Just Can’t Wait to be on the Road Again

Picture this: It is mid-July. I am at my desk. I have carved out some time this afternoon to write this blog post, wherein I hope to shed light on what we in the field of college admissions refer to as “travel season.” However, by the time this post is published it will be mid-September. Many of my colleagues and I will be long gone, traveling the country. Hopefully, we will be visiting your school or attending a college fair in your area. Maybe you are a high school senior, and have requested to meet with one of us one-on-one after school as a part of our Counselor Conversation event series. Whatever the case may be, we are excited to connect with you!

Almost everything we do in college admissions is designed to mirror the academic school year, making the nature of what we do rather cyclical. We are about to enter my favorite season of this annual cycle – travel season. After travel season comes the winter months, “reading season,” when your admissions counselors read the applications you will have submitted. Then we advance to “yield season” in the spring – events are being hosted, college decisions are being made. It’s a fun, high-paced few months. We wrap up with summer, a time to recoup, regroup, and plan for the next year. And then we dive right back into travel season. Month after month, year after year; the cycle marches on.

When someone is college admissions mentions “travel season,” they are typically referring to the time between the last week of August and the first week of November. During these ten weeks, admissions professionals from around the world are on the road, sharing with prospective students all of the wonderful programs and initiatives at their institutions.

By November of each school year, Admissions Counselors at Furman will have visited about 1,000 high schools, attended just short of 200 college fairs, and hosted almost 90 evenings of individual appointments for high school seniors. These events will have been coordinated in about 35 states and almost 20 countries. Suffice it to say we are on the move!

The days are long, but rewarding. They are at the core of what we do in College Admissions – they are days spent connecting with you, the student. Here’s a snapshot of what a typical “day in the life” looks like when I am on the road:

4:00am – Wake-up Call

After about 15 seconds of trying to remember which city I am waking up in, I’ve got my bearings and I am ready to go! With the bulk of my day spent visiting with prospective students and their families or college counselors, I have little time left for my “day job” – responding to emails, planning campus events, etc. I know that I am by no measure a night-owl, and I know that we are all better served when I set aside some time at the start of the day to get through my inbox.

5:00am – Work Grind

By now, I am at the Starbuck located closest to the first school I am visiting today. After an exchange of pleasantries with the barista, my Starbucks coffee and sandwich in hand, we are ready to work. Here is what you can typically find me doing:

  • Planning my last few weeks of travel
  • Booking flights, cars, and hotels for upcoming trips
  • Replying to yesterday’s emails
  • Preparing for upcoming campus events
  • Reviewing my schedule for the day, mapping every stop
  • Questioning how I am going to get all this done

8:00am – High School Visits

In a given day during travel season, I hope to visit three to five schools. Most of these meetings have been on the books for weeks, if not months. With each email exchange or visit confirmation, I know where to park and how to check in. Whether or not those steps are realized in perfect execution changes by the day and the visit. When things haven’t gone to plan in the past, have I been known to throw my rental car into park in some pretty precarious spots? Perhaps. But did I arrive on time to the high school visit? Always.

The structure of the visit depends on the school and the number of students present. I’ve spoken to as many as thirty students, and as few as one. However, if you plan to attend the visit when a Furman Admissions Counselor visits your high school, here are some consistencies to count on:

  • We will provide you with both a brochure and a pen
  • Yes, you may keep the pen
  • We will ask you to complete an Information Card. Legible handwriting encouraged
  • We’ll ask you about yourself – your interests and involvements, what you are looking for in a college or university
  • We will open the floor for questions

Because you have stayed with me for almost 900 words, I will let you in on a little secret: the high school visit is all about you. Your questions. Your interests. Your priorities. Your concerns. This is your time. I rarely spoke during these visits when I was a high school student – I was convinced all of my questions were silly, that I should already know the answer. It couldn’t be further from the truth! Admissions Counselors know that this is obviously your first time doing this whole “college search” thing, and the standard of what is to be considered a “good” question is pretty low. I implore you to speak up during these visits – the conversation will be made richer and more organic by your contributions.

3:00pm – School’s Out!

During travel season, when your final bell rings, setting you free to go home, to practice, to work – whatever it is you have going on – I have one of four things ahead of me:

Counselor Conversations: I might be heading to your friendly neighborhood Panera Bread for a set of Counselor Conversations. These are thirty-minute individual appointments for high school seniors, held between 3:00 – 9:00pm. Why Panera? Well, if not for their DELICIOUS mac-n-cheese (for your convenience, I have included a visual below; I highly recommend it), it is for the free WiFi and generally ample parking.

College Fair: Often times, the dates and duration of our trips to certain areas are defined by one or more large college fairs we hope to attend in that area. Some of these events are exclusive to students who attend certain schools. Other college fairs happily serve all students in a specific area or city. Either way, you will be able to see our smiling faces behind our beautifully displayed Furman brochures at several of these events throughout September and October.

*If you would like more information about Counselor Conversations or College Fairs in your area, contact your Admissions Counselor. If we are in town, we would love to connect with you!

Not a Thing: Now, remember – I put in my time at Starbucks before even the sun had the chance to rise. As was previously mentioned, I am very much a morning person. By 3:00pm, I have usually lost my voice and most of my critical thinking skills. There are days when I have the time and energy to search for compelling restaurant reviews on yelp, eager to explore your city. There are days when I pick up Chipotle, eager to explore Netflix offerings from the comfort of my hotel room. Regardless of what’s on the menu for dinner, these nights are a great chance to rest and recharge before another day on the road.

Homeward Bound: Some days during travel season end with a TSA security checkpoint, pretzels or peanuts, and an airplane safety announcement. On those days, usually Friday’s, I’ll be home by 11:00pm. And after a laundry-filled Saturday, I’ll be on the road again by Sunday afternoon! And so it begins again…

So there you have it: Travel Season. By the time the last rental car is returned in early November, just the thought of another Hampton Inn & Suites is enough to send shivers down an Admissions Counselor’s spine. Slowly, though, after the “read & repeat” days of reading season are but a memory, and yield season comes to a close; after we spend May, June, and July hiding behind the protection of central air conditioning, all the while planning for the next year, we will be yearning to hit the road again. We will be eager to visit with students, their families, and school counselors; eager to start this journey again with you.

By Coady Shovlain, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions

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