The following post was originally published in December 2020 on page217.org to commemorate Dean Eric Furda's departure from Penn.
In December 2011, Penn Admissions launched a new blog, page217.org, named for a once-used Penn essay question asking students to share what would appear on the 217th page of their 300-page autobiography. The idea behind Page 217 came about in a conversation I had with Ed Sirianno, a longtime colleague, one evening at the White Dog Café on Penn’s campus. We had worked together on publications and videos over the years and were brainstorming ways that we could democratize reflections and guidance on the college admissions process.
The idea for a blog that would help students assess colleges, and along the way, learn more about themselves, was born. In the blog’s first month, we introduced the central framework of the Five I’s and the Five C’s, concepts intended to help students reflect on their own interests and identities, as well as understand the culture, community and curriculum that characterized the colleges or universities they encountered through their college search. From the metaphorical “Dean’s Desk,” myself and many other authors explored these ideas broadly over the past nine years.
In seeking inspiration for my farewell message on this blog, I returned to an excerpt from one of the original posts from 2011:
Page 217 is framed around the broader topics of the admissions landscape, student self-assessment, identifying what a student wants from their college experience, a lens to evaluate colleges, and a question rarely asked, ‘what do I do now that I have been admitted’? The aim was to help students and families enjoy the opportunity of the college admissions process and make informed, if not enlightened, decisions about this next page in their lives.
Now, nine years later, I am turning the next page in my life. I have re-read these past entries as a sort of personal time capsule, as I will be leaving Penn Admissions to transition to a college counseling position at the beginning of January. Professionally, I aim to align my own I’s (identity, interests, ideas, intellect, and inspiration) and C’s (culture, curriculum, community, and conclusions) career-wise at this stage of my life. Just as students may revisit their goals and values as they progress through the college search process, so I have done in my own life, leading me to this next chapter.
As I look back, I trace elements of this blog as the foundation for other ideas shared in various mediums, including a SiriusXM radio show, a Coursera MOOC, and a recently released book I co-authored with former New York Times writer, Jacques Steinberg. Jacques’ own blog, The Choice, was also an early inspiration for Page 217.
As with so many projects that I have been involved with over the last 12 years, I am indebted to so many individuals who made this blog possible: Quenby Jackson Mott who pushed me to organize my original ideas; Amy Smith, one of the earliest ghost writers (although I always asked her to put her name down as an author); Sue Kauffman DePuyt and Kathryn Bezella, who have led marketing and communications (and so much more!) in Penn Admissions; Lou Metzger, Scott Kuchinski and Ed Taylor who have supported the technical aspects for the blog; and Sara Cohen and Nnenna Ezem, who have been writers and idea cultivators with me over the last few years.
As I write this from my final days at the “Dean’s Desk,” I thank you for your readership over the years, and for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on higher education and the admissions process. I hope you have found helpful resources among these pages. As the year transitions, so will this blog to the Penn Admissions Blog. I also hope you will find the following resources helpful to you.
The Process, https://www.siriusxm.com/channels/siriusxm-stars
Coursera How to Apply to College, https://www.coursera.org/learn/applying-to-college
With thanks and appreciation,
Eric J. Furda