Letter from the Publisher

Admissions Madness

I don’t remember the college admissions process being terribly complicated or stressful. My grades were pretty good, so I checked that box. I swam year round, played some other sports and volunteered at church, so my extracurriculars were solid. When I took the SATs my math score didn’t light the world on fire, so my parents sprang for a tutor. On the next round, my math score dropped even lower (yikes), but my verbal score improved (go figure), so we combined the best of both tests and called it a day.

In hindsight, the hardest part for me was writing the essay—which is ironic since I now publish a magazine and pen this letter. Perhaps I hadn’t done anything interesting in my first 17 years. Or maybe I wasn’t a very good writer. At any rate, I struggled to come up with a topic and ultimately decided to write about an ocean swim I had completed. I blathered on about how awful it was and how cold the water was and how many times I got stung by jellyfish and how I expected to be torn to bits by sharks at any moment, but in the end it showed my resolve and character and why I should be accepted to college. I’d love to read it now—I bet it was terrible—but I guess it was good enough because I got into four of the five schools I applied to.

My friends didn’t seem super-stressed either. We all knew the kinds of schools that might accept us. We applied, got into some of them and off we went. Nowadays, you hear about kids who take 85 AP classes (ok, I’m exaggerating), AP exams, the SAT, SAT subject tests and the ACT. They play travel soccer, travel lacrosse, travel water polo—all in the same season. They travel to Antarctica to study leopard seals and the African bush to build water-treatment facilities. They perform in the school play, serve on the student council, edit the school paper and hold multiple patents. I heard about one kid who saved young children from a burning orphanage while playing an oboe.

Our oldest daughter, Caroline, is a rising ninth grader at Washington-Lee, and even now it’s easy to get caught up in the madness. I’m sure many of you are feeling the pressure too. That’s why I hope our cover story, “Give It the New College Try,” by Amy Brecount White, will help you gain a better handle on the college admissions process. White, a local mom and college essay coach, interviewed admissions officers, guidance counselors and other experts to help you and your child understand what’s important in the process, what’s not, and how students can best position themselves for the college of their choice.

I hope you enjoy our September/October Education issue. As always, please let us know how we’re doing by emailing me at greg.hamilton@arlingtonmagazine.com. Letters to the editor should be directed to jenny.sullivan@arlingtonmagazine.com. Thanks!

Greg Hamilton, Publisher