Whitney Soule, vice provost and dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, visited the Upper School on Thursday, October 14, 2021, for the second annual Francis J. Carey, Jr. Lecture. The lecture is designed to connect Gilman students and our community to deans of admission at leading colleges and universities.
Soule spoke to the student-filled auditorium on the topic of applying to college during a pandemic. She talked about the history of the test-optional concept — an idea that has been around for a while but picked up momentum only in the last decade, and especially since the emergence of COVID-19.
With regard to extracurricular activities, Soule reminded the seniors in the audience, “The people reading your applications, like me, also had our experiences altered, interrupted, stopped … We understand what the pandemic has done.” She emphasized that applicants will not be compared to one another on the basis of who achieved the most or who suffered the most during the last year. “We are looking at each of you as individuals.”
Soule also provided guidance on writing, advising the boys to “show yourself” through their college essays. “Do not write what you think we want to hear …. Write what you have to say,” she said. She told them to, above all else, be authentic.
When choosing where to apply, she said, “The best education you can possibly undertake in college is one at a place that suits you.” She encouraged boys to work with their college counselors to develop a list that is right for them.
“Respect the tremendous opportunity of your education at Gilman. … To be in this school where those who teach you and support you and challenge you are close enough to you on a regular basis to know you … This is a gift.”
Watch the lecture here. (Due to technical difficulties, the audio from this presentation is fairly low. Please be sure to turn up your volume to best hear the full remarks.)