Admission Team Works From Home, Welcomes Virtual Connections

Admission team working from home
Admission team member Jacob Elliott enjoys plenty of coffee as he meets virtually with Future Hornets.

It’s been over a month since K’s Office of Admission team has started working remotely; employees have been busy helping students, talking to parents and setting up the best virtual visit experience possible. Just like everyone else, K’s admission counselors have been adjusting to this new normal.

Jacob Elliott, one of the newest admission counselors who works with students from the Southwest U.S., as well as students from Lansing and the Thumb of Michigan, has been crafting his own way of life. “I wake up and immediately get a cup of coffee,” Elliott said. “Nothing has changed on that front — except the size of the coffee cup.” From there, he does his best to deal with his newest coworker, 10-month-old Freddy the cat, whose idea of work time looks an awful lot like play time. When work is done, Elliott is in a desperate scramble to get through the growing pile of unread books on his shelves. “If you need a book recommendation at this point, I’m your guy!”

Freddy Elliott serves as Jacob’s work-from-home coworker.

Early in his remote work process, Elliot realized that physical distance didn’t have to mean complete social distance — social media distance, that is! “I chat with my friends now more than ever,” Elliott said. “I’m all over FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat! I’ve learned if you want to see other people, you still can. I’ve even made a few new friends while we’ve all been craving human interaction!”

While the world is keeping its distance, people are still finding ways to care for and support one another. K’s counselors are no different, Elliott said. “We’ve just extended our deposit deadline to June 1; anyone who is still considering K or is  not sure where they might be headed next year should definitely reach out! We are more than willing to help, even if that means just listening to you and talking through your options.”

K Admission is Committed to Flexibility

Suzanne Lepley and two students discuss flexible admission deadlines
Director of Admission Suzanne Lepley stands with two current K students

Dear Future Hornets,

Over the past several weeks, our admission team has been impressed by the resiliency of our K community and our applicants. For me, these uncertain times have highlighted the strength and compassion of our community, and repeatedly demonstrated what I’ve always told prospective students: At K, we take care of each other. Consequently, we’re extending the same compassion to you, our Future Hornets. As you move through the application process, please know that we’re committed to the following:

  • Grace for decision deadlines. Our decision deadline is still May 1. However, if you have any concerns about meeting this deadline, please communicate with your admission counselor.
  • Financial aid for special circumstances. If your family’s financial situation should change at any time, please know that K’s financial aid appeals process exists for this purpose.
  • Enrollment deposit flexibility. If you have special financial concerns regarding enrollment deposits, please contact your admission counselor to arrange a reduced-cost deposit. Enrollment deposits are applied to your first-semester bill; should you need to defer enrollment, you can apply your deposit to a future term.
  • Understanding toward credit/no credit grades. We’re happy to accept transcripts that document the grades awarded by your high school. We know that many high schools are changing to pass/fail or credit/no credit assessments, while others are actively considering their options.
  • Case-by-case approach to AP, IB and dual enrollment credit. Our policy toward evaluating credit for these exams has not changed; we’re looking into equitable solutions for all students. As soon as we learn more about changes to these exams, we’ll get in touch with you with more details about our approach.
  • Celebrating our test optional policy. We’ve been proudly test optional since 2015. If taking the SAT or ACT is not feasible for you, we understand.

In these times of uncertainty, I know that this K community is where I want to be. I hope you’ll join us too.

Suzanne Lepley

Future Hornets: Find Community at K

Dear Future Hornets,

Every day at approximately the same time, I receive a photo or video of a two-year-old in Oakland, California. Each time, the glinting smile of a bubbling toddler lifts my spirits tremendously.

Suzanne Lepley, pictured with a K alumna, helps Future Hornets
Director of Admission Suzanne Lepley often visits with K graduate Becca ’06. Lepley advises Future Hornets to build a strong community of friends in their years at K.

She’s the daughter of two Kalamazoo College alumni, Becca ’06 and Matt ’02. I have known Becca since she first set foot on campus; she was a student and eventually my daughter’s babysitter, and I was in the early years of what would become my 22-year career with K. I had the great fortune of witnessing the highs and (sometimes) lows of her four years at K. Years later, I watched as she found great love in her partnership with Matt.

The two moved to California a decade ago to build a life together. I watched the pair establish careers in tech startups, welcome a tiny human to the world and settle into their Oakland community. Through all of this, our relationship has evolved into a treasured friendship. Every trip to Kalamazoo for homecoming or holidays includes shared meals and laughs. When my family visited California, we explored San Francisco with personal tour guides. Matt challenges my son in video games, and Becca serves as a sounding board and steadfast support to my 17-year-old daughter as she navigates her high school experience. And we all snuggle their tiny human every chance we get.

I am lucky to spend my days talking about the value of a K education, a value that is exemplified by Matt and Becca’s experience. Both studied abroad and successfully graduated from K in four years, and both were employed quickly after graduation and built fulfilling careers.

Yet when I think about why a K education is valuable, especially in these challenging times, I also think of this: relationships matter. The connections you make at the College matter. The K community isn’t a four-year experience; it’s a lifetime of meaningful connections.  Beyond business or career connections, we achieve success in human connections. My friendship with Becca and Matt is just one small example of this gift.

Seniors, as you make this decision in a truly unprecedented time, consider the strength of the community you will join and the power of lifelong networks. I know with great certainty Kalamazoo College has the unique ability to connect people, as I continue to connect with so many students that I have met through the years. This is evident every day around 5:30 p.m., when a certain toddler brightens my inbox!

Visits Take Virtual Turn; Application Process Continues

Virtual Campus Tours Suzanne Lepley
Kalamazoo College Director of Admission Suzanne Lepley discusses virtual options for campus tours.

As the Director of Admission at Kalamazoo College, I like to remind prospective students that they’re in the driver’s seat of the admission process. It’s a metaphor that works, because a lot of the time, K’s admission counselors are along for the ride; we enjoy pointing out the sights, sounds and highlights of our beautiful campus as prospective students begin to see themselves at K. When we learn that a student has a particular educational or extracurricular interest, we discuss the K-Plan and help them map where that journey can take them.

Recently, students and families may feel like they’re running out of road. COVID-19 developments may cause some uncertainty about the future of K’s admission processes. Although campus is closed to visitors, I’m thrilled to report that each application is still receiving our full attention. We’re also moving ahead, looking forward to enrolling the class of 2024 and continuing to provide the best possible visit experiences for Future Hornets. Here are a few options we’ve put into place:

  • Video chats: Admission counselors are fully prepared to schedule FaceTime, Zoom or Skype chats to connect with students. Counselors can also be contacted for phone, text or email conversations. We’re still excited to tell you all about K.
  • Virtual tours: The campus visit is an integral part of the college decision process; you can explore our campus through a combination of videos, stills and 360-degree images. We encourage families to enjoy the virtual tour the way they would an in-person tour — together!
  • Ask a student: We know that our visitors love talking to current students about their K experiences. These interactions offer an authentic and realistic perspective on life at K. You can reach out through email to ask questions or schedule phone calls, texts or video chats.

We’re taking a detour from the usual admission process this year and working on more virtual visit opportunities that will allow prospective students to experience the depth and breadth of the K visit experience while remaining safe and healthy. We’re confident that K is a great destination, and we’re excited to meet our class of 2024.

Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 and Admission

What is the current status of COVID-19 at K?

Please see the most up-to-date information.

What are virtual visit options?

  • We’re happy to meet you and discuss your place at K. Please reach out to schedule a video chat, phone, text or email conversation.
  • Take a virtual tour to explore photos and videos of our beautiful campus!
  • Contact an alum and learn about the K experience from the perspective of a graduate.
  • Ask a student to hear about life at K straight from the source! Current students are available for phone calls, texts, video chat and email.

Will COVID-19 impact admission decisions and processes?

As usual, every application will receive our full consideration. Domestic applications will not be impacted. We are closely monitoring the international COVID-19 situation and will adhere to any guidelines set by the U.S. government. If you are an international applicant with concerns about the application process, please contact our international admission coordinator.

Will COVID-19 impact the timing of admission notification?

Admission notifications will be sent as usual! Please check your “my status” portal.

Will the enrollment deposit deadline be extended?

Yes; our enrollment deposit deadline has been extended to June 1. However, we understand that these are uncertain times. Please contact your admission counselor regarding deadline concerns.

What if I have affordability concerns as a result of COVID-19?

K’s financial appeal process is designed for this purpose.

I’m a transfer student and my current college/university is closed; will you accept unofficial transcripts?

Reach out to Marcus Johnson, our transfer student coordinator, to address concerns about transcripts.

For high school counselors, IECs and CBO partners

I was planning to bring students to campus. What are my other options?

Please take advantage of the following options:

  • Take a virtual tour to explore photos and videos of our beautiful campus!
  • Contact our office to schedule a virtual information session. We’re happy to meet your students and answer any and all questions about your place at K.

Will K counselors be attending college fairs?

Not at this time; K has suspended all non-essential college-sponsored travel. Please contact our office to request college fair materials or discuss K’s presence at virtual fairs.

K Honors Your First Amendment Rights

Photo of Eric Staab
Eric Staab

In light of recent events, some high schools have chosen to discipline students for peacefully demonstrating.  As the dean of admission and financial aid, it is important to me that you know K’s position.

To every high school student who chooses to lead or participate in a peaceful demonstration as a means to share their beliefs, we say, stand strong and proud. It has been our long-term practice at Kalamazoo College that your application for admission or acceptance to Kalamazoo College will not be in jeopardy should your high school discipline you for freely expressing your First Amendment rights in a peaceful and respectful manner.

Eric Staab, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Conquering the College Admission Essay

Sometimes the word “essay” conjures up images of a five-sentence, five-paragraph response to a straightforward question. Instead, think of this part of the application as a story you tell about yourself that A) shows the College how well you write, and B) gives the College insight into your character beyond what the rest of the application indicates about you. The essay prompts, then, are not “gotcha” questions, but an opportunity to reveal parts of your character and identity that we can’t see anywhere else.

Here are some ideas to consider as you select your story and begin writing:

Kalamazoo College Admission Counselor Marcus Johnson
Marcus Johnson        Assistant Director of Admission

Don’t use a thesaurus. This is not the vocabulary section of a standardized test; you do not need to impress us with your word bank. Stuffy, ten-dollar words often cover up the real identity behind the essay writer. Besides, if you don’t use that kind of vocabulary in your regular speech, adding words that you don’t normally use just to impress the College will make you sound incredibly inauthentic.

Shock and awe alone won’t sell your story. Essays that recap all the awesome stuff on your list of extracurricular activities don’t show the College how awesome you are. Essays that reveal a significant tragic life experience may make your application reader feel incredibly empathetic toward you, but that doesn’t necessarily tell that reader who you are.

Avoid generalized statements/lessons/definitions. “Webster’s dictionary defines ____ as…” is a common beginning for application essays. It’s been done before, it’s not particularly interesting, and it’s not as helpful as you might think. “Some/many people experience (general experience),” etc. is not only a weak, inaccurate, and offensive way to start an essay, it begins your story with the focus on abstract general society, when the focus should be on you.

Your identity makes a story interesting. Let’s assume you want to write about being an athlete. Do you live in a small town where the entire community knows your name and comes out to see you play? Did you have to convince your parents that the sport you play matters? Does your team always make it to state championship so there’s a lot of pressure on you to perform well, or do you never make it to playoffs, so your team is an underdog in your region? What about your racial identity, gender, sexual orientation, faith, economic status? Does that impact what it’s like to be an athlete at your school? There is no one-sentence answer to any of these questions; you have to tell a story that answers these questions.

Proofread, and get someone else to read your writing. The College definitely values story over grammar, but a poorly written essay suggests that you didn’t put a lot of time into writing. Write your draft early, and get it into the hands of someone who can give you honest feedback. Do they understand what the story is? Do you come across as an honest writer? Do they see spelling errors?

Best of luck to you in your essay writing, and in your college search!

Marcus Johnson, Assistant Director of Admission

Top 5: What I Look For In an Application

As students begin the college search and application process, one of the things they’re often anxious about is how their application will be evaluated by a college. A lot of students stress themselves out trying to craft an application that represents who they think colleges are looking for—rather than an application that best represents their individual achievements and interests.

When I read applications, I’m looking for students who are academically qualified and will enrich our campus’ living and learning community. Read more below for insight into specific pieces of the application process.

Kalamazoo College Admission Counselor Rudi Goddard
Rudi Goddard                         Assistant Director of Admission
  1. Academic Strength

This one is pretty obvious. You are applying to be a college student—you’re going to spend a lot of time taking classes. I review a student’s transcript thoroughly, especially noting their GPA and the rigor of curriculum. I want to see a student has challenged himself or herself by taking the most rigorous courses their school offers—especially in junior and senior years.

  1. Personal Passions and Involvement

Who are you? What do you like to do? What are you most passionate about and how will you be involved on our campus? Students at Kalamazoo College keep themselves very busy—we don’t want to enroll someone who is going to spend all of their time in the library—so I look for students who have invested significant time, energy and/or leadership in a few activities.

Don’t join 10 new clubs senior year just so you can write them on your application.

Don’t list the activity you think “sounds good” at the top of your extracurricular activities if it’s not the one to which you’re most devoted.

And don’t forget to mention participation you might not think of as a traditional school activity; for example, working a part-time job, publishing your creative writing in a local paper or online journal, shouldering significant family responsibilities, etc. Anything you do between sitting in class and sleeping could be an extracurricular activity!

  1. Writing Ability

Kalamazoo College’s curriculum is writing-intensive—no matter your major—so a student’s writing ability (demonstrated in the personal statement essay) is very important. A well-written essay will be error-free, interesting and tell me something about the student I wouldn’t have learned from any other part of their application. The best essays I’ve read are very focused: it’s not possible to distill everything that makes you a unique individual into 650 words or less, so don’t try. Instead, think critically about one idea or experience that is meaningful to you and/or has shaped you in some way.

  1. Fit With K

This one may seem obvious, but it should be apparent from your application you like Kalamazoo College and are interested in spending four years on our campus. If you’ve done your research, you know K is a good fit for you, so don’t be shy to tell us why you think we’re a great match!

  1. But What about Test Scores?

You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned the ACT or SAT. That’s because Kalamazoo College uses a Test Optional application process. You are not required to submit standardized test scores as part of your application materials and your scores will not determine your admission decision, nor will they factor into merit scholarship allocation. If you think your test scores are a strong indicator of your academic potential—or perhaps a stronger indicator than, say, your GPA—you are more than welcome to send them to us.

Read more about our Test Optional admission policy.

Note: International students must demonstrate English language proficiency, and they may choose to use ACT or SAT scores to do so. Read more about English proficiency requirements for international students.

Rudi Goddard, Assistant Director of Admission

Entering College with an Undeclared Major

There is a common misconception that students should know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives the moment they step foot on their college campus. In actuality, a large portion of students enter college with an undeclared major or have little to no idea what career path they want to follow and use their college experience to figure it out along the way. I like to think Kalamazoo College’s K-Plan works best for students who are unsure of what they want to do, because it allows for a little trial and error with minimal consequences. The K-Plan is built to prepare you for what’s next, and one important piece of that is to give you opportunities to explore with the support of the institution behind you.

Jessica Williams     Admission Counselor

Let’s take a look at the first component of the K-Plan Depth and Breadth in Liberal Arts. At Kalamazoo College, students do not officially declare their major until the middle of their sophomore year. Although some students are very certain what they want to major in, we encourage everyone to take different kinds of classes and explore different departments. By the time you declare your major, you will have taken fifteen classes. That’s fifteen opportunities to figure out what you like and we hope by then you land on one (or two!) department(s) you want to major in. One question I always get when I say this is “But will I still graduate on time? I REALLY don’t know what I want to major in”. Yes, you will still graduate on time *Hears sigh of relief from every senior around the world*. With our open curriculum and minimal requirements, time to explore different areas of study is built into a 4-year graduation plan.

In the same vein, there are students who know what they want to study, but they do not know how they can turn their interest into a career. Many people have grown up with the notion that there are three major career paths – doctor, lawyer, and teacher – and feel a little out of place when they come to the realization that their passion does not perfectly align with any of these careers. Kalamazoo College has an externship program called Discovery, and just as the name implies, it provides students with the opportunity to discover a variety of career paths as early as the end of their freshman year. Students get the chance to take a glimpse at what their life can look like 5, 10, or 30 years from now and are able to decide whether this is something they want to pursue before diving deep into a major. The ability to see a variety of career possibilities helps our students find a career path that is right for them early in their undergraduate career.

In short, I know walking into college not knowing what you want to do can seem scary, but the K-Plan provides you the space to ask questions, explore, and grow, so that you can be successful and thrive at anything you decide to do.

Jessica Williams, Admission Counselor