Ramaz Says Goodbye to Ms. Quin

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On Friday, April 12th, Ms. Quin left Ramaz for a position at the Agnes Irwin School, ending a two-year tenure as a Ramaz college advisor. This vacancy in the college office has already been filled, though at the time of this article’s publication, the school has not yet revealed the name of her replacement.

The Agnes Irwin School is a K-12 college preparatory school in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. According to the school’s website, 97% of the AIS Class of 2018 was accepted to colleges in the early acceptance round, with 70% attending what Barron’s deems the nation’s most “highly competitive colleges.” Ms. Quin repeatedly made it clear to that “I was not looking to leave [Ramaz].” While attending a conference, she ran into an old colleague from her time at Vanderbilt University, who put her in touch with the school.  

Students who were interviewed for this article seemed to be almost unanimous in their analyses of Ms. Quin’s tenure as a college advisor in Ramaz, agreeing that she was always supportive and always kind to them. “Whenever I had a problem, even if it wasn’t related to college admissions, I knew I could go talk to her. It’s not often you can trust a teacher or advisor like that,” one senior said. Indeed, when interviewed for this article, Ms. Quin named “individual one-on-one moments with students–sitting down and getting to know them, or just chatting” as some of her favorite memories from Ramaz as a whole. “I think a lot of this process, unfortunately, is based on fear and the negative emotions when things don’t work out. So keeping that in my head, that when things don’t go the way people have planned, and they’re upset, it’s tough and that being empathetic and being with somebody in that moment is really important. I’ve also learned that, most of the time, people just want to be heard. It isn’t about what you’re going to say, because you’re not going to make it better in the moment. I can’t make you feel less sad about this school saying no to you. But I can make you feel heard and make you feel like somebody cares, because I do care. That, I think, I will take with me.”

On a broader scale, this reflects the highly individualized approach to college admissions of the Ramaz college office, which favors long, in-depth meetings with each student and establishing a personal connection. Ms. Quin, in particular, placed a focus on this approach, taking an active role in her students’ lives. She ran Feminist Club, went to plays and performances, and even attended Celebration of the Arts last year. “Celebration last year was fun for me because I got to see some of my students perform, so I got to see them in different ways or I got to see their artwork displayed. Hearing a student talk to you about dance is one thing, but actually seeing them dance is another.”

The flip side of this approach is that many students found it to be misleading when it came to the actual discussions surrounding what tier of colleges they should consider– or to say it simply, as one response put it, just “too nice.” One student, who requested to remain anonymous in order to speak candidly, stated that while they liked Ms. Quin, “I found her to be overly optimistic about my options, so sometimes I was concerned that it wasn’t realistic.” Other students echoed this sentiment, one saying, “I really enjoyed speaking to Ms. Quin, but I wish I’d had a more realistic projection from her about where I could and could not get in. I don’t regret having her as a college advisor, since it was a very stressful time and it was great to have someone who doesn’t make you feel even more stressed. But at the end of the day, I think I was expecting a bit too much because nobody told me that I shouldn’t.” In the changing face of college admissions, with many universities becoming more and more competitive every year, some of her advisees felt it would have been more prudent to be realistic instead of optimistic.

Ms. Quin seemed to acknowledge this gap when asked about what she would do differently if she could re-play her two years at Ramaz. “We try very hard to temper expectations, but we can be wrong, and crazy things happen. I like to think that I did [temper expectations], but there’s always room for improvement in terms of how clearly we can all communicate. I think we think we temper expectations well, but there are eighty-seven million sides to every story. What I actually say, what you actually hear, what I think you hear, your interpretation of what I say, your parents’ interpretation of what I said to you that you filtered through them,” she said, “I think I think I did that [tempering expectations] well, and I think students think that they temper their expectations well when they don’t. It’s a beautiful, human, messy, emotional situation. So no matter how much I say x, y and z, you can hear a, b, and c, and it’s a crazy game of telephone. We do our best, and our intentions are always to set you all up for success and to not be disappointed.”

This year, Ramaz students felt the brunt of the increasingly competitive college landscape, leading to one major question: whose fault is it? Ms. Quin’s position–which reflects, for the most part, that of the college office as a whole–is that there is no answer because of the myriad factors which go into a college acceptance decision. “The college admissions landscape is so bananas right now. We educate ourselves and we stay on top of things and we talk to college people and we know what’s coming, and then they totally pull the rug from under us sometimes. How the heck were we supposed to know that this school was going to have an unbelievable increase [in applications]? They didn’t even know,” she said, confronting a major issue that students face when applying nowadays–the widening pool of applications in competitive schools, and thus their shrinking acceptance rates. “I think the system is damaged. There’s a lot of emphasis in the world on fifteen particular schools. We can all name the fifteen and maybe you’ll have two that I won’t, but basically there’s a set list of schools that people have decided are appropriate and if you don’t hit that mark, life’s over–but it’s not. So I think the system isn’t working as well as it could and it should, so if we could remove the emphasis from this particular group of schools, everybody would be happier.” Of course, that being said, she has recognized that that goal is not necessarily realistic, particularly in a school like Ramaz where the school and community are rather small.

Overall, when asked to evaluate her time at Ramaz, Ms. Quin said that “while in some cases I probably could have said in a more crystal clear way to that kid “it ain’t happening,” I brought my best and tried really hard to get to know my students and be a good colleague and member of the community.” And above all, she said, she had fun. “I liked to come to work every day. Like “ooh, who am I going to get to talk to today? What am I going to learn about? What random Jewish holiday is it today that I’ve never heard of in my life? And all the food– I’ve eaten more food in this building than I’ve ever thought was humanly possible to eat. Lots of food, good food, constant food. It’s been fun. And that, for me, has been important.”

Ms. Quin’s pool of 33 junior students will be passed along to her successor. She already conducted her hour-long individual meetings with each of them, taking notes and creating Google Docs so that the new college advisor, Ms. Davis, will be able to pick up right where she left off. This is the college office’s standard procedure for phasing in a new counselor, and the same process that Ms. Quin used two years ago when she first joined the school, starting around college night and meeting with the students before summer break. Both the office as a whole and Ms. Quin are working to ensure the smoothest transition possible for the affected juniors.

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