Most laypersons and even many faculty and staff members don’t realize we are smack dab in the middle of what is known as Reading Season. Those early acceptance packets sent out by your admissions team before holiday break are one thing. They are usually the “easy” decisions of very high performing students who exceed every requirement and submitted all materials by the early deadline.

Now the hustle begins.

As I type, tens of thousands of admissions counselors from every kind of school across the country are hunkered down to read, assess, and rank the roughly 2 to 3 million admissions applications flowing in from all over the world to America’s public and private institutions of higher learning.

The criteria may be vastly different from school to school or program to program, but one thing is universal. A very large group of expert readers are faced with a massive pile of apps, strict deadlines, and several paths to productivity that are sometimes paved with bumpy distractions, shifting priorities, or plain old weariness from reading one similar essay after the next until you can’t recall what day it is.

For most of my career as “the communications person” I have watched Reading Season from an arm’s length, occasionally helping out as a reader, and participating as a scholarship reader in the philanthropic sector, but never with the kind of pressure felt by an admissions counselor. These frontline admissions staff have gone from road warriors to robe warriors (at least at the institutions that enable remote log-ins for secure, online reading and evaluating).

Some choose to follow their normal office schedule and are more productive going into the office to read. Some stay home and hole up for days with whatever best table, best music, best comfort food, and—as mentioned above—best comfy robe gets them into the reading groove. It’s akin to creative writing. Readers create their most productive atmosphere and then dig in, and the race against their numbers and their deadlines is ON!

I have so many friends and former coworkers who lead admissions teams or college communications efforts, and I love seeing their social posts about this fun and frenetic part of the enrollment cycle. Admissions offices and enrollment leaders all have their own unique traditions and approaches for pushing through this most important time of the year. I’ve seen everything from competitions to win gift cards, to those aforementioned new comfy robes, to various other small incentives and proactive “thank you” packets given with two objectives: 1) clearly acknowledging the seriousness and difficulty of the reading season, and 2) encouraging colleagues to do their best for the best incoming class. Ever. (…at least until next year).

One former colleague who is now a director of admissions at a prominent college in the northeast makes survival kits for her team each year. She shares pictures of her annual table of swag bags, including one, ever-present item: #manychocolates 😊

(Note: After Reading Season, it is not uncommon to hear admissions pros post and exchange diet and exercise plans to address the comfort food, stress eating, and snacks consumed while reading all of those apps.)

Here’s to you, readers. Whether you’re the Robe Warrior type or the Stay-At-The-Office-Until-I-Get-One-More-App-Read pro…thank you. We know you are sometimes burning the midnight oil to process and rank applicants. We know how passionate you are about bringing in a great and diverse class, because you’ve been out all year meeting these students and their families. Good luck, and much RESPECT!

Feel like sharing?

Leaders, what is something unique or special you do for your team during reading season? Readers, what is something fun or funny or a useful tip for how you get into the reading groove and stay productive? We’d love to hear and share your stories, so get in touch!