My first year students continue to impress me. This week we're having conferences about their research papers; it's early in the process, so the conferences are mostly focused on helping them get started (they have til mid-December, but have presentations and such in there), making sure they have a solid research question and a sense of direction for their inquiry.
In past years, in a typical class of 20, one or two might miss a meeting, and certainly a couple would be late.
This year, out of 20, every single person has appeared at least a couple minutes early.* Some have had to wait, which they've done with apparent good will, but because everyone's been early, I've been able to start a bit earlier than I'd set out. (I set out 20 minute slots, starting at, say, 8:20; I'm in the office by 8, getting settled, so if someone comes at 8:10 and I see him/her, I'm usually ready to go, and that means that the day goes extra smoothly.)
And every single student has come with at least a fairly solid question; some have a plan for their research, and some have made progress. Several I've helped refine their question, focusing it more narrowly because it's exploded on them, as the best research questions tend to do. I've helped others work out where to start researching, and what sorts of resources to look for.
I think I need to buy our Admissions Director dinner, or maybe get a big box of candy for the whole office!
* You may think, "why the heck is this a big deal? Everyone should at least be on time for appointments." But in the real world, I bet pretty much anyone who works with scheduled appointments would find a perfect 20/20 on time and ready to go pretty darned impressive.