Roughly fifteen months ago, as most everyone transitioned to COVID-19 regulations and limiting their time at places outside their home, I bought a Wahl clipper hair cutting kit and my wife started her in-house barber shop with one client, me. My hair is pretty simple to cut, so I was not too worried. The “barber shop” is set up on the back deck, with me sitting on a stool while our dog looks on in either confusion or amusement. The first time she cut my hair, it took one nerve-racking hour (nerves were hers, not mine, as I would have been fine with a buzz cut), and it came out great. As she has since gotten more comfortable with cutting my hair, she has been able to get the cutting time down to about 20 minutes, and she has grown more confident with every cut. Sometimes, pandemics force you to learn new and exciting skills, but that is a story for another post.
One thing we both learned when cutting hair is that you can always cut more, but you can never cut less. Once you have taken those first cuts with the clipper, you are committed. In other words, it’s better to slow down and leave it a little long with the first pass and then continue cutting if needed, as opposed to cutting off a lot and then hearing “oops”. Once you cut that hair off, there is no gluing it back on. So far there have been no divots, bald patches or comb-overs.
A similar mindset happens at a number of colleges, only the focus is on admission offers and planning out enrollment numbers. The focus for many colleges is on space availability, and how many new students they can enroll and fit within the space limitations of the campus. For some, it is housing space, especially for college that require students to live on campus their first year. For others, it might be space in the classroom, parking spaces, or even dining hall capacity. As such, some colleges need to be very careful about how many acceptances they make, as they don’t want to over-enroll and cause stress for their partners on campus. In 2017, our deposit numbers were looking great until the last week, when they suddenly spiked well beyond what we expected. We ended up enrolling over 400 more students than planned, and it caused some challenges with housing, parking and class space. My daughter was a member of that 2017 class, and it definitely had its challenges. Two years ago, another large public had an unexpected growth in their freshman class went 1,000+ students over. We love our students, but too many is a real challenge!
When admission offices make final decisions, they many times try to aim a little below the enrollment number just in case they receive a larger number of deposits than expected. It is better to have to go to the Wait List a little as compared to having that awkward conversation that starts with “So we are slightly over in deposits, and by slightly we mean a lot.” Better to cut twice and end up with the freshman class you want as compared to trying to get it perfect on the first cut and having that uh-oh moment. Even the best comb over can’t hide a big mistake.
PS – My hair is still okay, or as okay as it can be, my wife is still my barber, and my daughter and her slightly large 2017 cohort have now successfully graduated from UGA. Go Dawgs!