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Thursday, November 30, 2006

NOTIFICATION UPDATE

First year, early decision applicants will be able to view their decisions after 6:30 PM on Friday, December 1st. Spring transfer applicants will be able to view their decisions in the first week of December (check back for updates).


Why 6:30 PM? We got complaints from counselors saying that when we posted the decisions at 5 PM, many students were still at school for meetings and practices. We didn't want to push the time back too far, but realized that we had to do something to ease things at certain schools. So, 6:30 PM is the time.

Maybe we'll change notification times each year to end the chatter trying to glean info based on what happened last year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dumbing down the web for today's students

Today, The Chronicle posted a short story about a Ph.D. candidate who was shocked by the fact that college students were less plugged in than he was (video of the lecture is included and I think it's pretty interesting). I'm more saddened than shocked. More students are online than ever, but so very few seem savvy about what they can do with the web. None of the students in the lecture had blogs. None seemed to know what RSS was. The students expressed doubt about the importance of online learning. How creative will the next generation of marketers be if they question the importance of the web?



A few years ago, an absolutely brilliant engineering student at one of my former institutions came to see me. He nervously clutched a spindle of blank CD-Rs and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. I couldn't imagine what was making him so anxious. He softly asked "Dean J...could you teach shins to me?"

I was almost in shock. "Shins" is how a certain type of file extension (.shn) is pronounced by those who use it. Along with FLACs (.flac files), they are used by tapers and traders of live music. Trading live music, encouraged by a whole range of bands, changed from mail based to Internet based in the late 90s. I assumed that all teenagers were familiar with .shn and .flac files and converting them to audio (.wav) or MP3s. The fact that my extremely savvy engineering student didn't know about these simple files or how to get them through Bit Torrent (which, unfortunately, has since become popular with sharing copyright protected music and movies) was pretty shocking.


That little incident made me realize that while students are more "plugged in" than ever, many are only familiar with technology that's packaged in easily digested bits. It used to be that social interaction on the web was done by newsgroup and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). I believe listserves came along next, making messages come to the user instead of requiring the user to go to the messages. Then Prodigy and AOL came along and created "environments" that sat on the web, but didn't require users to actually go to the web. Around that time, I remember seeing a lot of students writing down their email addresses without an "@domain.com" because they only interacted within AOL, where that wasn't required.

I could go on and on with the time line, but as I stated earlier, what we arrive at is a time when the majority of students are online, but the minority of students are truly savvy about the web. Ask a student to personalize their MySpace or Facebook page and they can put together a page full of bells and whistles. Ask them to create a website and some would need explicit instructions for registering a domain name.

Students, for a while, were the teachers when it came to the web. Perhaps we're approaching a reversal of that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Does the early bird get the worm? Or a nicer worm? Or a faster worm?

When I was a wee little junior in high school, I practiced calling schools to inquire about tour times. I thought, for some reason, that schools would take note of how polite I was on the phone. Surely, the colleges had computers like the 911 operators did, ones that identified the number of the caller immediately and tied the number to an applicant's file. Surely, my manners would get me brownie points! Similarly, when it came time to fill out my applications, I sat tensely over my father's Smith Corona typewriter, convinced that typing my applications perfectly would win the admission officers' favor.

Oh, how silly I was!

We don't read into how you apply, when you apply, and how meticulous you are about positioning staples, mailing labels and stamps. If you submit an application for Regular Decision today, we'll read it just as we'd read an application that's submitted at 11:59 PM on deadline day.

Side story: At my last institution, we took an informal poll at a meeting of first year students, asking when people submitted their online applications. The vast majority hit submit between 11 PM and midnight on deadline day. The sitting student government president (an upperclassmen present at the meeting) sheepishly volunteered the information that he had submitted his application one hour late (we left the system open for a little longer).

So, the lesson of the day is: submit your application when you're confident that it's complete. We don't read into when you apply. We don't even see a date stamp on the application when we read it.

NOW, I will say that if you call the admission office about your application, chances are we'll take notes during the conversation and add them to your file. If you email us, we'll often print out the email and file it as well. It helps us remember conversations (since we get a lot of calls, especially around decision time) and gives colleagues something to go on if you talk to different deans over time. More on calling the office about you application in a future post...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Decisions will NOT be posted early

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, wait...that might be too archaic a reference. At the risk of sounding like a Head On commercial, I feel I have to repost this.

Decisions will NOT be posted early. The notification date is December 1st. That will give us one month to read a few thousand applications at least twice, make final decisions, have letters printed, double checked, stuffed into envelopes, and mailed. It's an extremely tight time line and expecting an early end to the process just isn't reasonable.

Relax. Warm up some leftovers and don't check those status pages for now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The "dreaded" thin envelope

A few weeks ago, a current student who sat on a panel at a program for prospective students told me about the day his UVa decision letter arrived. He came home from school and opened the mailbox to find a thin envelope with a UVa return address inside the box. Upset about seeing the dreaded "thin letter", he closed the mailbox, went inside his house, and went to bed.

Later on, one of his parents came home and asked why he hadn't read the letter. He didn't see a point in opening the envelope, but he did...and found our congratulatory letter inside.

ALL of our decision letters are sent in simple envelopes. That thick package comes a little later. Mailing a simple letter has a few purposes. First of all, it's faster to put a letter in an envelope than to put a fancy package together. Second of all, a regular rate letter probably travels through the mail system faster than a bulk rate package. We're opting for speed over ceremony, as one of my colleagues says. We'd love for all kinds of bells and whistles to accompany your decision letters, but the fact is that we all want those letters to get to their destinations as soon as possible.

Monday, November 20, 2006

For those who applied on paper

I got an email from a student who submitted part of her regular application on paper, but who also had an online account. She thought she could work on parts of her application online.

Perhaps that will be possible one day, but for now, you must choose one method for submitting your part of the application: paper or electronic. Now, if you submit your application online and want to mail supplements, that's fine. However, if you mail us an application, you should not continue to use your online account.

Notification

The Office of Admission is getting a lot of calls asking about our notification date. Our notification date is December 1st. That means decision letters will be in the mail and status will be posted on online accounts on that date. I'll restate that. If a student logs into their online account on December 1st (after 5 PM), they will see their updated status.

Now, sometimes, we're able to get all the applications read and reviewed a tad early and our office staff is able to print, check, fold, stuff, and seal those thousands of decisions before December 1st. If that happens, we'll send them out early. We never plan to be done early. We aim for December 1st.

If we're going to be early, I'll post a note on this blog with a date.

For now, relax. There's nothing to do but wait right now. Hang in there!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Standardized testing frustration

Standardized testing instills anxiety in even the smartest of students. Okay, that's a lie...I was a good tester and never really felt nervous walking into a test after my first foray into the SAT world as a seventh grader. However, I'm feeling that anxiety now, as an adult. My feeling is that the testing has become less and less reliable, despite supposed improvements.


Last year, months after the first widespread administration of the "new" SAT (the new format included a writing section), ETS announced that a large number of test results were flawed. The problem: the score sheets had been exposed to extreme humidity which made the machine that read the sheets unable to scan them correctly. ETS notified us of about 70 scores that were higher than previously reported after they found their error. However, they decided it wouldn't be fair to correct scores that had been higher before the error was found. Hm.

So, a year later, I feel the need to tell every student who asks about our SAT score averages about the data possibly being bad. They all seem surprised, which makes me think very few, if any, schools are saying the same. Bad data = bad statistics.


Now, on top of that, I've been keeping any eye on the scores for the essay in the new section of the exam. The essay is scored by two readers, who rate it on a 1-6 scale. The two scores are added, so the highest score possible is a 12. In a year of reading essays (and some of the essays I see are beautifully done), I saw one 12, a few 10s and 11s, and a slew of scores from 6 to 8. I also saw a few 4s. What does this tell me? That most students can throw enough on paper for 25 minutes to get an average score, but that few students can put together a brilliant essay in that amount of time. This makes it hard to spend much more than a second or two glancing at that score.


Cut to present day. We're hearing that there are many, many problems being reported with the October administration of the SAT. Colleagues from the high school side are saying their students are seeing scores cancelled or reports that they ordered sent to colleges not being sent, and some complaints about the actual testing environment at a few schools.

For the first time in my career, I had ETS call me to ask if they sent us some scores! When I questioned the person who called me about what prompted the call, she danced around the fact that they had complaints about schools not receiving scores that were sent.



This post is deliberately disjointed. It seems as there are problems in almost every area of operation at ETS. What is going on? How can a company with so much money and so many resources make so many errors?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Casualties of Election Day

There were plenty of casualties on election day this year. Among them, a slew of programs in the state of Michigan that are going to be illegal because voters struck down affirmative action.

When most people think about affirmative action in education, they think about race being considered in admission decisions. What they often miss is that there are programs aimed to affect all sorts of students that are also included in affirmative action.

A few months ago, I came across a very interesting study put together by the Center for the Education for Women at University of Michigan about proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in California, and the potential effects on Michigan once a similar measure goes through. Those who want the Readers' Digest version can see a summary of the report.

In a nutshell, a slew of special programs are on the chopping block right now. Camps aimed to get kids interested in math & science, special programs that provide college prep for inner city kids, shadowing initiatives meant to give students of color mentors in business and industry...all at risk, according to the report.

October SAT scores late

I've just been told that October's SAT scores aren't being released to colleges until tomorrow, which means Monday is the first day we might be able to see them.

We used to say that October was the last test date for ED applicants, but we might have to change that in the future if score delivers are delayed.

Those of you applying RD will probably want to send scores by the end of November to make sure they're here by January 2nd.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Deadline

In acknowledgement of the fact that we're all procrastinators at one point or another, you may submit your application online until Sunday night at 11:59 PM EST.

Good luck!

Another TV Alert

ABC News is taking The Price of Admission to 20/20. Tonight's edition of 20/20 deals with "The Priviledge of Education". The write up on the station's website talks specifically about Duke and mentions some Ivy League schools, but I imagine that over the course of two hours, the show will go into more detail.

Are there any student bloggers out there?

If so, The Chronicle has a story about a scholarship specifically for students who blog (and blog well). This year's competition is coming to a close, but this might be something the juniors might want to think about.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Checking your status

We will probably get hundreds of calls in the next few days from people (more parents than students) asking why their status page doesn't show transcripts, recommendations, or SAT scores as received despite the fact that they were sent anywhere from two to fifteen days ago. Inevitably, the application will have been submitted just hours prior.

When credentials arrive for a student who has not yet submitted an application, they get filed in a "holding file" of sorts. We don't create a file for every single item because a good number of the students for whom credentials were sent will never finish their applications. So, in the holding file they sit until the student hits the submit button or the paper application arrives in the mail.

Once you submit your application, our staff will create a file for it and pull all credentials in the holding file that match up (this is why it's critical for teachers to use your full, legal name at some point in their recommendations). After that, your status will be updated and you should see notification on your status screen.

At this time of the year (as well as in late December and January), we are processing thousands of pieces of paper each day, so it can take a while for the steps I laid out above to happen. If you submit today, when "traffic" is very high, it could take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for status to update. Be patient. Check back every few days. We'll email you if something is missing.