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Friday, September 29, 2006

ED Redux

I just got off the phone with a mother who called me after finding her daughter up at 2 AM pondering whether she's going to apply to UVa under the early decision plan. She's a smart girl in an IB program here in Virginia. She's sure to have plenty of colleges interested in her, but she's scared that she must apply early to UVa to have a chance in the process due to what she perceives to be low standardized testing and a GPA just shy of the top of the class.

Some critics of Harvard, Princeton, UVA and Delaware's move to do away with early admission say that one of the reasons (lessening stress) is foolish. They say that the college search is stressful anyway and that doing away with early admission just pushes the stress back two months. They seem to be ignoring the stress of the order of the process.

The traditional college search can be seen as a number of steps.

1. A large list of potential schools is drawn up using guide books, internet searches, and meetings with counselors.

2. Mom, Dad and the student embark on a whirl wind college tour, visiting so many campuses in one week that schools are recalled by parking situation: the one that had the parking garage, the one that had the parking lot, and the one that had no parking.

3. Applications are organized, spreadsheets made, essays written, transcripts requested, etc. Packages are carefully handed over to the post office clerk who unceremoniously tosses it into a bin. Images of crinkled pages make Mom cringe. The wait begins.

4. Decision letters arrive from colleges. Letter carriers are stalked, online applications accounts are checked compulsively.

5. The student lays all the decision letters out on the kitchen table and mulls over choices.

6. A deposit is mailed to one lucky college.


Early admission moves the 5th step of the process up to #3. So, as students are starting the hardest academic year of their career, ascending to the leadership positions in their clubs and activities, and navigating the application process, they are also forced to make a decision that will affect the next four years of life (and the rest of life, if you think about it). This seems like a horrible time to be making such a decision, especially without knowing all the options available.

The same woman who called me talked about her son, a UVa alum, who applied early to another school, which had been his top choice. He was deferred and while hoping for an acceptance from that school, submitted regular decision applications elsewhere (including Virginia).

When decision letters came, he went for a second round of visits to schools. During those trips, he realized that UVa was the right place for him and sent his deposit in. Five months isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but the difference between October and April is significant in the senior year of high school.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Change is in the air

This time of year is full of changes. The leaves, our clothes, our perspectives. UVA is making a change as well. While we aren't exactly pioneers, I'm extremely excited about some of the things in store...

Stay tuned for an update.


Update: The press release is out, so it's official: Early Decision will not exist in the UVA admission process next year!

The media has arrived...

Friday, September 22, 2006

UVA Application Essays

Because so many students are hitting my other blog (about issues in higher education) by googling our essay questions, I'm posting them here, in hopes that Google will start sending them to this blog instead.

2007 FIRST YEAR ESSAY QUESTIONS

(1) Please answer the question that corresponds to the school you selected on Part I of your application in half a page, or roughly 250 words.
College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised or unsettled or challenged you, and in what way?

School of Engineering: Discuss experiences that led you to choose an engineering education at U.Va. and the role that scientific curiosity plays in your life.

School of Architecture: What led you to apply to the School of Architecture?

School of Nursing: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.

________________________________________________________________

(2) Answer one of the following questions. Limit your response to half a page, or approximately 250 words.

a. What is your favorite word, and why?

b. Describe the world you come from and how that world shaped who you are.

c. "Belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light. " (Franz Kafka) Do you have a belief that is like a guillotine? In what way?

d. What kind of diversity will you bring to U.Va.?

e. "We might say that we were looking for global schemas, symmetries, universal and unchanging laws - and what we have discovered is the mutable, the ephemeral, the complex." Support or challenge Nobel Prize winner Ilya Prigogine's assertion.

f. According to J.H Plumb, "History is now strictly organized, powerfully disciplined, but it possesses only a modest educational value and even less conscious social purpose." According to George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Discuss your point of view.

_______________________________________________________________

(3) Please write on a topic of your choice.

If an essay question for another college piqued your interest, feel free to to submit your response to that question. Please limit your submission to one page, or approximately 500 words.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The start of a revolution or brilliant PR move?

Harvard surprised a lot of people yesterday when it announced that it was abandoning the early action program. Interestingly, Harvard was the first school to put "single choice" early action into place in 2003. What brought about this change? For three years, Harvard (and other schools that felt compelled to follow suit) has been using a restrictive form of EA that heavily benefited the school and not students.

So, why the change? Read the news articles about the move and the quotes are about righting the wrongs of the process. If that is the intention, then I think this is a wonderful move and I hope that it takes hold elsewhere.

But, there's a tiny, cynical voice in my head that can't help but look at this as a PR/marketing move.

One week ago, Daniel Golden's book came out. Harvard was blasted repeatedly. Story after story talked about admission practices that gave preference to the rich. One admission professional estimated that only 40% of space in the incoming freshman class was open to students without "connections".

So last week, news agencies picked up on the hype. Golden's former employer, Wall Street Journal, has a story front and center about "silver spoon admission". All the major cable news networks had articles. The buzz was good and I'm sure Golden's publisher was elated.

But then the Harvard story came out. All of a sudden, the news cycle was hijacked. Golden's book was last week's news and Harvard was the big story. Brilliant work on the media/public relations office if my cynical voice is correct. Announce a year early to allow others to follow along, do what so many wish would be done, and bury a story that was unfavorable.


Regardless of why Harvard did what it did, I'm thrilled that a step has been made in the right direction. I can't wait to see what comes next!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Price of Admission

After leaving Peabody Hall last night, I rushed to Barnes & Noble in hopes of securing a copy of the newest college admission "tell all", The Price of Admission. Talk amongst colleagues and the college search set (well, mostly the parents in that group) has been swirling for days and I imagined arriving at the store to find a Harry Potter-esque frenzy.

Instead, I walked around the "New Releases" and "New Non-Fiction" tables without seeing any sign of the book or an empty space where it could have sat prior to my arrival, when hordes must have snatched every copy. The information desk staffer was quick to take me to the children's section where one copy was shelved, spine out (not display style) next to The Chosen and The Gatekeepers.

Of course, I immediately looked UVA up in the index. The results aren't too surprising: one mention of alumni children, one of recruited athletes and one (oddly) of our initiative to give full scholarships to low income students (what we call AccessUVA).

Though I haven't gotten too deep into the book yet, I'm fairly certain that I know what Golden will say about two of the three issues above (what he finds problematic about scholarships for low income students is a mystery at the moment). My ability to predict his comments isn't a function of working in the industry. I believe these "juicy" bits of information are common knowledge (comments will support or refute that). I doubt anyone is ignorant to the fact that certain people get into college because of factors other than their GPA, rank, and SAT score.

So far, my reaction has been a "so what". Unless he proposes some sort of action, he's turned his Wall Street Journal articles into a 300 page book.