The Power of the Thank You

My mother always taught me to write thank you notes for everything – birthday presents, Christmas gifts, riding clinics, etc.  From elementary school onward, then, saying “thank you” and writing thank you notes has been as reflexive for me as breathing.

My mother always taught me to take a page from Miss Manners and write thank you notes - it's something I do to this day!

Later on, first as a marketing assistant for a nonprofit organization and then as an admission counselor, the thank you notes took on a new tone.  I wrote thank you notes to students for visiting campus and to faculty members for taking time out of their day to meet with students or make phone calls to them in the evenings.  And while it’s fair to say that the thank you notes of an admission counselor are usually part of an enrollment marketing plan, I can honestly say that I was sincere in each and every one that I wrote and sent.  I was genuinely grateful to each student and his or her parents for choosing my particular school over a host of others to visit and explore.  Taking the time to tell them so just felt natural.

The thank you note, however – along with other forms of written and verbal gratitude – is, I find, somewhat fading into the background hum of social media and other technological distractions as I work with more and more students upon whom the art of the thank you note (and the phrase itself!) seems to have been lost.  This disturbs me – in particular, after two weekends past, this lack of social aptitude was conspicuously absent from an IEA hunt seat meet I attended.

Hosted by a local college, the meet was largely staffed by members of that school’s equestrian program and teams, all of whom volunteered on a Saturday and Sunday to warm up and hold horses, as well as to help staff the barns to help the day run smoothly.  Now, while my part at the show was small and I wasn’t there for all of the events of the weekend, I was certainly there long enough to witness middle and high school students who demanded that the college students holding their mounts adjust and re-adjust stirrups for them before their rides, then threw the reins of horses back at those same students after their rides without a backward glance.  I saw coaches reprimand college students and equestrian center staff for attempting to help the show run efficiently and I saw parents watch wordlessly while all of this unsportsmanlike conduct occurred.

Now, the purpose of this blog isn’t to call attention to this behavior or reprimand anyone.  Rather, the point I’d like to make is that prospective college students (which is something that nearly every middle and high school student is) need to be mindful of the power of gratitude as they begin the search for their perfect school and follow up on their desire to be recruited for a college equestrian team because NO coach or equestrian team member will want to pursue a student with a bad attitude, no matter how talented that person may be in the saddle.

Let me put this into perspective:  The equestrian center staff that were present at the meet I attended were the coaches for the school’s equestrian teams and the students were all members of their teams.  When team tryouts roll around next fall, if any of the students who verbally berated the coaches and/or students are riding in front of those very same people, do you think they’ll overlook that bad first impression and place that person on the team?  Not in this lifetime.  Equestrian teams spend far too much time together, both in training and traveling to and from meets, to want to spend that time with people who can’t even muster a simple “thank you” – to say nothing of the impression that type of student will give other people (including other future recruits!) about the college itself!

So if you’re a student setting out on your college search, remember that you’re going to encounter a lot of people who will influence your future – both in the admission office and with the equestrian program – and it will behoove you to thank them.  Thank your tour guide for his or her time and information.  Thank your admission counselor for his or her assistance.  Thank the secretary or staff member who helped to arrange your visit – both at the admission office and at the equestrian center (if it’s on campus).  Thank the coach and the team members.

Do the thanking verbally while you’re there, then by follow-up note a few days later – it’s not only the gracious thing to do, but it’s also memorable and might be just the thing to make you stand out in admission committee meetings and at equestrian team tryouts!

Want me to send you a thank you note?  Contact me for help in the college process and we can exchange them!

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