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The Search For the Elusive Flagpole

By Beth Anne Spacht

October 3, 2013

Friends, I’ve officially hit week two on the road of my second fall recruitment travel season.  In fact, as I write this post, I may or may not be sitting alone in the parking lot of a Hampton Inn mooching free internet while waiting for an evening college program to begin (hint: that’s most definitely where I am right now).  At least I have a pumpkin spice latte to ease the homesickness of missing another beautiful fall in Virginia.


For those of you unaware, September to November is a crazy time of year for the admission profession.  For upwards of three months, fifteen admission officers pack their bags, say their goodbyes, and head to high schools and college fairs both near and far to meet and recruit talented students.  It’s a jetsetter life, to be sure – and although it can be tiresome, it certainly has its perks (i.e. we get to know cool prospective students like you).

Perhaps you’ve spotted us at a school near you; hopefully looking fresh-faced and chipper, although more realistically, attempting to appear a little less than haggard from toting our large bags of informational materials into unknown hallways and through strange security scanners that have a knack for spelling our names wrong.  So far this year, I’ve assumed the identity of “Liz,” “Betharn,” and my personal favorite – “Culbertha.” Technology is great until it renames you “Culbertha.” 

All struggles aside, it’s an exciting time of the year.  As I was settling into a peaceful dinner of one last night (you get quite used to dining alone in the fall), I couldn’t help but to recall a wise piece of advice from my first admission travel season.  And, I realized, it might be relevant to those of you going through the application process/college search right now.  The sage words of wisdom?

Always look for the flagpole.


Allow me to explain.  As counselors, we spend much of our time hopping from one high school to the next; a typical day might include 4 high school visits, a college fair at night, and the occasional Q&A panel or informational interview.  Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that my sense of direction leaves something to be desired.  Without a GPS, I’d be surprised if I got anywhere in life, much less to schools where I’ve coordinated strict back-to-back appointments.  But the foolproof key to finding your way around an unfamiliar school, as I’ve now discovered, is to simply look for the flagpole.  Nine times out of ten, it marks the main entrance to your destination.

Why is this relevant to you, you may ask.  Well, I imagine that some of you are feeling a bit lost right now, too.  Perhaps you’re trimming your college application lists, nearing the beacon of direction-filled hope (the flag marking your top choice college or major).  I suspect that more of you, however, find yourself aimlessly circling the parking lot of the North Entrance, struggling to find your way to the South Entrance.  If it helps, I hear you.  I really do.

But the good news is there’s hope.  The flagpole exists - even for the most directionless among us - and somewhere out there, it is waiting for you around the corner.  You just have to hold faith that sooner or later it will show itself.  It may not be where you initially thought it was located.  But, you will end where you are meant to be.  All this is to say, it’s great to have top picks in colleges and intended fields of study, but I encourage you to keep an open mind.  There is more than one place where you can be happy – and likely, more than one academic path that you will take in your college career – whether you recognize it right now or not.  So keep your sights set on the target, but try to be okay with it when things don’t take you the direction that you intend. 

Take it from someone who applied exclusively to small liberal arts schools in my home state of Pennsylvania.  If it wasn’t for me keeping an open mind about Richmond (the only out-of-state school I applied to) I might not be so enthused about sitting in a parking lot waiting to represent my alma mater in just a few hours. 

For those of you still searching for direction, here are a few signposts that might help to point you to Richmond’s flagpole (just a few of my favorite facts and rankings):

•    Richmond is ranked No. 7 for happiest students.
•    Richmond is home to the No. 8 best science lab facilities (Princeton Review)
•    Richmond is a top 10 most technologically advanced university (Mashable.com)
•    Richmond is Division 1, with the No. 14 best gym facilities (Princeton Review)
•    Richmond is the No. 17 most beautiful campus in the nation

Want to know more?  Talk to a current student to see what led them our way.  And if your spidey-sense tells you that Richmond is the right spot for you, don’t forget that our EDI deadline is coming up soon on November 15!

Hang in there, seniors.  We’re in this search together.

Tags: College Search Inside the Admission Office Application Process

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Senior Assistant Director of Admission 

A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

Learn more about Tom

Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Assistant Director of Admission

Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

The University of Richmond is a highly ranked liberal arts university offering an extraordinary combination of the liberal arts with law, business, leadership studies, and continuing education. The university is consistently named a best value in higher education by leading publications.

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