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!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Course Rigor is Not a Number

I often mention the cyclical nature of admission work. There are certain phases that happen every year and certain issues that come up when we talk to families. I want to address the questions we get about rigor in the high school curriculum.

1. All of your core classes are important.

A lot of people focus on the core areas that correspond to their current academic interest. I've even had parents wave off certain subjects because their student isn't interested in them or they don't come "naturally" to them. I wish they'd stop this. High school is the time to get a broad foundation in several areas and college is the time to specialize. We most concerned with a student's work in four core areas (in alpha order, not order of importance): English, Math, Science, Social Science, and World Language. 

At UVA, students don't even declare a major until the end of the second year in the College of Arts and Sciences or the end of the first year in Engineering and Architecture. The Nursing and Kinesiology students are the only ones admitted directly into a program. 

2. The number of APs doesn't drive a decision.

Plenty of people want to know how many AP courses a student should take to be competitive in our process. We don't approach applications this way. First of all, not everyone goes to a school with APs as an option. Second, some schools limit how many AP courses a student may take. Third, with the number of AP courses offered these days, you can rack up a lot of APs in just one subject. There could be students with big AP numbers who also haven't take an advanced course in other core areas. 

3. Doubling up in one subject at the expense of the core doesn't "look good."

There are some students who are so excited about a certain subject that they want to double or even triple up on courses in that area. I don't think it's smart to drop core subjects to load up classes in one area. Cover the core and use your electives to explore your interests.

As always, I'm happy to answer questions about rigor of curriculum or course selection in the comments.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Mid-year Reports Due Tomorrow for #UVA23!

I writing a quick post today to remind students who were admitted or deferred under Early Action and all Regular Decision applicants that mid-year reports are due tomorrow. Please upload a midyear report card through your portal. We are a paperless office, so please do not mail or email this.

Many students are sending updates to individual admission officers (or several admission officers at once). Please use your portal to submit all updates. In addition, some are submitting a "letter of continued interest." You do not need to declare your interest in UVA. Your application is proof that you are interested. We address this in multiple places on our website and I've written about it several times on this blog.

Keep it simple! Send us the stuff we request and don't spend time or energy on the things we don't. You have enough on your plate right now and there's no need to add more to this process.

As always, I'm happy to answer your questions in the comments!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Facebook Deleted the #UVA23 Class Facebook Group, So Here's a New One

Facebook decided a bunch of college class groups needed to be deleted, so they got rid of the UVA Class of 2023 along with some others over the weekend. The current students who volunteered to answer questions in the group told me that the incoming students were simply introducing themselves, so they couldn't figure out how they could possibly have run afoul of Facebook's community standards.

Anyway, the students just created a new UVA Class of 2023 group and shared the link with me. Here's hoping this one doesn't have any issues.

As a reminder, this group is for students only. I'm not even in there. A few current UVA students volunteered to answer questions when needed. When the incoming class elects their Class Council, the admin roles will be handed over to the officers.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Unofficial #UVA23 Early Action Statistics

The Office of Institutional Assessment is the source of all official statistics about UVA. They take a census to determine the final statistics for the class. You can see official admission data in the data digest part of their website. Obviously, what happened in past years isn't going to predict the future, but some people have fun playing around with the Tableau on their site.

Here are some unofficial numbers about the early action process. These numbers were up to date on Friday. If you are a reporter, please contact the Media Relations team in the Office of University Communications for current, official information and all of your reporterly needs. :)

Early Action Applications

Total number of Early Action applications: 25,098 (21,573 last year)
Total number of VA apps: 7,019
Total number of OOS apps: 18,079
We use completed applications in our statistics.

Early Action Offers

Overall offers: 6,550
Total VA offers: 3,051 (43.4% offer rate)
Total OOS offers: 3,499 (19% offer rate)
Enrollment Goal: ~3,750
Schools admit more students than the enrollment goal with yield in mind. Yield is how many students accept an offer of admission. Virginia residents yield at a higher rate than OOS students.

Early Action Defers

Overall defers: ~7000 as of last Friday
Applicants are withdrawing, so this number is likely much lower today and will continue to do go down.

Early Action Testing/Rank (offers only)

Middle 50% SAT score: 1350-1500 (VA) 1450-1540 (OOS)
Middle 50% ACT composite: 30-34 (VA) 33-35 (OOS)
We use scores from each section in our review, but the reports on averages generate totals. We do not use the essay or writing scores.

A couple notes:

1. I do not have additional statistics. We are already immersed in the Regular Decision review process and I have to read files!

2. Welcome packets should be leaving our office this week.

3. The Echols, Rodman, and College Science Scholars program invitations will be in welcome packets. Another round of invites will go out after the RD process concludes. Echols and Rodman also allow self-nomination after the first semester.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Let's Talk about #UVA23 Early Action: The Offer of Admission

Admitted students can use this entry to talk. I imagine you might also want to join the UVA Class of 2023 Facebook group to chat with your future classmates. Parents, you can check out the UVA Parents Page, the UVA Parents Fund Facebook page, and the UVA Parent Network group (a social group run independently by parents).

I'll have post about admission statistics and Days on the Lawn (our admitted student open houses) in the coming days.

You have until May 1st to decide whether you'll be joining us at UVA. You can accept your offer and pay the enrollment deposit through the student portal. The date you deposit will not impact your housing or course registration. Orientation registration will open on April 1st and Housing opens their system on May 1. If you decide to go elsewhere at some point in the coming weeks, I hope you'll decline the offer via your portal.

Congratulations! We are so lucky to have you considering UVA!

Let's Talk about #UVA23 Early Action: The Defer

Deferred students can use this post to talk.

Your application hasn't finished it's journey yet.

Your file will be reviewed again as part of the Regular Decision pool. At this point, you should simply upload your midyear grades through your student portal once they are ready.

We know the wait is tough, but we think your mid-year grades could help your case. Hang in there! You should see the link to the defer FAQ page in your letter, which answers the most common questions.

Jack hopes you can find a peaceful place to wait.

Let's Talk About #UVA23 Early Action: The Deny

Denied students can use this entry to talk.

I know this is hard to handle and some of you might not have gotten a disappointing admission decision yet. I hope you all can look at your options and get excited about your other schools. If your immediate reaction is "I'll transfer", don't let that plan keep you from getting involved in campus life at the school you choose. I think many students come to think of their next choice as "home" and can't imagine leaving it after a little while. Give yourself time to explore your options.

Some students inquire about being moved to the defer group. We do not have an appeal process.

Please be polite and respectful of others when posting.

BTW, if you signed yourself up to read the blog by email and don't want the messages anymore, there's an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page. 

Early Action Decisions for #UVA Class of 2023 Are Posted

About 30 minutes ago, Early Action results got posted to the student portal.

The release is always exciting, but some of you aren't going to get the decision you wanted. I hope you'll focus on the college options you still have instead of the ones you don't at the end of the day. I hope those of you who get offers will celebrate your success, but also be gracious around those who might not have gotten good news.

I will post blog entries where you can talk about the different decisions momentarily. I'll be back to work through any questions that are asked in the comments tomorrow.  I trust you to be respectful of others in the comments.  Please don't post personal information in the comments (contact info, statistics, etc.). As I discuss often on social media, school-specific statistics like GPA are subjective these days and don't represent the applicant accurately. What's more, there have been times when enough information about an applicant has been shared that their classmates could identify them.

There is no lag time in our office, so we are now reading Regular Decision applications. Please understand if my responses to questions are a little delayed. 

A lot of people on Grounds will be watching #UVA23 on social media so they can welcome our newest Wahoos to the UVA community. We love seeing your reactions when we check that hashtag! Keep an eye on the UVA Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook accounts. There might be some nice messages!

THANK YOU to all of you who have read and commented on the blog and chatted via social media so far this season.

Regardless of what your portal says, you are going to attend a great school. You're going to learn from amazing, inspirational professors, administrators, and peers. You're going to meet people with whom you will stay friends for the rest of your lives. You're going to pull all-nighters studying. You're going to pull all-nighters not studying. You're going to have great successes and you're going to fail miserably at some things. What's going to make or break those experiences is your openness to learning from them, not your location when they happen.

Remember that your decision is not a statement about your value. Most of our applicants are qualified. They are perfectly capable of doing the work at UVA. Our first-year class just isn't large enough to accommodate everyone.

Best wishes to those who won't be back to the blog after this (if you're reading this by email, you can unsubscribe yourself at the bottom of the email). To the rest, I hope you'll continue to comment and stay in touch.

It's a big night and I'll be thinking about you all. Good luck!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The #UVA Class of 2023 Facebook Group (students only)

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. Thanks to some students on Reddit, I found out that an adult created dozens (hundreds?) of Facebook groups and GroupMe chats for applicants to colleges all over the country. Regardless of why an adult is doing this, I don't like it and want to share a new group with you.

Here's a link to a students-only Facebook group for the Class of 2023:
Click the logo to go to the Class of 2023 Facebook group!


Who Is in the Facebook Group?

Obviously, the group will be for students who hope they'll be members of the Class of 2023 at this point. Membership will evolve in the next few months as students make their college choices. After decisions come out, 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 being used by a housing office or 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 about 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.

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. I am letting the admins of the class group decide whether they also want to set up a new GroupMe and keep an eye on it. They're UVA students, so I want to be respectful of their time.

Please 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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A #UVA Early Action Non-Update Update

The questions about when Early Action decisions would be ready started coming in about a month ago, but the pace has definitely picked up in recent weeks. Every Q&A session I do on Instagram Stories (if you haven't joined in, I do them once or twice per week) is guaranteed to have at least a few submissions asking about our progress.

I compiled a little chart last year to show the date that early applicants saw their results online. Way back in 2006, we had Early Decision and only got 2,311 applications. We had a home-grown online app back when that was a little tedious to use and we printed every application out. It was a very different time!

We had a few years with just one deadline (Harvard, Princeton, and UVA made that move around the same time). I remember being convinced that people would applaud us for giving seniors their fall semesters back. I remember thinking that schools would follow our lead. No one followed and we got lots of complaints. In time, we gave in and added an Early Action process.

Unofficial numbers...official ones are here.

As you can see, the application numbers have increased dramatically over the years. Critics seem to think that a big increase is something we want (they also will say that the lack of a big increase is a sign of doom). They'll say our job is the drive up applications. We don't have that philosophy at in our office. One of my colleagues likes to joke that an increase of one application each year would be perfect. The critics are appeased, but we aren't burning the midnight oil to get the job done. 

Our workload is significant (so significant that the blog has fallen by the wayside this season) and we are well aware that other schools have been able to release their decisions. We aren't going to take shortcuts in our process, so we are going to keep working. 

Here's what you need to know if you applied Early Action to UVA:

1. Decisions will be posted by the end of the month.
2. All decisions are posted at once on your portal.
3. If we are able to post decisions before January 31st, I will post here and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We will also email all applicants the news.

Hang in there, everyone! We still have some work to do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

We DO Want Well-Rounded Students...But Not in the Way You Think

The first time I heard the phrase "well-rounded," I was in high school and even though that was a long time ago, I thought about it in the same context that many people use today. I thought about showing my well-roundedness through activities. While there were students whose extracurricular involvement was purely driven by their interests, many of us assembled lists that we thought broadcast variety. There was this perception that to be considered well-rounded, you need to cover certain bases: athletics, arts, academics, service, leadership, etc. I was so nervous about this that even though I didn't couldn't handle Model UN along with my other activities (pre-internet, being in Model UN required a mountain of work), I stayed in it out of fear that I needed it to look well-rounded.

Perhaps my experience is why I've always spent a good amount of time explaining that we don't have a checklist when it comes to activities and that everyone doesn't have to be well-rounded. After all, the incoming class of 3,800 students will be well-rounded. We don't have to engineer that. It just happens.

That being said, the "well-rounded" idea does apply in our academics. In recent years, I've had more students articulate a feeling that they should be specializing in a certain academic field of interest. They think it will "look good" to show a focus in one subject...and they're dropping core subjects to do that.

High school is the time to build a great foundation. College is where you solidify that foundation and then leap into specialization. We want you to have a well-rounded academic foundation so you can go any direction once your get to college.  Dropping core classes in high school to load up in an area of interest isn't necessarily going to "look good" to admission officers.

I'm not talking about magnet or governor's school programs. In my experience, those allow for deep work in certain disciplines without sacrificing work in other core subjects.

By the way, the vast majority of UVA students don't declare a major until they've been here for a year (Schools of Engineering and Architecture) or two (College of Arts and Sciences). If you think you know what you want right now, be aware that you might change your mind. It's really common!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Preliminary Early Action Numbers from #UVA Admission

24,950 students submitted Early Action applications to UVA this year.We have a lot of reading to do. Keep in mind that we only count completed applications in our official numbers. Some students won't complete their applications (despite many reminders!).

Reading 15% more applications is a big task for our staff and I'm going to ask one big favor of our applicants: use the applicant portal to submit updates and do not email them to deans in our office. Remember that our instructions tell you what credentials we want you to submit. If we don't ask for it, you don't have to spend time on it.

We don't cull the applicant pool using GPAs or testing, so all of those files are going to be reviewed by our team. Here's a recent blog post about why GPA isn't super informative in our review.

It will take several weeks to process all the documents that are arriving in our office right now. Please do not worry about your status page at this time. Once we are caught up on filing, we'll start contacting students by email about missing items. I know some of you have read this on the top of your portal page, but it's important to get this information to as many students as possible!

As for notification, we have always said that EA decisions will be ready by the end of January. It's probably safe to say we're going to need more time than in past years, when we've been able to post decisions early.

Back to reading...

Friday, November 16, 2018

Good-bye SIS, Hello #UVA Portal!

This admission season brings a few changes to our process. First of all, we are accepting the Coalition App. I've only seen one so far in my reading, but it bears mentioning. Second, you can now self-report your testing and new scores after you apply (see below). Third, we have moved to using a computer system called Slate that includes a student portal feature. That means you don't have to log into UVA's SIS to monitor your admission status (financial aid is using SIS). SIS is a student records system and it took a lot of work to customize it for admission work. Slate is a bit easier for everyone, admission officers and students, to use.

You'll monitor your application for admission via the student portal. You were sent an email with instructions for logging into the portal after we downloaded your application from Common App or Coalition.

Here's what the portal looks like when you log in to see your status page:

The application checklist will obviously get your attention right away. You can see what required documents have arrived and been added to your file. Not the "and been added to your file." It takes time for credentials to be filed with your application. If something hasn't been filed, it doesn't mean it wasn't sent or received in our office. It means the item hasn't made it into your file yet.

By the way, we don't have the staffing to log anything but the required documents.

On the bottom half of the page, there are three important features.

1. Uploading Updates

If you wish to submit an update for your file, you must use this upload feature.  The only required update is your mid-year grades. Anything else is totally optional. Do not send updates to individual admission officers. We have a note about this on the with our email addresses and people are still sending us their updates. We're reading applications. We don't have time to file this stuff. Upload it.

Do not upload resumes, research abstracts, or writing portfolios, please! We don't have the staff to read these things and don't need you to spend time on them. Your application is plenty of information!

2. Verifying Residency Status

Under application details, you can see the the decision plan you chose (early action or regular decision), the school to which you applied, and your residency status.

3. Updating Testing

If you receive a test score after submitting an application, you can share it with us here. Remember that we addressed self-reported testing in the application instructions and I wrote about it here on the blog before. You only need an official score report sent if you are admitted and decide to attend UVA.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Deadline Reminders for #UVA Early Action Applicants

It's the time of year when Early Action applicants are putting the finishing touches on their applications. There are some common questions and concerns at this point and I thought I'd go over a few of them. 

1. The deadline is November 1st, not October 31st.

You have until 11:59 PM on November 1st in your time zone to submit your application. Keep in mind that many schools share this deadline and while the Common App and Coalition App support teams will be around to help with issues (I know for a fact that the Common App team is up 24/7 around big deadlines), they are apt to be inundated with help requests in the hours before the deadline. Try to submit your applications early to avoid last minute issues.

2. Counselors and teachers aren't subject to your deadline.

You need to get all of YOUR parts of the application submitted by the deadline. Plenty of counselors and teachers have already submitted supporting credentials for students, but the system stays open for them. They get a grace period.

3. Double check that you've submitted on the application website.

Submitting an application isn't a one-click action. Make sure you follow the entire submission process. Log out and go back into the application you're using to make sure the submission went through. 

4. Your application will be incomplete the first time you log into the student portal.

A few days after your file is pulled into our system, we will send an email with login information for our student portal. Please be patient. It takes a few weeks for our staff to match all those transcripts and teacher recommendations to newly submitted applications.We only log required documents due to volume.

5. We do not accept resumes, abstracts, research, or writing portfolios

We do not accept supplements that fall outside the lines of art supplements (for the arts, architecture, and marching band). Your activities should be listed in the activity section of the Common App. Be concise and brief. If we have any questions about your activity list, we'll email you.

Recommendations should come from your counselor and a teacher of your choice. The feature for submitting "other" recommendations is even turned off in Common App to stop non-academic recommendations from coming in. Please respect our process and follow the application instructions on our website. 

6. Virginia residents must complete the residency questions to get in-state status.

If you are a Virginia resident, please be sure to fill out the residency section. The first section asks questions about you (you'll answer "no" to most of them). The next section asks about a parent. The parent section is where most of you demonstrate residency since most of you are dependents. Only send extra documentation to the Office of Virginia status if they contact you with a request for supporting information.

Submitting unnecessary documents slows the process down for everyone. 

Good luck! I'll be watching the comments below for questions. Feel free to tweet at me or DM me on Instagram if you have questions after office hours. I'm @UVADeanJ on both.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Let's Talk about the Residency Questions on the #UVA Application

While filling out an application to UVA, you'll encounter a question asking if you believe you qualify for in-state tuition. Answering yes will lead to answering some more questions that will be used by the Office of Virginia Status to certify that you have Virginia domicile (that's the real term).

The first set of questions are about you, the applicant. Most students answer "yes' to the question about having a Virginia driver's license and "no" to the rest of the statements. Few students own real estate or are filing tax returns here. They're dependents on a parent or guardian and that means they get their domicile status through their parent.

The second set of questions ask about a parent or guardian. This is where most students provide the info that gets them in-state status. Don't omit the parent section!

The criteria for being considered a Virginia resident is dictated by Virginia law. The Office of Virginia Status at UVA is required to collect this information to make a residency determination. Every year, there are students who assume that being born in Virginia and attending a Virginia high school make their residency status obvious, but the government still requires the status office to verify residency by gathering some very specific information.

You still need to fill out the residency questions if you were born and raised in Virginia!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

How to Decide Between Early Action and Regular Decision for #UVA

With the Early Action deadline looming, many students are feeling pressure to get some college applications submitted. Early Action isn't always the best route, though. Let's talk about how to decide between Early Action and Regular Decision at UVA.

Keep in mind:

1. We have the same review process during Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD). The early process is not easier at UVA.
2. Interest isn't a factor (this is non-binding EA, after all), so an early application is not seen as a statement about your intent to enroll at UVA.
3. The results of an early application could be admission, denial, or deferral.

Successful Early Action applicants usually have transcripts that show consistently strong work across the core subjects. My suggestion is to look at your final report card from 9th, 10th, and 11th grades side-by-side. If you can say that your program builds nicely and your grades are consistent, Early Action might make sense for you. Of course, having time to write well-crafted essays is a consideration and you have to have given your counselor/teacher plenty of time to write wonderful recommendation letters! 

Regular decision would be best for a student who needs more time to complete a thoughtful application or for whom one fall semester grades would be very helpful. There are so many scenarios where RD makes more sense then EA - rebounding grades, school changes, and the list goes on. 

Early Action = transcript shows 9th-11th grade work and senior courses
Regular Decision = transcript shows 9th-11th grade work and fall grades in senior courses

This is an area where there is definitely some conflicting advice. I fear that students listen to the advice of people who have never worked in our office or who are confusing UVA with another school on this issue.  For UVA, you need to submit your application at a peak moment in your high school career.

 As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments,

Don't rush! Early might not be the best route!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Do Activities Need to Align with Intended Major?

After a few weeks on the road during travel season, certain themes emerge in the conversations we have with students. I'm used to people fixating on their activity lists, but things are a little different this year. People seem to think that activities lists need to be carefully crafted to align with a particular major. There are two issues with that.

First of all, the only students to arrive at UVA with a major are students studying Kinesiology. Last year, there were only 58 of them in a class of 3,788 students. The other 3,730 students were undeclared. If you have another major in mind, you have plenty of time to solidify that interest. If you don't have a major in mind yet, you are normal at UVA!

Second, extracurricular activities are, by definition, are not aligned with your curriculum. I definitely support exploring your current academic interests through's just not necessary. Participate in activities that you find rewarding in some way. If an activity is no longer rewarding, you have my permission to step back from it. 

Jack contemplates joining the Beach Volleyball Club

Want to read about how we look at your activity list overall? Check out this past from last fall.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

You Can Now Use the Coalition Application to Apply to UVA

I got word late yesterday that the Coalition Application is now live for UVA. After 10 years of being Common App exclusive, we have added the Coalition App as a second option for applicants. As is the norm, there will be no benefit for one application or the other during our review process. Use the app you feel most comfortable with.

Please remember that the schools can't provide technical support for the applications. Both Common App and Coalition App have links on every page for submitting a help ticket. What's more, it's helpful when you alert their teams of parts of the applications that aren't user-friendly, so don't hesitate to reach out to them if you have trouble.

If you plan on submitting one of the option art or architecture supplements with your application (remember to read the instructions for those!), you may find the Common App to be the easier system to use. The Common App seamlessly works with SlideRoom, the website where those supplements are submitted.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Sending Resumes, Abstracts, and Writing Portfolios to #UVA

I'm on call today and got two calls in a row from parents who wanted permission to send extra items to supplement their child's applications. I explained that supplements that adhere to our art and architecture portfolio guidelines (available on the application instructions page) are acceptable, but that we can't take anything that falls outside of them. Those calls reminded me that it's time to cover this topic on the blog.

First of all, the application is enough. We ask for quite a bit of information in our application: transcripts, two recommendations, three pieces of writing, test scores, and an activity list. We ask for the things we know we need to make our decisions. If someone is telling you that UVA needs things that aren't listed in our application instructions, they are mistaken. 

Please don't spend your money on stuff like this.

1. Resumes

The Common App allows each college to turn the resume function of the app on or off. It is OFF for UVA. I'm not sure about how the Coalition is handling that feature, but UVA does not accept resumes. The application presents information in a systematic format, which allows us to zero in on pertinent information quickly. You don't need to make more work for yourself. Follow our instructions and use the application to share information in a concise way.

2. Outside Recommendations

We require one recommendation from your counselor and one from a teacher of your choice. We are looking for insight into your style in the academic environment. People who have never taught you can't speak to your learning style or how you work in a classroom situation. Also, those people tend to think they need to summarize facts (hours worked, tasks performed). Repetitive information isn't helpful.

Some people want to send recs from faculty they met at conferences or special programs. Consider how briefly these people have known you and remember that your teachers and counselors have a little more familiarity with you.

The required academic recommendations are perfect! Don't worry about sending extras!

3. Research Abstracts

It's great to tell us about research, but don't send us an abstract. A line or two in the activity part of the application summarizing what you did is great. A paper is over the top and not useful. In fact, if you send us a paper full of jargon, you're increasing the chances that the gist of the work won't be clear. 

4. Writing Portfolios

We get three pieces of polished writing in your application. The application has a long essay and there are two short-answer prompts. That's plenty of writing for us. We don't accept portfolios.

5. Copies of Certificates

You sign off on our Honor Code when you apply and promise that the information in your application is accurate. We don't need a copy of a certificate to believe that you are a member of a certain organization or received an award for something. Leave those papers in the baby book or that folder where you stick important stuff.

6. Newspaper Clippings or Pictures of You Doing Something

Anyone who was on the staff of a literary magazine, newspaper, or yearbook is proud of their work. It's best to keep copies for yourself and your family. The same goes with photos (even the adorable baby-on-the-UVA-Lawn photos). They belong in a safe place at home, not in a college application.

We try to make this clear on out website with a statement above our email addresses:

 Again, colleges ask for the things they need to make their decisions. If we don't ask for it, we don't want you to spend time (or money) on it. Further, to make this process fair, we are specific about what we review for each candidate. We accept supplements that fit the criteria for arts and architecture supplements. That's it. So when you hit submit, it's time to move on to monitoring your status. You don't need to spend time and money crafting extra items to send us.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

How Many APs Do You Need to Get Into UVA?

A counselor emailed us yesterday to say that a family left an information session with the impression that we "required" students to take 8 AP courses. My first reaction was to question whether this was really an information session at UVA. We never, ever mention numbers of AP courses in the context of admission requirements. Everyone knows course options differ. Plenty of students don't even have access to APs or APs in that number.

We don't have firm requirements when it comes to the high school curriculum. This is why we often encourage students to challenge themselves in each of their core subjects. Putting together a great program looks different at each school and for every student at that school. Yes, we want you to stretch and challenge yourself when it comes to course selection and we want you to get good grades. There is no standard formula for that. We hope you're talk to your counselor, some teachers, and parent about the choices that are right for you.

Gratuitous CavPup with students photo

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How Self-Reporting Scores to #UVA Works

If you've looked at our application instructions lately, you may have noticed that the testing section of the page has changed. We decided that we would start using self-reported SAT and ACT scores with the 2018-2019 application. Let's go over how that will work.

When you fill out the Common Application (and someday, the Coalition Application), you'll enter your SAT and ACT scores in the testing section. Answer "yes" to the first question and then add the types of scores you'd like to report. You must report either the SAT or ACT. International students can submit their TOEFL scores here, too. Reporting scores from other kinds of exams is totally optional.

You aren't required to get official score reports from the testing agencies as part of the UVA application process. However, if you are admitted and decide to enroll, you will be required to have an official score report sent from the testing agencies.

It's no secret that I haven't been a fan of the rising cost of score reporting, so I'm excited about this news!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Notes from Peabody is 13 Years Old Today!

I wrote my first, short post on this blog thirteen years ago today. I was one week into my job at UVA, completely homesick for Boston, and wondering if I could really make it to the end of the three years I planned to stay here. The blog started with my observations of UVA as an outsider, but evolved when I realized people really enjoyed the posts in which I attempted to demystify the admission process.

One of the most popular photos from the early years...our file room.

Whether you just stumbled upon this blog today or have been reading for a while, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2018

2018-2019 #UVA Application Essay Advice

One of the most common questions I get from students is "what was your favorite essay." It's a hard question to answer because I have read so many excellent essays over the years and could never pick just one favorite. Instead, I often talk about what makes an essay good. Notice that I didn't say great or memorable. Every essay doesn't have to be off-the-charts amazing. They don't have to be destined for publication (more on that later). They have to be good. Aim for good.

A good essay conveys the voice and personality of the writer. A good essay shares something that hasn't come through in the other parts of the application. A good essay has made it to it's final form after a round or two of editing. So how does this all come together? Well, I have three main pieces of advice that I give every year:

1. Don't "Overthink" the Topic

The essay prompts colleges give you are deliberately broad because we want students to have some room to take an essay in whatever direction feels right for them. I think some people spend a lot of time googling essay prompts (that's a major source of traffic for the blog in the fall) because the think someone will tell them what the college wants. What we want is to get to know you through these essays. Use the topic that lets you be authentic in your writing.

As you get closer to the deadline, you may start hearing others talk about their essays. Don't let other people's essays make you second guess your topic. You may be tempted to change your essay. I don't think this is always a good idea. You probably wrote with more authenticity about your first choice topic than you will if you use a topic that popped into your head during a moment of panic.

2. Don't Feel Beholden to the Academic Essay Format

Many students are taught to write the "five paragraph essay" in school (I learned it when I was in grade school, too!). This kind of essay has an introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. This format is fantastic for class or for a testing situation, but it's not necessarily the best way to let your personality shine through. Don't feel obligated to use the academic essay format for your application essays. Application essays are personal statements. Use the format that works best for the story or message you want to convey.

I usually tell students to free write first and then cobble together the structure that makes sense for their essay.

3. Get Some Advice.

It's smart to get someone you trust to look over your essays. Remember, though, that these essays need to convey your voice and style, not someone else's. When someone gives you advice that you find helpful, rework it to fit your style. If someone gives you advice that doesn't feel right, don't use it. This sounds obvious, but when you are having a moment of self-doubt, you may need a reminder.

If you're a parent reading this, try to empower your student to say no when the advice they are getting isn't right for them. There are some well-meaning, but not necessarily helpful folks who may want to chime in during this process. The student is the expert on what a high school senior sounds like. They should have final say in what goes into their essays.

  Bonus Tip: Don't Be Intimidated by "Essays that Worked."

The first time you have to do anything, it's really common to google it. If you google "college application essays," you will come across some essays that will be said to have gotten someone into a dream school. First of all, an essay alone doesn't do that. A compelling application, which includes well-written, interesting essays gets someone into college. Second, essays that get published are not normal. Most application essays are never going to see publication. It's fine to look for inspiration online and in books, but do not let an essay about some great feat convince you that your essays needs to be over-the-top impressive. Again, those essays aren't normal.

Most students talk about everyday things in their essays. They write about an academic interest, an activity, a family situation, or a work of art/music/literature. The way you can distinguish yourself from the other students who are going to write about that same topic? You write about why that thing is important to you instead of writing about why it's important to all people.

We can't wait to read your application essays!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Which Activities are Most Valued by #UVA Admission?

I was reading some old articles about admission with an eye towards how parents provide support and guidance during the college search. I came upon a comment on an article that struck me.
The problem is often that children's childhoods are literally sacrificed to that ideal of getting into UVA/Princeton/Yale, etc. This girl may have been discouraged from pursuing her actual interests (scouts, horseback riding, etc.) and instead had them channeled into things that would look better on an admissions application (chess club, afterschool Chinese) beginning in kindergarten.

Our solution was to encourage our kids to do what they loved and to think of college admissions as a crap shoot. 

First of all, lumping UVA in with schools that have single-digit admission rates might not be the best move. We have always published our admit rates broken down by residency. We offered to 38% of the Virginia residents who applied this past year and we offered to 23% of the out-of-state applicants. I can't fathom UVA ever being among the 15 or so schools with single-digit admit rates.

When it comes to a student's involvement outside the classroom, we don't favor certain kinds of activities over others. With 869 student organizations are currently registered in our system, it should be pretty obvious that we value variety. I hope you'll chose to make meaningful contributions in some arena (home, school, job, community, etc) of your life.

I've heard a lot of people talk about colleges valuing long-term activities in the admission process. While it's always interesting when a student has sustained involvement, that isn't something we require. Plenty of students change their activities as their interests evolve. Also, as your academic responsibilities become heavier, it may make sense to cut pack on your involvement so you can get your school work done. I don't want you staying on a team or in a club if it's making your feel stressed or miserable. Move on to do other things!

Lastly, admission is not a crapshoot. Admission offices establish pretty elaborate review processes to form their incoming classes. It is not random. I do like that the parent who wrote the comment encouraged their student to participate in activities that they loved!

Friday, July 06, 2018

2018-2019 #UVA First-Year Application Essay Prompts

The first #UVA22 orientation is on Grounds right now, which marks the end of our time working with last year's senior class. It seems like a good time to share our essay prompts for the next application season.

Each year, we solicit feedback about our prompts from students and admission staff. Some times we tweak a question, sometime we add to the options, and sometimes we remove options. Our prompts aren't changing too much, but we did add one option to the second.

2018-2019 First-Year Application Essay Questions 

1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.

  • College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
  • School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design. 
  • School of Nursing - School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing
  • Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major. 

2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • UVA students are charged with pushing the boundaries of knowledge to serve others and contribute to the common good. Give us an example of how you’ve used what you’ve learned to make a positive impact in another person’s life.

I'm happy to answer questions in the comments. I'll share some more advice for essay writing next week.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Saturday Information Sessions at #UVA

I'll be giving the information session tomorrow morning and thought I'd share a few thoughts for those who will be visiting us on the weekend this summer.

Please keep in mind that the University is closed on Saturdays, so you may experience a fairly quiet visit. Buildings may be locked and those that are open may not be especially exciting. The Rounda is open and I believe you can also view our copy of the Declaration of Independence at the Special Collections Library (it's prime season for tourists!).

If you'll be able to stay in Charlottesville for lunch, I recommend walking to The Corner or driving to the Downtown Mall. The Corner is a shopping district adjacent to UVA and the Downtown Mall is just a mile down University Avenue/Main Street. Your student tour guides can point you in the right direction and Charlottesville residents are usually happy to talk your ear off about their favorite restaurants.

UVA is quiet, but beautiful in the summer!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Follow HooStories, the #UVA Student Blog!

The Office of Admission hires a team of student interns each summer to give tours and work on special projects. One of the special projects the team has take on every summer for the last several years is running the HoosStories blog.

I'm so glad to share that HooStories is back up and running! The interns have published their introductory posts and they are starting to write about different facets of live at UVA.

Be sure to follow the UVA Summer Instagram account, which is a fantastic companion to the blog. The student interns will be sharing over there as well!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

When Should the College Search Begin?

I once had a fifth grader in one of my information sessions. They weren't being dragged along with an older sibling. They were here with Mom and Dad, both of whom attended UVA. The mom said "it's never too early, right?"

Luckily, the University Guide Service gives historical tours of the UVA Lawn and Rotunda in addition to admission tours. Since we were in session, I was able to send the family to the Rotunda for the tourist tour with an invitation to come back to see me in five or six years.

The fact is we're seeing more parents of young students making reservations for tours and information sessions and I don't think that's a trend we want to encourage. While it's smart to be thinking about how course selection early on will affect a student's options in 11th and 12th grade, I don't think we should be encouraging middle schoolers to do a deep dive into the college search. Things change A LOT in high school. We have students who change their minds about the UVA school that interests them between November and April. There's no way we should be encouraging children to craft a college list.

If you want to expose a younger student to a college campus, ours is wonderful. Between the Rotunda, the Lawn, the Declaration of Independence, and Monticello across town, there's a lot to see here! I just hope you won't introduce the admission process until the are withon a year or two of applying.

Jack loves to greet little siblings, but we don't need them to start the college search just yet!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Visiting #UVA in the Summer

We are so excited to see reservations rolling in for our summer information sessions and tours. If you're planning a visit to UVA this summer, here are some notes for you to consider.

1. Registration helps us pick our venue.

The Office of Admission doesn't have an auditorium for large groups, so we reserve spaces around the University to accommodate our information sessions. Making a reservation ensures that we have a large enough space for our guests. Registration for each month typically opens a month prior, but we have July and August up since many people are making summer visit plans now.

Attending the information session and tour will not have any bearing on our review if you decide to apply to UVA. We don't use interest here!

2. We'll communicate with visitors by email.

A confirmation email goes to the student after they register for the information session and tour. In addition, we will send a reminder with parking information in it a few days before your scheduled visit. Please watch for these emails and share them with anyone visiting with you. Parking can be tricky in the summertime because of new student orientation and summer camps on Grounds. Don't just plug UVA into Waze and expect to park when you get close to the University. Use the instructions we send you.

3. Summer is construction season.

As soon as graduation is over, the work crews get busy with all sorts of projects around the UVA Grounds. Fewer people are inconvenienced by closures and detours during the summer. I try to remind myself that these projects are making UVA even better than ever.

4. Bring a water bottle.

Our tours are about 90 minutes long and summer in Virginia can be hot! Bring a water bottle and take advantage of the bottle fillers we have around Grounds (they are usually next to water fountains). We have water coolers in our office, so you can get a refill when your tour guide brings you to Peabody Hall at the end of your tour.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Live Q&A about Curriculum Options in the #UVA College of Arts Sciences

We get a lot of questions about the curriculum options within the College of Arts and Sciences, so I thought I'd share this info. There will be a live chat about the New Curriculum and Forums on Facebook this Wednesday, June 6th, at noon. You can watch and ask questions via the College's Facebook page.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A 2018 Waiting List Update

You may have seen our tweets and Instagram posts about UVA having a higher than usual yield on offers of admission this year. We were able to make a few offers to students on the waiting list, but it's become clear that there will be no movement in certain parts of the class. 

This evening, an email is going out closing the waiting lists for the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, School or Architecture, and School of Nursing. 

After considering the size of the first-year class and the spaces available in the student body, I regret to inform you that we will not be able to offer you admission this year. Our first-year class is full and I believe it would be unfair to keep your name on the waiting list any longer.

We sincerely appreciate your interest in the University of Virginia and wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors. If you are interested in pursuing the possibility of transferring to the University after one or two years in another college or university, please visit our transfer page to learn more about this process.


Greg W. Roberts
Dean of Admission
University of Virginia

We are keeping the [tiny] waiting list for the Kinesiology program open in case of cancellations.

I know this is disappointing news for many of you. I hope you can look at your chosen school and move forward with you plans to go there with excitement. Thank you so much for being part of this blog.  Best wishes for a wonderful summer and exciting start to your college career!