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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Class of 2019 Facebook Group! (for students only)

I try to create as many avenues for applicants to chat and ask questions as possible.  This is why I'm available here (I answer questions in the comments on posts) and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and email.

Sometimes, you'll want to chat with each other and ask questions in a student-only space.  You can do that in the Class of 2019 Facebook group.  In the spirit of student self-governance, which is a big deal here at UVa, this is a space just for students


https://www.facebook.com/groups/354142351389941/

Click the image to go to the group on Facebook!


Obviously, the group will be for students who hope they'll be members of the Class of 2019 at this point.  This is normal.  The membership of the group will evolve when decisions are released and students start committing to colleges.

There are two current students who run the Class of 2019 group. When your class elects officers, they will hand the group over to your chosen leaders. We've been doing this for about five years and it works beautifully. For now, they are happy to answer questions, but they are also happy to sit back and let you chat.  Nothing in these groups will be saved or connected to your applications.

I have absolutely no interest in tracking you or looking at your profiles.  My interest is in making sure you know about a group that will become your class's "go to" space to chat, where content won't include advertisements, and your information won't be mined (my worry with groups that are tied to a company).

I am not in the Class of 2019 Facebook group, so if you have application questions and want to ask them on Facebook, you can use Office of Admission page.

Parents, if you are looking to check in with parents of UVa students, check out the UVa Parents page.


How do you feel about admission folks being on Facebook?  Do you like the avenues we've set up for you?  What do you think we should do in the future?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Withdraw an Application to UVa

It's the time of year that some schools with Early Decision processes are releasing their decisions. As you should know by now, Early Decision is the binding kind of early application (as opposed to Early Action, which we use here at UVa). If you were admitted to a school through Early Decision, you need to withdraw your UVa application.

Our front desk gets inundated with calls about this and individual deans get lots of emails as well. The calls and emails are often from third parties.


We don't want act on your file based on a phone call from someone whose identity we can't confirm. We need to hear from you.

If you need to withdraw your application, email uvaapplicationinfo@virginia.edu from the email account you used on your Common App and include your name, date of birth, and high school with your request. 



Monday, December 08, 2014

Missing Credentials for Early Action Applications

CavDog wants something.

I've been telling you all to relax about your status pages until we get all the mailed credentials checked in. Well, it looks like we are pretty much caught up. We have now sent emails to anyone missing a required document. Please check the email you used with the Common App for an email from us!

If you get an email about a missing credential, don't panic. The item could have taken a wrong turn along en route to us. You aren't in trouble. These things happen. Please contact the appropriate folks to get that missing item sent to us as soon as possible. If you are missing testing, you 'll unfortunately have to pay the fee to rush your scores. Teachers and counselors can send their items through the Common App website or email.

Mid-year reports are a "to do" item for everyone, regardless of when an application was submitted. EA decisions come out before most schools send mid-year reports, but if you get an offer or are deferred to the Regular Decision round, we expect your counselor to send those mid-years along. We want you to be aware of this now as opposed to having that pop up late in the game. Some students are apt to stop checking their status once the to do list disappears.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Lighting of the Lawn 2014

We're in the thick of the Early Action review and at the same time, our students are moving into their exam period. For a little over a decade, we've taken a break from the papers and exams to come together for the Lighting of the Lawn.

The Lighting of the Lawn started in 2001 as a way to bring our community together after a difficult semester. Each Lighting of the Lawn since has consisted of performances by a capella groups, the reading of a poem that recaps major events of the year, the singing of The Good Old Song with the Cavalier Marching Band, and then the main event - the lighting of the buildings along the Lawn.

The Rotunda is in the middle of a massive, two-year restoration process. Many assumed the lighting would be on the opposite end of the Lawn, but the committee surprised us all!

That committee is an incredible group of students that works with many offices to make this happen. The committee also raises money for a charity at each year's event. Camp Holiday Trails was the designated charity for this year's LOTL.

Without further ado...the 2014 Lighting of the Lawn.

 
We'll be raising our hands, shining up to the sky
'Cause we got the fire, fire, fire




In case you're interested, here is video of the 2013 LOTL from the UVA Drama Light Shop and another that gives a look at what it's like inside the crowd.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Important Reminders about Status Pages

We are one month into the Early Action application review process and that tends to be when people start getting nervous about their status pages. Here are a few of the most common questions and concerns with my notes about each.

1. My status is incomplete, but the only document missing is the mid-year report.


If you are admitted or deferred, you'll be required to submit your mid-year report. So that no one sees "complete" and never looks at their account again, the system keeps showing the incomplete status showing. If the mid-year report is the only thing on your "to-do" list, you are done for now and we are ready to work with your file.


2. I sent new test scores, but how do I know you have them?


Our system doesn't have date tags on your status page. To verify that your test scores from a recent date were sent, you need to check with the SAT or ACT folks. They've been transferring scores electronically for years without major issues.


3. I see a "View Decision" link, but there's no decision when I click!


We are only one month into the review. With about 15,000 applications, this process is going to take a while. We have always said that notification will be made by the end of January, but we'll notify early if we can. The "view decision" box shows up when your file moves into the reading pipeline. It doesn't mean we've reached a decision on your application yet.

In the paper days, there would be a 1-2 week lag between finalizing decisions and mailing letters (it takes quite some time to print all those letters, label envelopes, stuff envelopes, double check that the right letter is in the right envelope, and then send the letters to the mail room). These days, when we're done, we release!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We'll be back in the office on Monday if you need us.

Go Hoos!

CavDog guarding last year's turkey.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Some of you have contacted me asking for my response to the Rolling Stone article that come out on Wednesday. President Teresa Sullivan and Rector George Keith Martin (the head of UVa's Board of Visitors) sent letters to us shortly after the article was posted online. Vice President Pat Lampkin sent this letter to our students this morning:

Over the past two days, our community has been deeply affected by the article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week.  I know that many of you are feeling shocked, dismayed, saddened and, perhaps, betrayed.  Our community is hurting.  We are concerned about Jackie and we are worried about other survivors who have lived through the horror of sexual assault.  Many of us are confused by the contradictions between the U.Va. portrayed in the article and the U.Va. that we know.  Many of you are questioning your trust in our University.

President Sullivan and I want to be absolutely clear: we do not tolerate sexual violence in any form.  Sexual assault is a crime that can destroy lives and create profound suffering.  It has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility. 

To add to these overwhelming emotions, we learned late yesterday of the death of a second-year student, the details of which we will share according to his family's wishes as soon as we are able.

This painful set of circumstances comes on the heels of other recent tragedies on Grounds.  The constellation of these events would be enough to put the strongest of communities into crisis.  But know that we will cope, and together we will heal.

We acknowledge how difficult it is for survivors of sexual assault to talk about their experiences and to feel confident in reporting them, whether to the police or to the University.  We will continue, as we always have, to encourage survivors to go to the police, to pursue the University's disciplinary process, and most of all, to take advantage of the many support services available at UVA and in the community.  (Please see the end of this message for a list of resources.)

This is a time for us to come together, not to be pulled apart. I hope that we as a community can address this issue in a spirit of deep compassion, concern, trust and resolution.


Sincerely,

Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer


How to Report Instances of Sexual Assault or if You Need Personal Support

Sexual Misconduct Reporting Website: http://www.virginia.edu/justreportit/sexualmisconduct/
Counseling and Psychological Services: http://www.virginia.edu/studenthealth/caps.html
Daytime Phone: 434.243.5150; After Hours Phone: 434.972.7004
Office of Dean of Students: 434.924.7133

You may be interested in this article that was published in The Cavalier Daily last year. It answers the most common question people have about the University's response to reports of rape and sexual assault.


Now, I'll share some of my personal thoughts, which were reviewed before I published this entry.

I have wavered between feeling angry and devastated since reading the Rolling Stone article. The stories are sickening and horrific, but I am thankful that sexual assault survivors are getting support from the entire community right now. Changes in policies (and perhaps legislation) are on the horizon as a result of their bravery.

I can't publish this without saying something about the Office of the Dean of Students. I started my career in student affairs (specifically, residence life) at another school. I was also part of the school's Sexual Assault Network (trained by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center as a survivor advocate). It was the hardest job I've ever had. I am grateful to those who continue to serve in a role I found so incredibly difficult.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What are your "non-negotiables?"

The team that answers emails that arrive in our general email accounts shared a cute email with me yesterday. In case you didn't know, undergradadmission@virginia.edu is for general inquiries and uvaapplicationinfo@virginia.edu is for application questions and updates.


First of all, I want to address the mention of another school in that comment. It isn't a secret that most of you are applying to several schools. When I see another school mentioned in a message meant for UVa, it doesn't bother me at all.

Second, this brings up a larger point that I try to make to students who will be making a college decision in the near future. It's totally valid to have non-academic factors included in your college search. I tell students to go on their tours with 3-5 "non-negotiable" characteristics, beyond the academic ones, that they need a college to have. Maybe you love the atmosphere at a certain kind of sporting event or you want the opportunity to hike or fish near school. Maybe you are afraid of certain animals and don't want encounter them regularly on your way to class. I think that you are more apt to be engaged in the classroom when you feel comfortable and happy overall.

By the way, I haven't seen stray cats on the UVa Grounds. I wonder why...


Friday, November 07, 2014

#UVaPhotoContest

In case you aren't following me (@UVaDeanJ) or UVa (@theUniversityofVirginia) on Instagram, I thought I'd let you know about the UVa Photo Contest. Over 1,000 people have posted images taken around the UVa Grounds and given them the #UVaPhotoContest tag.

Entries will be judged by Alexis Ohanian ’05, the co-founder of Reddit. The U.Va. Magazine did a great profile of him. I'll be judging a few of the specialty catagories. The prizes are gift cards for the UVa Bookstore and UVa swag.

If you aren't entering, follow along!


Last year's winning photo

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Five Post-Deadline Notes for Early Action Applicants

We are going to be processing documents that have come in for Early Action applications for a while, but I thought I'd go over a few things to keep in mind as we work on your files.

1. Applications are transferred from the Common App to our system once per day. Approximately five days after your file arrives in our system, you will receive an email from us with login credentials for our Student Information System (SIS).

2. When you log into the SIS for the first time, your status probably won't be current. Please don't worry about your status in SIS right now! Our staff is linking thousands of documents to applications right now. This can take some time. I'll let you know when we are done processing. Do not send duplicates of any item unless we contact you with a request.

3. We will email you from undergradadmission@virginia.edu or uvaapplicationinfo@virginia.edu about your application. It is extremely important that you read your email.

4. Once the mid-year report is the only thing left on your "to do" list, your file is ready for us to read! When your file moves into read to read status, you'll probably see a "View Decision" box appear at the bottom of the SIS Student Center. People always think this means we are already done reviewing their application. That box is built into SIS and we can't change it. I'm sorry to report that it doesn't mean your decision is finalized. That won't happen until January.

5. We are now moving into reading mode. Our staff is relatively small and our reading loads are large. As always, we will take turns serving "on call" duty, so if you have questions about your file or the process, you can call the main office number or email uvaapplicationinfo@virginia.edu with them.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Deadline Day Motivation

Some of you will be putting finishing touches on Early Action applications today and I thought I'd share a little inspiration. This is one of our Student Ambasadors, Sierra, checking her application status on her decision day.

I know this process can cause a lot of anxiety and uncertainty at times, but there will be cause to celebrate on the other side when some of the schools on your list make you offers of admission.

Hang in there and good luck!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sending Resumes to UVa

I wrote a post with important notes for Early Action applicants this morning, but the amount of emails my colleagues and I got today that included resumes prompted me to write a second post.


With an applicant pool that is fairly large, the Common App is a wonderful thing. The formatting allows us to zero in on a student's information quickly. I think most people understand that this is why many schools like to use the Common App. It's Common.

The Common App lets colleges make some decisions about the questions/features they use. One of them is a resume upload function. The resume upload feature is turned OFF for UVa. I know that some really, really want us to see a resume or another activity chart, but please respect our process and use the Common App.

When you use the Common App's activity section to enter your information, a chart is created on my side of the application. I know exactly where to find all the pertinent information on that chart. Here's an early draft of what the activity section looks like. There have been a few changes, but you can get the idea...

An early draft of the activity page on the Common App


We really like how activities are organized in the Common App. We know where to look for the facts and we don't spend time sifting through extra information to get to the good stuff. Resumes tend to restate a lot of information that is presented elsewhere in the application.

Students have taken to emailing resumes because we don't offer the upload function. I got one the other day that was four pages long and the first two pages listed details about the same activity. It was as if the student whose activity sheet is above listed statistics about every game in which he had played. The detail provided (three years on varsity, elected caption) helps me understand the involvement far better than knowing a batting average does.

Keep it simple. Remember that schools ask for the things they need and they usually tell you the format they prefer. Use the activity section of the Common App. Do not email us a resume.

Five Common Concerns of Early Action Applicants


Early Action applicants, you have one more day to submit your applications! I thought I'd write one post to cover some of the most common worries that students have around deadline time.

1. The Early Action deadline for UVa is midnight on November 1st. 

That doesn't mean those of you who thought it was midnight tonight now have permission to procrastinate. Avoid submitting at the last minute since there are thousands of students applying to schools with November 1st deadlines who will also be submitting tomorrow. Give yourself a nice buffer just in case something goes wrong and you need some help from the Common App folks.


2.  Double check the type of application you are submitting.

Every year, one or two students submit applications and forget that they designated them as Regular Decision. If you did that, we probably won't even touch your file for a couple months. Double check that you indicated that you are a first-year applicant submitting an Early Action application for the Fall 2015 term.


3. Contact Common App if you have trouble submitting. 

There is a help button on every single screen within the Common App's website. The admission officers at your schools aren't able to help with Common App issues. What's more, if there's a problem, the Common App team needs to know about it in case it is systemic.


4. Your UVa status page won't be current yet.

We have two processes happening simultaneously right now: the January transfer process (their deadline was October 1) and the Early Action process. Our staff is processing documents as quickly as possible, but it will take a couple weeks for everything that has arrived to be checked in. If we are missing something from you after all the documents have been processed, we will be in touch! Just focus on getting your application submitted. Don't panic about your status page just yet. Please don't call or email admission officers to check on documents. We will be immersed in file review and can't sift through mail bins or stacks of documents that are being scanned.


5. Your application won't be "downloaded" on deadline day.

Every year, we get frantic emails from students who submit before the deadline, but don't see their application as downloaded by their schools. Applications tend to be downloaded once per day and the download date is almost never the same as the date you submitted. No need to worry about that!



Here are a few blog posts that address some other things that might be on your mind. I'll be updating the posts from last year with some new thoughts in the coming weeks.
-All of the 2014-2015 first-year essay questions together
-Essay word length
-Essay formatting
-How we use demonstrated interest
-Sending Resumes to UVa
-About extracurricular activities

As a reminder, you do not need to rush your SAT scores to us at this time. As long as you get your request in to ETS before the deadline, we should be good.

Good luck, seniors!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

To Rush or Not to Rush?

That title is a little wink to those who have already made it to the second essay question on the UVa part of the Common App. Let's get to the issue at hand.

In the last 24 hours, we have been inundated with emails and calls about sending SAT scores.

CavDog finds testing talk overwhelming

If you didn't send your scores already and you are applying under Early Action, send your scores ASAP using the standard delivery option. At this point, it is not worth $30 to rush your scores. We have enough files to read to keep us occupied until ETS can get those scores to us.

You do not have to rush October scores at this point.
 
There will be a point when we will need you to rush your scores, but we will let you know when that time comes. 

Remember that our system is designed to only pull the best scores from each section of the tests for us to review. We don't see every section when we read your file, we just see the best scores across all administrations of the exams.

If you are one of the students from East Asia who got the "your scores aren't available" message when you logged into your ETS account yesterday, please know that we are aware of the situation (though we don't have any more information than you). We will review your scores whenever they arrive. You can still apply under Early Action.    



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Does Holistic Admission Mean?

Today is the day that the ETS folks delivered scores to those who took the SAT earlier this month. This day always unleashes a flurry of worried emails and comments from those who aren't happy with their scores. Then come the questions about how we "weigh" different components of the application.

I despise the word "weigh" almost as much as the word "quota" for two reasons. Maybe it's because they both imply that admission decisions are just based on a rubric. Plug in some numbers and *boom* the decision is made. In a way, it also ignores the fact that my colleagues and I spend five months of the year cloistered away, dedicating most of our waking moments to file review. Students don't want to be reduced to numbers and admission officers don't want the process reduced to them, either. The review is holistic.

Unfortunately, I've seen "holistic admission" twisted to the point that people start to think that volunteer work or being on the soccer team is on par with their academic work.The best way to effectively communicate what holistic admission looks like to me is to compare your application to a puzzle. In a holistic review, you look at all pieces of the applicant's puzzle together before you make your decision.


The largest, most central piece of your puzzle is your transcript. This shouldn't be a surprise since your transcript represents four years of academic development. I took a really bad jpeg of a puzzle and used my awesome skills to demonstrate this idea:

Aren't you impressed?

The other components of your file fall in around the four years of academic work you've been doing. I'm sure you can imagine the bigger pieces: recommendation letters bring the academic data to life and essays are where we get to hear your voice.
You get the picture. I don't have to keep coloring, right?

As we read, the puzzle comes together. All of the pieces are important, but they vary in size. The testing piece is a four-hour piece of your puzzle. It's obviously important because it contributes to the overall picture, but it is one component among many and there are other parts of the puzzle that are larger and take considerably longer to evaluate.

When you fixate on one of the smaller pieces it's as if you are trying to make a decision about taking a puzzle home with you based on seeing one corner of it. You wouldn't do that, right? The people who make puzzles put the complete picture on the box so you can make an informed decision about purchasing it.



If you are looking at test scores this evening, I hope you'll put things in perspective. Yes, testing is important. However, it doesn't overshadow or knock other parts of your file out of the way.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Update about the Timing of SAT Score Reporting

The last time I wrote about test score reporting, the student's part of the SAT website didn't have any concrete information about how long it took the Educational Testing Service to send scores to colleges once a student requested a report. On the educator's part of the website, there was a note that it took five weeks for scores to be sent to us.

The five weeks didn't sit right with me. In this day and age, it shouldn't take that long to send something electronically. After all, you can register for the exams and be certain that you are confirmed for a date and location immediately. Why would it take so long to report scores?

While waiting for a college fair to start this morning, I was looking at my Twitter feed and saw a tweet from @OfficialSAT. I decided to send them a quick note.




They replied right away! 




So this is really great news! Of course, there's a big difference between 7 days and 14 days, especially when we are nine days from the deadline. I replied, suggesting that the SAT website be more clear - that the five week delay would be for scores sent internationally and by mail. Our friends at UGA chimed in, too.





I'm a little disappointed that the correct information is only provided once you place an order for a score report. It would be nicer to get the information on the website for all to see, but it's great that we have some new information coming directly from the Educational Testing Service.


I'll be editing my last post about this to point folks towards this update. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Charlottesville: Your Home

Seeing this at the end of an intense travel season makes me very excited to be done in two days. I love my territories, but Charlottesville is home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SAT Subject Test Score Reporting

When I was in high school, the SAT Subject Tests (or SAT IIs) were called the Achievement Tests. That term, in my mind, gave them a positive connotation. I was proud to have taken them...until I took the French test.

I considered myself a super star in French. I had natural language abilities and eagerly absorbed new vocabulary and grammar. When it came time to take the French Achievement Test, I was prepared, but still a little nervous, as most students who take standardized tests tend to be. I cruised through the first part of the test, but came to a stop when a reading passage was about a word I didn't know. I remember counting the questions below the passage and wondering how much of a hit my score would take if I bombed every one of them.

That night, I probably talked to everyone in my AP French class. We had all been in the same boat. On Monday morning, our French teacher told us that the word was archaic, which was probably why we hadn't come across it before.

Though I took other subject tests (back then, writing was a Subject Test and many top schools required it), the only test I remember is that French test. I hated seeing the score on my College Board score report and like many of you, I assumed that admission officers would zero in on that one score. I was so wrong! Here's the thing that most students don't realize: when we read a file, we are looking for reasons to admit an applicant, not deny them. I'm not saying that I think the admission officers who read my file ignored that French exam score, but I bet they didn't fixate on it the way I did.



Advice for Those Worried about the SAT Subject Tests:

1. We strongly recommend, but don't require Subject Test scores for several reasons.  If a school you love strong recommends that you do something, try to do it. Try to get the Subjects Tests into your schedule.

2. If you take the Subject Tests, send your scores using the free reports. Waiting to see your scores before sending them will delay their arrival in our office.  These are one-hour exams and while they are interesting and helpful, they don't derail an application, so one not-so-great score is not going to negate all the great work you've been doing in other areas.

3. If you can't take the Subject Tests, let them go. There are only a couple more opportunities to take them if you are a senior. Since they aren't required, you won't be penalized if they aren't part of your application.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

All About the Timing of Score Reporting

Sometimes I think that the ability to hit submit on an application on 11:59 PM on the night of a deadline (something we absolutely do not recommend!) has given some students the idea that every component of college applications can be submitted to schools at the last minute. When it comes to test scores, you need to send your score reports well in advance of deadlines.

Our official stance is that the last recommended test dates are in October for Early Action applicants and December for Regular Decision applicants. This is because it takes the test agencies several weeks to send your scores to your schools.

That's not to say you can't take the November and January tests. You just have to understand that your scores won't get to us for several weeks and we may have looked at your file a few times before the new scores arrive.

I completely understand the confusion. The note about the speed of test score delivery in the student part of the College Board website isn't very informative.






That's about as clear as a Matthew McConaughey car commercial.







Most schools get scores electrically. Our records system receives scores from the College Board every day and sometimes more than once per day at busy times of  year. If a score report matches an application that's already in our system, the file is updated pretty quickly.

Luckily, the SAT people put the estimated time that it takes to send scores on one of the pages for education professionals.







The College Board is saying it takes FIVE WEEKS to deliver scores to your colleges. If you are applying Early Action, send your scores now.

UPDATE: On 10/23/14, I was able to confirm that ETS is sending scores electronically within 1-2 weeks of a request being submitted. It isn't clear why the note about five weeks appears on their website without an explanation. This refers to scores sent by international mail.

The ACT folks seem to be a little faster, delivering scores in about two weeks.







Of course, the testing agencies will gladly send your scores to colleges in just two days if you pay them a rush score fee. Try to avoid that by sending your scores well in advance of the deadlines.



Sunday, October 05, 2014

A Short Week in NOVA

I'm about to start a quick trip to NOVA to make some more high school visits and I thought I'd share the schools I'll be visiting.

As I posted pictures from my first NOVA week, I received several comments asking me to visit other parts of the state. Admission officers from UVa will be visiting almost every public school in the state this season (and tons of private schools as well). If you haven't seen us in your area, keep an eye out for a visit in the coming weeks.

In the next few days, I'll be visiting:
Academy of Science
Briar Woods High School
Broad Run High School
Dominion High School
Park View High School
Potomac Falls High School
South Lakes High School
Westfield High School
Woodson High School

I'll be back in the area for one more week later this month.

If you are a student at one of the schools I'm visiting, I'm sure you know that there are procedures to follow for coming to the visit. I hope to see you there!


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Little Break...

In the last week, I've noticed an uptick in the number of anxious students on both the high school side and the college side. The first month of school is behind us and reality is setting in. There's a lot of work to get done. For high school seniors, those time management skills you've been perfecting are really going to be tested as you juggle the biggest program you've probably ever taken, new responsiblities outside the classroom, and the college application process.

I just want to give you my vote of confidence. You can do this! There's a lot on your plate right now, but remember that you have people in your life that are standing by to help if you need them. Obviously, if the college application part of things is causing you worry, I'm here to answer your questions.

Also remember that UVa doesn't track interest, so no one here is going to be taking notes about you if you ask questions. Reach out to us using whatever method you feel more comfortable using. There's a dean on call to answer questions by phone during business hours, Monday through Friday, and I'm happy to chat via the blog comments, Twitter or Instagram (@UVaDeanJ), and Facebook.


Paws in! 1-2-3 Go Hoos!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Student Questions from the Road


As I made my way around Northern Virginia last week, I took note of the most common questions and topics that came up in my discussions with students. I'm going to list the topics here and hopefully work down the list with blog posts about each one.

If you have a topic that you'd like me to address beyond these, please share it in the comments!

1. Will you accept November test scores for Early Action?
2. If we don't like our SATII score, should we send it? What score range do you like to see?
3. When should students send more recommendations than a college requests?
4. What kind of supplements does UVa accept? Who should send an art supplement?
5. If we know someone who went there, should they write a recommendation?

I address the issue of quotas or geographic restrictions in all of my talks and I'll be addressing the topic again in the next few weeks on the blog. The quota post might become a tradition on the blog since the newspapers tend to publish articles about quotas each fall as deadlines loom.

What admission topics are on your mind?

CavDog getting a drink in Old Town Alexandria

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On the Road in NOVA, Week 1

I'm writing this on the eve of my first week visiting schools in Northern Virginia this season. This is usually one of my favorite trips of the year and though part of me wishes I could stay in Charlottesville this week, I'm looking forward to being back in "my" high schools. I have two more weeks in the area and a few colleagues are doing visits as well, so don't fret if your school isn't on this list.

If you want to come to the visit at your school, I'm sure you know the procedure your College & Career Center has, which usually requires you to go into Family Connections.

Here's where I'll be this week:

Monday, September 22rd
Lake Braddock Secondary
West Springfield High School
Robinson Secondary

Tuesday, September 23th
Falls Church High School
Annandale High School
TJHSST
Stuart High School
Paul VI (Senior Night)

Wednesday, September 24th
Marshall High School
George Mason High School
Langley High School
McLean High School

Thursday, September 25th
Fairfax High School
Paul VI High School
James Madison High School
Oakton High School

Friday, September 26th
Centreville High School
Chantilly High School
Freedom High School (Loudoun)
John Champe High School


Thursday, September 04, 2014

On Helicopter Parenting

When I was a new professional, I'd read about helicopter parenting or hear student affairs or admission officers talk about them and nod my head in agreement. Oh yes, those helicopters were sooo terrible! Things were so bad that more terms were introduced to describe the different styles of overbearing parents. Helicopters hovered, snowplows or bulldozers cleared obstacles before they were encountered, and black hawks attacked quickly, with little provocation. Now that I'm a bit of a veteran of the college admission world, I can say with confidence that most parents are totally appropriate in their involvement in their college students' lives.

As I've been drinking my morning coffee, the Today Show anchors have been teasing a story about those terrible helicopter parents and how they are now at colleges. Now? The term has been used in higher ed circles for 15 years. Helicopter parents aren't new, but they exist in far fewer numbers than some would have you believe.

I'll be back next week with some specific examples of good and not-so-good parental involvement in the college admission process.


For now, enjoy this video of parents dropping their Class of 2018 students off on move-in day here at UVa. I don't see a single helicopter, do you?


Monday, August 25, 2014

The "Right" Extracurricular Activities

I saw a tweet today that said "Choose the Right Extracurricular at the Right Time for College Applications" along with a link. The link was to an article in a magazine [that no one I know buys until they put out a ranking issue] with a year-by-year breakdown of what a high school student's involvement in activities should look like in order to get admitted to a great college. The article is credited to a tutoring company. Nothing gets me fired up like random folks presenting admission information like it's gospel. So, buckle up. This might take a little while.


When I was younger, we looooved a show called Saved by the Bell. It was a cheesy, Saturday morning show that followed a bunch of students over the course of many years. One of the characters on the show was fixated on going to "Stansbury" and was pretty diligent about academics. At one point, she had trouble balancing school work and her after-school commitments (specifically, being in an all-girl pop group while taking geometry) and she resorted to taking *gasp* caffeine pills. This led to a "very special episode" and a truly epic scene in which her best friend discovered her secret.

You'd be surprised by how many choices I had when it came to this gif.

I told you it was cheesy. My point is that going to extremes to "look good" to colleges is not a new phenomenon, but with so many people taking a turn at being a college admission guru, I think more people are spending unnecessary time and energy strategizing when it comes to their activities.

My advice:

1. Get involved in some stuff you like.
    When I was in school we were obsessed with the idea of the "well-rounded student." The only alternative was being nationally recognized in something, so we all aimed for well-rounded. The philosophy here has evolved. We're building a well-rounded class. In a well-rounded class, there's room for all types. Some students are going to be rounded and others are going to be pointy. It all makes the class interesting. Don't "over think" things. We're looking for students who are involved in some things that they find meaningful. There is no check list and no "ideal" activity list.

2. Don't apologize if your interests change.
     I can't tell you how many times a student has expressed fear over dropping an activity that no longer fits into their busy schedule or isn't as rewarding as it once was. This is totally fine. Now, I'm not saying you get to check out on commitments you've made once you have a couple admission offers on the table. I'm saying that if your priorities change, that's okay.

3. Quality over quantity.
     There are students with long lists and there are students with short lists. Everyone knows that student who manages to be everywhere. People wonder how they get things done, but they somehow figure it out. Everyone else knows that student who has a short list, but shows serious depth in one or two areas. Both of those students probably have some interesting, impressive things to share in the activity section of their application. Don't get bogged down in the number of things you can put in the Common App's activity chart. Put your activities in the chart and move on the next section. This part of the application should be easy to complete and make you feel pretty good about yourself, no matter how long your list is!

Oh, and if your list isn't long, don't feel pressured to throw filler in there.


Monday, August 04, 2014

The Best Time to Apply to UVa

These days, college application deadlines should be simple. Back when we had a paper application, we had to move our deadline to avoid New Year's Day, when the post office was closed. Going paperless in 2008 simplified many things for both applicants and admission officers. The deadlines for first-year applications haven't changed since.

The deadlines at UVa are November 1st for Early Action and January 1st for Regular Decision. There seem to be more people concerned with the "right time" to submit an application this year. Let me cover the three most popular assumptions.


1. Applications submitted early get "easier" reads and show interest.
I completely understand this thinking since it is true for some schools. There are plenty encouraging very early submission of applications these days. At UVa, we have the same review process for the entire application season. We probably won't notice the date that the application arrived. As for interest, it is not a factor for us.


2. We fill the class during Early Action.
About half of our applicants applied during the early round last year and roughly half the offers went to that group. I'm saying roughly because there's a lot more to the conversation, but suffice it to say we do not fill our class with the Early Action applicants. You can look at unofficial statistics about the admission process using the statistics tag on this blog. Official statistics are published by the Office of Institutional Assessment


3. Applications submitted around the holidays are read by "jolly" admission officers.
I saw this posted in the UVa forum of a popular college admission message board. When we go into reading mode, we are laser focused on the task in front of us. We realize how important our work is to our applicants and we isolate ourselves from outside influences so we give each file the time it deserves. As a result, we aren't always too jolly around the holidays, but we do feel good about the work we're doing.


In a nutshell, submit your UVa application when you feel it is complete. While I always caution students about last minute submission, there isn't a difference between an application submitted on September 1st and one submitted on November 1st when we read. Don't rush yourselves!

CavDog enjoying the summer

As I wrote this, I got word that our first application for the Class of 2019 was submitted on Saturday, one day after the Common App launched.


Friday, August 01, 2014

The 2014-2015 Common Application is Live!

Happy Common App Launch Day!



The Common App's blog has tips for applicants, parents, and school officials that you should check out before you get started.

If you created an account last season, you need to create a new account. You may notice one format change this season. Common App allowed colleges to choose whether they wanted to maintain a separate tab for essay questions or move their essay questions so ALL questions from the school are on the same tab. UVa and lots of others moved their essays. All UVa specific questions are now on the UVa tab. There's no "Writing Supplement" tab for UVa.

Here are screen shots that show how the essay questions will change based on which school within the University you select. Remember, the essays were posted back in June right here on the blog.




I'll be back next week with a few more Common App related posts. Feel free to post questions (or messages that convey extreme exultation over launch day) below.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Demonstrating Interest in UVa

Did you ever have a pen pal? I had one in fourth grade. Her name was Lorelei and she lived in Terre Haute, Indiana. I imagine my teacher and hers were old friends and decided to expand our horizons by connecting students from very different areas. Lorelei made life in the Midwest seem lovely and I'm sure I made in the suburbs of a major eastern city sound exciting. In time, we lost touch, as many pen pals do.

This summer, I have a veritable flock of pen pals. It seems that several students want to keep me updated about what the summer has been like for them. I've heard about summer reading, jobs, and even a few trips to exotic locations like Long Beach Island. One student started her first email to me with a note about how her counselor told her that it's very important that admission officers get to know her as a person and not as a student.


Of course it's fun to get to know our applicants, just like it was fun getting to know what life was like for Lorelei in Terre Haute. As a UVa admission officer, I'm more concerned with answering questions than with getting updates about how the summer is going. By all means, reach out to us if you need help finding ansewrs to your questions, but emailing for sake of putting your name in front of us is not going to do anything to improve your admission chances.


I think there's a two part issue here. Generally, this is what I think is going on:

1. People think all schools use demonstrated interest.
UVa does not use demonstrated interest in the application review process. When I read a file, I don't know if a student has visited us, called with questions, attended an evening program in their community, or got out of class to see one of us when we visited their high school. The period prior to submitting an application is for the applicant to gather information. While we obviously keep track of who attends events, this is more about assessing our activity than about your candidacy.

On our contact page, right over the list of admission officers and our email addresses, there is a line that says we do not use demonstrated interest. I just went in and put it in bold because some people seem to be missing it.
 
2. Students don't know what demonstrates interest in a school.
It is totally fine to ask an admission officer if they are using interest and what they consider a good way to show it. Many come right out and say what they value: a campus visit. You can demonstrate your interest in UVa by submitting an application. That's it. At this point, frequent emails, especially when they contain no questions or questions that are easily answered by a Google search, probably aren't going to impress admission officers.



I hope you can take a little time to relax and enjoy your summer without getting too worried about the admission process.  The Common App doesn't launch for another week, but if you want to do a little thinking about your application, you can always check out our application essays, which I posted back in June.

CavDog at the lake just north of town

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Getting College Search Advice

I'm using a comment left by "GFK" as the jumping off point for this post.

I found this blog through a search (after reading a New York Times oped about admissions essays and feeling hopeless about advising our child on this topic) and have spent the entire weekend reading it almost in its entirety. This is the most incredible college admissions resource we have encountered. Living in Fairfax Country, there is no shortage of advice about the admissions process and it is hard to separate truth from fiction.

I realize that this blog is specific to UVA and though much of the information is applicable to the process overall, I wonder if you might share some advice for those of us who are hearing admissions information from all kinds of "insiders" right now.
First of all, I'm thrilled that GFK is asking about this. When you first start getting information in the college search, you read, you ponder, you share. It all seems like great stuff. As the information pours in, you might get overwhelmed.

GFK is in an areas where the public (and most of the private) schools have excellent College and Career Centers. The Career Center Specialists and guidance counselors should be your first stop for general information about the college search. Those folks will also be able to share some tools for narrowing all the options down. They often have historical data about your school population and many different colleges and universities. If you know what a scattergram is, you know the one of the most popular resources out there. Of course, scattergrams don't tell you absolutes, but they can give you some basic information. 

We talk to counselors and career center specialists fairly regularly. Even the career center specialist I know who worked in admission for years will call or email to verify information. Things are always changing, so the policy or practice that was in place three years ago may have shifted. I tend to have a mental list of things to tell my counselor/career center friends when I visit them in the fall so they know about what's new or different at UVa that year.

If your counselors have huge case loads or feel like you aren't getting enough information about the schools that interest you from the resources available to you online at at your school, contact the admission offices with your questions. This seems like a no-brainer to some, but others seem to feel either nervous about calling us or have convinced themselves that we are suspicious folks who can't be consulted. Until I move into the reading season, my job is to make sure students have the information they need to decide if they should submit an application (more on this in a future post...I have a lot to say!).

You've probably encountered well meaning folks who want to help by sharing their observations of the admission process or experiences they've had helping past students through the process. There's a different between being an observer and being an "insider" (to use GFK's term). Again, remember that schools and practices evolve, so what someone observed about the process in the past (when their child applied, for example) may not be relevant today. Admission officers are happy to talk to you by phone, email, or via social media. Reach out to us if you'd like to get current information.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, CavDog (and a note for Instagram users)

It's almost a shame that CavDog's birthday comes at the time of year when students aren't around. His most favorite days are ones that include lots of hanging out with students. I guess that's to be expected when he's been to 39 Days on the Lawn!




The only thing that would get him more excited: crashing a breakfast party in a Lawn room and being welcomed with cream cheese.


CavDog celebrated his birthday without much fanfare yesterday. He's now seven years old!


By the way, if you are on Instagram, take a look at the @UVa_Summer account and the #uvasummer tag. The @UVa_Summer account is the work of a team of students who are working here over the summer. People all over Grounds are using the #uvasummer hashtag to show you what lives is like here when most of the students are away. It's a fun look into a part of UVa that many people don't experience!

Of course, I hope you'll also follow me, @UVaDeanJ.