Wednesday, December 16, 2009

After Early Decision Committee

Yesterday the Admission Committee met all day to discuss our fantastic Early Decision applicants. We had more Early Decision applications than ever this year and it was a pleasure and an honor to read each one. After 6 intense hours around a table, which included much discussion and analysis, our committee reached consensus in order to admit the first students to the class of 2014! For the rest of the week we'll be preparing and mailing our decision letters.

Some of you will be very happy to see a letter from Pitzer in the mail. Congratulations! Some of you will be disappointed. One of our policies as a committee is to make honest and fair decisions with our Early Decision applicants; we don't defer or wait-list many students from the Early Decision pool. If we can't make it happen for an applicant, then we want that person to fall in love with another school. We don't make these decisions lightly. Each one of us appreciates the time, energy, and emotion that you put into your application.

Our current students are finishing their finals this week, and the Office of Admission is calm today. The sun is shining in Claremont, and the air is mercifully clear. We've even got some snow clinging to the peak of Mt. Baldy just north of campus! In true Pitzer fashion, I decided to make an "Orange-person" this morning, rather than a "snow-person." The impressive results are pictured below.

For all of our Regular Decision applicants, I encourage you to finish and submit the applications by the January 1 deadline. Dramatically waiting for the clock to strike 11:59pm on New Year's eve to click submit on the Common App will undoubtedly appear to be a terrible decision when your power goes out...your internet glitches...or you forget that you're not in the Pacific Standard Time zone...or some other catastrophe befalls you, causing your laboriously constructed and manicured application to bounce back at you unceremoniously.

Get the picture? Those of you expecting to make a New Year's resolution to stop procrastinating should begin that process sooner rather than later.

Done and done!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some Holiday Wackiness

For college and high school students alike, final exams are imminent. No matter where you are in the country, your weather was awful this week. Most importantly, the January 1 Regular Decision application deadline is rapidly approaching! Feels like we need a break, doesn't it?!

We had some early fun here in the office in preparation for the coming holidays. Below are pictures from our Student-Staff holiday party!Above, members of the counseling staff raffle off iTunes gift certificates for lucky student-workers!
Our wacky student-workers! Looks deceptively fun! Arnaldo Rodriguez, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid, tests out a beautiful piece of "Pitzer flavored" furniture (handmade by Admission Fellow Tim Campos '10!). Below, Cecil cozies up to a bready reindeer head! Yum!So breath deeply. Eat the eyebrows off a bready reindeer head, and relaxe as we head into winter craziness. Season's best from the Pitzer College Office of Admission!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beyond Buzzwords, part 4

At last, we come to the end of our journey through Pitzer's core values, and how applicants might better come to understand what we mean when we repeat them. So far we've discussed Social Responsibility, Intercultural Understanding, and Interdisciplinary Learning*. The final core value that is central to the Pitzer College experience is Student Autonomy.

*Briefly, though, I want to pass along this article for anyone who is interested in reading more about the debate (oh yes, there is a debate!) over interdisciplinarity and its future in higher education.

And now back to the task at hand...This idea of Student Autonomy was born, like our other values, from the experiences of the individuals who founded our college in the early 1960s. Student Autonomy has many meanings, and is manifested in several ways both philosophically as well as practically here at Pitzer.

Most liberal arts educations are based on a "core curriculum," which is a fancy way of essentially saying "general education requirements." These core curricula may comprise the first one, two, three or even four semesters of one's college education. The idea behind the core curriculum was to give all students the same basic introduction to college-level work by teaching the "foundations of a good liberal arts education," often without giving students any choice in their own course schedules.

Not at Pitzer.

Rather than force students to check courses off of a list of requirements, our letter of admission is a vote of confidence in our students that they are capable of imagining and navigating their own educations. We do provide some guidelines to ensure that students expose themselves to a breadth of subjects (32 Sociology courses, however fun, do not comprise a robust liberal arts education). For example, Pitzer students take at least two courses in the Humanities and Fine Arts, two in the Social Sciences, one in the Natural Sciences, and one in Formal Reasoning. Within those areas, however, the specific courses that students choose to take are up to them. Easy, right?!

You'll notice that I didn't say "Math." If you're anything like I was in high school, you are constantly asking yourself what does geometry...calculus...trigonometry have to do with what I am going to do in the world. The principle behind Student Autonomy is that everything we do here at Pitzer should be related to making the world a better place. Not everyone is going to use a graphing calculator to make the world a better place. Some of us will. The result is that we've hired some outstanding faculty to teach courses such as Math, Philosophy and the "Real World," The Mathematics of Gambling, Mathematics in Many Cultures, and more. If you want to do Dynamical Systems, Chaos, and Fractals, we've got you covered there, too! The point is, you have choices. By the way, Math, Philosophy and the "Real World" was one of the best courses I took in college.

Another manifestation of Student Autonomy on campus is the presense of student input at the highest levels of administration. It is not uncommon - at all - to find students in heate debates with each other, with faculty members, and with administrators over institutional decisions, policies, and current events. The fact that debate even exists between students and administrators is evidence that students have real agency in every aspect of the governance of the school. Students are required to sit on every governing committee at Pitzer including the Faculty Executive, Budget, Academic Standards, and Judicial. If you love Student Government, if you're passionate about the direction of your institution, and if you're courageous enough to engage in conversation then you will likely be encouraged by the autonomy you find at Pitzer.

So for prospective students, we want to see your leadership, your independence, your initiative. Are you the kind of person that does well with autonomy? Are you curious and excited about taking courses in whatever subjects you choose...even if it means turning a course you end up disliking into a learning and growth opportunity? If so, then show me! We want to see all of those moments when you've stepped out onto a limb by yourself. We want to hear about the hard choices that you've had to make. We want to know that you're excited to thrive in an autonomous environment.

I hope this exploration beyond the buzzwords has been helpful. As we head into Winter, keep coming back to Admission Unpeeled to follow your application through our office. Blog posts will be more frequent as we begin reading heaps of applications. We know that this is a stressful time. So if there's anything we can help you with, please don't hesitate to contact us here at the office.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let the reading begin!



Welcome back from a nice, long Thanksgiving weekend! I hope this message finds you all well-rested and ready to make the last push during this application season. Here in the Office of Admission we're about to begin reading Early Decision applications. The process for reading season goes something like this: After you submit your application, we "build your file." Literally, we're compiling all of the components of your application into a file folder that includes all your essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, interview notes, supplemental materials, test scores etc. Once your file is built, we assign applications to the Admission team, and we start reading!

As part of our holistic approach to admission, each application is read at least twice. The "first reader" is likely the Admission official responsible for your geographic region. In many cases this person has visited your school in the past and may know your guidance/college counselor. This helps us to keep students "in context," by allowing us to review your application with more knowledge about where you're coming from. The "second reader" is simply another member of the Admission team. All of our reading decisions are confirmed in "committee," when the entire team gets together around a table to discuss the applicant pool as a whole. Early Decision notification letters will be mailed by December 22.

Once we're done with Early Decision, we repeat the same process with our Regular Decision applicants. It's a long reading season, folks! Please be patient with us while we build your files. Regarding the completeness of your application, no news is good news. If you do hear from us regarding a missing document in your application, don't panic. We know that sometimes things get lost. We appreciate your patience and cooperation if we have to ask you to re-submit a piece of your application. We also may not know if your application is complete immediately following the deadline. Check out these pictures below of what a small batch of mail looks like around here! We'll get some pictures of this year's mail coming in so you can follow your application through the office as we build your file.



So what are we looking for when we read these applications?

Good question! Taking a holistic approach to admission means that we want to know more about our applicants than traditional, quantitative analysis usually provides. Pitzer was one of the first colleges in the country to become "testing optional," no longer requiring standardized test scores from applicants. This decision reflects years of research as well as our own institutional experience that, quite simply, standardized test scores are not consistent predictors of student success at Pitzer College. Some students test well, others don't. For that reason, we welcome test scores from anyone who chooses to submit them, but we don't require them. Further, even for students who do choose to submit test scores, they will only comprise one portion of your overall application.

We want to see that students have challenged themselves academically in high school. If your high school offers dozens of Honors and AP courses, we're going to expect our applicants to have taken some. This is one of the reasons why we "read by region," so that we have a better chance of knowing the environment that you're coming from. Once students choose to challenge themselves, we want to know how they've faired. We don't necessarily expect a spotless transcript; but we do expect that students who have struggled academically can point to an "upward trend" of success. If you have a story to tell, tell it!

Beyond academic variables, we want to see that students are a good match for Pitzer College. Do your values resonate with ours, and vice versa? If yes, have you demonstrated so throughout high school? Have you articulated why you believe that you're a good fit with the Pitzer community at every stage your application? Have you shown a committed interest in Pitzer by researching our school, taking the time to interview in person or over the phone, or submitting a MyCollegei video-interview? These are just some of the things that we think about when making these difficult decisions.

But you have some decisions to make, too! How do you know if you're a good "match" for a particular school?

It's impossible to find the right college if you don't know yourself. I asked a couple of college counselors to describe some of the questions they ask of their students to assist in the college search process. Below is a list of questions that you might use to reflect on the kind of person and student that you are. The results of this self-reflection process might be surprising. I encourage you to be honest and creative. Scribble furious notes if you must! Your answers to these questions should produce an interesting composite of your interests and goals, against which you can compare the offerings of different schools.

Many thanks to Stuart Oremus (Director of College Counseling at the Wellington School in Columbus, OH), Moira McKinnon (Director of College Counseling at Berwick Academy in South Berwick, ME), and Maureen Ferrell (Director of College Counseling at The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati, OH) for taking the time to share your valuable experience and insights.

Thinking about high school...

  • Which course or courses have you enjoyed the most? Why?
  • Which course or courses have you enjoyed the least? Why?
  • What do you choose to learn when you learn on your own? Consider interests pursued beyond class assignments: topics you choose to study for projects, independent reading, jobs or volunteer work, activity period choices, etc. What do your choices say about your interests and learning styles?
  • Have you worked up to your potential in high school? Is your transcript as it stands now an accurate reflection of your abilities and intellect? If not, why not? And if not, what is the best measure of your potential success in college?
  • How have you changed and grown throughout high school? What would you change about your high school years thus far? What do see as goals left to accomplish before graduation?

Thinking about your other interests...

  • What activities do you enjoy most outside the academic day?
  • How would describe your role in your community and school? What do you consider your most important contribution?
  • Has any summer experience, work, travel, study, etc. been of special significance to you? Have you lived in other places? How did these experiences effect you? Is traveling abroad a "must" for your college experience?

Thinking about your world...

  • What do your parents expect of you? Have they expressed any ambitions/goals/plans for you? Are they realistic? How have their expectations influenced your goals and standards for yourself?
  • What two or three issues in the world concern you the most? Are you actively involved in dealing with these issues?
  • What qualities do you admire most in the adults with whom you relate?
Thinking about college...
  • How do you want college to be different from high school?
  • How do you want it to be the same?
  • Are there things you never had the opportunity to do in high school that you're looking forward to doing in college (sports, writing for the newspaper, Greek life, art, etc)?

Questions to ask of colleges...
  • What are you most proud of about your school?
  • What is the best/your favorite part of your college?
  • How does your college embrace diversity?
  • What makes your college’s community unique?
  • What is the social life like at your school?
  • At the completion of a 4-year degree program at your school, what do you do to aid your graduating students?
  • What traditions do you have at your school?
  • Please describe the relationships between faculty and students.
  • What three/four adjectives best describe your institution?
  • What are the most well-known majors at your college?
  • What is you school's philosophy?
  • What is the main focus of your school's educational system? Is it predominantly undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate?
  • Please describe the school spirit at your college. How is the school spirit manifested on campus?
  • What stands out/is distinctive to you about an admissions application when you are reading it?
  • What are the advantages of attending a private/independent high school before college?
  • What is your retention rate following freshman year?
  • At your college, do the majority of students live on campus? Do most students stay on campus on the weekends?
  • Is there a large city near your school and do many students take advantage of this while in college?
  • Who are some of your distinguished alumni?
  • What safety precautions are taken at your school?
  • In general, how would you describe the student body?
  • Please describe the relationships between students and their advisors.
  • What financial aid is available at your school? Is money given predominantly through grants, loans, or work study programs?
So in the days and weeks ahead, we hope that the enthusiasm, anxiety, and perspiration that you put into the college application process will yield a diversity of results. Not only in the form of thick and thin envelopes, but in terms of your own personal growth. Be honest with yourself. Be enthusiastic! Forget about brand names and rankings. You will always be pleasantly surprised if you remain open to the adventures that you haven't imagined yet. Let the reading begin!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beyond Buzzwords, part 3

Interdisciplinary Learning…I can almost see all of your eyes rolling at just the thought of these words together. This term represents perhaps the most overused buzzword in higher education today. For more than a century, the “modern” social science disciplines like Sociology, Economics, Psychology, and Anthropology have battled each other professionally and intellectually. In a very literal sense, college and university faculty argue with each other and with administrations to justify expanding their particular departments. More generally, debates continue about which discipline best prepares students to study and understand the world around them. In fact, traditional higher education in America is based on these debates.


Since the 1960s, however, a new way of looking at the world has begun to earn a place in the academy. Pitzer, founded in 1963, has always embraced the interdisciplinary approach to learning. Interdisciplinary learning is an acknowledgment that people are multi-faceted, that the world does not conform to traditional academic disciplines. As a result, we are looking for students and faculty who agree that the learning process is best served when we ask what traditional disciplines can do together, rather than how they differ.


One of the ways you can see this value manifested on campus is in the structure of our Field Groups. Most colleges and universities place their faculty within traditional departments. We’re not most colleges. At Pitzer, faculty members can choose to identify with different Field Groups, allowing for a freer exchange of intellectual perspectives. We have professors here at Pitzer who may have been “trained” in graduate school as Anthropologists or Neuroscientists, but they choose to teach courses in History or Psychology. Further, we don’t physically separate our faculty by subject area. You won’t find the “Sociology building” on campus, or the “English/World Literature” building either. You will find Economists sitting next to Psychologists and Poets sitting next to Mathematicians.


Andre Wakefield, Professor of History at Pitzer, teaches a course on the History of the Disciplines and is currently working on a new project that will consider the historical, intellectual, and practical issues surrounding academic disciplines in higher education.


Another example of Interdisciplinary Learning has been the rise of the “Studies” in higher education, and particularly at Pitzer. Several of our Field Groups and majors fall into inherently interdisciplinary categories such as Media Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, Political Studies, and Organizational Studies (to name but a few). The idea behind these degree programs is to provide room for students to explore a subject from a variety of perspectives. For example, in Environmental Studies when we talk about water usage in the Southern California area, we are forced to acknowledge that we are really talking about a political issue, and a sociological issue, and an economic issue, and an historical issue, as well as a scientific issue.


Christine Zarker Primomo is currently a Senior at Pitzer College and an Admission Fellow here in our office, among other things. Her major - Science, Technology, and Society (STS) - is a great example of Interdisciplinary Learning. Christine says, “These classes span across multiple disciplines including but not limited to: history, philosophy, anthropology, politics and public policy, and sociology. After taking Governing India my first semester, I discovered my interest in global water issues. STS has allowed me to combine my love for science with my passion for improving the health of and access to water resources. One of the best parts about Pitzer, especially majoring in an interdisciplinary field, is that each semester, without consciously trying, my classes all come together. Learning takes on a new face when in addition to taking classes I love, I see that they are all somehow connected under a bigger idea, one not tied to a specific discipline but rather have a diversity of views and practices. Part of the excitement of the semester involves discovering new links between classes like Environmental Chemistry, Language and Society, the Politics of Water and Philosophy of Science.”


For prospective students, we’re interested to know how the idea of Interdisciplinary Learning helps you look at your world. What are the theoretical and methodological tools that you need to take on challenges in your community? What kinds of multi-dimensional issues pique your interest? If you could create your own major, what would it include?


If you are excited to answer these questions, then you have gone beyond the buzzword. I encourage you to think about how your education will challenge you to find questions and answers in curious places. Tell us how you see the world, its problems, its successes, and why you want to continue your explorations at Pitzer. Read faculty bios and course descriptions at the various institutions that you’re considering right now; if they’re not assigning readings from different fields, then they’re not interdisciplinary. If they’re not assigning men and women on their reading lists, then they’re not interdisciplinary. If they’re not assigning ethnically and racially diverse sources, then they’re not interdisciplinary. Put institutions of higher education to the test.


Thanks for coming back to Admission Unpeeled. There’s a lot more information coming in the days ahead so stay tuned and keep reading!

Pictures from Fall Preview Pitzer Days!

Admission Fellows Joahna Ruffin, Suhail Sheikh, and Misa Kabashima join Admission Counselor Danny Irving by the pool in front of our Gold LEED certified First-Year residence halls. Not bad for November, eh?
Families arriving on a beautiful Southern California morning!
That's me in the purple, just gushing with enthusiasm to some prospective families!


Here are some of our dedicated student-workers laboring away to inflate biodegradable balloons early in the morning.
Emma and Chris, Office of Admission student-workers, welcoming prospective families to campus. Cecil, do you feel left out?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turn, Turn, Turn

As the seasons change, so do our jobs. With Fall rapidly giving way to Winter the admission staffs at colleges across the country are returning home from the road, unpacking their roll-aboard suitcases, and settling back into their offices on campus. Those of you who have been following along know that I have been living in Boston for about a year, since I graduated from Pitzer. Well, California, I'm back!

The month of November brings several important events to Pitzer College. Last week we brought more than 40 students from across the nation who come from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds to the Claremont Colleges to gain greater knowledge of Pitzer the Claremont Consortium as part of our Fall Diversity Program. Pitzer Diversity Interns Alyshia Silva, Jose Barriga, and Maricela Ledezma worked with Graduate Admission Fellow Fernando Calderon and Assistant Director of Admission Constance Perez to plan travel logistics, meals, residence hall hosts, a five-college scavenger hunt, and capped the program with attendance at SCAMFest (the Southern California A Capella Music Festival, hosted by the Claremont Colleges).

Alyshia Silva '12 reflected on the program after saying goodbye to our prospective students: “As tiresome as it most undoubtedly was, I cannot express the great pleasure it was to see all 43 students bond and fall into the place that I call home. Whether seeing them take their facebook photos together and asking for each other’s numbers, nothing can beat the pure satisfaction at seeing their faces when it came time to say goodbye to Pitzer and each other. Afterwards, via email, facebook, and phone calls, Constance received plenty of gushing from the Diversity Participants who swear to see us in little less than 8 months…”

The program coincided with the first of two Pitzer Preview Days this semester. Pitzer Preview Days are an opportunity for studentsto visit us and hear more about our community from students, staff, and faculty as well as to see the campus for yourself. Our last Preview Day of the semester is this coming Friday, November 16. If you would like to attend our next Preview Day, please call the Office of Admission at (909) 621-8129.

So what's up next, you might be wondering? This week we'll be reading and deliberating on our Spring Transfer applications. As soon as that's done, our Early Decision applications will be ready to read, followed by all of our Regular Decision candidates; and so the Winter reading cycle goes.

In a few days I'll be back with the next installment of Beyond Buzzwords (stay tuned to see which one we'll be tackling). Leave me a comment or send me an email if there's a topic that you'd like me to write about as well. I don't do it for my health...it's all for you!

Congratulations to Emily Kleeman of Chicago for identifying the great Buddy Guy as the singer in the video from last week's blog post. This is the last installment of Where in the World is Cecil the Sagehen (for a while, at least). As usual, if you can figure out where Cecil has traveled from the pictures below, we'll send you a prize. Email me at adam_rosenzweig@pitzer.edu with your answers.

Enjoy the turning of the seasons!





Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beyond Buzzwords, part 2

Hi, readers! For those of you who have been following along for a while, welcome back! If this is your first time reading Admission Unpeeled, welcome! We created this blog over a year ago to provide behind-the-scenes insights into the Pitzer College Office of Admission, and to discuss the admission process in general. Last week we began a four-part series designed to demystify and move beyond the “buzzwords” that we use to define Pitzer’s values. We started with Social Responsibility. This week we’ll be talking about Intercultural Understanding. But first, as usual, some numbers from my travels this week:


  • The Roo (my 1999 Subaru Outback) had the week off, since I spent the whole week in Chicago with a rental car (a Hyundai Elantra named “Ellie”). Ellie gets better mileage than the Roo, so the approximate number of gallons of unleaded fuel consumed: 22.
  • Number of BLT sandwiches I ate: 3.
  • Slices of “Chicago-style” pizza I ate: 0.
  • Days in a row that “Balloon Boy” beat out Health Care as the leading news story: 3.


The importance we place on Intercultural Understanding stems from a strong belief that our world, and the ways that we hope to make it better, require us to see things from perspectives that might not come naturally to us. Few people reading this blog will honestly disagree that this is a good thing. But what does it mean specifically? Are we talking about diversity? What kinds of diversity? What kinds of cultures are we referring to, and how does this idea play out in our admission process as well as at Pitzer on a daily basis?


For prospective students, this means two things: one, we’re looking for students who contribute in some way to the diversity of our community; and two, that students value the diversity around them. We want an intellectually diverse student body in which you can find friends interested in Neuroscience, Environmentalism, Literature, Art, etc. We want an ethnically diverse student body in which your relationships with your peers become genuine learning opportunities every day. We want a geographically diverse student body from which you can know a good place to get a home cooked meal anywhere in the world. We want a racially diverse student body that reflects the world we live in. Diversity comes in many forms and part of your job in the application is to explain how you contribute to, and value, our diverse community.


Significantly, we want this same diversity from the faculty who guide our education. Pitzer already has one of the most diverse faculties of any liberal arts college in the country, and the administration has made it clear that continuing to diversify our faculty is a real institutional priority.


Aside from who you (the prospective student) already are, we want to see that you crave a diverse environment. Maybe you grew up in the middle of Manhattan with a cacophony of languages and cultures all around you. Or maybe you’re from a small town where almost everyone around you knows your first, middle, and last name. Either way, we want to bring students to Pitzer who can articulate what they’re excited to contribute to the community, as well as their desire to learn from others in it.


The journey only begins once students arrive at Pitzer on move-in day! All of our academic programs require students to incorporate some cultural study that takes them outside of their own community. The major you select or create will need to include at least one course on a non-Western or non-American subject.


Moving beyond the classroom, more than 70% of Pitzer students study abroad before they graduate! Our students go abroad more than those from almost any other school for a number of reasons. First, we actively look for prospective students who are excited to take this opportunity. Second, we think of studying abroad as an integral part of a progressive liberal arts education, not an optional luxury. As a result, all of our Financial Aid packages apply to studying abroad. If students are admitted to Pitzer, then they can study abroad through Pitzer. Finally, our students are encouraged to study abroad by their faculty and peers because we know the value of a community that is enriched by other cultures. When at least three out of four people around a table have spent a significant chunk of time in a foreign country, it changes the kinds of conversations one can have. It will also change what you and your peers do after you leave Pitzer.


Since 2002, Pitzer has been awarded more Fulbright Fellowships than any other school in America per capita. After graduation you can find Pitzer alumni scattered across the globe, literally. Many choose to return to countries in which they studied, others join organizations that allow them to serve a totally new community, and still others simply seem to throw a dart at a map and take off to explore themselves and their world. As a community, we believe that the world would be a better place if more people shared this attitude!


I hope that this gives you a better idea of what we mean when we talk about Intercultural Understanding. If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you. Before you go though, take a minute to check out where Cecil the Sagehen has been this week! While everyone in the office is running around the country meeting students this season, we snap shots of Cecil in various locations. If you can figure out where Cecil has been in these pictures, then we’ll send you a prize. Honest! We’ve already had two winners: congratulations to Katie Kecso of West Des Moines, Iowa and Benjamin Levine of Providence, Rhode Island. Keep up the good work!


I went out one night in Chicago and Cecil was unable to join me (past Cecil’s bedtime). I was able to capture some video from the night before a security guard asked me not to film inside the club (sheesh!). If you can figure out who’s singing on stage, then you’ll not only get a prize from Pitzer, but a special nod of approval from me. And we all know how satisfying a nod of approval can be. Until next week, my friends!




Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beyond Buzzwords, part 1

Hello readers! I’m writing to you from Wallingford, Connecticut. I’m sitting at a place called Half Moon Coffee and Grille Café. This place serves up a perfect combination of hearty, Italian-inspired meals alongside genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee; and if you know me at all, you know how happy I am!

Now that we are fully engulfed in the crisp autumn air of October, many more of you are beginning to get your first real looks at college applications. You’re reading brochures, navigating websites, talking to counselors, and imagining yourself in different schools around the country. Throughout your literal and figurative journey, you will “try different colleges on for size,” see how you look in their colors, listen to how the names of different schools sound in your voice, and increasingly notice places where the fit is too loose, too tight, or just right. You will hear and read about how schools define themselves, and you will wait to feel a resonation between their values and yours. I call the values by which schools define themselves, for this reason, buzzwords.

Pitzer’s buzzwords include Social Responsibility, Student Autonomy, Intercultural Understanding, and Intercultural Learning. They are alternatively known as our core values.

Over the next weeks I will write about each one of these values, providing real life examples, to help us get beyond buzzwords. Our goal is to clear the air of static and really get down to the way that these values play out in our day-to-day lives at Pitzer. Hopefully, you’ll find something that resonates with you!

But first, some quick numbers from this week’s travels:
•Miles on The Roo (see last week’s post if you’re not familiar with The Roo): 960.
•Approximate number of gallons of unleaded fuel consumed by The Roo: 48.
•Approximate number of gallons of coffee (good…and bad) consumed by me: 2.5.
•Number of live deer observed from the road: 2.
•Number of deceased deer observed from the road: 5.

But I digress…

This week I want to talk about Social Responsibility. When students ask me to talk about the “typical” Pitzer student, this is often the first thing I think of. Our definition of Social Responsibility is intentionally broad (think of it as inclusive rather than ambiguous). Quite simply, Social Responsibility at Pitzer is the shared agreement that knowledge has ethical implications. The opportunity to live and learn at Pitzer imbues us with a responsibility to help a larger community, and empowers us to do so.

Everyone at Pitzer has a fire burning inside them about something in the world. It may be environmental justice, education, national politics, international development, human rights, gender equality, sexual liberation, medicine… Not everyone is passionate about the same thing, but everyone is passionate about something. Learning about the issues that are meaningful to other students is an important part of the intellectual diversity that we love at Pitzer.

In the admission process we are looking for students who have already demonstrated their commitment to something outside of themselves: a community service placement, an independent project, responsibility within one’s own family, activism and leadership in a community organization, the list goes on indefinitely; our understanding of social responsibility is as diverse as our student body.

As a Pitzer student, one is expected to continue learning and working on behalf of a larger community. The Center for California Cultural and Social Issues (CCCSI) is one of the best places in Claremont to get connected to a local organization that is doing valuable community work. Funding, transportation, and guidance is always available for students to pursue a totally unique social engagement project. All Pitzer study abroad programs include a community service component. Pitzer students are required to complete at least one semester’s worth of a community commitment, which can be fulfilled by any of the opportunities listed above, or by working in one of several positions on campus to strengthen and support our immediate community.

It is no surprise that most Pitzer graduates go on to jobs, activities and careers after college that reflect the value of Social Responsibility. Many alumni can be found teaching, working, and volunteering around the country and abroad with an organization they discovered during their time at Pitzer. Others are working for socially oriented law firms, NGOs, or private companies. The ways that Pitzer students choose to make the world a better place, again, are as diverse as the students themselves.

So as you think about Pitzer, and think about yourself, we hope you find your values matching ours. We’re excited for you to teach us about social responsibility in your life! While you strut your stuff in front of the metaphorical mirror, enrobed in Pitzer orange, take a moment to see if you can spot where Cecil has been this week. You may notice a certain theme between this week's pictures and this article! Email me at adam_rosenzweig@pitzer.edu if you think you know where Cecil is in the pictures below, or if you have any questions about social responsibility, or any other part of the application. Thanks for reading, see you soon!Here's a hint for this video clip. The band you're seeing is called Rude Mechanical Orchestra, one of several social activist street bands to perform at this festival. Name the festival, and the city, and you'll get a prize!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On The Road

Goodbye, September! Hello, October! Goodbye, summer; hello autumn. Goodbye flip-flops, hello flannels (except in Claremont, where we never say goodbye to flip-flops). This week found me moving farther away from Boston. In fact, I visited a school in Bethel, Maine that is about as far away from Pitzer as any of the admission staff will travel this year. I have to say, despite my California blood, that I am completely in love with New England! The leaves are fully in transition out here and the process is awesome. I drove through White Mountains National Park in New Hampshire and a number of times I almost pulled over and wandered up into the enticing hills. It looked like what an ant would see from inside a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Amazing. Consequently, this week I want to talk about the lives that we live while we’re “on the road.”


First, for perspective, some numbers from this week:

  • Miles I drove in my 1999 Subaru Outback (affectionately known as Roo, or The Roo): 801.
  • Approximate number of gallons of regular unleaded fuel The Roo consumed: 40.
  • Approximate number of fluid ounces of coffee I consumed: 200.
  • Average number of hours slept each night: 6.


As you can see, I spend a lot of time in my car. I was thinking about why my colleagues and I do this. Why we wake up with the sun and drive for hours to visit students and schools in locations that are seemingly designed to befuddle our precious GPS devices. Why we say goodbye to friends and family in exchange for hotel rooms and toll booths. I decided to ask my colleagues what are their favorite and least favorite parts of travel season, as well as what music they’ve been listening to on the road.

Assistant Director of Admission, Constance Perez’s favorite part of traveling is meeting students, though she knows it’s cheesy, and going to Sadie’s (the restaurant, not the dance) in New Mexico. Her least favorite part is flying. This week Constance’s playlist includes Stevie Wonder, Prince, and the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack.


Admission Counselor Danny Irving’s favorite part of traveling is getting to start his day as late as ten o’clock in the morning sometimes. That happens on the “almost never” side of “sometimes,” but you can’t blame a man for dreaming. His least favorite is visiting five schools in a day and then having to catch a flight. He also hates white Tic-Tacs (he knows that hate is a strong word). Danny forgot his iPod at home this week, so he has been listening to the distant but familiar memory of his mother nagging him as a child to double check that he’s packed everything before he leaves the house.


Associate Director of Admission Justin Voss’ favorite part of traveling is meeting students, finding good food, and experiencing different weather. His least favorite part is being away from his family. Justin’s playlist this week includes Monsters of Folk and 7 Worlds Collide, as well as Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses.


Director of Admission Angel Perez’s favorite part of traveling is seeing students in their own elements and environments. He also loves eating regional food! Angel’s least favorite part is airport delays. This week, Angel has been digging Camisa Negra by Juanes, a Colombian artist.


My least favorite part of traveling is the food. I refuse to eat another Hampton Inn breakfast sandwich. I simply refuse. I did, however, find an excellent cup of coffee at a café called The Met in North Conway, New Hampshire! Songs on heavy rotation in my car this week include “I Lost It,” by Lucinda Williams and “No Rest for the Weary,” by the Blue Scholars. I love finding beautiful places in nature, as well as experiencing new and often bizarre scenes of American life. Ultimately, like my colleagues, my favorite part of traveling is getting to meet students and talk about college. It’s the fundamental reason why we deal with late flights, long days, homesickness and headaches. We really believe that Pitzer is an amazing place and we love hitting the road to find the next class of amazing people who will make it their own!


Last but certainly not least, Cecil the Sagehen loves traveling! The proof will be here every week for the next couple of months. Below are some more candid shots of Cecil on the road. Email me at adam_rosenzweig@pitzer.edu if you think you know where Cecil’s been this week and we’ll send you a prize! Cecil’s favorite part of traveling is escaping from predators (which include just about everything) and collecting travel-size shampoo bottles from hotels. Cecil’s least favorite part of travel is all the flying (go figure). Cecil’s favorite band this week is Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Cecil has a thing for redheads, but who doesn’t?).





Friday, September 25, 2009

Announcements! Announcements!

This week we're excited to announce the return of our "Where in the World is Cecil the Sagehen" competition! You've been reading about some of the travel that we've been doing around the country, and some of you may have already seen a Pitzer representative in your hometown. When we travel, we take Cecil with us, and Cecil loves taking pictures! If you can identify where Cecil is in one of each weeks' pictures, then we'll send you a prize in the mail! Honest! You can email me your answers by clicking on my picture on the right side of the screen, or directly at adam_rosenzweig@pitzer.edu. Good luck with these pictures here, and keep an eye out for Cecil!




We are also very excited to announce that the application for our Fall Diversity Program is now available online! This program is designed specifically for students from underrepresented racial and cultural backgrounds from across the continental United States. Students selected for this program will have the opportunity to experience life at Pitzer College by staying in a residence hall, eating in the dining hall, and interacting with current students. If you are selected for the program, you will have your travel and expenses funded. There's a lot more information about the program on the Admission website, so check it out!

Coming up this week we'll be meeting students in Texas, Philadelphia, Greater Boston, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Find out if a Pitzer representative is coming to your school sometime this Fall (your guidance/college counselor will know). If we can't meet you in person this season, then you can still schedule a phone interview with someone in the office. Now is the time to start thinking about these things because our schedule does fill up! We will also be holding alumni interviews in some major cities across the country during the month of January, so keep your eyes open for those opportunities by checking back here every week.

Enjoy the new season, keep up the hard work, and have fun!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting savvy

This week the Office of Admission is quiet. Not because there’s no work to do, but because we’re on the road visiting you! Our counselors visited schools and met students in Atlanta, Tennessee, the San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, Boston, and Southern California – and we’re just getting started! Meeting a representative from Pitzer at your high school is a great opportunity to learn more about Pitzer, ask specific questions about the school, as well as gain insights into the college search and application process in general. If you can’t meet with one of us in person, remember that we have phone interviews available, and someone is always in our office to answer your questions or find someone who can.
But what kinds of questions should you be asking? How do you make the most of your opportunity to speak directly with an admission counselor? How do you know that you’ve found the right group of schools to apply to? The questions go on.
No matter how far along you may be in your college search and application process, you have no doubt been exposed to the glut of information designed to “assist” you during these often stressful months. Whole libraries have been devoted to college admissions, selections, applications, interviews, essays, and rankings. Entire graduate-level programs exist to train the professionals that you’ll meet along your way (also, ostensibly, to assist you). Not to mention the vast sea of college-related articles and – ahem – blogs that are just a search away on the internet. Wikipedia even has an article on university and college admissions (containing, among other things, information on the process in more than thirty other countries). A USA Today article this week titled, “To friend or not to friend?” comments on the pitfalls of using Facebook and other social networking tools to enhance your relationship with a particular institution or counselor. In short, there’s a lot of information coming at you.
So with all this information about the transition to college, why are there still so many questions? How do you become what I call a savvy consumer of college knowledge?
One way, if you know that you’re going to talk to a college representative, is to prepare some questions in advance so that you can make the most of your time together. You might even have some general questions prepared that you can ask of every college that visits, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions! We’re on the road looking for you, so feel confident seeking answers.
When you’re presented with promotional materials from a college (picture that stack of brochures you brought home from the college fair), pay attention to the “buzzwords” that colleges use to describe themselves, and then do your own investigation. If a college talks a lot about “interdisciplinary education,” go through their online course catalog and read some course descriptions. Do they seem interdisciplinary to you? When it comes to advertising, colleges are no different from private companies, so developing a critical eye will help you become a more savvy consumer of college knowledge.
Another thing you can do to get savvy is to read some of the literature that college admission counselors read. The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) is the professional organization of our business. At their website (NACACnet.org) you can become a student member and gain access to loads of insider information. Find out how college admission professionals talk to each other. Find out what issues are on the minds of the people reading your application. Sign up for the NACAC newsletter (Steps to College) under the “Publications and Resources) tab from the NACAC homepage.
The Pitzer College Admission staff is here to help you. You can find out which counselor is primarily responsible for your region on our website. Find us, contact us, ask us questions! Being proactive should be your goal during the college search and application process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there is still plenty of time. Have fun meeting counselors and investigating colleges!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcome Class of 2014 and beyond

Hello and welcome to Admission Unpeeled, a personal journey through a year in the life of the Pitzer College Office of Admission. By following and participating with this blog we hope you’ll learn more about the admission process in general, as well as get to know more about exactly what’s happening with our office each week. We’ll be updating the blog every week with news about visiting your high schools, meeting you and your counselors, reading applications, hosting programs on campus, and more. Check back with us as often as you like, comment on articles that pique your interest, write to us and tell us what you think. Pitzer Unpeeled is for you!

My name is Adam Rosenzweig and I will be your primary Peeler, if you will. You will also read messages from other members of the Admission staff throughout the year. I graduated from Pitzer in 2009 with a degree in History. During my time as a student I was actively involved all over the five Claremont Colleges (“5Cs”) with organizations like the Braineaters (Claremont’s highly competitive Ultimate Frisbee club team), Hillel (5C Jewish life), Pitzer Outdoor Adventure (our biggest and most epic club), and the Center for California Cultural and Social Issues (Pitzer’s community engagement institute). I was born in Santa Monica, California but I’ve lived in Cincinnati, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Boston. For the Office of Admission I travel throughout New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and even Westchester County, New York) as well as Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan.
This week at Pitzer has been very exciting for everyone, including the Office of Admission! New and returning students have been settling into their classes, and reuniting with friends. We are in the process of interviewing, hiring, and training our student workers to assist the admission team this year. By the end of the month we will have well over thirty paid student workers in our office! Our counselors are busy calling high schools to schedule times for us to come visit, so tell your college/guidance counselor (when they look like they’ve got a moment!) that you’re excited to speak with a representative of Pitzer College. If we can’t make it to your high school, and you can’t visit us at Pitzer, then we can set up a time to talk and even interview over the phone.

Become a follower of Admission Unpeeled and check back often for updates on the Pitzer College admission process. We hope you’re looking forward to this year as much as we are!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Smog Blog

Hi everyone, Justin here.

Danny is taking this blog entry off and was gracious enough to let me steal some space. I do take some time off my juggling career (note the Pitzer orange tie) to do some real work! I come bearing an answer to the question you might have had. As you know, Pitzer is located in beautiful Claremont, California, about 35 miles East of Los Angeles. When you think of Los Angeles you think of the entertainment industry, the beach, freeways, and yes, even smog.

Let’s do some a comparison, shall we? Here is Beijing China just right before the Olympics:


Can you even tell that there is a building in that photo? That is what smog can look like. This is a photo I took on Thursday, July 30th at 9:27am from Pitzer Hall toward the mountains.


Those are clouds in the background, it was a little overcast that morning. Here is what that afternoon (1:48pm) looks like from the same location.


I grew up in the Los Angeles area and when I was younger and in elementary school and a bit into high school (I graduated high school in 1997) we had what were called “Smog Days.” These were days where the smog was bad enough that we were not allowed to go outside. This was something that affected all of Southern California. Since I have been back in California (since 2001) I do not recall there being any “Smog Days.”

Keep in mind that California has some of the strictest emission standards in the entire country. You can take a look at these graphs and see the data for yourself.



http://www.aqmd.gov/smog/o3hist-trend.xls As you can see in the graph above, things are getting much better. One of the students working with us this summer, Witt, is from upstate New York. If you visited campus this summer, Witt may have been your tour guide.

When I asked him about smog, he said that he thought it was going to be bad here in the Los Angeles area. He followed that up by saying that he has not seen it here in Claremont. There are plenty of days when you can see downtown Los Angeles (35 miles away) from vantages in Claremont.

What does this all boil down to? Basically, don’t simply go by your preconceived notions. Do a little research. We are always happy to answer questions.

To find out more information about smog and other environmental issues in California, visit the California Environmental Protection Agency at http://www.calepa.ca.gov/ or their subsidiary, the Air Resources Board at http://www.arb.ca.gov/homepage.htm .

This is all another reason why Pitzer’s focus on sustainability is some important. It is our responsibility to be proactive in providing a clean environment. To learn more about what Pitzer is doing, visit http://www.pitzer.edu/sustainability/ .

Enjoy the rest of your summer and hope to see you while we are on the road in your town during the fall.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Summer Everyone!

Happy summer everyone!

I hope your summer is going as well as mine. It has been pretty busy here at Pitzer, a large number of students have been visiting us on campus, we are working on some new projects for next year and, of course, half of the office is taking their vacations. In fact Angel is in Thailand right now. I am very jealous, but I am actually just getting ready for a vacation of my own! I am going to be spending some time in San Diego, on the beach with my whole extended family and then I am actually going to be going on a college road trip of my own.

My younger cousin is about to enter her senior year of high school, so we are going to take off to look at a few schools around California. Right now our plan is to take the 2nd week of August to travel down the coast and check out 1 to 2 schools a day.

You can call me a college nerd, but I am really excited for this trip. It has been 6 years since I was at this point in my college search process and now that I know what goes in to making these visits happen at Pitzer, I am curious to see how other schools look.

While I am talking about college visits, I thought I would give you a few pointers on what to do during your college visit.

Go on a tour- I know sometimes you are worn out and just want to do a self guided tour, but the tour guided by a current Pitzer student will give you an important perspective that you would loose if you tour on your own.

Go to the information session- These are very easy to overlook during your visit and sometimes can be less exciting than the tour, but they are still very helpful. Look at the tour as the student side of campus and these informational sessions as the application side. Often times colleges will go through their core values or mission statement during the information session. This should give you a good idea of what the school is looking for in an applicant. At Pitzer we talk about our core values during our information session and those are going to show up again on our supplemental essay.

Have lunch on us- If you are thinking about spending 4 years at a school, you should know what the food situation will be like. Also, make a point to eat lunch with a student. I know you will be embarrassed when your family member plops down and starts grilling a student while they are eating, but this can give you a truly uncensored view of the school because that student probably isn’t connected to the Admission Office.

Talk to students-Whether it is in the dining hall or on the mounds make sure you talk to someone random and learn something new about the school.

Question everything- Now I know that I am an amazing Admission Counselor who addresses a ton of important points during my information sessions, but it is impossible for me to cover everything, that is why you need to ask questions. Whether it is to the Tour Guide or the Admission Staff make sure you ask at least a few questions on every campus. Yes, you should prepare these in advance and NO, your parents shouldn’t be asking all of them for you.

Know why you are asking a question- More important than just asking a question, is to know why you are asking the question. Whenever you ask a question, be prepared to answer “Why is that important/relevant to you?” Everyday parents and students ask me questions about endowments and statistical data that really do not play a factor in their college selection process. So make sure when you are asking questions that the answers will help your college search.

Take everything with a grain of salt-College visits are very subjective, so know that what you see during your 2 hours on campus might not be an accurate representation of what 4 years on that campus will be like. This works both ways, you could have a great visit to a school that is not a strong match for you or you could have a terrible visit to a school that is really a great match for you. Take your time to observe the campus, but still keep doing research after you leave.

Write everything down-My last piece of advice is to write down your impression of the school right after your visit. I know this sounds unnecessary, but come April when you go to make your final decision your memory probably won’t be as accurate as your notes.

I hope this introduction to a campus visit is helpful, and I may be making some additions to it once I get back from my campus tours. Best of luck on your school visits and if you happen to run into me on the road, I hope to get a chance to meet you. [This goes for any Admission folk as well. :) ]