• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


The Countdown

The Girl awaits word, phone at the ready …

December 14, 2021

So far, The Girl has sent seven of the nine college applications she intends to send. The other two are due by January, so they’ll go out soon.

She hasn’t heard back from any of the seven yet, but one is supposed to report later this week.

When I was going through the process, the myth was that a thick letter meant acceptance and a thin letter meant rejection. It turned out not to be true—my acceptance came in a thin letter—but the key piece was that it was snail mail, and it came when it came. (A thick rejection letter would be really mean, “Here’s a 50-page list of the reasons we rejected you …”) Now news comes via email, and students can check on their phones while they’re out and about. TG mentioned today that the one later this week should come after school but before her concert. I asked her to text me when she finds out.

That’s a remarkable level of precision.

Another school extended its notification deadline by two weeks, which takes it to Christmas Day. I hope they don’t mean it literally. Sending out rejections on Christmas Day is just bad form.

I’d forgotten just how quickly the peer-group grapevine operates. To TG’s credit (and to her friends’ credit), they’re genuinely supportive of each other. They root for each other, even when there’s overlap in the places they’re applying. I know adults who can’t manage that; it’s pretty impressive for a bunch of 17-year-olds under pressure.

Richard Sennett wrote that the frustration of adolescence is that everything is possible, but nothing is happening. That’s a pretty good description of where she and her friends are now. Applications have been sent, but word is only starting to trickle back. For now, they’re in limbo.

Everything is possible, but nothing is happening.

Academia seems especially prone to that timeline. Academic hiring is notoriously slow; there’s nothing unusual about six months elapsing between a job being posted and an offer being made. Most other industries don’t behave like that. It puts pressure on people that doesn’t exist in the same form in many other fields.

PSA: if you know any high school seniors who are doing the admissions circuit right now, be nice to them.

Further bulletins as events warrant …


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