Despite Mother Nature’s best efforts, spring is coming to Billsville, sending students scrambling to retrieve shorts from long-forgotten boxes in their closets. And though it brings the valiant return of sunny afternoons at Chapin Beach and those charming purple flowers on President Falk’s lawn, the spring season has more serious connotations for sophomores. With study abroad petitions due the same week as Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford decisions are released, it’s easy to understand why March may have sophomores nail-biting rather than sun-tanning. This stress is, unfortunately, necessary; with so much of the sophomore experience at the College centralized around sketching a plan for the coming year, a certain degree of neurosis is to be expected. That being said, when junior advisor (JA) decisions were released last Monday, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better way to manage expectations.
As a JA hopeful myself, I spent Monday, March 5 doing everything I could to escape what seemed like a black hole of anxiety (read: comfort food, solo-mission to North Adams for a rom com, “Call Me Maybe” on repeat). Having been informed that we were to be notified by e-mail, I spent the vast majority of my Monday glued to my phone, reacting to each vibration as though it were the rumbling of an oncoming train; to say it was miserable would be the understatement of the year. According to an informational e-mail sent to the Class of 2014, “Offers will be made to perspective JAs via email the afternoon of Monday, March 5.” Seems reasonable, right?
Maybe not. What does “afternoon” mean? Noon? One? Three? 2:57 p.m. on the nose? Truly I tell you, it’s incredible what an anxious mind can do when the fate of one’s junior year is hanging in the balance As this news carries tremendous weight for all those receiving it, many of my peers figured they’d make a game plan for checking their e-mails; some opted to be alone, others wanted to be clutching a warm coffee at Tunnel City, still others found it necessary to skip a team lift or class meeting. To some this may seem excessive, but I find it tremendously respectful and responsible to have a plan ahead of time; the tears and sallow facial expressions of last year’s JA hopefuls were enough to lend me a lingering case of the blues. Bottom line? No one deserves to be blindsided by this news. With many sitting at the edge of their seats, the waiting is not productive for the College community at large and is certainly tough on the applicants themselves.
I understand that the vague notification timeline is to accommodate final decisions and processing in the deans’ offices, a factor that is critical to the process. That being said, the needs of students and deans alike can be incorporated in looking to designate a specific time of notification. If, for example, the Selection Committee told applicants they would know at 5 p.m. on the evening of March 5, deans would have the full work day to finalize offers, with applicants able to organize their days around a specific time and thus evade the nearly five hours of purgatory my classmates and I experienced. Additionally, this would cut down on the number of applicants who, like myself, acted as vampires, avoiding daylight altogether; perhaps more of us would have scheduled meetings, had meals with friends or attended team workouts had we been given a more specific timeline.
My second suggestion, perhaps more logistically difficult, is to reconcile the JA decision deadline with the due date for study abroad petitions. A small chorus of sophomores felt backed into a corner after receiving deflating news from the Selection Committee, figuring it was too late to attempt to plan a semester away. Certainly the College makes sure that each individual is able to apply for both options, and technically there should be no problem here. That being said, the prospect of a junior year spent in neither Frosh Quad nor Mission can be unexpectedly daunting for disappointed JA applicants; perhaps an early-March epiphany or the emergence of a latent desire for a Parisian homestay should be factored in to the process. Current juniors have explained that the deans are flexible in working with students who are late with their petitions; unfortunately, many sophomores don’t realize that, surrendering themselves to a year on campus without really pursuing their alternatives. In recognizing how much the Selection Committee has to do in their final days of meetings, I would suggest the petition deadline be moved back a mere two or three days; this way, disappointed applicants can re-imagine their junior year in time for the approaching deadlines.
In recognizing how integral the entry tradition is to the Williams experience, the Selection Committee puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into selecting who will wear those two letters next year. I am simply suggesting we spend as much time on the letters sent to JA hopefuls as we do on deciding who will wear the letters themselves.
Emily Calkins ’14 is from Baltimore Md. She lives in East.