4 Flights, 3 Days, 8 Meetings

Admissions counselors travel a lot! Part of our job is to visit high schools across the country to meet with students, counselors, even teachers. We also travel to conduct interviews with applicants. This past week I got to travel to Northern California’s South Bay area. My strategy was to focus a quick trip around a mini Colleges That Change Lives event at Notre Dame High School.

So my day started with a 78 mile drive to the Albuquerque airport at 5:30am. I actually look forward to parking my car, because the Airport Parking people always greet me warmly, even in the wee hours of the morning or night. The yellow shuttle promptly delivered me to the departing flights/loading area for Southwest airlines. My next stop was to the breakfast burrito stall. With a red chile sausage breakfast burrito in hand, I made my way to my gate with plenty of time to check emails prior to boarding.

My flight plan took me from Albuquerque to San Diego to San Jose. I had an hour and twenty minute layover in San Diego which seemed like plenty of time to make my connecting flight, but the simple act of traveling ensures that you will encounter the unexpected – often. Interestingly, I learned from a TSA officer that San Diego is an older airport and I would have to exit security and then re-enter through security in order to get to my next gate. I arrived in Gate 7and my connecting flight was out of gate 11. This small difference necessitated a shoes off, lap tops and kindles out in separate bins, no jewelry on my person, gulp the remaining water in my water bottle, walk through security again.  Twice in one day. Thankfully, I made it through the second security screening without significant delay or  incident.

Unlike the San Diego airport, the San Jose airport is small and shiny, super high tech, and it has an excellent layout.  I landed and deplaned as scheduled at 11:10am. Since I had my roller bag and backpack with me, I could proceed directly to the car rental building.  Happily, it was just across the street. I was able to exit the airport in my rental car by 11:35am.  My first visit was not supposed to be until 2:10pm, but the high school counselor contacted me the previous day to let me know that they had an unusual bell schedule and that everyone would be dismissed at 12:30pm. So I zoomed to the school for what was now a 12:00pm meeting.  I made it with two minutes to spare!

When visiting a high school, admissions counselors are told to aim for the flag pole. Somewhere near the flag pole there will be visitor parking and  somewhere nearby will be the main office.

Visitors badge obtained, I walked myself to the college counseling center. Once settled in there, I got to talk about St. John’s College, our curriculum, and our Summer Academy program! I don’t always get to meet with students because of class schedules, timing, and competing demands, but getting to have a substantial conversation with the college counselor, and leaving a packet of information is helpful. Especially since spring is the time that juniors begin building their list of college options. I appreciate counselors that try to get their students to think beyond what they might know or feel comfortable with; most counselors will encourage students to search for a good fit and sometimes that means getting them to look at a wider selection of colleges and universities. Summer programs at colleges like our Summer Academy, can be a great way for sophomores and juniors to try out college life at an unfamiliar or new institution. You can get a idea of what that college is like academically as well as socially, and still have some summer fun.

My next stop was for food. The breakfast burrito served me well but that had been almost 10 hours ago! My day began at 4:30am PST and I needed fuel. Yelp helped me identify a place near my next meeting, called Curry Up Now.  I ordered the Naughty Naan which basically had delicious chicken tikka masala ladled generously on a huge, fresh piece of naan. This plus a mango lassi made everything better.

My last stop of the day before checking into my air BnB was at Philz in San Mateo. I scheduled an interview with a local high schooler who wanted to learn more about St . John’s. We met for over an hour and had a great conversation about books, classroom conversations, science, math, literature, philosophy, hiking/backpacking, and more. What is life like outside the classroom at St. John’s?

Getting to meet a student for an interview at a local coffee shop is definitely one  of the best parts to being an Admissions Counselor and it was certainly a highlight to what was otherwise a very long, full, day of work and travel.

Now, just 2 flights, 2 days, and 6 meetings left…


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