November! Both the autumn harvest and the Early Decision applications are in. It’s time for Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for?

I am increasingly thankful for old friends, such as my high school classmate, Farimah. The photo of the grape arbor below was taken near her new home in the fertile Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Athena Advises

Making a list of everything you are thankful for is known to be a peculiarly effective stress-buster. You might try it during these frantic days leading up to the end of the semester and the deadlines for many college applications.

There is one thing I know all college applicants can be thankful for: their teachers. Yes, those patient souls who stay in and stay up writing letter after letter of recommendation for the students in their charge. Do you think it’s easy to write 20–or 200–letters singling out the distinctive talents and contributions of class after class of hopeful applicants, without repeating yourself

I’ll tell you a story about an eminent professor at an Ivy League school who generously agreed to write a letter for any student who asked. Each student was thrilled to learn indirectly that the coveted letter said simply, “This is the most brilliant student I have ever taught. Signed, Professor Famous.”

The problem was that this was the only letter Professor Famous ever wrote. That’s right: every single student was described as “the most brilliant student I ever taught.”

Perhaps now you understand why I say you can be grateful for the teachers who put so much effort into strengthening your applications to college. So now it’s your turn: open a blank document and write a thank-you note to each teacher who helped you. Do you think you have to write it on special stationery? Fine. Do you know right away that you’ll never get around to that? Email is also fine.

Just write, “Thank you.”

I’d like to thank each and every one of you who reads the Athena Mentor newsletter. Thank you for hitting “reply” to say hi, or that you have a question, or that you recommended me to another kid in your class, or that you spotted a typo. Thank you for telling me you loved one of the newsletters, or hated it. I’d be especially glad to get suggestions for future newsletters! What do you want to know?

Thank you for adding so much joy to my life.


Dr. Marlena Corcoran
Founder and CEO