College Counseling

From the Executive Director of College Counseling: Slaying the Dragon

I will always remember the chant, “Dragon, Dragon, Dragon; Oi, Oi, Oi!” In late March, the entire Cornell University community came together to celebrate a Cornell rite of spring – the storied Dragon Day tradition. As tradition goes, first-year architecture students construct a dragon and march it across campus to meet a phoenix built by first-year engineers. The culmination was a bonfire on the Arts Quad where the dragon was metaphorically slain. The celebratory atmosphere reflected both the excitement of a campus event drawing thousands of participants as well as a collective sense of relief that spring was just around the corner after a long, Ithaca winter.
Over the years, Dragon Day also became a means of catharsis for many Cornell admissions officers. The extremely long-hours devoted to reading applications, the agonizing committee sessions, and the thousands of difficult admissions decisions can be very difficult on the psyche. Dragon Day was a celebratory moment at the end of a long, difficult winter. After one particularly difficult admissions cycle, my admissions colleagues saw tears streaming down my face as the mighty dragon marched by. These tears were most certainly a reflection of the great joy I was feeling, surrounded by thousands of happy friends and colleagues –  my tears also signaled that the admissions cycle was now behind us!

For RE students,  the college process brings a workload comparable to taking an additional course and triggers a similar range of emotions. After applications are filed, seniors anxiously await the announcement of early decisions in December. For some, those decisions bring joy and peace of mind; others, however, experience disappointment and a growing unease that extends through the spring, when regular decisions are announced. Although we often describe these many months as a roller coaster of emotion, it hardly does justice to the constant adrenalin surges students experience from the beginning of February as one institution after another, week by week, announces decisions. So many parents have shared personal revelations about the surprising intensity of this process and the impact it has on family life. And with the world still managing the fallout from the pandemic, it can all feel like a heavy burden.

And yet, as I sit at my desk and watch our seniors interacting on the Touzet Quad or engage in conversations with students during lunch, I am constantly amazed at the resilience exhibited by the Class of 2023. Throughout these stressful weeks and months, RE seniors have competed in the bridge building competition and RE Business Challenge, won water polo titles, gone to the state speech and debate competition, traveled to Singapore, hosted art exhibitions, interviewed featured guests at upper school assembly, hosted celebrations for Lunar New Year and Black History Month, engaged the RE community on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, championed student mental health, racked up victories at the South Florida History Bee and Bowl, received well-deserved recognition as Gold Key honorees, District Honor Band designees, and were named U.S. Presidential Scholars. Despite feeling pressure, they consistently responded with extraordinary composure and aplomb. I am confident that members of the Class of 2023 will emerge from the college admissions process, perhaps somewhat bruised, but with a heightened sense of their own remarkable ability to persevere in the face of challenges. They have slayed the dragon!

With the end of Dragon Day each year came the beginning of Cornell Days. This was a hopeful time for admissions officers as we greeted admitted students and gave them a taste of life on the Hill. Among the admitted students were many whose first choice was not Cornell. In all honesty, Cornell was the second, third, or even fourth choice for some students. I was always encouraged by the fact that no matter where Cornell ranked on their original list of schools, I never met a student at fall orientation who regretted their choice to enroll. As our seniors make their final decisions this month, we congratulate them on slaying the dragon and taking the next step in their educational journey.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.