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Friday, October 31, 2014

Sending Resumes to UVa

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

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

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

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

An early draft of the activity page on the Common App

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

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

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

Five Common Concerns of Early Action Applicants

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

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

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

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

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

3. Contact Common App if you have trouble submitting. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, seniors!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

To Rush or Not to Rush?

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

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

CavDog finds testing talk overwhelming

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Does Holistic Admission Mean?

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

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

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

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

Aren't you impressed?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Update about the Timing of SAT Score Reporting

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

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

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

They replied right away! 

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Charlottesville: Your Home

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SAT Subject Test Score Reporting

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

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

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

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

Advice for Those Worried about the SAT Subject Tests:

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

All About the Timing of Score Reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 05, 2014

A Short Week in NOVA

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Little Break...

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

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

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

Paws in! 1-2-3 Go Hoos!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Student Questions from the Road

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

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

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

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

What admission topics are on your mind?

CavDog getting a drink in Old Town Alexandria

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On the Road in NOVA, Week 1

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

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

Here's where I'll be this week:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 04, 2014

On Helicopter Parenting

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

The "Right" Extracurricular Activities

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

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

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

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

My advice:

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Best Time to Apply to UVa

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

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

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

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

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

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

CavDog enjoying the summer

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

Friday, August 01, 2014

The 2014-2015 Common Application is Live!

Happy Common App Launch Day!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Demonstrating Interest in UVa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CavDog at the lake just north of town

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Getting College Search Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Are You Reading Hoo Stories, the Student Blog?

A good number of UVa students stay in Charlottesville each summer to do various things. Some take classes to open up space in their schedules, some work, some do research, and some do a combination of those things. We're lucky that fantastic students opt to stay in town to work in our office every year. And while I love every season of our cycle, summer might be my favorite time because we get to see the summer student staff every single day.

For the last several years, the summer interns have taken over the HooStories blog. The blog passes from one group of students to the next, so the archive goes back several years. This year's group has hit the ground running and filled the blog with posts in a very short period of time. I think they've written more this month than almost any other group of students that has take over the blog!

If you aren't reading, you have to go check HooStories out!

Monday, June 09, 2014

2014-2015 First-Year Essay Questions

I've been posting our essay questions every June since 2007. It's always a nice way to mark the end of an application season and the beginning of a new one.

Towards the end of every reading season, we gather to talk about which essay questions elicited great responses, which ones could be tweaked to be better, and which essays we'd like to retire. We often pull students into our discussions to get their perspectives. Some of the specialty schools provide feedback and direction, too.

There are some questions on our application that prompt students to write interesting essays year after year, so we don't feel the need to change them. They've almost become traditions here, though the applicants rarely know this since few have looked at the application before.

You'll write one essay for the general Common Application and then you'll answer our essay prompts on the our "Member Screen" along with other questions that are specific to UVa. The Common App folks posted the main essay questions back in February. Here are ours:

2014-2015 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 - U.Va. engineers are working to solve problems that affect people around the world, from our long-term water purification project in South Africa to continuing to research more efficient applications of solar power. However, most students start small, by using engineering to make a difference in daily life. If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make your everyday life better, what would you do?
  • School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of 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 (we’ll welcome you to Grounds, not campus) 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 U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., 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?
  • While a student at U.Va., Fulbright Scholar Rowan Sprague conducted groundbreaking research aimed at protecting the complex structure of honeybee hives. We know that colonies include bees acting in a diverse range of roles, all equally important to the success of the hive. What role will you play in the U.Va. hive?
  • To tweet or not to tweet?     

A note about word limits:
We aren't counting words on these. The word limits are there tell you what is expected. The forms where you paste in your essay will cut you off at some point, but there is a little bit of leeway. Generally, the main essay is in the vicinity of a page and the UVa questions should be about half of a page. You aren't writing a term paper, but a concise, thoughtful statement that conveys your voice and personality.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Class of 2018 is full

This afternoon, we'll email first-year students on the waiting list to let them know that the Class of 2018 is now full. Their SIS pages will also update with the same message.

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

I know it was a long wait and this is disappointing news. 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!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Waiting List, Part 2

We've been having quite a discussion in the comments under the first post about the waiting list. There are so many comments that some of my responses to questions are probably buried, so I thought I'd post a new entry so the common questions can be answered and and seen without too much scrolling. What's more, I have the blog programmed to shut comments down on a post after a couple weeks, so it's probably a good idea to give you all a place to chat since the other post is getting old.

First of all, we know that the waiting is terribly difficult. You have a chosen school, but there's a huge "maybe" dominating your thoughts right now.


In the comments on the other post, I compared the change in speeds in this process to that of an airplane after a flight. Small, precise movements get the plane from the runway to the gate. We're trying to get to the gate right now. We landed way closer to it that we have in past years, so the change in speed was pretty dramatic.

You'll notice that at this time of year, I am not able to give constant updates. This isn't new. When we make offers, we call a student to give them a heads up that their SIS status is about to change and then we give them a few days to think about whether they'll hit "accept" and pay a deposit. If they need financial aid, we wait until the package is posted and then we give them a few days to accept. Even a student who adores UVa sometimes has to think about this whole thing for a little bit, especially since it means they'll probably be losing an enrollment deposit at another school. I'm sure you're aware that some of those deposits are substantial these days.

When the class is finalized, we'll email everyone on the waiting list to let them know that we won't be making more offers. In admission speak, we say the waiting list is "released."

A student asked what will happen if students in the class give us late notice that they won't be coming to UVa. This is called "summer melt" (students who cancel over the summer) and admission officers around the country anticipate a certain amount of that every summer.

Typically, we are able to announce that the class is full in early June (June 3rd last year, June 11th in 2012, and June 1st in 2011).

Friday, May 02, 2014

As the Dust Settles...

This is what admission officers at most schools are like on May 2nd:

This is what admission officers are like on May 2nd when a perfect storm of awesomeness swept their school after decisions were released:

The dust is still settling, but it looks like all those awesome things made UVa a pretty exciting choice for A LOT of the high school seniors we admitted. We'll know more next week, but I don't think we'll be going to the waiting list in a big way. We all have lists with names of students for whom we want to find spots in the class and I'm not sure we'll get to use them, so what is usually a really exciting day is kind of shocking. The good news is that the class will probably be finalized more quickly than in past years.

Again, we'll know more next week.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Next Steps for Enrolling Students

Several times when a Days on the Lawn day was winding down, I had people tell me that they had just submitted an enrollment deposit. It's always rewarding to see the excited look on a student's face after they've made that final decision and officially come to the end of the college search.

Once the deposit is paid, you will naturally wonder "what's next?" So let's talk about that...

First of all, this is when your record in SIS moves from the admission part of the system to the student records side. You'll now move from working with the Office of Admission to working with the Office of Orientation and New Student Programs within the Office of the Dean of Students.

The Orientation folks have an entire website all about next steps and registering for Summer Orientation. In May, they'll also send you a welcome book with even more information (you can flip through last year's version online, but know that some things may change in the 2014 edition). 

Be sure to read those FAQs on the Orientation website. The Orientation staff has been doing this for a long time and they know what's on your mind.

If you just can't get enough of admission and want to work with us after you enroll, consider getting involved with some student organizations that reach out to prospective students.

Virginia Ambassadors - You have probably interacted with the Virginia Ambassadors several times without even knowing it. They chat with visitors in Peabody Hall, hold student-led information sessions, answer questions from prospective students online (through a blog, Facebook, chats, and email), visit their high schools during breaks, and were those wonderful students in orange shirts at Days on the Lawn.

University Guide Service -  The UGuides are the tour guides for the University. They don't just give admission tours, though. They also give historical tours to tourists.

Monroe Society - The Monroe Society acts as hosts for prospective students who want to stay on Grounds overnight.

Common Grounds - The students of Common Grounds meet with students informally over coffee or lunch to talk about the UVa experience.

UVa Clubs Student Ambassadors - This student group works with the UVaClubs to share the student experience with constituents in their home communities.

In addition, our Outreach office collaborates with many of the multicultural organizations on Grounds to connect prospective students with current students.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Days on the Lawn Observations

We're in the midst of our 5th Days on the Lawn event (two more to go!) and I thought I'd share some of the topics that are coming up a lot as we chat with visitors.

First of all, while we have all sorts of events and sessions scheduled, you decide what you want to do. Some families have a "divide and conquer" strategy and try to get to as many different sessions as possible and others wander at a more leisurely pace. This is a day to "kick the tires" and if that includes having an hour-long coffee break at the Greenberry's in Alderman Library, that is just fine.

Registration is on the Lawn before the welcome talk, but all of the tables move to Peabody Hall around 9:30 AM. If you arrive a little late, just see us in Peabody and we'll get you all the information you need for the day.

The admission officers are wearing gold name badges. Ask us anything! The student volunteers are wearing orange t-shirts or gray sweatshirts. Ask them anything, too. Beyond that, I think you'll find that most UVa students are friendly and happy to help you if you aren't quite sure where you are going on Grounds.

The financial aid folks are meeting with people in Newcomb Hall, but they are usually very, very popular. Consider contacting their office before you visit if you need to talk about your aid package.

By the way, the Office of Admission can't give you more money. We've had a few people come in to tell us about what other schools have given them in hopes of us somehow adjusting their aid package. Our office can't change your financial aid.

Similarly, we can't give someone entrance into the Echols, Rodman, or College Science Scholars programs because other schools accepted a student into an honors college. Our review process takes months (as I'm sure you remember!) and it is specific to us. The results of another school's process doesn't change ours. Our programs have processes for bringing some students on board once they are already here. See their websites for information.

An unusually large number of students have asked to switch schools. While we were able to accommodate switches before decisions were released, at this point, we can't guarantee a switch. The Dean of Admission, Greg Roberts, is handling those requests.

This is a minor point, but if you want to take a picture with CavDog, try to come see us before the welcome talk starts. Each of the deans has responsibilities during DOTL events, so we can't always linger on the Lawn after the welcome talk. Later in the day, CavDog is usually in Peabody and is happy to meet guests.

Remember to check the DOTL parking information! The Office of Admission has rented out the entire garage at Emmet and Ivy Roads, so it is free to park there on DOTL days. If you have visited us before, you probably parked at the Central Grounds Garage (under the bookstore). We are not using that garage on DOTL days. That garage has regular paid parking for other visitors to Grounds.

Shuttle buses are ferrying DOTL guests from the Emmet and Ivy Garage to the Lawn for the welcome session. If you don't want to take the shuttle, it will take about 10 minutes to walk to the Lawn.

Feel free to post questions about DOTL in the comments!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Big Developments!

There is so much great news coming out around Grounds today!

1. Student self-governance has been a hallmark of UVa's culture for a really long time. The Cavalier Daily declared that we're giving it up. Thank goodness. I mean, who wants students actively engaged in the development of the University? We should really just be satisfied with where we are and never change. Who needs innovation and progress?

2. Along the lines of staying exactly where you are, the library has decided that there's no need to actually walk into one of the 13 libraries on Grounds. Their new system will foster your lounging skills by allowing you to order a book online and get it delivered by drone. Forget about the fact that drones are illegal in Charlottesville.

3. This last piece of news is specific to this blog. CavDog debuted on the blog in 2008, when he was still a very young pup. He was super cute as a little dog, but let's be honest: he's pushing seven and he's got some gray hair. It's getting harder and harder for students to relate to him. It's time for CavDog to retire.

When looking for a CavDog replacement, I wanted something that was distinctively "UVa." Granted, other schools don't have golden retrievers like CavDog, but plenty have dogs. I got to thinking about some of the things at UVa that are special and unique to our Grounds. One thing came up over and over again.

Serpentine wall UVa daffodils 2010
By Karen Blaha (Flickr: Daffodils and serpentine wall) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 
(], via Wikimedia Commons

The serpentine walls. We love the beautiful serpentine walls that surround the gardens along the Mr. Jefferson's Lawn. 

So, CavDog's replacement on the blog will be...


I can't wait to share all of CavSnake's charming antics with you! He's quite a little gentleman! Don't you think next year's seniors will be put at ease by having CavSnake pictures on the blog during their application process?

In case you didn't look at the calendar, it's April 1st

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Quirk: Friendly Rivalries

Well, a very exciting run is over. The UVa men's basketball team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament over the weekend. We all stayed up way too late on Friday night, so Charlottesville was pretty quiet on Saturday morning. Side note: I know students are used to staying up late, but a 10:15 PM tip off is brutal! They were still playing at midnight!

Anyway, I thought I'd share a little story to tell you about how tight the UVa family is. When the NCAA tournament started, I sat CavDog next to the logo of the team's first opponent to see if he would do anything funny for my camera. He just looked bored. I could work with that.

 For the next game, I gave CavDog a stuffed toy that resembled the other team's mascot. He loved it. He loved it so much he destroyed it quickly and efficiently.

The poor tiger toy was in pieces by the tip off of that game.

The last opponent we had was from pretty far away. I had a couple days to find something for CavDog to play with in videos and pictures to represent our opponent (and at this point, people were asking what I was going to do next, so I felt some pressure!). Desperate, I put out the word on social media that I needed someone in the state of our opponent to help me.

Three UVa graduates volunteered. I can't tell you how much running around they did, but one went to at least five different stores to track down some sort of toy for CavDog. He struck out. Another graduate explained that they take their in-state rivalries much, much more seriously than we do in Virginia, so her area (where our opponent's in-state rival was located) wouldn't have anything for CavDog. She literally had not seen anything in her town with the other school's logo on it.

I found the temperature of the rivalry in that state kind of interesting. At most of the stores in Charlottesville (excluding the ones on the UVa Corner), you can find items with the Virginia Tech logo right alongside the UVA items. This is true at the little boutiques and the big chains. These flags are not uncommon around here:

While we talk about having a rivalry with our sister schools in the Commonwealth, it really only exists in the sporting arena. Most UVa students have high school friends at the other state schools, so while we obviously hope we win the "big game," we don't hate our peers. What's more, if they ever needed us, we'd be there for them.

Oh, in the end, one of the UVa graduates came through with a football that sang our opponent's fight song. CavDog was so, so pleased.

Some teasing is fun on game day, but remember that in the end, we are all part of a the amazing network of public schools in the Commonwealth. I've found that some of the people who make the rivalry out to be bigger than it is are people who didn't actually go to the schools involved.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Days on the Lawn #2 - Rain Plan in Effect!

There's a strong chance of rain tomorrow, so we are moving all Days on the Lawn events to their rain locations. Admission officers and student volunteers will be around to point you in the right direction, but just in case you find you way to Grounds without us, we'll be starting the day in Old Cabell Hall instead of outside at the Rotunda. Old Cabell is on the opposite end of the Lawn from the Rotunda.

The DOTL website has parking information, but I thought I'd revisit the parking situation for these events. We have rented the entire Emmet & Ivy Garage for DOTL. This is the garage behind the Cavalier Inn at the intersection of Emmet Street (aka Route 29) and Ivy Road. If you've been to UVa before, you've probably seen the playing field and tennis courts at this intersection. We have shuttle buses to take you from the garage to the Lawn.

If you visited UVa in the past, you probably parked in the Central Grounds Parking garage. That garage isn't big enough to accommodate everyone coming for Days on the Lawn.

Any questions about DOTL?

By the way, CavDog stays home when we move to the rain plan. Old Cabell Hall isn't pet friendly.

Not a fan of the rain plan.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Waiting List, in Depth

A lot of the comments on the waiting list post from decision day ask questions that are addressed on the waiting list FAQ page, which was linked in your letter and in that post. I'm going to share some of the same information here and add my own notes. There is a lot of information to share. Here we go...

How many people are on the waiting list? 

I think the biggest thing that students skim over is the part where we say that you have to accept or decline the offer of a spot on the waiting list. The waiting list doesn't really exist until people hit the "accept" buttons under their letters in SIS. The Common Data Set, something every school fills out, covers the numbers.
From the 2012-2013 Common Data Set:
Do you have a policy of placing students on a waiting list? Yes
Number of qualified applicants offered a place on the waiting list: 4,393
Number accepting a place on the waiting list: 2,540
On May 1, the waiting list will be big. There's no way around that. While we don't have a ranking, you can think of the list as having ten sections. The sections are for Virginia and non-Virginia residents for each for the five schools/programs that take first year students.

I accepted. Why are the buttons still there?
If you hit the "accept" button, you can always come back and pull yourself off the list. That is why the buttons remain after you opt in. There is no going back once you decline, though. If you decline the spot, the buttons disappear.

How many people will come off the waiting list?  

No one will know this until May 1st. Even though I've been doing this for years, I can't predict this one. May 1st is when all of the admitted students need to have deposits submitted to reserve a place in the Class of 2018. The class is supposed to be 3,570 students. If we don't have that number of admitted students accepting a spot, we move to the waiting list.
It's hard to cite trends with certainty. One year, we might have room for in-state Nursing students and the next year, that group could be full on May 1. We're all waiting to see how this works out right now.   

How many people got offers to come off the waiting list in the past?  
Here are numbers from the last few years:
2013 - 185  
2012 - 284  
2011 - 117  
2010 - 240  
2009 - 288  
2008 - 60
2007 - 159  
2006 - 145  
2005 - 83

How do I improve my chances of getting an offer? 
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about this. Emailing a letter of interest is appropriate. Mailing a package is not. Updating us with significant news is okay. Bombarding us with an email each day is not.

By the way, showing up in Peabody Hall will have no affect. I can't tell you how many students drive here and then sit on the sofa and ask the questions covered in the FAQs. This is not a good use of your time (or gas money).

When/How do you make wait-list offers?  
We start making waiting list offers as soon as we know we have space in the class. We want to move quickly. No one wants to drag this out. Last year, we started on April 30th. In 2012, it was April 30th again (total coincidence). The year before, we started on May 4th. We aim to have everything wrapped up by the end of June. Last year, we finished on June 3rd and the year before that, we were done on June 11th.
If you are going to get an offer, we'll call you at the number you put on your Common Application. The call is a heads up that your status is about to change in SIS. Of course, it's fine if you tell us "no thanks" and that's the end of it. We hope that people who are no longer interested in UVa use the "decline" button to remove their name from the list, but some people forget.
Anyway, the usual response is screaming or "OH MY GOSH!" When SIS updates, a new letter is viewable along with the buttons needed to accept the offer and pay a deposit. We'll give you a couple days to think about things.

What about aid?  
If you applied for aid by the March 1st and got all of your documentation in, Student Financial Services will put a financial aid package together. Once that's posted, you'll have a couple days to accept the over and pay your deposit.

What now? 
Look at your other options. Get excited about one of them and pay a deposit to guarantee yourself a spot in a freshman class somewhere. 

By the way, calling a student and telling them that they are getting an offer of admission is probably the most exciting thing admission officers experience. We can't wait to make them. Everyone has a story or two about favorite calls. I promise you that when it's time, we'll be working very quickly so we can deliver some happy news!

 Oh, look at that. He nodded off.