Preparing for College

The Dean of Deans

I noticed with sadness last week that former Princeton University Dean of Admission, Fred Hargadon passed away. He was 80. His death has special meaning to me because of my personal experience with him back in the mid-1990s, when our son was applying to college. Princeton was our son's clear first choice school and he applied Early Action, back when EA was a bit simpler than it is today. There was no “Single Choice" restriction and an accepted applicant's duty was quite simple. If s/he received one of Dean Fred's iconic and famous “Yes!" letters in mid-December, then the fortunate applicant had a simple choice: (1) enroll at Princeton immediately or (2) wait to see the outcomes of other applications and make an enrollment decision somewhere by May 1.

The odds of an accepted EA student enrolling at Princeton back then (and these days, too) were (and are) quite high. Princeton maintains from year to year one of the country's highest enrollment percentages. As our son said to me when I asked him if he wanted to go to Princeton, “Who wouldn't want to go to Princeton?" I suppose that my question was somewhat rhetorical. Anyway, Dean Fred was known for his absolute immersion in his applicant pool, so to speak, every year. I cannot produce documentation to prove this, but word has it that he personally reviewed and approved every accepted applicant forwarded to him from his admission staff. I can, however, personally vouch for Fred's attention to detail and his unfailing personal touch.

Back in the mid-'90s, my wife and I did a lot of waking in our neighborhood. Our most often traveled route took us on a long, straight local street named, appropriately in our view, Princeton Road. Whoever made the designations for the streets in that neighborhood was quite collegiate, even Ivy League, minded. Walking down Princeton Road, one would see street signs for intersecting streets such as Yale Lane, Dartmouth Lane, Rutgers Lane, Colgate Lane, and–lest I forget–Harvard Lane. At one intersection, the street sign pole proclaimed boldly the connection between Harvard Lane and Princeton Road. Fortunately (and correctly, in my wife's and my view) the Princeton Road sign was installed above that of Harvard Lane. This pleased me to no end because at the time, the U.S. News college rankings had Harvard at #1 and Princeton a close #2.

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