College Kickoff: a Polarizing Experience

Amanda Mier, Feature Editor

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A panel at the College Kickoff event for juniors provided insight on the admissions process.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Marshall
A panel at the College Kickoff event for juniors provided insight on the admissions process.


These words filled the screen in the auditorium, eliciting a hearty laugh from the parent section and a nervous chuckle from the juniors.

The Maggie Walker counseling department had created the “Wordle” to depict how the student body felt about their impending college applications. These feelings, what to expect in the application process, and how to find the right college, were all discussed in Tuesday’s college kickoff meeting. Complete with counselors, college representatives from a variety of schools (University of Pittsburgh, University of Virginia, University of Richmond, University of South Carolina, and Washington & Lee), a financial aid adviser, and an audience/panelist Q&A session, the meeting lasted nearly three hours.

Students prior to this meeting did not know what, exactly, to expect, although most juniors were excited to miss their sixth and eight period classes. Avery Walker (’17) said, “Going in to college kickoff I didn’t really care as much about college and didn’t know a lot about it … coming out I felt a little more stressed, but also reassured in knowing exactly what I needed to do and when.”

Stress, the most prominent word in the Wordle, pervaded the minds of juniors long after the 3:00 conclusion of the meeting. “It was incredibly stress inducing to have to think about the future,” said Mairead Guy (’17), “and I feel like the admissions people tended to be a bit disingenuous in terms of what colleges are expecting.”

Mara Guyer (’17) indicated that the stress was partially a result of the snowball effect. “We’re having college meetings and taking SATs and ACTs and talking to teachers about recommendations all within the next couple of weeks which makes everything, including the stress, very immediate,” she explained. However, she noted that “College kickoff was actually more reassuring than I expected; the panelists were funny and had a lot of wisdom to share!”

Overall, the student reaction toward the college kickoff event was relatively positive. Michael Rhyner (’17) remarked that the kickoff was “helpful to my understanding of the college search and application process.” Parth Kotak (’17) agreed: “Because my family is from India and I’m the first in my family to apply to college, I’m thankful for College Kickoff. It filled me in on lots of details that I would have otherwise been clueless about.”

Other students felt that, although the kickoff was in theory a good idea, the beneficial effects were negligible. Ryan Buscaglia, (’17) explained, “It was well-intentioned, but for most people it did not seem to radically change their plans or perceptions of colleges and the admissions process.”

While the Class of 2017 may have left feeling more stressed than before, there were two very evident winners: Mountain Dew’s marketing team (creators of the already iconic puppy-monkey-baby), and University of Virginia representative Ryan Hargraves, the reaction towards whom was overwhelmingly positive. Mr. Hargraves, donning a UVA tie, delivered his sage college advice with all the humor possible for such a seemingly dull occasion, spouting memorable wisdom such as “Be the best parallelogram you can be!” The entire junior class seems to be in agreement about Mr. Hargraves. “He should be a stand-up comedian,” Rhyner pronounced. And Ryan Buscaglia, in summation of Tuesday’s assembly, put it best: “Lol.”

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