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Take a Wrong Turn (And Other Lessons Learned from the Road of Recruitment)

By Beth Anne Spacht

September 21, 2018

Today marks week three of seven on the road of recruitment travel. My life is perpetually packed into a 14 x 22” carryon, my waistline is suffering from a diet of Oats and Honey granola bars and vanilla mint Tic Tacs, and my distaste for airport travel is only counteracted by the fleeting moments of joy found following TSA on Instagram (an unexpectedly amazing account).

After seven seasons of admission travel, you might wonder why I stick with this job. The reality is that the travel isn’t glamorous, nor is the paycheck large. But each and every year, I am motivated by the possibility of meeting future Spiders who will challenge my way of thinking, reveal new opportunities for empathy, and inspire the ambition I see so prevalent on our campus.

And along the way, I’ve developed a few pieces of advice. Call them words of wisdom or mere musings of an admission counselor. But for what it’s worth, here’s my personal philosophy on how to approach the college search:

Be adaptive. The college search is sort of like driving. Sometimes it’s an exercise in assertiveness, but more often, the most effective way to move forward is just to be patient and yield the way. One of the worst parts of college admission is navigating the traffic maze of advice from well-intentioned people. Take ownership and initiative by staying true to yourself and your goals (not those others impose upon you), but also realize that many factors are out of your control. Be patient, yield the way, and trust the process. At the end of the day, you’ll make it to the final destination (college home) where you belong.

Keep it 100. This one goes both ways. I enjoy representing my University most when I can talk from a genuine place. That means speaking honestly about the Spider experience, including the good and the in-progress. In turn, level with us. In your essays, in your interactions with us at college fairs or when we visit your high school…these are all moments where we get to know the side of you that you choose to share. We’re not super scary (at least I’d like to think so!), so keep it 100 and don’t be afraid to be yourself and ask what’s on your mind. Which leads me to…

Just ask. We’re not just here to sell you on Richmond, though it’s always exciting when students see themselves as Spiders. We actually work in this industry because we’re passionate about the field of higher education. We’re rooting for your success and we’re here to help you find your college fit – even if that’s not at UR. Our office has a collective 100+ years of admission experience between our admission counselors, and we love doling out general tips and advice on the admission process. The next time you wonder “if I could just ask an admission counselor what they think about x, y, or z” – just ask! We’ll genuinely try to help you out.   

Take a wrong turn. And write a really bad first draft. Going the wrong direction can often help you to refine what you’re really looking for or trying to say. Getting lost leaves room for the unexpected. I often tell prospective students that the best way to discover campus is to wander aimlessly. I can almost guarantee that anyone you ask will personally walk you to your desired destination and talk your ear off about why you should become a Spider along the way – and they probably won’t work for admission. These moments can really provide clarity about college fit. Use your resources: visit campus or take a virtual tour, speak to current students, and be unafraid to admit that your first essay draft (or first impression of a college) might not be worth keeping. You might be pleasantly surprised where it takes you in the end. 

Tags: College Search

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Associate 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
Senior 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

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