Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Monday, May 18, 2020

A #UVA24 Waiting List Update

Hello, everyone! I'm stepping back into the blog after weeks of student takeovers to let you know some more about this year's waiting list. If you haven't read the Waiting List FAQ page (linked in your letter) and the first post about the waiting list on this blog, those might be helpful.

During our 4/21 question and answer session on Instagram, I shared that we would be making waiting list offers, but I couldn't predict how many offers we'd make. Historical data can help admission officers predict their yield (that's the term for the students to accept admission after we offer it) and something that is called melt.

Melt (sometimes referred to as "Summer Melt") happens when students who paid an admission deposit decide that they aren't coming after all. You can see melt happen as other schools go to their waiting list. Someone who deposited at UVA might get off the waiting list at another school and decide to withdraw from here to accept that other offer.

While admission officers have historical data to look at when trying to predict their yield and melt, no one anywhere had data that could predict the impact of a global pandemic. We are all learning about this together.

So...Who is Getting Offers?

You are probably aware that I think of our waiting list as having ten different segments: in-state and out-of-state for the five academic entry points. There are years when we need all of the segments to fill in spots and years when we might need one or two. Generally, more spots are available in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering. The College is the largest school with about 11,500 of the 17,000 undergraduates enrolled there. Engineering is the next largest with 2,870. As usual, those are the schools where we've made almost all of our waiting list offers. We have made offers to both Virginians and non-Virginians.

Why is This So Slow?

This is a time when we work one-on-one with students, not with large groups. It may feel a little slow on your side. We review the applications of those who accepted a spot on the waiting list and submit the names of students we'd like to admit from our regions to the Dean. The Dean approves some of our students for an offer and we get to call to let them know that an offer is coming in the student portal.

Students coming off the waiting list get a few days to think about their offers and make a deposit.. If the student applied for financial aid, we let Student Financial Services know so they can put together an aid package and their days to consider the offer begin when we get word that the package has been posted to their SIS account.

On our side, the waiting list process moves like a pendulum. We make some offers, we wait for the replies, then we make a few more offers.

What Can You Do?

There are two things you can do if you are on the waiting list. First, you can submit any updates through your applicant portal. Second, you can look for an email that is going out to everyone on the waiting list asking you to confirm that you still want to be considered. That's it.


I'm going to make some calls myself in a moment, so I'm in for a happy afternoon. I hope I get to talk to a few of you!




Thursday, April 30, 2020

Meet Kelley, a Spanish and Anthropology Double Major from Virginia!

If you're a Virginia student, this blog post might be of interest! Even though Kelley didn't travel too far to go to college, she's made a new home at UVA.
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Hi guys! My name is Kelley and I’m from Fredericksburg, Virginia. I’m a second year studying Spanish and Anthropology with a concentration in culture and communication. I’m planning to graduate a year early to pursue an accelerated Master’s in Anthropology here at UVA! Outside of the classroom, I’m really involved in research, the University Guide Service, and Madison House (which is our volunteer center here on Grounds). I love UVA and am so excited to share a little of the place I call home with you all.

UVA is a big school, but it starts to feel much smaller once you arrive. I quickly met friends on my hall and in my dorm, and began to join clubs and other activities that gave me my own community within the larger UVA bubble. One of these communities has been the University Guide Service, which I joined second semester of my first year, and which gave me some of the best mentors and friends I could have ever asked for. The other organization that I joined was the Latinx and Migrant Aid (LAMA) program through Madison House. We travel to different places around the Charlottesville community and work with Spanish speakers and students to help with English language practice and other tutoring. LAMA is one of my favorite things to do at UVA because it has allowed me to grow a community and build relationships with people in the Charlottesville area, not just inside the UVA bubble.

I have loved my experience at UVA so much, but what’s crazy is that when I was a senior in high school, I really didn’t think I wanted to come here at all. As an in-state student, I knew a lot of people who came here every year and I wanted to be the one who did something different. I toured a bunch of different schools, waiting to have that “a-ha” moment that everyone talked about, the moment when I was supposed to magically know that a school was for me. But it never really came, and I think that for a lot of people, it never really does.

It wasn’t until I began to attend events for admitted students, watch silly Instagram takeovers, and talk to current students that I began to really see myself at UVA. I began to realize that what I was looking for in a school was not that “a-ha” moment standing on some campus, but people who made me excited to get up and learn something every day. These are the people that I’ve found here in Charlottesville: people who are passionate about the things they study and the place they get to call home. I have met people who 3D print toys for fun, who organize climate strikes, and who take on passion projects to keep making this University a better place. Whether I’m watching my best friend nerd out over Russian history or listening to my roommate tell me about his 20 mile run, it is thanks to them that I get that “a-ha” feeling every day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The #UVA Class of 2024 Facebook Group (Again)

This is a repost from December because it seems some folks missed it the first time around...


I've had a hands-off approach to Facebook over the years, except when I see companies trying to be part of groups that should be left to students. It seems it's happening again. There is ONE Facebook group for the Class of 2024 that is being run by current UVA students without an agenda.



https://www.facebook.com/groups/241585222847067/

 

Who Is in the Facebook Group?

Membership will evolve in the next few weeks as students make their college choices. The students in these groups often create questionnaires to facilitate roommate matches. I'm told that the questionnaires the students create are more detailed than any roommate matching service. Student self-governance works again!

Who Is Moderating the Facebook Group?

There are a few current UVA students who keep an eye on the group. They are not paid to promote a business or product. They are students who know the ins and outs of UVA and have offered to field questions without an agenda. You'll notice that we don't really sell UVA. We present UVA to you and let you decide if the University has the things you need to be happy and challenged. Their answers to your questions will be honest and straightforward. I am not in the group.

What Happens to the Group in the Future?

When your class elects officers, the admins will hand the group over to your chosen leaders. This has been happening for over a decade and it works pretty well. For now, the admins are fine with answering questions, but they usually sit back and let you chat. Nothing in these groups will be saved or connected to your applications.

Is Facebook Activity Used for Admission Purposes?

Nope. I have absolutely no interest in tracking you or looking at your profiles. 

Can Parents Join?

No. Every so often, I hear about a parent requesting to join the student group. Please let the students have their space to talk. There's a group called UVA Parent Network that may be of interested to parents.

Why Does UVA Create the Group?

We didn't always create a Facebook group for the classes. I used to talk about how it was the students' domain (it was back when you had to have a .edu email address to get an account!) and groups should grow organically. I changed my mind in 2008 when a company started creating groups with school names on them. Content in the group we created won't include advertisements from third parties and your information won't be mined.

What About GroupMe?

I fully support students using whatever channels they feel are most helpful. We don't create or sanction GroupMe chats. GroupMe seems to be the most problematic of all the social media channels these days. Please be careful using it.


Regardless of what social media channel you use to connect with other students, just keep an eye on the admin/mod of groups you join and don't share too much information in groups that may include companies looking for data.

Remember that anyone can slap the word "official" on a group. That doesn't mean the admin is affiliated with UVA. A good hint that they aren't part of our community: they call you freshmen and they talk about campus. Those words aren't in our lingo.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Meete Alexi, a #UVA Student from Chicago who is Active in the Arts!

Alexi is a member of one of the premier dance orgnaizations at UVA, so it's fitting that she is providing an introduction to getting involved in the arts at UVA. If you're interested in studying or being involved in the arts here, don't miss the UVA Arts website!
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My name is Alexi Comella and I am a third-year student from outside Chicago studying history and public policy. I have been a dancer my entire life, and when I started school at UVA, I knew that I wanted to continue dancing in college as well. Lucky for me, UVA has great opportunities to get involved in the arts, particularly within student organizations or CIOs. CIOs, or contracted independent organizations, are our 800+ student groups that are independent from the university. Each group’s leaders are responsible for membership, appealing to Student Council for funds, and pursuing their mission. I think this is a great opportunity for us Wahoos to take charge of the groups we’re passionate about.



Student organizations are a great opportunity for making friends and finding your place at UVA! Not only are these student groups a place to come together with people who share your same passion, but they are social organizations as well. You can find my dance friends and I outside the studio hiking humpback rock early in the morning, studying in the library together late at night, or laughing over burgers on any given Saturday. As an out of state student, I found my home and my place at UVA through my dance group and through these amazing friends I was able to make my first year in college. 



The dance organization I am a part of, the University Dance Club, is just one of over a hundred visual and performing arts groups on grounds. There are dance groups ranging from those that practice and perform any and all styles of dance to those that specialize in salsa dancing, aerial dancing, ballet and more. UVA boasts a unique array of a cappella groups, from one that was featured in Pitch Perfect (shoutout Hullabahoos) to a group that is specifically for people who can’t sing at all (shoutout No Tones)! There are arts organizations like comedy groups, choirs, a symphony orchestra, a fashion organization, photography club, and so! much! more! I love UVA for a lot of reasons, but I am so happy I go to a school that has a diverse arts community within an amazing array of student organizations.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Meet Christy, a #UVA Anthropology Student from Virginia on the Pre-Med Track!

Christy joins us today to share some insight into student-faculty interaction and advising. She's also part of a new minor, volunteers as an EMT in Charlottesville, and has a job at Monticello! 
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Hi, everyone!

My name is Christy. I’m from a tiny, tiny town sort of near Virginia Beach. I’m a second year student studying anthropology, but concentrating in medical anthropology, ethics, and care (this concentration is brand new as of last semester!!). I’m also a pre-med student, so I’m going to be diving into that experience a little bit in this post. Outside of academics, I am a member of the University Guide Service, am a Resident Advisor (Dillard residents, I miss you), give tours at Monticello, and recently got certified to be an EMT. Let’s get to it. When it came to making a decision about where to go to college, I was, quite frankly, all over the place. For the longest time, I thought I wanted to go to a small school in a huge city. I ultimately decided on UVA (which is neither a small school nor located in a huge city) based on the few interactions I had with professors and students when I first visited, and now I really can’t imagine myself anywhere else.

The positive interactions that I had when I visited UVA in high school have continued each semester I’ve been a student here. I remember my very first class of first year was medical anthropology with Professor China Scherz, and I was so excited to be taking this class that I decided to go to her office hours that same day. I knew nothing about anthropology, but I went into her office and introduced myself. I told her about some of the books that I read in high school that I thought might be related to the course, and that I was looking forward to the rest of the semester. We ended up having a conversation about the research she’s conducting, what I’m interested in doing as a career, and more generally about other classes and organizations that she thought I might find interesting. Fast forward a year later, Professor Scherz is now my academic advisor and has been such an incredible and caring mentor. She’s directed me to an awesome research opportunity with a physician and professor at UVA Medical School, and is the reason why I’m seriously considering doing a Master’s in anthropology before heading to medical school myself. If you come to UVA, I cannot express how highly I recommend her course.

But, to dive a bit deeper into advising at UVA: as a first year, you’ll be randomly assigned an advisor until you declare a major. UVA does, however, offer these really cool classes called COLAs, which are graded, one credit classes specifically created with first year students in mind. COLAs are advertised as being 80% course content and 20% advising, and the professor of the course will become your academic advisor (this way, you’re essentially able to choose who you want your advisor to be). Enrollment is capped off at 18 students per class, so you’ll really be able to get to know your fellow classmates and professor. I took one called How to Music, which was taught by an anthropology professor, so I had plenty of guidance when it came to picking classes for the second semester of my first year.

I know I’ve been talking a lot about anthropology, but I am still a pre-med student, so I wanted to touch on that a bit for anybody who thinks they’ll be following that track as well. First and foremost, pre-med is not a designated major--it’s more so a list of classes you should take and activities you should do in order to be prepared for medical school. Although my anthropology professors might not be very helpful in telling me which sciences classes to take, the pre-health advisors here definitely are! UVA offers drop-in advising in one of the larger libraries on Grounds almost everyday, and you can also make appointments if you’d like to spend more time with an expert. I also found this website really helpful when I was making my pre-med class checklist.

I will say that, if absolutely all else fails, your peers will be some of the best sources of information. I’ve been able to volunteer at a rescue squad in Charlottesville because a friend told me about an EMT certification class that they were offering. I got a job at Monticello--doing something that I absolutely love to do--because a friend told me they were hiring. Your peers will also be some of the best sources for support. I’ve met some of the most intelligent, passionate, and incredible people here at UVA--many of whom I consider my best friends. It’s because of them that I truly cannot imagine myself anywhere else. Even when we’re away from Charlottesville during this crazy time, we’ve managed to keep in touch by having pancake dinners over Facetime, playing card games over Zoom (truly a feat), and watching Netflix together using a neat little chat extension. It was the people that initially drew me to UVA, and it is the very same people that have made UVA a home.

If you managed to read through all of that, you’re amazing. I’d be happy to answer any questions that you have about literally anything--anthropology, pre-med stuff, advising, dorms, clubs...you name it. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the comment section, but also feel free to email me at cma5ab@virginia.edu.

Best of luck with your college search. I know it can be stressful, but I promise that you’ll end up where you’re meant to be :)

Good Times, Go Hoos,
Christy A.





Thursday, April 16, 2020

Meet Matt O, a #UVA Graduate in Economics from Virginia

Today's guest blogger is Matt O, who graduated from UVA last year. Matt was part of the Days on the Lawn team for years while he was a student and I'm so happy he's still willing to provide advice to our incoming students.
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Matt O. '19
Vienna, VA
Economics major; Statistics minor
Darden School of Business Future Year Scholar
Job after graduation: Rotational Business Analyst at Northrop Grumman
Interests: Weather, business/economics, Days on the Lawn, Arizona/Utah hikes

Academics

From the minute you step into Professor Ken Elzinga’s “Principles of Microeconomics” course, you know you’re in for an interesting time. I’m not sure if it was the 80s-style projector he used, his personal invitation to out-of-state and international students to join him for Thanksgiving dinner at his house in Charlottesville, his Hyundai Genesis parked outside Monroe Hall with the license plate “NT-Trust,” or the fact that he’s been teaching at UVA since 1967, but something about him seemed legit.

Overall, it’s hard to describe the UVA academic experience in ways other than intense and challenging, yet passionate and rewarding. At UVA, virtually all lectures are taught by full-fledged professors who are often at the top of their respective fields. As an economics major in the College of Arts & Sciences, I had the opportunity to take courses with esteemed professors in a multitude of other areas as well, including religious studies, history, public health, environmental science, and more. What you’ll find at UVA, regardless of discipline, is an unwavering dedication to teaching and learning. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a professor not willing to meet with students outside of class via office hours or appointment, either to reinforce material or just to chat about life. 

In recent years there has been a big push for interdisciplinary courses meant to tie together two or more generally separated subjects in a meaningful, real-world way. One such example is “AI and the Future of Work” taught by Professor Anton Korinek. The course explores the economic and social implications of a future driven by artificial intelligence. You’ll find both economics and computer science majors in the case-based course to provide their own unique perspectives, which put the course among the best I had taken in my time as an undergraduate.

It’s sometimes difficult to not feel like a number at a large state university, but my experience at UVA was much more personal. Put forth the effort and the professors will help you strive to a product and experience you had never thought possible before. As Gene Wilder sung in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, at UVA “you’ll be in a world of pure imagination... anything you want to do, do it.” And, speaking of Charlottesville, “if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it....”

Planning for Life at UVA

While there’s a lot to look forward to in the college experience, there’s just as much to look forward to once you graduate. The general goal of students (who don’t have plans for graduate school) is to be gainfully employed, after all. The various career centers at UVA are your go-to resource to secure a fantastic job.


Essentially, here’s how the system is structured. The “UVA Career Center” is a centralized career services office located in Bryant Hall within Scott Stadium, where our football team plays (pretty cool). The UVA Career Center is split into multiple communities, including business & technology, education, creative arts & media, science & sustainability, and public service & government. Each community features knowledgeable career counselors that will help you find your passions and set you up for success based on your goals. Events are hosted almost nightly during peak recruiting season to get you in front of employers and learn about their firms or organizations. Case competitions are often held to give students the visibility and experience required to get in the door with some of the top firms in their respective industries. You’d be hard pressed to find an opportunity on which the career center won’t have insight.

Arguably one of the greatest benefits of the UVA Career Center is the On-Grounds Interviewing (OGI) system. For most of the academic year, tons of top-tier companies including Bain & Company, Microsoft, IBM, Anheuser-Busch, (my very own) Northrop Grumman, and so many more flock to Charlottesville to interview UVA students on-Grounds. There is no greater comfort than being able to walk over to Scott Stadium and interview in one of the stylish football suites. No long distance traveling for just one interview. I remember doing 6 interviews in the span of a few days, all under OGI, without missing a single class or activity. OGI also offers students protection from “exploding offers” and unreasonably quick turnarounds. Now that’s hard to beat!

But wait, there’s more! Some academic departments have their own career services. The Center for Engineering Career Development, Commerce Career Services (CCS), and Economics Career Office (ECO) are all examples. For students who fall under the respective disciplines, the specialized career services centers provide additional subject-specific advice and access to alumni from those majors. 

Last year, I was fortunate enough to help organize the Economics Undergraduate Career Forum with Jen Jones, director of the ECO. We brought in incredibly accomplished and fantastically humble economics alumni from Tesla, Uber, Electronic Arts, Boston Consulting Group, and Goldman Sachs, among others. Our alums love to share their insights with and contribute to the success of other fellow Hoos. I haven’t yet found an exception to that rule.

There’s a lot to look forward to when you become a Hoo, and career services will be by your side while you’re a student and beyond.


Student Life

When people think of the stereotypical “college town,” they might think of Tuscaloosa, Ann Arbor, State College, or College Station. All great places. But, as you may expect, I’m here to make the case for Charlottesville. A medium-sized city of about 40,000, Charlottesville is home to a tremendous history and culture. Around every corner there seems to be a reference to a famous battle, gathering place, historical building, etc. The citizens of Charlottesville bleed orange and blue and are incredibly supportive of the university as are students of the city. Many popular student excursions like vineyards, Monticello, and Humpback Rock are all just a short drive away. 

For all that Charlottesville adds to the student experience at UVA, many students choose to give back to the community in a show of support, honor, and gratitude. Madison House, the largest organization of student volunteers at the University, coordinates a number of programs that fit all volunteering interests. One such program, CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope), is dedicated to providing tax services free of charge to Charlottesville community members. In addition, Madison House holds the “BIG Event” once every year, coordinating hundreds of student volunteers to complete a multitude of community projects all on one Saturday.

I personally had the opportunity to work with the UVA Women’s Center as a Big Brother in the Men’s Leadership Project (MLP), a year-long program with a mission to foster leadership and development in at-risk middle school boys in Charlottesville. In terms of learning experiences, MLP taught me just as much or more than my most fulfilling courses. 

Such opportunities are available for every student at the University. If you have the drive, you can get involved. As much as Charlottesville is our beloved college town, it’s also our community and every Wahoo’s second home, student and alum, regardless of where they live. Giving back is paramount to the experience and you will become a better person from it. I truly believe the UVA community, which includes all of Charlottesville, is second to none. When you enroll here, you join a family of many hundreds of thousands and growing, always at your side. 

As University founder and third president Thomas Jefferson exclaimed, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” His spirit lives on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Meet Arlena, an Army ROTC Student in the #UVA School of Nursing!

Arlena is taking over the blog today to talk about her experiences in the School of Nursing and the Army ROTC program. The list of places Arlena has traveled as part of the ROTC program is impressive! She's as well-traveled as a seasoned, international admission officer!
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My name is Arlena Burns. I am a fourth year nursing student from Sag Harbor, NY. I am
also Cadet Burns, a member of UVA’s Army ROTC program. This May I will not only be
graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing, I will also be commissioning as a 2nd
Lieutenant Officer in the Army Nurse Corps. Although I devoted most of my time to the UVA
School of Nursing and Army ROTC, I continued to be a part of organizations that I was
passionate about. Over the last four years I have been a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, Order
of Omega Greek Honor Society, a volunteer at Montanova Stables through Madison House, an
outdoors club member and a work exchange student at Fly Dog Yoga. I also participated in UVA
intramural sports like volleyball on a team with my Kappa Delta Sisters and softball with cadets
in Army ROTC. There is so much you can be involved with at UVA. If there was an eighth day
in the week, I would probably join more clubs if I could. Although I wasn’t involved in
everything, what I was a part of, I was dedicated to, and it impacted my life in a way that truly
shaped who I am today.

Army ROTC offered me many opportunities to develop my leadership skills. This past
summer I completed Advanced Camp at Fort Knox in Kentucky. This is a rigorous 31 day
training event in which you are evaluated on your ability to demonstrate skills expected of an
army officer in both tactical and garrison environments. At Fort Knox, I was physically and
mentally pushed to my limits, but in hindsight, the challenges that I faced made me feel stronger,
more confident and resilient. After successfully completing Advanced Camp I went to Brooke
Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas where I completed the Nurse
Summer Training Program. This is unique to Army Nursing Cadets and offers us the opportunity
to intern at an Army Hospital. This clinical experience was invaluable to me. It helped me to
expand my nursing skills and medical knowledge exponentially.

Another experience that Army ROTC granted me was the opportunity to travel to India
for a language program called Project GO. I studied Urdu in New Delhi, India for two months
and received credit through the program’s host school, University of Wisconsin. I also traveled a
great deal while I was there to other cities in India like Jaipur, Amritsar and Rishikesh as well as
to surrounding countries such as Kathmandu, Nepal and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The
people I encountered during these travels left such impressions on me. They gave me a renewed
sense of gratitude and showed me that with a better perspective you can appreciate more than
you could ever imagine in life, even the smallest things.

I was fortunate to have experiences that enriched my life both on grounds and beyond. In
terms of on grounds experiences, the UVA School of Nursing gave me so much. They didn’t just
impart the skills and knowledge that I needed to be a nurse, but the personal attributes as well.
As a nurse you are charged with taking care of people when they are at their most vulnerable. To
do this well it requires more than medication and medical skills. Upon graduating from the
School of Nursing you will likely have cultivated the ability to listen, lead, be compassionate,
and resilient. This is because the faculty and staff at our program displayed these attributes to us
and everyone around them in order to develop a safe, healthy learning environment.
I could likely go on about everything I have been involved with while at UVA and detail
every impactful experience that I have had as a result, however I hope that if you are interested
in anything that I have mentioned volunteering, greek life, ROTC, or Nursing that you consider
the experiences that you will have had when you are standing in my shoes about to graduate
from UVA. I would trade places with you and do everything over again in a heartbeat!
If you are interested in any of the organizations or programs that I have been mentioned feel free
to reach out to me at afb7av@virginia.edu!


Friday, April 10, 2020

Meet Eleni, a Human Biology Major on the Pre-Med Track!

I'm so glad to hand the blog over to Eleni today. This post is full of advice and will hopefully put anyone a little nervous about leaving home at ease. 
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Howdy everyone!

My name is Eleni Fafoutis and I am currently a second year (Class of 2022!!!) in the College of Arts and Sciences. I am a Human Biology major on the pre-med track, so that means I take a lot of STEM courses. I am from Virginia Beach, Virginia, but did the first half of high school in Santa Margarita, California (If you went to SMCHS please hit me up!), so I have gotten the best of both worlds. I’m a huge country music fan (actually saw Luke Combs live at JPJ, or John Paul Jones Arena), I love SpongeBob, and most importantly, love corny jokes. I am currently a resident advisor for first years in Dillard Houses, do work with the Honor Committee as a Support Officer, am secretary for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), partake in research, LA for Calculus, and volunteer with Madison House.

My first brush with UVA was as a freshman in high school, in California, at the college fair. I remember seeing a table for UVA and it was crowded (and I found out later for a good reason!). My mom told me to stop and talk to them, but I refused. I said, “I’ll never go to school that far away.” I ate those words. We moved to Virginia, and there I was, a sophomore in high school, sullen at my sudden uprooting from home and unhappy that my parents were forcing me to go on a college tour. I’m glad they did. I had an amazing tour guide. Can’t remember her name now, but she was bubbly and British, and it was hard to not catch her enthusiasm. Everyone at UVA seemed to have that same energy. People were really friendly, and everyone was smiling. Folks were full of energy, and everyone seemed to be doing something- going somewhere, talking to someone, listening to music, looking over notes, or just enjoying the day. I loved that vibe. I loved being in a place where everyone was so passionate and enthusiastic about what they were doing, and from that day in early 2016, I had my heart set on UVA. When my acceptance came in my senior year of high school, it was an easy ‘yes!’ (Special thanks to DeanJ and CavPup, whose blogs got me through the admission process!)

When I finally made my way to summer orientation, however, I was challenged. I am an only child. When I left for UVA, it was the first time I had ever really, truly, been away from home. I’d travelled for speech and debate in high school but nothing compares to the sudden level of independence that was thrust upon me at college. I moved into Dillard suite 335, nervous at what was to come. What came was much of what I expected. I felt lonely and scared. Very few people came from my high school to UVA, so I was essentially starting at a clean slate. I did not meet my first true friend until mid-October, at the Gooch-Dillard marshmallow roast and bonfire pit event. From there, the rest of my semester finished quickly. One course in particular that stood out from first year was EDHS 4810, or ‘The Science of Happiness.’ Recommended to me by an summer orientation leader who could see how panicked I was, it was one of the best and most impactful classes I have taken here. First-years, take note. Highly recommend. I look back at first-year with fondness. Although I suffered my fair share of disappointments, the highs outnumber the lows. I joined Honor, was hired to be an RA, established a solid friend group, met some amazing professors, enjoyed UVA winning the National Championship, and finished a good chunk of my pre-med classes. More importantly, I had found my place. By the time I closed the door for the last time on Dillard 335, I didn’t look back. I was ready to tackle the challenges of my second year.

When I returned for second-year, I was back a few weeks earlier than the rest for my training as an RA, which was an amazing experience. I made so many new friends among my staff and it was awesome to see what the gears and cogs of running a university looks like (Shout out to Dean Petters! He does a great job!). I was so nervous welcoming my residents into Dillard on that first day, but it turns out I didn’t need to be. I will say that being an RA was one of the best things to ever happen to me at UVA. I love all my residents and became friends with so many. It was incredible being a role model and a sort of big sister to these girls who were navigating the same things I had learned from (if you girlies are reading this, you’re amazing!). Second year was a big turning point for me in the sense that I got a true taste of what being a STEM major was like. I tripled up in my fall semester, taking Neurobiology (BIOL 3050 - tough class but very interesting!), Biology 1 (love, love, love Prof. Kittlesen), and Organic Chem 1 all at the same time. It was tough, but I pulled through. By the way - for you pre-meds out there, I have seriously enjoyed every part of my ‘core’ premed classes so far. All the professors have been amazing and have cared so much about me and my success in those classes. I also finally got into the swing of research. Having come out of my ‘training semester,’ I was now a full-fledged research assistant. I got to learn so much from my PI and the students I was working with. It was nice to actually be doing real science with a meaningful end goal.

Part of what made my fall semester so tough, outside of a difficult course load and the newness of the RA role, was deciding what major I wanted to be. I was so torn up. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted, and here is where I offer my first piece of advice. In a school as big as UVA, you cannot wait for an opportunity to come and lay down on your metaphorical plate. You have to seek it yourself, but when you do, the payoff is incredible. I took a course in public health, did some personal research, and met with professors, and decided that Human Biology was the major for me, and I am so glad I made that decision! The day I got my acceptance into the major, I received a list of courses that all sounded like the most fun and interesting classes I could take at UVA. UVA has a major for everyone. Whether it be as niche as Human Biology or as broad as Economics, I promise you will find the major for you. Just don’t be afraid to look, and take classes outside of your comfort zone.

I want to take a little bit of time to talk about the current situation. First and foremost, to whomever is reading this, I hope you are safe and healthy and your family and friends are as well. This is hard for everyone, especially for our fourth-years unable to graduate. However, to my current and incoming first-year friends, I want to offer you a promise: it will be okay. It might be a little scary and a little troublesome right now, but UVA has an amazing community. The united front I have seen against this virus has been so inspirational, with students and faculty joining together to do what’s best for everyone. Incoming first-years, when you do come to Grounds, whenever that may be, know that UVA is your home. It’s already your home. We’re ready and waiting with open arms to have you!

To close, I wanted to give some random thoughts and realizations that I have had throughout my time here, to maybe inspire or reassure you. 
       Every professor I have ever had here cares. I have yet to have one - ONE - be mean to me or unkind when I come with a question. Every professor, in my experience, is willing to help if you show them you care, and are always there for their students. It’s been incredible to have such amazing guidance and support from faculty.
       Speaking of professors, special shoutouts to the Chemistry department. I have personally had Professor Gunnoe, Professor Welch, and Professor Frantz as well as amazing graduate and undergraduate lecture and lab TA’s. Everyone is incredibly smart and so willing to help and I just cannot gush enough about them. Same goes for Biology. I’ve personally had Professor Kittlesen, Professor Manson, Professor Kawasaki, and Professor Provencio. All amazing and such understanding and great professors. Of course, UVA has many, many other great departments as well. Just wanted to give special love for STEM!
       Take a class out of your comfort zone. I took an Art History class this semester for my second writing requirement. It was a seminar on the Parthenon and I have learned so much. It’s definitely not something I normally take and it is an amazing experience.
       DO take biology and chemistry together in your first two semesters, if you can, pre-meds. It’s often advised not to but pairing biology and gen chem your first year is much easier than pairing biology with organic chemistry your second year. You have been warned.
       This is for people who are vegetarian (I am!). There are so many great options if you know where to look - Roots on the corner has some killer barbecue tofu. The dumpling truck is where you can use plus dollars on their tofu dumplings. Similarly, the other food trucks have falafel and beans so there are plenty of great options if the dining hall is lacking!
       The libraries here are really nice. A personal (yet sadly closed favorite) is Alderman stacks, but Clem and the Health Sciences libraries are great options as well. Don’t just study in your room - explore a bit! You can also study in the Rotuna, which is pretty cool.
       Bring a printer. Otherwise you have to pay for printing everywhere :(
       One regret I have from first year was not having the philosophy ‘never say no.’ (Okay, say no if something makes you uncomfortable or feel unsafe, or if it’s irresponsible or dangerous). The biggest thing you can do in college, especially as you are starting out, is to put yourself out there. Hang out with people you are not familiar with yet - you might find a best friend. Go to your RA’s event - even if nobody else is going, your RA might be a really cool person. Study on the Lawn - those days are far and few between. Try all the dining halls and see which is best (O’hill is, as someone who has lived by Runk the past two years). Put yourself out there and you will reap the rewards in turn. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be your RA someday. Maybe you’ll meet that professor that changes your major. Maybe you’ll meet your first friend at a Gooch-Dillard Marshmallow Bonfire.

Thanks for reading, ‘hoolets! I love talking to people and helping people out (especially first-years and transfers!), so feel free to hit me up on twitter @elenifaf or on my insta @ef6304!