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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Class of 2020 Application Essays Revisited

I share the UVa application essays for the next season each June on this blog. Traffic is often low at that time of year and since it is increasing, I thought I would show you where our questions appear.

Applicants will submit one essay with the main portion of the Common Application and then write short answers in response to two questions on the UVa screen within the Common App website. The first question you answer will depend on your answer to the question "To what school or program are you applying?" The second questions allows applicants to select a prompt from a list.

There was a point in time when Common App required every school using their application to put questions that required writing on a separate tab from their general questions. We quickly learned that some students didn't understand the connection between the question about choice of school and the first short answer question. There were also a slew of students who, despite us contacted them repeatedly about their incomplete application, never submitted the essay section. There were lots of complaints about the Common App being "too common" that year. Thankfully, Common App now lets each school decide if they wanted their essay questions to appear on the same screen as their general questions or on a separate tab. It makes much more sense for ours to appear right under the school choice question.

If you are applying to a few Common App schools, just know that some may still have their essay questions separated from their general questions and some will have combined the two. 

Do you have any questions about essays?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

UVA's Policy on the New SAT

The SAT is changing again.

The last time the SAT changed, the writing exam stopped being a Subject Test (most selective schools required it) and a writing section was added to the regular SAT. Most schools adjusted pretty quickly to the change, though I have to admit that I never got used to hearing scores cited on the 2400 scale. So now we are poised for another round of changes that will affect students who are starting their junior year in high school and it's time we let them know how we'll be using their scores.

Take a Test

Like most schools, we don't have a preference when it comes to the SAT and ACT. Now, we'll add "New SAT" and "Old SAT" to that statement. We want you to send the results from one of the standardized tests to us, but we don't care if you send the new SAT, the old SAT, or the ACT.

We Look at the Best Combination of Sections

If you send scores from multiple administrations of the same exam, our computer system is programed to pull the best section scores for us to use.When I open an applicant's file, I don't see all of their scores. I just see the best score they've gotten for each section of the exams they submit. I totally made this up, but this is sort of what we see:

If a student sends both the SAT and the ACT, we'll favor the exam with the better score. Using the conversation chart on the ACT website, it looks like the student I made up for my example did a little better on the ACT, so we would pretend that SAT I isn't there. We'll still use the score from the Biology subject test.

The College Board folks have told us that it is not appropriate to mix scores from the old SAT with ones from the new SAT. So, if you opt to take the new and old versions of the SAT, we will see both sets of scores.

Writing/Essay Sections Won't Be Required

Juniors, we are not going to require you to take the essay section of this new SAT. Some day, we might add it back in, but we will wait to see some research about the exam to have that discussion. Because of this, we are going to drop our requirement that students taking the ACT take the writing portion.

Seniors, nothing changes for you. You will take the old SAT, which includes the writing section or you'll take the ACT with Writing.

If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments. You can also read posts I've written about testing in the past by click on the subject labels below.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How Many Advisers Does a College Applicant Need?

When I started working in admission, my dean told me that I shouldn't reveal what I do for a living at social gatherings. If I did, anyone with a college-bound student in the vicinity would spend the next hour quizzing me on admission practices. For a long time, I'd give vague answers to the "what do you do?" inquiries and it worked like a charm. But you know who gives advice when experts don't? People who aren't experts. There was a point when I changed my mind and was happy to tell people what I do and ecstatic when they pulled me aside to ask a few questions related to the college search.

With the application cycle starting again, another round of helpful advisers are about to emerge. The uncle who went to a school on your list, the neighbor who sent a student off to college a few years ago, and the friend of a friend who applied when they were in high school...they all step up to offer advice.

It's wonderful to get advice. In fact, I think it's foolish not to seek out a few trusted advisers as you navigate the college admission process. I hope you will be selective about who you allow on your team. Too many people chiming in can sometimes make you forget that your voice is the voice that we want to hear in your application.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Consistency in Extracurricular Activities

I've gotten several questions about how consistent our admission officers expect you to be when it comes to extracurricular activities. In case this is a concern of more students in our applicant pool, I thought I would address the topic on the blog.

I really think that people have overcomplicated things when it comes to activities. We want to see that our students will thrive and contribute in our community. The activity section is one of the areas that we use when we are making our assessment. Activities don't overshadow the other parts of the application, they are one piece of the puzzle.

It seems that people believe that applicants must show long-term commitment to activities. Perhaps this is because most college applications ask students to note the years during which they participated in an activity. We definitely look at that information, but we aren't fixated on seeing every activity during each year of high school. If you happen to have found an organization, club, or sport that you love very early in life and have maintained involvement in it for years, that's wonderful! If your involvement in extracurricular activities isn't consistent, that isn't a big deal to us. Sometimes, interests change and priorities evolve.

Please don't apologize if your activities haven't been long-term.There is room for all kinds of involvement here.
Tennis ball retriever - 6/2008 to present

Monday, June 29, 2015

CavDog's 8th Birthday and a New Face Around Peabody Hall

As CavDog's 8th birthday was approaching, I remember thinking that he seemed to have more fun at this year's Days on the Lawn events than in previous years. CavDog's been coming to DOTL days since he was about 10 months old and always enjoys them, but something was different this year. Meeting students is probably one of his favorite things and more students than ever stopped to say hello to him.

If you saw one of his fetch sessions on the lawn in front of Peabody Hall, you know that CavDog LOVES chasing his tennis ball. One day a few weeks ago, his heart didn't seem into his usual afternoon fetch session. He wasn't too excited about his dinner, either. We took him to the vet, fully expecting them to laugh at me for being overly sensitive.

Unfortunately, things did not go well.

 CavDog had a mass on his spleen that had ruptured. He had an emergency splenectomy and the resulting biopsy revealed that he has hemangiosarcoma. The bad news is that there is no cure for this kind of cancer and it is aggressive. The good news is that we have fantastic vets in Charlottesville and his post-surgery treatment plan hasn't impacted his quality of life. CavDog actually seems to be enjoying the attention he's getting from all of his extra office visits.

We decided that CavDog's 8th birthday was the time to give him something we've been talking about for a long time.

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, this might not be news to you. I posted about CavDog's canine little brother last week. I asked for UVa-inspired name suggestions on Instagram and Facebook and there seems to be a lot of support for Rugby, TJ, or Peabody.

I'll be posting plenty of admission-related content this summer, but I'll include an occasional update for those interested in how CavDog is doing. Rest assured that CavDog, who was pretty spoiled before, is enjoying royal treatment now and his little puppy friend is keeping him active.

A very special thanks to all of the students from the Class of 2019 who gave CavDog the most exciting DOTL season of his life. I have never seen him so happy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Class of 2019 is Complete

In about half an hour, everyone who opted to remain on the waiting list will receive an email from Dean Roberts letting them know that the Class of 2019 is complete. We won't be making any more offers of admission and it is time to release the waiting list.

I know many of you have been waiting for word for a few weeks. Hopefully, this will help you make preparations for enrollment at your chosen school. You may not be joining us in the fall, but I'm confident that they are going to have a wonderful first year.

Please be sure to check the email account associated with your Common App account for Dean Roberts' email.

Best wishes for a relaxing summer and an exciting start to your college career!

Monday, June 08, 2015

2015-2016 First Year UVa Application Essays

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. 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. Conversations we have at Days on the Lawn and other admitted student events sometimes come into play as well.

You'll write one essay for the general Common Application and then you'll write two short responses to these prompts along with other questions that are specific to UVa. The Common App folks posted the main essay questions a while ago. Here are ours:

2015-2016 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 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?
  • U.Va. 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?
A note about word limits:
We aren't counting words on these. The word limits are there so you know that we are expecting short statements, not term papers. The boxes where you paste in your essay will cut you off at some point, but there is a little bit of leeway. Be concise and thoughtful in your statement statement and try to convey your voice and style in your words. This is the one spot on your application where your personality gets to shine, so don't treat this like a formal school assignment.

We are looking forward to seeing what applicants for the Class of 2020 do with these questions! Good luck with your writing!

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Class of 2019 Update

A young man in the morning information session was one of the students I got to call about a waiting list offer. He just wanted to say hello before going out on the tour, but it was a good reminder this process still isn't over.

At this point, we have worked through most segments of the class (remember there are ten segments, VA and OOS for each school/program in which first years can enroll) and made some offers. A good portion of those students submit deposits. Some are still working with Student Financial Services to get their financial aid packages. Some have turned us down and we know they are off to wonderful schools in the fall.

It looks like we are pretty close to the usual timeline of having this work finished by early June. As always, once the class is final (meaning we are done making offers), I'll post about it here.

To those who have called, emailed, tweeted, and visited after getting offers, thank you! Seeing your enthusiasm and excitement inspires us as we do this work. We are so lucky to have you in the Class of 2019!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Social Norming, College Admission, and Stress

The concept of social norms was emerging when I started my career (I was in student affairs) and isn't really discussed in admission all that much. With a social norms approach, we talk about what is normal instead of what is happening with outliers when discussing behavior or outcomes. I use a social norms approach when talking to students about the college application process and I've been thinking that students could benefit from more widespread use.

I spoke on a panel at a Fairfax County summit on teen stress last weekend and it is so clear to me that many people draw conclusions about the college admission process based on stories they've heard about outliers. Outliers are probably interesting because their stories amaze and excite us. The outliers get so much air time that even the most calm, rational people lose sight of what is normal. If we focused more on norms, maybe there wouldn't be as much pressure to do what the outliers are doing.

Let's look at something as simple as the number of college applications high school students are submitting. This New York Times article says:

...In 1990, just 9 percent of students applied to seven or more colleges. By 2011...that group had risen to 29 percent.

In the class of 2014, according to Naviance, 16.5 percent of seniors using the system said they intended to apply to 11 to 20 colleges.

Flip that around so that the normal behavior is highlighted:

In 2011, 71% of students submitted six or less college applications.
In the Class of 2014, 83.5% of students who use Naviance intended on applying to 10 or less colleges

The data that the Common App puts out about the number of applications the average user submits might help back up the norms approach. They've been putting these charts out for years and the numbers haven't changed all that much. In fact, in our mid-Atlantic region, the average number of applications submitted was lower in 2014 than in 2012 at every kind of high school except the ones with religion affiliations. The number for those schools stayed the same.

It's still interesting to marvel at outliers (that NY Times article cites someone who applied to 56 schools!), but maybe we can take things down a notch by talking more about what is normal.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Happy Signing Day!

Have you noticed people announcing their college decisions on social media lately? We have an we've loved seeing the tweets and Instagram pictures that people have tagged with #UVA19 this year. It's as if we can see the Class of 2019 taking shape in front of our eyes!

If you are an admitted student and you still haven't accepted or declined your offer of admission, you have until midnight tonight to hit the right button (under your letter). When you go to pay your deposit, a screen will pop up (turn off your pop up blocker for this part) allowing you to type in the routing and account number on a check to pay your deposit. The system also takes a few types of credit cards, but it's primarily used for checks.

Next Steps for Admitted Students

About 72 hours after you deposit, you'll be able to register for orientation and start working down the list of things the Student Affairs folks want you to do. There's information about setting up your UVa email account, your UVa ID card, housing, dining, placement exams, and more on the Summer Orientation website.

Next Steps for Waiting List Students

Remember that you are not on the waiting list until you opt into it. To be considered for a spot, you need to hit the "accept" button under your admission letter in SIS. The accept/decline buttons remain visible so you have the option of removing yourself from the waiting list at any point. If you have anything to add to your file, send it to right away.

I don't know how much space there is in the class at this point. Remember, the admitted students have until midnight to deposit and then their payments have to be processed. 

When we make an offer to someone on the waiting list, they get a new decision letter in SIS. We always call students to give them a heads up that their status is going to change and explain what to do next. You'll have a few days to think things over and submit a deposit if you get an offer.

We try to call the number on the application between the end of the school day and 5 PM, when our office closes. It could take several weeks for this to play out. We'll make a few offers, give those students a couple days to deposit, make a few more offers, give those students a few days, etc.

Obviously, some will turn us down on the spot and that's totally fine. We realize that students on the waiting list may have deposited elsewhere and gotten excited about another school in the last few weeks.  I hope those students have already removed themselves from the waiting list via SIS, but that's not always the case.

Monday, April 27, 2015

May 1st is Friday!

In the days of paper applications, admission deans stalked the mail delivery in April the same way that applicants did in March. Did any deposits arrive? How close are we to having the class completed? These days, deposits are paid online at most schools, so there probably aren't as many deans pacing and peeking at the mail bins.

One of the most delightful developments I've noticed this year is that more students are announcing their college decisions on social media.

A photo posted by Mary Peyton Baskin (@mpbaskin) on

Instead of stalking the mail delivery, I find myself looking at the #UVA19 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram a lot and smiling.

While I still think that seeing you all get your decisions is one of my favorite things, seeing your happy faces when you've made your college decision is wonderful, too. I look at the pictures and tweets and think about all the amazing things you will do here. I am excited to see you propel this university forward and enrich this amazing community with your talents.

A photo posted by Kathy Nguyen (@thatonenguyen) on

If you are still trying to make your decision and have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or contact me on twitter (@UVaDeanJ).

And if decide to announce your decision to join UVa's Class of 2019 on Twitter or Instagram, use the hashtags #UVA19 and #ReachHigher. You might just get retweeted or regrammed by the main UVa account!

Friday, April 24, 2015

How Much Time is Spent Reading Each Application?

While I will always enjoy talking about UVa and the amazing things our students do here, I really have fun talking about the mechanics of the application review. I love explaining how things work behind-the-scenes because I know the information helps students and parents feel like applications are cared for and reviewed in a thorough and thoughtful way. Sometimes there's a moment when they realize they can ask about some little detail that they didn't feel comfortable asking before. One of the most common questions is about how long it takes to read a file.

The system in which we read files doesn't have a timer that can measure the number of minutes a file has been open over the course of the entire season (that I know of), but there are "quick" reads and there are "long" reads. If you look at the entire application pool as a line, the quick reads would be at the extreme ends - the clear offers and the clear denies. The files that aren't at the extremes are where we spend the bulk of our time.

Here is a super complex graphic to explain.

The other factor that people don't seem to know is that we read in teams. Everyone is so used to hearing about "regional reps" in admission offices. We do specialize in certain regions (I cover much of northern Virginia and northern New Jersey), but multiple admission officers read and weigh in on an applicant's file (which is why we're always telling you to email updates to and not to individual admission officers). Each application is read by at least two different officers, but can be read by as many as...well, the entire staff. How many times a file is read and how many different people read it depends on the case.

I rarely remember the files on the extremes, so sometimes a counselor will excitedly mention their star student who was admitted and I'll smile, but have no recollection of the name. I'm more likely to remember the files I read over and over again during the season as I journeyed towards a decision for them. We all write notes in the file every time we read it, but I also jot down a couple details about files I want to revisit in a notebook each year. I check up on the files a lot during the course of the review and then shred the pages when the class is full.


I'm always happy to answer questions about logistics. Feel free to post them in the comments.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Today is the eighth anniversary of tragic events at Virginia Tech. I imagine most in the Commonwealth remember where they were on the morning of April 16, 2007 when they heard about what was happening.

Here at UVa, Days on the Lawn was just getting underway when the news broke. Jack Blackburn, our late dean, shared the news during the welcome session and offered our office's phones to those who needed to call a loved one in Blacksburg. What was going to be a fun, upbeat day on Grounds became very different as we worried about our Hokie friends. The entire UVa community came together to support Virginia Tech in a variety of ways.

Some people insist that UVa and Tech are enemies, but the fact is that we are more like siblings. Of course, a sibling rivalry is evident when we face each other in competition, but siblings support each other, too. Every UVa student who went to high school in the state probably has a former classmate at the other state universities. Faculty and administrators here often know their counterparts at the other schools. We look forward to seeing each other on panels or at conferences. There are many families who have "house divided" stickers and flags because one child goes to UVa and another goes to Tech.

We are Hoos, but we love our Hokie friends.

The longest lasting message ever painted on Beta Bridge, April 17-June 9, 2007

The day the Hokies painted Beta Bridge, June 9, 2007

Last year...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Friday Days on the Lawn is FULL! Space available Wednesday and Monday.

We have three more Days on the Lawn events to go! We can't wait to see those of you who have registered to visit on Wednesday, Friday, and next Monday.

The weather forecast seems to be pointing towards us needing to move the welcome sessions indoors for this week, but we'll make the call on each of those a little closer to the start time. As always, there will be signs and volunteers directing you to the proper location.

If you haven't registered yet, there are still spaces available this Wednesday and next Monday. The Friday DOTL is completely full and we can not handle ANY unannounced visitors. This is about fire codes, so we aren't just capping attendance on a whim. For everyone's safety, please pick a different day to visit if you don't have a reservation to attend the Friday DOTL.

By the way, CavDog isn't allowed inside the buildings where we hold our welcome session and panels when it rains. If you want to meet him, come back Peabody Hall after you attend class and he'll be more than happy to spend some time with you! If the weather is nice, you can come see CavDog contort and jump to catch his tennis ball on the lawn in front of Peabody in the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Reflecting on the 2014-2015 Essays

People sometimes assume that once the incoming class is admitted, we get to relax a little bit and take some time off. In reality, we move into the transfer application review season, visit season (Days on the Lawn is only half of it...huge groups of sophomores and juniors are visiting), and preparing for next year's process.

I've been thinking a lot about our essays questions and how we may tweak them for next year. We usually have admission officers, deans from the different schools/programs, and current UVa students weigh in on the questions. After reading thousands of essays, most admission officers are pretty passionate about the questions that need to stay on the application and the ones that need to go or be edited.

I'm wondering what those of you who just went through this think about the options for question #2. If you need a reminder, here are the options that were on your application:

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?      

I definitely have my favorites, but I'm wondering if you do as well. Would you remove one of these completely (I would)? Would you tweak one to work better?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Happy April Fool's Day!

I have to admit that I slacked on putting together an April Fool's Day joke for I'm going to harken back to last year when the UVa Libraries posted this hilarious video. There were a few people around here who actually believed this for a few hours:

My joke last year was announcing that CavDog was retiring and would be replaced by CavSnake. I posted this during a Days on the Lawn event and had people coming up to us expressing their sadness that it was one of his last DOTLs.

The Library helped me out and posted this a few hours later:

I'll start thinking about my 2016 joke now so I have something great to share.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Days on the Lawn Travel Notes

I have a few travel notes for those of you who are making plans to visit us this month for Days on the Lawn. Two days before the DOTL date for which you registered, you'll be getting an email with this information and more in it. Make sure to share it with your parent(s) if they'll be coming with you.

If you've visited UVa before, you probably parked in the hourly Central Grounds Parking Garage. For DOTL, you'll be parking in the garage at the intersection of Emmet and Ivy Roads. The UVa tennis courts and the Cavalier Inn are at this intersection.You can access this garage from either road.

There will signs and staff members to get you onto the shuttles to the amphitheater.

We'll be starting the day in the UVa amphitheater with the welcome addresses at 9 AM. You can check in any time after 8:15 AM and get a schedule for the day. If we have to use the rain plan, we'll have people in place to direct you to Old Cabell Hall. If you arrive after the welcome address, you can register in Peabody Hall.

Any student in an orange Days on the Lawn shirt is here to answer any questions you have. Don't hesitate to ask them anything at all! There will be faculty and staff members from different departments and offices at the various sessions to answer your questions as well. If you need anything else, come see us in Peabody Hall.

If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Last-Minute Trip to the FIRST Regional!

Though DOTL days are the most exciting ones of the spring, I'm thrilled to be making a quick trip to NOVA to go to the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) regional this weekend. FIRST stands for For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and they sponsor programs for children as young as 6 (they work with legos) to students in high school.

The FRC has a different theme or game each year and the teams have to build robots to score points during the games. Teams work in groups of three (called an alliance) during each "heat" as points are earned.

This year's game is called Recycle Rush. Here's the intro:

And here's a video of some teams from a different region in action:

It might look a little confusing now, but when you're at the competition, it's hard not to get totally obsessed with the game. There are 16 teams from Virginia in the regional and 13 of them are from my I might lose my voice cheering for all of my favorites!

If you're on a FIRST team, good luck at your competitions! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What to Expect at Days on the Lawn

I can't believe the first Days on the Lawn is coming on Monday! We are at capacity for the first two days, so we should have nice sized crowds.

The happiest greeter!

What is Days on the Lawn?
By now, you probably know this, but Days on the Lawn (DOTL) are open house days for admitted students. You don't have to attend, but many undecided students find it helpful to spend a full day on Grounds since they might not have visited before or their last visit was before they applied.

What happens at Days on the Lawn?
 The first think you need to know is that while there is a full schedule of events for each DOTL, you decide what you want to do.

The opening session is at 9 AM in the amphitheater. There will be signs and volunteers to direct you after you park. After a welcome from administrators, a student will offer some advice for incoming students.  The student talk is usually my favorite part!

After this, you'll be off on the academic part of the day.  Each school and college has an information session or faculty panel (some also offer a tour of their facilities).  The students will break away from the parents to head to classes at some point. 

Throughout the day, representatives from different offices will be available for questions.  There's a resource fair and the Financial Aid staff will be around as well (they are usually able to talk one-on-one with people after the give out some general information, so feel free to bring some questions). 

In the afternoon, you can go on residence hall tours, an activity showcase, and various panel discussions. The formal part of the day ends with a student social. Of course, you are welcome to stay longer if you wish!

What should I wear?
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes you can walk in. You'll be able to wander all over the Grounds and you don't want your attire to slow you down or make you not want to walk over to the residence halls or to the building of the department that interests you.

What if I can't come to a DOTL?
You can do a lot of the same things on another day, but you'll just have to do a little planning. Our "Plan a Visit" page has links to an open class list, the Monroe Society (overnight visit hosts), and other resources for visitors. If you scroll down on the tour page, you'll see that there are department tours offered in addition to the general tour.

If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The #UVA19 Waiting List

If you were offered a spot on the waiting list at UVa, you had a link to the Waiting List FAQs in your decision letter. I'm going to go over the parts that come up in questions and add some more information. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

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 2014-2015 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: 5,543

Number accepting a place on the waiting list: 3,456
We did not make as many waiting list offers this year. 5,000+ is too many. Still, the waiting list will be big on May 1st because we need to ensure there are students to fit all ten sections of the first year class (Virginia and out-of-state for each of the five schools/programs that take first years.

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 2019. The class is supposed to be 3,675 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:  
2014- 42
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. We aim to have everything wrapped up by the end of June. Last year, we started making offers in early May and were done by June 6th. In 2013, 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.

Because we want to give students a few days to think about the offer (and because the Financial Aid folks need a day or two to post a package for the newly-admitted student), the process takes a while. I can't give constant updates on the blog. Just be prepared for some silence in May. I will always tell you when the Dean says the class is full (see the posts I linked to above).

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!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Unofficial #UVA19 Admission Statistics

As usual, I am sharing some unofficial statistics this application season. These numbers weren't targets (meaning, we don't read to "hit" a certain test statistic), they are the result of our review process. Please keep in mind that the Office of Institutional Assessment is the source of all official statistics about UVa. They will determine the final statistics for the class, which can be found in the data digest part of their website

Here are some unofficial numbers about this year's process. These numbers are up to date as of 3/22/2015. If you are a reporter reading this, please be sure to get in touch with the Media Relations team in the Office of University Communications for all of your reporterly needs. :)

If you want to look at numbers from past years, head to the Office of Institutional Assessment site (link above) or click on the "statistics" tag at the end of this post, which will take you to older posts of this nature. Remember that my numbers are unofficial and old posts were not updated when the census was taken.


Total number of applications: 30,853
Total number of VA apps: 9,147
Total number of OOS apps: 21,706
We use completed application numbers in our statistics. There are schools that include incomplete applications in their stats.

Overall offers: 8,786
Total VA offers: 3,800 (41.5% offer rate)
Total OOS offers: 4,986 (23% offer rate)
Enrollment goal:

Schools admit more students than the enrollment goal with yield in mind.
Yield is how many students accept an offer of admission. We do not try to figure out an individual student's likelihood of enrolling (demonstrated interest), but overall yield influences the offer rate. Check out yield from past years, broken down by residency.

Middle 50% SAT score (offers only): 1970-2250
Middle 50% ACT composite (offers only): 30-34
We use scores from each section in our review, but the reports on averages generate totals.

93.2% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school class 
This number only reflects those who attend schools that report rank.

Please understand that I do not have additional statistics. It's Days on the Lawn season and spring break at many high schools, so we are inundated with visitors. We have also moved into the transfer review process (reading season doesn't end with the first year release!). There will be a post about the waiting list tomorrow and more on Days on the Lawn later this week.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Let's Talk About #UVA19 Decisions: The Offer

Admitted students can use this entry to talk. If you didn't see the link in your letter, here's the welcome site created just for you! This is just the start of different offices reaching out to welcome you to UVa. Get ready. There's a whole lotta UVa love coming your way!

I imagine you might also want to join the UVa Class of 2019 Facebook group to chat with your future classmates. That group is just for students.  Parents, you can check out the UVa Parents Committee and the UVa Families page. We would love to see your celebratory pictures or videos! Tag them with #UVA2019.We might even compile a post of our favorite next week.

Just below your letter are buttons to accept or decline your offer. If you accept, a pop-up box will appear so you pay your tuition deposit online*. I believe orientation registration will open after April 1st, but you'll get more information about that soon via email.

You have until May 1st to make your decision about whether you'll come to UVa or not. If you decide to go elsewhere at some point in the coming weeks, I hope you'll decline the offer immediately via your self-service page.

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

*We have an e-check system for deposits.  You'll type in the numbers on the bottom of your check, much like the system used when filing taxes.  The system will take certain kinds of credit cards, but it's primarily an e-check system.  Be sure to turn off your pop-up blocker when you go to pay the deposit!

Let's Talk About #UVA19 Decisions: The Waiting List

Students offered a spot on the waiting list can use this entry to talk.

This is probably the toughest decision to get from a school. At UVa, the waiting list tends to be large because there are so many different segments to the population here (VA and OOS groups for each of the four schools and the one program that take first year students) and we don't know where there will be openings in the class. After looking at trends from recent years, we decided to cut the waiting list down. We did not extend this option to as many students as in the past.

We won't know how large the waiting list is until you all accept or decline your waiting list offers.  Right now, you've been offered a spot on the list. You aren't actually on it until you reply using the response buttons in SIS (you have until May 1st to do this).

Still, the numbers can change dramatically from year-to-year. We took 60 students off the waiting list in 2008 and 288 students the next year. Last year, we offered admission to 42 wait-listed students.

For now, you need to look at your other options and think about which one feels right to you. Some of you will want to hold on and see what happens with the waiting list and others will want to fully invest themselves in another school. Either way, you need to submit a deposit at a school by May 1st to ensure yourself a spot in a freshman class somewhere. If you are offered a spot in our class and you decide to accept it, you'll have to write to that other school and withdraw your name from the class (you may lose your deposit at that school). Just remember that you can't "double deposit".

Feel free chat here. You should have already seen the link to the waiting list FAQ page in your decision letter, which answers the most common questions (is the list ranked, what do I do now, what's the time line, etc.).

CavDog hopes you find a peaceful place to think about your options

Let's Talk About #UVA19 Decisions: The Deny

Denied students can use this entry to talk.

I know it's hard to know that UVa is not going to be an option when you make your final decision. I hope you all can look at your other schools and get excited about the opportunities in front of you. 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 you options.

Remember that this decision is probably about our numbers. You didn't necessarily do anything "wrong" (a common question). 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. 

Thank You, #UVA19

After the 2009 season, I didn't think there could be a tougher year, but this one was harder. There were times when the energy and enthusiasm in your applications (and sometimes your nice tweets and comments) kept me going. It's been a long six months, but I think that the result is one of the most amazing classes we've ever assembled.

THANK YOU to all of you who have read and commented on the blog this season. I feel lucky that I get to stay connected with our applicants throughout the reading season via social media.

Regardless of what SIS shows you tonight, 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 sometimes. What's going to make or break those experiences is your response and your openness to learning from them, not where you are 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 maybe think about joining some of the groups that work with our office once you come here.

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

A #UVA19 Regular Decision Update

The Dean just came by with his jacket on. He's ready to watch the Hoos play in the first round of the NCAA. That means he's ready for you to find out if you are going to be a Hoo!

This is actually pretty accurate.

Please keep reading! I have notes...

1. Decisions will be posted in SIS tonight. Our tech folks handle the release, so I can't pinpoint a precise moment when they will be done (back in the pre-SIS days, I just typed "-1" in the code a few times and it was done, but it's more involved now).

The "View Decision" link at the bottom of your SIS page will go to a decision letter instead of that "April 1st" message that's there right now. If you can't find your login info for the SIS, use the links on the login page to generate a new password. A welcome mailing with info about next steps will come later for those who are admitted. Please do not open multiple windows or constantly hit refresh. Students have slowed SIS down to a crawl in the past by doing it. Use one window. Set a time tonight when you'll check and do something offline until then.

2.  The release is always exciting, but some of you aren't going to get the decision for which you hoped. I hope you'll focus on the college options you 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.

3. I will post blog entries where you can talk about the different decisions at the end of the day. I'll be back to work through any questions that are asked in the comments over the weekend.  I trust you to be respectful of others in the comments. Feel free to flag a comment if you need me to step in. That notification will go to my phone. A lot of people on Grounds will be watching #UVA19 so they can welcome our newest Wahoos to the UVa community. Some of you seem to be using that tag already!

4. Please don't post personal information in the comments (contact info, statistics, etc.). As I posted this morning, school-specific statistics like GPA and rank 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.

5. Echols, Rodman, and College Science Scholars will be notified by email and mail on Monday. Posts about next steps, Days on the Lawn (open houses for admitted students), and statistics will come next week.

I am going to take a break now. Please understand if my responses to questions are a little delayed. 

I Don't Care About Your GPA

Did that get your attention? Good. We need to talk about GPAs.

GPAs attempt to convey academic achievement. When you talk with your classmates about GPAs, you are speaking the same language. You can probably imagine the kind of work that went into making a cited GPA because you all understand the methodology being used at your school. What would happen if a student from a different school, maybe from a different region, joined that conversation? You'd probably have to do some translating so they could understand how things work.

Admission officers know that the way schools calculate a GPA varies dramatically. Many get around this by having a system that recalculates every GPA so the different methodologies are removed. We don't do that here (not saying it isn't a possibility one day). Instead, we look at the transcript to see the courses you took and the grades that you earned. The transcript tells the story of your process over the last four years. The transcript is far more compelling and informative than your GPA.

How do we know how to analyze your transcript?

The thing that helps us understand the context for your courses and grades is the high school profile. Your counselor sends a high school profile as part of their Common App form. The profile is often a 2-4 page document that explains how your school operates. It'll go over the grade scale, weighting, GPA methodology, and course options available to you. It'll also let us know if there are any restrictions on the courses you can take. Most of the time, the profile gives us all the information we need to assess your transcript.

Here are some snippets I grabbed from a couple profiles last year:

Click to enlarge

 So this is showing me the grading scale, has a statement about how courses are weighted when GPAs are calculated, and gives me a distribution of all students in the class at the end of the junior year.

Some profiles also give us grade distribution charts. This helps us understand how grading might vary from course to course in your school. Counselor sometimes clue us into this kind of thing, too.

Click to enlarge

Over the years, I've learned that there's a certain teacher who teaches a class at a school in my region (don't ask me to be specific) that gives very, very few As. I have read a lot of applications from the school and when I see a student with an A in that course, I am over the moon excited for the student. That A isn't going to get any special treatment when the school calculates GPAs.

What if the profile doesn't have enough information or we don't get one?

If we ever have questions, we call the counselor. It happens more than you probably think! Even though I've been covering some of my territories for 14 years, I call counselors routinely and learn new things. For example, this year, I learned that one of "my" districts had a policy that automatically lowered a grade for an online course if there was too big of a gap between the student's grade going into the final and their grade on the exam. The policy is gone now, but it was in place for some of this year's seniors.

You are so much more than your GPA. While it's a handy statistic to cite when you are chatting with your friends, we were looking at the courses and grades on your transcript to understand your academic preparation.

And because those graphics aren't too exciting, here's a CavDog picture for you.

Spring is in the air!

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Regular Decision Update

Where is everyone?

Comments over the weekend showed that some are eager for an update. I'm happy to say that most mid-year reports arrived and we have been able to move forward with our files. Aside from taking breaks to watch basketball games, we've been burning the midnight oil with the Regular Decision review.

Our official notification date is April 1st,  but if we are able to release decisions earlier, I'll let you all know.

By the way, I think I have to revisit the issue of demonstrated interest again. People hear us when we say that interest doesn't matter, but they think we secretly want you to show interest. This is not true.
We want your substantive updates (grade or course changes, for example) to go to If you have questions, feel free to post them here are ask on Facebook or Twitter. You can also email us or call our main number.There is a dean on call each day to answer questions by phone.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Impact of Snow Days (and Snail Mail Submissions)

Did you know that admission officers tend to dislike snow days?

We had a pretty quiet winter in Virginia up until about a week ago. Mother Nature decided to finally let us have a taste of what our friends up north are experiencing and sent us some snow. Schools around the Commonwealth were closed and we know that other regions have been experiencing snow closings away well.

We don't have many snow days at UVa (there was a stretch were we were convinced that UVa just didn't close at all!). CavDog never understands why people complain about going out in the fluffy stuff, but he doesn't have to shovel or commute. He also doesn't know that snow days affect when we release admission decisions.

When schools are closed, that means your counseling staff isn't in the office. When the counseling office is closed, that means mid-year reports aren't being sent to us. So we become stuck. Without mid-year grades, we don't have any new information when we review deferred applications that were moved from Early Action to Regular Decision. Without mid-year grades, we can't finalize a Regular Decision application.

In a couple weeks, when people start asking when we'll be done with the process, I'll probably refer them back to this point.

What's more, many districts still don't allow or have the capacity for the online submission of mid-year reports. We asked for mid-year grades to be sent to us by February 15th and we imagine that some of them are sitting in bins of mail that couldn't be transported due to the snow. Our staff has resorted to calling counselors to ask them to read grades to us over the phone so we could move forward with reading a file.

Please enjoy your snow days and bear with us as we work through all of your applications. As always, we aim to release early, but April 1st is the official notification day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sending Updates to UVa

If you follow me on Twitter or have been reading the blog for a while, you probably know that I have repeatedly mentioned that application updates need to be sent to or our general mailing address (we prefer email since we are paperless) and not to individual deans and admission counselors. I took a picture that explains why. Here is the mail that was waiting for me one morning:

The envelopes inside the FedEx packages had my name on them, so our staff needed me to open them.

 During the busiest part of the reading season, admission officers read files away from the office. Just like you might go to the library to get away from distractions, it helps us to be away from email, phone calls, and drop-in visitors (some don't seem to believe that we don't use interest and want to say "hello" to the person who manages their territory). In addition, not spending time getting ready and commuting to/from Grounds (and then parking a mile away and walking up to Peabody Hall) gives us more time to focus on applications. Admission officers around the country are doing this...not at every school, but at many.

So when you mail something directly to an admission officer, it may sit in their mailbox for a few days because they are reading outside of Peabody Hall.

The items in my mailbox might have been filed by now if they hadn't been sent directly to me because I wasn't reading in Peabody last Friday.

Please make sure you are sending updates to our general mail and email addresses. They have always been on the bottom of our website and on our contact page.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's EA Flip Time!

We are starting to roll the applications of those we deferred during the Early Action round over to Regular Decision. If you are an EA Defer, your decision is disappearing so we can put you into the RD pool. If you were admitted or denied during Early Action, you shouldn't notice any changes.

Mid-year reports have been rolling in for the last week or so and we know this will continue for a while. If you were offered admission during EA or have an active application right now (which covers EA defers and RD applicants), we need your mid-year reports. Applicants, remember that these are sent by your counselor, so keep focusing on your school work.

RD folks, we've emailed you several times if you are missing a mandatory component of your application. If we don't have the testing, transcript, or teacher rec about which we emailed you by Thursday, we're moving on.

By the way, some amazing work is happening at the Rotunda this week. The carrara marble capitals that were made to replace the ones that have been crumbling are being installed! There's a great slideshow on the UVA Today website.


Thursday, February 05, 2015

Regular Decision Status Page Update

It's about the time that Regular Decision applicants should be taking a look at their status pages in SIS to make sure we have all of their required credentials in our office. We'll be emailing anyone who is missing a document just in case they aren't monitoring SIS.

As a reminder, mid-year reports probably won't get checked off for another couple weeks, so don't worry if that is on your "to-do" list. Your counselors will be sending those in as soon as your school has them ready.

RD students, the next several weeks are going to be tough. The admission office hunkers down to read and there aren't as many updates to report. The EA students experienced this in December and January. Now it's your turn to experience the wait. My advice: keep your head down and get your school work done. It's really tempting to day-dream about where you'll be next fall, but this last semester is really important in preparing you for a great transition to the more advanced work in college. this case, to go outside to play on the Lawn.