Calling All High School Students. Seriously, Every Single One of Them

Your parents, your friends, a pizza place, the cable company—when you call them, you have an idea of what to expect. You know what voice to listen for. They see your name pop up and they know that they should answer because it’s you. Ever called fifty people you don’t know every week? How about fifty high school students? You haven’t? Here’s what you’re missing out on.

As an admissions counselor, I get to travel the country, meet new people, stay in hotels, read applications, read applications, read applications, and call high school students. On a normal week, from November to June, I call fifty high school students. On a normal week, none of them answer. (It’s more like ten, but none sounds more dramatic.)

88% of the calls:

Beep-bop-boop-beep dialing the phone. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Robot voice: Hello, 7-0-8-5-5-5-5-5-1-1 is not available, please leave a message…

So you leave a message, right? Right. Because these students return your phone call, right? Wrong. If I had a nickel for every time a student returned a phone call this entire year, I would have a nickel.

5% of the calls:

Beep-bop-boop-beep. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

Parent: Hello?

Me: Hi this is Bart Tocci, I’m calling from Cal–

Parent: –Bart Who?

Me: I’m your son’s admissions counselor and–

Parent: Oh, I’m sorry, Brian isn’t here! Can he call you back?

Me: He sure can! I’m also confident that he won’t call back, but I’ll go along with this charade.

1% of the calls:

Beep-bop-boop-beep. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

Student: Hello?

Me: Hi! This is Bart calling from Cal–

Student: Oh I can’t hear you…


Student: Just kidding guys, hah! Leave a message and I’ll call you back!

SERENITY NOW! Oh the humiliation! I can deal with embarrassment. I’ve been walked in on at  a Cedar Point bathroom fourteen times IN A ROW. I nearly unplugged the oxygen tubes from a guest-speaker’s oxygen tank. He was dying. I once drank Arbor Mist. What I cannot take, is a high school student making me look like a fool while I’m ALONE IN MY APARTMENT.

1% of the calls:

Beep-bop-boop-beep. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

Student: Hello?

Me: [Long pause. Waiting for the trick to come]

Student: Hello?

Me: Hi! This is Bart, I thought you had a tri—

Student: Oops! Just kidding! Leave a message at the Beep!

Me: NOOO!!!

I have been conditioned. Now, when I call a student, and they pick up, here’s what happens:

5% of the calls:

Beep-bop-boop-beep. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

Student: Hello?

Me: [Waiting]

Student: Hello?

Me: [Whispering] Are you real?

Student: …Yes?

Me: Are you sure?

Student: Yes, who is this?

Me: Oh, thank goodness. I’m your admissions counselor. I forget what I’m calling about. It’s nice to finally talk to someone, though! How are you? I’ve been pretty stressed lately. Calling a lot of you students, you know? Of course you do. Hey, do you watch the show, The Following?

Why even bother calling? Why not text? Because you need permission from every student before you can text them. Or something. What about Facebook messages? Tried it, not much success. What about twitter? Come on. What about snapchat? Actually, this may work. Twelve students added me on snapchat because I made the mistake of having snapchat. The next day, I sent an email to fifty students, and received one response. Just for fun, I sent a snapchat to twelve students with the same information, and received eleven responses. Yeah, I know.

The purpose of the phone call:

1. Keep in touch with the student and let them know that we care about them enough to go through to most irritating process imaginable just to say hello, we still want you to come here.

2. Let them know about next steps. For different seasons, the message is different.

In the late fall, we call about applications. “We have everything except your letter of recommendation and your high school transcript… and your ACT or SAT scores…So really, we only have your application.” In the winter, we call about financial aid and scholarship opportunities: “Have you filled out the FAFSA?” “Do you know about these other scholarships?”

In the spring, we call about decisions.

Here’s how the normal rejection calls go:

“Have you made a decision about next year?”

“Yes, I’m actually going to ______.”

“I see. So this is a breakup call.”

“Haha- Yes, sorry!”

“No problem! All the best at ______!”


“Of course, I’ll talk to you later.”

“Ok bye.”

I won’t talk to them later. Here’s how the more awkward ones go:

“Have you made a decision yet?”

“Umm. Ummmmm. Yeeees.”

At this point, I know they’re not coming to my school. This isn’t something that I’m going to cry about, but some students struggle breaking the news.

“Where are you going?”


“A different school?”

“Umm… yeah.”

“Ok, no problem!”

I get it. It’s not you, it’s me. The timing just isn’t right. You met another school. You feel bad because we’ve been doing this dance for almost a year now and it seemed like you were really into us. You ate dinner here. That’s a long relationship. You’re not breaking up with me, you’re breaking up with my school. I get it. No big deal. Now, I’m going to go out with my other friends, and I won’t miss you at all! I’ll be fine without you and I won’t even–[Breaks down crying.]


Every year there is a song of mourning after a student tells us they are going to another school. This year it was “I hope you dance” by Lee Ann Womack. The competition: one burrito to the caller who says, to a student who tells us they aren’t coming, “If you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance…I hope you dance.” The stars aligned and a high schooler told us they were going to major in dance at another school, and one brave soul won a burrito.

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