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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Admission officers get fiesty

One of my favorite moments as an admission officer came after only a week in the field. Like most rookie counselors, I was sent to a summer conference for new professionals put on by the regional NACAC. The week was full of sessions, some good and some bad, but the best part was probably meeting a few hundred people starting their admission career.

On the last day of the conference, a representative from the College Board came to give us a presentation about the SAT and how great it was at predicting academic excellence in college. I don't think she counted on the crowd getting a little feisty.

One of my new friends, who was starting off at a private, liberal arts school in New England, raised her hand during the presentation and asked what the representative had to say about recent research that said the test had a cultural bias. The room erupted in applause. The CB rep was flustered. After all, admission officers for years had held the SAT in high regard. Suddenly, a new generation of admission officers was questioning the exam. The rest of that conference session was pretty fun.

Anyway, The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a story today about a similar conference session happening at a regional NACAC meeting. I hope that we actually see some changes now that more and more admission and guidance officers are voicing their discontent with the format and administration of the SAT.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Finding scholars: a look into Echols/Rodman selection

Some prospective students are well aware of the Echols and Rodman Scholars Programs and ask about them along with all the other FAQs. Others don't hear about these two opportunities until they receive letters of invitation to join the programs. I thought I'd give some general information about the programs and about how we select scholars from our applicant pool.

Echols is that scholars program in the College of Arts & Sciences (CLAS). We aim to bring around 200-250 students into the program each year (there's no formal cap on the number). The major benefit of program gives a hint about what we look for in a potential Echols Scholar. Echols Scholars are free from the "area requirements" (called the core at other schools). The intent is to give them freedom to delve into the subject areas about which they're passionate. Other benefits for Echols Scholars include: special academic advising, special housing (with Rodman Scholars), and the option to complete the Echols interdisciplinary major. There are a few sources of scholarship money for Echols Scholars. There's plenty of more information on the Echols Scholars Program website.

Rodman is the scholars program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). SEAS is a smaller school and the Rodman program is a bit smaller than Echols as a result, with 30-40 new members each year. Rodman Scholars get pre-registered for their first year SEAS courses. They are supposed to get "the best" faculty and work at a fast, advanced pace in their classes. In addition, Rodman Seminars are classes that meet less frequently than traditional classes, are "pass-fail", and include scholars from all years. The topics aren't set and student input helps decide what is taught in these classes. Rodman Scholars also live in
special housing with Echols Scholars. More information can be found on the Rodman Scholars Program website.


First year applicants can't apply for Echols or Rodman. Every CLAS application is reviewed for Echols and every SEAS application is reviewed for Rodman. Student who don't receive the designation as first years may apply for their second year.

With Echols and Rodman being as selective as they are, academic excellence is obviously critical to becoming a scholar. Beyond that, though, is sort of an intangible: passion and love of learning. I find that when I review applications, that idea is conveyed little by little until at some point, I'm inspired to flag the application as a "possible scholar". That feeling can come from anywhere, but it often comes across in a combination of places: the essay, recommendations, and extracurricular activities.

At some point in our reading season, we start rereading all the applications that were flagged as possible scholars. Each folder gets at least two more reads by officers before a final decision is made.

There you have it! If you don't get an invitation into the program this year, remember that you can apply for it for your second year. Remember also that there are plenty of students at UVa who have a fantastic academic experience without being named an Echols or Rodman Scholar.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Process update

Just an update for those wondering what we're up to.

The first round of reading and Echols/Rodman selection continue simultaneously. Our current Echols Scholars were in the office this evening to make some more phone calls and they'll be back every week or so for the next month.

We'll start a second round of review shortly (this is sort of a "double check" for us), then we start printing, folding, and stuffing envelopes. I know it feels like you've been waiting forever, but decision letters will be making their way to your mailbox soon*!

*By soon, I mean that April 1st will be here before you know it. I still don't see us being done with the process early. As I've always promised, the moment I have a solid idea of when we'll be mailing, I'll post an update here.

A new tradition

I enjoyed our music chat so much that I thought we'd start a new tradition. Monday through Friday, this blog will focus on the applications. On the weekend, we'll chat about something fun: Charlottesville's music, food, special events, shopping, etc. So, if you catch yourself worrying about your application and visit this blog, you'll have a gentle reminder to relax and to try and think about something fun for a little while.

Sound good? I have ideas for the next few weekends, but I hope some of you will suggest topics as well.

Privacy on the internet, a "quaint" idea

As I started reading yet another article about kids and their penchant for posting personal information on the internet, I came across a comment that made me realize that despite being young enough for visitors to ask what year I am in school once in a while, I am a fuddy duddy.

Consider these two points made by Emily Nussbaum, the author:

Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion.

So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones. For someone like me, who grew up sealing my diary with a literal lock, this may be tough to accept. But under current circumstances, a defiant belief in holding things close to your chest might not be high-minded. It might be an artifact—quaint and naive...


I read the article after hearing about two cases of what I would call internet overexposure: an American Idol contestant's racy pictures being all over the internet and six University of Colorado football players being dismissed from their team for photos they posted on Facebook.

My reaction after reading the first story was of shock. Why would a college student (the Idol contestant goes to Catholic University) with aspirations to be in the public spotlight allow what I assume are compromising photos (I haven't seen them yet) to be taken? Now, I realize that the young woman involved might not consider the photos "compromising".

As for the football players, if Nussbaum is right, they see nothing wrong with the photos they posted and are completely blindsided by getting kicked off their team.

If we're witnessing the evolution of the way we use the internet, I wonder what's next?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's "Let's not talk about college admission" day (or weekend)!

I've decided that we all need a break. The constant worrying about a process that isn't going to be complete for another month is unhealthy. I looked to my blogging colleagues at other schools to see if I could lift an off-topic of discussion for today's post. Dan at Hopkins wrote about The Oscars, but to be frank, I'm not a big fan of award shows. Libby at Chicago wrote about their last blanket of snow, but unfortunately for this northerner, the snow we got on Valentine's Day is long gone and it's around 60 degrees today. I thought about asking "What's your passion?", but while that question was fresh five years ago, it's a little predictable these days.

When I want to relax and think about something other than the task at hand, I turn to music. I imagine there are many of you out there who do the same. So, tell me what's on your playlist. What concerts are you looking forward to seeing this summer? What band's videos do you find yourself watching on Youtube? Is there a genre you don't "get"? Don't just stick to my questions. Let's see where this conversation goes.

I'm going to answer my own questions, but I'll let a few of you start.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

ED defer review underway

We're still reviewing some regular decision applicants that were late to complete their files, but we've started to revisit the early decision defers. Unfortunately, 434 of the deferred students did not submit mid-year grades (the deadline to submit them was February 15th). Though we'll chase as many of you as we can, there will be a point when we make decisions with what we have. Please don't go running to your guidance office about this. The mid-year grade report was to be submitted by the applicant. While we happily take updated transcripts from the schools, there's no reason to ask your guidance office to mail something out this late.

If you receive an email or call from a dean asking for your mid-year grades, please respond immediately. Filling out the online form won't do at this point, since it will need processing and filing, which takes some time and we don't want to be delayed any longer. Believe me when I say that we want to get these decisions done and out to you!

One of my colleagues suggested that I remind you that the admit rate for ED defers is very low because we often get no new information at mid-year. If we don't have an update, we don't really have any reason to change the previous decision.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Darden's Luckiest Student

The suspense is killing me!

The folks at Darden, our graduate school of business, used an anonymous gift as an opportunity to teach students about risk taking. A random process selected one Darden first year to participate in a "Deal or No Deal" exercise of sorts. The student would be presented with two suitcases: one with $17,500 in it (tuition) and one with nothing in it. The student could select a suitcase or opt to get a pay off of sorts from "a banker", but the amount of that pay off would be unknown.

You can watch the early rounds of the selection process on the Darden website. I couldn't tune in for the live webcast this morning, so I don't know what happened in the end! I've checked the one Darden blog I know (even the one written in Japanese), but there's no mention of the result yet.

Update: The local paper has the result. He went for the suitcases and he picked the empty one.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Letter frenzy

I've managed to carve a path to my laptop through all the application files and thought I'd check in. We're still reading applications, as many waited until the very last minute to send us mid-year grades. Just a general note about deadlines: don't ever feel like you can't submit something well in advance of the deadline. It really makes things easier if credentials and correspondence comes in a steady stream instead of a deluge. When decision letters go out, if you know you're coming to UVA, send that reply card in.

Now, on to the title topic. Around this time, we start mailing and calling some of our applicants. Let's not dance around this one: if you get a letter that says we're impressed by your application, that is a "Likely Letter" and you can be reasonably sure that you'll have a congratulatory letter in your mailbox in late March/early April. We send these letters out in waves, so if you don't have one, don't assume that you will not be admitted. We haven't made final decisions at this time. More letters will be sent in a few weeks.

Also at this time, UVa students have started calling applicants to talk to them about the Echols Scholars Program. We haven't completed our selection process for Echols or Rodman Scholars at this time, so don't assume that the absence of a call is a sign.

Hang in there, everyone! We're reading as fast as we can!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Know your essay topic (or pretend you do)

As I read countless essays about 1984, Farenheit 451, Eli Weisel's Night, and other books that "surprised, challenged or unsettled" applicants this year, I sometimes crave a little variety. Inevitably, that's when I'll come across an essay about a song that surprised, challenged or unsettled an applicant. I usually dive into these essays, grateful for some variety. Every once in a while, as these essays glide smoothly along, there's a derailment. Thinking back to one of these moments, I remember reading that John Lennon sang "Yesterday" (it was McCartney). Is this a big deal? In the long run, no. But it's one of those things that sticks in our minds...that applicant will always be the one who thought Lennon sang "Yesterday".

After you write your essay, step away from it for a few days. Look at it again and take on the role of fact checker. Cross check those details!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It begins again...a word about notification

I just got my first phone call from someone concerned that they hadn't heard about their decision yet.

It's only been three weeks and the notification date is published in many places as April 1st.

With almost 18,000 applications (20,000 if you count transfer applications), I'm fairly certain notification will not come early this year. Of course, I'll post an update when we have a mail date confirmed, but that won't be for at least a month an a half.

For those forward thinking ten year olds out there

I once read a letter from a ten year old, I think his name was Carter, who was begging for the opportunity to start college early because he was super smart and had run out of challenges. It was very sweet, promising to take up very little room and stay out of trouble. Carter's father wrote a post script, telling us he had promised to mail the letter for Carter, who was soaking up more information than they could give him, but that he wasn't ready to ship his ten year old off to college.

I imagine there are plenty of Carters out there, fantasizing about the challenges that await them in college. I'm pleased to report that the Web Communications Office has developed a website just for kids who are thinking about their future (or maybe just doing a report on UVA or Thomas Jefferson). The site isn't official yet, but a preview can be seen on the staging website now.

I have to say that I like this idea. I get nervous for students who show up for info sessions prior to their sophomore year (even that used to be considered early). The UVA kids' page seems to be a way to get younger students excited about the idea of college and UVA, but doesn't include stress inducing information about admission rates and standardized testing. Best of all, there's a page that lists the different camps and programs for kids that happen at The University.

The University's new website will go live shortly, along with this one.

UPDATE: The new UVA website is up and running. As promised, the redesign includes a UVA Kids page and links to the various summer programs for younger students. The parents' page has more useful information about enrichment programs for the little ones.