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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A love letter to Fairfax County

Dear Fairfax County,

You'll always hold a special place in my heart. Oh so many years ago, when I got my very first job in the admission world, my first recruitment trip was to Virginia and the first stop was Fairfax County. Wait, I'm lying. The first stop was Baltimore because it was cheaper to fly into BWI, but you get the idea. I spent three lovely days in NOVA and was struck by the great schools I visited. Every student I met seemed enthusiastic and engaged.

When I moved to Virginia to work at UVa, I was overwhelmed with the number of fantastic Northern Virginia students who applied. Of the in-state students at UVa, about half were from that area and with good reason. Some of the best schools in the country are up there.

Imagine my complete shock upon reading an article in which an admission officer at another school felt Fairfax County schools were weak; specifically that they have "a culture that’s more dominated by athletics and rock music and less dominated by APs and high academic achievement." The math, science, technology magnet school is blamed for "robbing" the rest of the county high schools of all the best students. Unfortunately, our Dean, Jack Blackburn, was also interviewed for the article and some people have decided that he said the things I've quoted.

So, my dear Fairfax, I want to set the record straight. We love you. We understand your grading system and it doesn't confuse us. We know that you have great curricula for your students. We think TJHSST is a wonderful place, but we know that there are amazing students who opted not to go there; ones who had no interest in leaving their home high school. We think rock and roll is just fine and good sports are a lot of fun to have around, so don't apologize for being great musicians, singers, or athletes.

We've had large numbers of wonderful students from Northern Virginia coming to UVa for years and I don't see anything about to change that trend.

~Dean J