Kirk Duncan Blog 03-26-15
Posted 03/26/2015 04:18PM

On College Admissions

by Kirk Duncan, Head of School

“I'm simply interested in what is going to happen next. I don't think I can control my life or my writing. Every other writer I know feels he is steering himself, and I don't have that feeling. I don't have that sort of control. I'm simply becoming. I'm startled that I became a writer.” - Kurt Vonnegut

I appreciate this quote. I believe strongly in the notion that we are all “becoming.” I am confident that every program at our school has at its core the sense that we are all, especially our students, in the process of becoming.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a “College and Coffee” session offered by our college counselor, Jessica Browning. About 30 CDS parents from grades eight through 11 attended the session. Jessica, a seasoned expert in her field, provided an overview of the college counseling program at CDS. She described a process that begins in grades seven and eight with class trips that intentionally include college visits. The process crescendos as the intensity of the college application process kicks into high gear in the first semester of senior year. Jessica’s explanation of how the process works is in sync with the CDS spirit that imbues every program on campus. We are focused on supporting each student’s process of becoming.


For some, especially when undergoing the experience for the first time, the college admissions process can be fraught with anxiety, expense, and even heartbreak. To help put all of this into perspective, there was a recent and excellent article by Frank Bruni in the New York Times, entitled “How to Survive the College Admissions Madness.” The article describes various college graduates who had, when they were high-school seniors, applied to and been rejected by their first-choice, highly selective, college. At the time, the students were crushed and thought their lives were over. However, all went on to rewarding college experiences, including robust study-abroad programs and life-changing community service programs that stretched and engaged them. Bruni points out that one can actually live a fruitful, productive and rewarding life even if not accepted to the highly selective college of one’s preference.

The college admissions process is messy. Much of what a CDS family will face during the process will be challenging and seemingly counter to the CDS experience to that point (I have strong feelings about the use of standardized tests as a college admissions criteria but will save those opinions for another article). The teachers and administrators in Upper School, led by Jessica, are partners with those families entering the college admissions process. And although we place plenty of CDS students into the most highly selective colleges in the country, we never lose our perspective. We keep our eye on the fact that there is a rich and full life to be led after the moment of college acceptance. We believe that no single decision made by a particular college admissions office should deter a CDS graduate’s journey of “becoming.”

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