inexpensive.

Day Three:

Morning:

Time to check out one of the best museums in the world, The National WWII Museum. There is a reason it's ranked the top attraction in NOLA and one of the top ten museums in the world. First order of business will be seeing Beyond All Boundaries, a movie which will set the stage for the rest of your visit. Know why we have the WWII Museum here in NOLA? The hundreds of Higgins boats, the ones that landed on the beaches of Normandy and that Eisenhower credited as being a major factor in winning the war, were conceived of and built right here in town.

Once you've wrapped up your visit, stick around for just long enough to grab lunch in the Warehouse District, right where the museum is. I recommend Butcher, Peche or Cochon—all on my list for the top restaurants in town.

The National WWII Museum. Trust me- it's incredible! Photo: NYT.com
Afternoon:

Now it's time to head home. Wipe away those tears; you'll be back for four years to experience all of this and much, much more as a nearly-local by way of being a Tulanian!  

Before I sign off, I also had a few of my colleagues and current students provide their takes on what to do with only two days (the length of a typical college and city visit) in this fine town of ours. So, enjoy Two Days in NOLA for:

The Typical Tulanian
The History Buff
The Frugal Foodie
The Outdoorsy Family
The Health Nut
The Literature Lover
The Sports Addict 
The Art Lover 



This could all be yours someday! 

St. Louis CathedralA little Tulane flair in the French Quarter




This Will Look Great on my Application... Right?

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:16
Courtesy of slate.comIt's Mardi Gras season which means the sights and sounds of New Orleans are alive everywhere you look. One of the most popular bands in NOLA and a staple of Mardi Gras is Rebirth Brass Band. Rebirth has a popular and ubiquitous song called Do Whatcha Wanna. Before you dive into this post, go listen to this song because my blog entry today is all about doing whatcha wanna. 
Last year, my friend and colleague Ashley Brookshire from the Office of Admission at Georgia Tech posted a great blog called "But... What Do Colleges Prefer?" I loved this blog because it transparently told high school students that the reality is, when it comes to how you spend your time, we 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. And the culprit: colleges who have helped create an admission frenzy among high school students.

Now, I want Tulane to be the school that finally pumps the brakes on all this. 
Colleges expect you to engage in activities outside the classroom, and that hopefully, you enjoy doing those activities. But what we don't want is you feeling like you need to be doing specific things to impress us. I know that it's really easy as a high school student to dwell on the past and worry about the future. What we want here is for you to experience high school as it comes. Take advantage of the experiences and opportunities for growth that happen when you are 16 and stop constantly worrying what colleges think of you.
Let me break it down further. Here are ten things I want you to remember as you experience, I mean really experience, your time in high school.

We don't expect you to cure cancer or impress the CFO of Morgan Stanley. I see a lot of great applicants who have done some pretty incredible research or amazing internships. That is great! If you have your sights set on medical school one day and research experience is something that you think will help you decide on that career path, then, by all means, do it. But don't feel like your application will be lacking if it doesn't have impressive research or internship experiences. Also... you're teenagers! No one can expect you to be mapping the human genome or starting your own business. If you actually end up cleaning beakers or taking people's Starbucks orders during these experiences, that's fine too. In fact, that's actually what I would expect a high school intern or research assistant to be doing. I've read applications where students have said they learned how to administer anesthesia or perform heart surgery. Maaaybe they actually have, but if I were about to go under the knife, I would rather not see a high school student with a scalpel next to my hospital bed. 
We don't expect that you've traveled the world and solved the planet's problems. Travel can expand your mind and completely change your outlook. Doing community service for those around the world is a spectacular way to give back while enjoying your time abroad. Keep in mind though, some of the most meaningful service projects are right in your own back yard. We live in a country of great wealth inequality and if serving your community is your passion, consider the amazing opportunities you might have to help those in need—right in your own hometown. Our hope is not that you are helping your community because you think it will impress Tulane. Rather, the goal is that you authentically have a passion for service and are doing good things for good people. 
It's okay if you are doing something just because. If you love to read, cook, surf, mediate, DJ, or something else—let us know! Yes, we do expect that you have done something more substantial than just reading a few books, but don't completely sideline your passions. Just because you think a college might value certain experiences over others, it's not worth it to stop doing the things you're passionate about. An applicant who reads 20 books for pleasure during their senior year, will add way more to a college classroom than someone who takes a class at a local college just because they think it will impress me. Why? Because you are doing something you love and have a passion for. Shoutout to the applicant this year who sent me his knitting portfolio. Caveat: if "doing whatcha wanna" is watching Netflix or online shopping—that might not be something worth sharing in the application process. 
We believe in the humble job. A student who works at Chipotle or Starbucks or Pier One or Sprinkles Cupcakes or Jamba Juice knows about time management, communication skills, problem solving, and humility. Again, I don't want you to get a job because it looks good for colleges, but frankly, the skillset you'll develop at a job will prepare you nicely for college. You'll make some money, learn some great skills and as an added bonus, stand out in the application process. If I am being one-hundred percent honest: having a job IS something that impresses the admission team at Tulane. 
We don't expect a laundry list of extracurricular activities. Here is what we want: a somewhat brief list of the things you love to do, the things you do well, and the things you might continue when you arrive on our campus in the fall. My job is not to find well-rounded students. My job is to build a well-rounded class of students. Don't feel like you need to load up on every club or organization your school has. We don't need or want that.  
We're impressed with things that you think won't impress us. And honestly, we've seen it all. I get the sense that our applicants are doing some of these big-name extracurricular activities to stand out. For better or worse, everyone is doing many of the same things. They are great activities, don't get me wrong. But because we see so many great applicants with great resumes, as it turns out, some activities are not as memorable as they may seem. If you are doing these things because you love to, that is great. And that is WHY you should be doing them. Worry less about if you think we'll be impressed and just enjoy and learn from the experience. If you were to ask me about the most memorable activities I have seen from students, I honestly can only truly remember one and that was an incredible applicant who had hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail. So basically what I am saying is the only way to stand out these days is to hike 2,600 miles from Canada to Mexico. 
Consider a summer program on a college campus. Just remember, many schools aren't going to give you a leg up simply because you attended their summer program. Doing a summer program is a great way to get a feel for life in college: living in the residence halls, getting a sampling of academics, learning the pros and cons of living away from your parents. These are all valuable insights that will help you adjust to college once you get there. But, don't just say "oh I should go to Duke's summer program so I have better shot at getting into Duke." It doesn't work that way. Instead, research programs that you actually believe will allow you to learn, grow, and enrich your summer. Shameless plug: we have awesome programs at Tulane for STEM, research, women's leadership, and architecture. Check them out
We expect that you'll do some research and engage with us. So, there is one thing we DO think looks good in the application process: students who have taken the time to research what Tulane is all about and authentically engage with us. Again, think less "what are the boxes that Tulane wants me to check?" And more, "what are the steps I can take to genuinely find out if Tulane will be a great fit for me?" Come meet us if we visit your high school or take the time to chat with our current students or simply join our mailing list. Don't feel like you have to email me five times and demonstrate your interest in nine different ways. What we really want is for you to find out if Tulane is somewhere you'll be happy and if so, let us know in your application. Speaking of happy... 
We want you to be happy. The college admission process should not define you. We want you to take a step back and realize that at the end of the day, your personal contentment and self-confidence are the most important parts of growing up. High school is always going to have its ups and downs. The more you can be in the moment and eliminate the constant ruminating about the past or anxiety for the future, the happier you'll be. I know it's easier said than done, but take a moment to BE in the moment and not worry about what we think of you. 
We want you to be good people. I've always loved the "Check This Box if You're a Good Person" article written by Rebecca Sabky from Dartmouth. We get these beautifully packaged applications chock-full of inspiring extracurricular activities, but at the end of the day, it's nearly impossible to tell what type of person you are based on a college application. I love reading recommendation letters about students who treat the cafeteria people with kindness and respect. Or the compassion some students show to kids outside of their friend group. These are the important things you do when you think no one, and no college, is looking. 
At the end of the day, do whatcha wanna. Do what makes you happy, what improves your life and the lives of those around you. Try not to worry so much about what you think a group of strangers in a school far away will think. What you'll end up finding is that you'll be leading a much more fulfilled life, one that allows you to live in the moment, have joy, and one that allows you time... to do whatcha wanna. 

5 Tips for a Great Campus Visit

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 09:30

Seeing a college or university's campus firsthand can be the best way to find out if that school is a good fit for you. Take a look at the list of schools that you are seriously considering and decide on a few to visit. If it’s not financially feasible to check out some of these schools, visit one near your hometown—even if it’s not on your list. It will at least give you a feel for what to expect and what this whole world of “college” really can be like.

For the schools that are high on your list that you do plan to visit, here are a few tips for maximizing the trip so that it is the most successful that it can be. 



1)      Visit at the right time of the year. Summer vacation is a great time to visit college campuses. You can usually find some solid travel deals, including on hotels. The only thing to keep in mind when making a summer visit is the campus is likely to be quieter than it normally would be during the school year. There are definitely students on Tulane's campus during the summer, but it is not as active compared to the fall or spring when school is in session. If you really enjoyed your campus visit during the summer, consider making another visit when classes are in session, so you can see the campus when it is bursting with activity. Likewise, consider timing your visit during weather-appropriate times—if you’re considering a school in a cold weather climate, be sure to visit at that time of the year. Some people love the cold, others are warm weather folk (like me down here in New Orleans!). Oh, and always check when Mardi Gras is happening before visiting Tulane. Great time to visit NOLA, but, not the best time for a visit to campus (we're closed!).

2)      Pull some students aside. Your tour guide is going to give you some great facts and personal anecdotes, but go past that. When you're done with the tour, sit outside and see if you can chat with students. Ask them about their experiences, see how much love they have for their school. If the students who you talk to think it’s weird or are uncomfortable with you asking them questions, then maybe that is telling about the school. Tour guides are great but check with some other students to get the inside scoop. 

3)      Eat in the dining hall. There is no better spot on campus to get a true feel for the pulse of the campus than the freshman dining hall. Eavesdrop on conversations; see what students are passionate about and what the chatter is (I know, it sounds awkward, but do it!). Plus you’ll get to see how good the food is on campus, which is always an important factor! Pro tip: when you are in the dining hall or another public space on campus, check out the stickers that students have on their laptops or water bottles. This is another clue for you to see if some of your interests and passions match up with the vibe on campus. 



4)      Do your research before you get there. We are excited to have prospective students tour campus every single day. But what we like even more is when we can tell those students have done some legwork before arriving on campus. If you get to campus and you are asking your admission officer questions like “how large is this school?” and “do you have a psychology major?” it becomes quickly obvious to us that you may not have put too much thought into the school. Here are some great questions you should be asking during your visit. 

5)      Do some stuff on your own, but also do the formal visit. Going on a campus tour is a great way to share your excitement about the school with the team in the Office of Admission. So while you may just want to chill with your cousin who’s a sophomore at the school, take the time to register and attend a formal campus tour. See if the school offers interviews (we don't at Tulane, but many schools do.) Make the most of your visit, but also be sure to connect with the Office of Admission at some point. 

Have a great trip! If you're planning a Tulane and NOLA visit, here are some tips from us. And if you can't make it down, you can meet our tour guides to get your questions answered here


Doesn't this make you want to come visit us in New Orleans? C'mon down!

So You're Using an Independent Counselor...

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 08:30


If you are a junior right now, you might be thinking of hiring an independent college counselor to assist and guide you through the college application process. And by you, I mean your parents.

Here at Tulane, we very much value the role that independent counselors can play as you generate your college list and navigate the somewhat complex application process. Independent counselors and consultants can provide valuable guidance and support as well as a wealth of knowledge of the application and financial aid processes. That said, there are a few things to remember if you are thinking of working with an independent counselor.


Ensure that they are members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling or a regional affiliate. Whenever you hire someone to do a service for you (like a contractor or dentist) you always want to make sure they are accredited and certified. Same goes with hiring an independent counselor. Being a part of NACAC means they'll abide by the Statement of Principles of Good Practices. I do not recommend working with a counselor who is not a NACAC member.

Ensure that they are affiliated with IECA or HECA. These are two incredible organizations comprised of all higher education consultation and independent education counselors. They share great ideas, best practices and are a great professional networking group.

Tell your school counselor you are working with an independent counselor. It will do you no good to have to two competing forces. If you opt for an independent counselor, let your school counselor know. Remember, your school counselor is the person writing your recommendation letters and advocating for you in the application process. It's vital that you develop a meaningful and honest relationship with them, first and foremost.

Think you can't afford one? Think again! While many independent counselors might come with a hefty price tag, keep in mind that many of them do work for low-income students pro-bono. Head over to those IECA and HECA pages and run a search of a counselor near you. If you know you can't afford one, you've got nothing to lose by reaching out to a few to see if they have the ability to take on probono clients.

Consider any after-school support programs or CBOs. Working with an independent counselor isn't all that different from spending time at a Community Based Organization. I'm fully aware that in some cases, working with an independent counselor can give an already advantaged student an even greater advantage in this process. If you are the first in your family to go to college or are coming from a disadvantaged background, research local programs you can connect with to get support. NACAC has a great list.

Make sure your application remains authentically you. If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember this tip. We expect your application to sound like a high school student has written it. We want to hear your authentic voice. The voice of a 17-year-old guy sounds a lot different than the voice of a 45-year-old woman. Independent counselors can help formulate your college list, provide knowledge about best practices in applying and proofreading your essays, but if your voice starts to fade from your application, well...we can tell.

Remember, you sign your application stating everything in there is accurate and honest. Over the last month, I have been made aware of an independent consultant group out of California that fills out students' applications for them. When we noticed some inconsistencies with an applicant, a call to the student's school ended up exposing that the independent counselor had put false information into the student's application. This resulted in the student being denied admission, something I really hated to have to do. Do not work with consultants like these. You can avoid consultants like this by following steps 1 and 2 above.

We at Tulane have great deal of respect for the work that independent counselors do. If you are considering going this route, following my tips above will ensure that you are working with the best in the business.

Juniors: Start Here

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 09:00
For most high school juniors across the country and around the world, January signifies two things: the beginning of the second semester and the unofficial start of "The Process." Don't let that stress you out too much, though. Now's a good time to just reserve a little bit of mental space for getting acclimated with this crazy process of college admission. This spring, I'll be taking this blog on the road to cities across the country to share my candid tips for applying to college. If you live in NYC, LA, Miami, The Bay Area or Atlanta, you can RSVP to attend an event here.

I've posted in the past about ten tips for juniors and so today, your goal is to spend a little bit of time thinking about what matters most to you and how you envision your experience looking once you arrive at college. Does that sound a little too theoretical? Don't worry, I've got you covered. Here are five big-picture questions to start asking yourself.

Which schools am I already interested in? You probably have a few schools that are somewhere on your radar, even if it's way out on the edge. Maybe these are places your older friends attend, or a school your favorite teacher went to, or just somewhere you've kinda daydreamed about. Now is a good time to find out more about these schools. Start receiving information from these schools by finding their mailing list pages and signing up. Schools put a lot of time and thought into how they brand themselves and by joining some mailing lists, you can start to get a sense of what type of student best fits in at each school. I humbly suggest you join our mailing list here. Once you're on it, it gives us the green light to share Tulane's story with you. Plus, it lets the Office of Admission know that we're potentially on your radar. It also takes around four seconds. 
What size school is right for me? For some students, the idea of being at a giant school with 35,000 undergrads seems ideal. For others, a campus that is smaller than their own high school is a better fit. Getting a sense of how big of a campus you are looking for will allow you to develop a list of schools that are in that range. Looking for a school that will give you the best of the big and small? I think I know a great spot that falls right around 8,000 undergrads. 
Where do I want to go to school? Big city? Small town? Rural? A few miles from home or a few hundred miles from home? A school's location is going to play a pretty big role in the four years you spend there. Some students picture that quintessential college town: Ann Arbor, Davis or Chapel Hill. Some want small-town liberal arts school vibes. And others crave that big city vibe: New York City, Boston, Miami, or New Orleans. Where do you see yourself continuing your formative years? 
What type of school is the best fit for me? The way to parse this out is to do some research on liberal arts colleges versus research universities. Keep in mind, plenty of research goes down at liberal arts colleges and that the liberal arts are an imperative part of any major research university, so those names can kind of be a bit of a misnomer. That said, the vibe you'll get at a small liberal arts college is quite different from that of a large-scale research university. The main difference between the two is that liberal arts colleges tend to be smaller and more undergraduate-focused while universities tend to have the gamut of graduate and professional schools: law, medicine, etc. Kahn Academy has a great video detailing the differences between the two. Some other things to consider: are you thinking about one of the service academies or a music conservatory? Don't narrow it down too much at this point, but keep the type of school in your mind. Some students might be best served at a local community college for two years before transferring to a four-year institution. Some may know that a big state school is right where they belong. 
How much can my family afford? Take this one lightly, for now. For starters, never rule out a school because of its sticker price. With schools like Tulane, you're often going to see total cost of attendance numbers starting with 7s. Don't let that scare you off. Take some time to explore each school's Net Price Calculator to get a better sense of what your family might actually be paying. For example, if you come from a low-income family and are admitted to an Ivy League school, the vast majority of them are going to cover all of your financial need in order for you to enroll. This is also a good time to consider the benefits of public schools versus private schools versus community colleges. 
And here are some things that I'd recommend you NOT consider at this point in the process.  Put down the US News rankings and worry not about brand name reputation. There are roughly 2,600 universities and colleges around the USA. The best advice I can give you? None of them are bad schools, some of them just might be bad fits for you. Cast a wide net at this point in the process.  Also, don't stress too much about majors at this point. The reality is that around 70% of college students change their major at least once. And, get this, every school in America is going to claim that they have "one of the best programs" for X major (as in... Tulane has one of the best Psychology programs in the country! One of the 2,000 best!) Now, if you are certain that aerospace engineering or music therapy is in your future, by all means research schools based on those hyper-specific majors. But for the other 99% of you, don't put a tremendous amount of emphasis on your academic programming quite yet.

Don't worry about what you think will look great on your college application. I mean it. I even wrote a whole blog about this. 
And there you have it—a few questions to ask yourself at this point in the process. There are a billion search engines that can help you answer these questions and narrow down your list. I like the Princeton Review's but that is just one among many. Now might also be a good time to make an appointment with your school counselor who likely has a wealth of information about this process. 
As you head into second semester and into the summer, I'll post a few more updates for how you can take this process one step at a time. You're going to be great!