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Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

How Applying for Aid Affects Your UVa Application

During my visit to TJHSST (a high school in Fairfax County) today, a student asked about how changes to AccessUVa will affect our applicants. If you weren't aware, AccessUVa is the financial aid program that guarantees that the school will meet 100% of the need that's demonstrated by the financial aid forms. Talk about possible changes in the program have been happening for years.

While I was talking to the group, I realized that I haven't addressed how applying for aid affects an application on this blog. The short answer: applying for aid doesn't affect how we review your application.

When we're reading files. We aren't able to see any of the financial aid documents an applicant has filed. Those documents are between you and the folks in Student Financial Services. We are need blind in the Office of Admission. This is why I don't field questions about aid on this blog. Those questions are best answered by SFS.


Monday, September 23, 2013

On the Road in NOVA, Week 1

It's time for me to bounce between Charlottesville and Northern Virginia like a ping pong ball. I'll be in Fairfax for two weeks and Loudoun for one week over the next month. Two other admission officers will be spending time in NOVA and I think we'll have someone in every public high school in Fairfax, Arlington, and Loudoun (and many of the private schools).

Our databases emailed every student from the schools on my list who are also on the UVa mailing list. If you aren't on our mailing list and want to come to the visit at your school, I'm sure you know to register with your Career Center.

Here's where I'll be this week:

Monday, September 23rd
Flint Hill School
Pope Paul VI
Centreville High School

Tuesday, September 24th
Woodson High School
Oakton High School
Fairfax High School
James Madison High School

Wednesday, September 25th
Annandale High School
Lake Braddock High School
Robinson Secondary School
TJHSST
Falls Church High School (Senior Night)

Thursday, September 26th
Langley High School
McLean High School
JEB Stuart High School
Falls Church High School

Friday, September 27th
George Mason High School
Chantilly High School
Westfield High School

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's Life REALLY Like at UVa?

A tip of the hat this morning to Josh Bland, a 2013 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, who meticulously documented his last year on the UVa Grounds last year for our enjoyment. Josh took pictures or videos every single day of the year and turned all that footage into an incredible video.

There are simple moments showing Josh and friends studying or playing on the Lawn and more momentous shots of major events on Grounds.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Kinds of Supplements Should You Send to UVa?

Colleges ask students to submit the things they'd like to receive in an application. Everyone lays out their requirements somewhere. On the UVa website, we have a little chart that lists all the different components of an application with deadlines for the different kinds of applicants (btw, if you use an old version of IE, the chart comes out a little wonky...I'm not sure why). We also have a page that explains the different supplements that some students might opt to submit if they are interested in the arts or architecture. If you aren't submitting an art supplement or architecture portfolio, just focus on filling out the Common App.

Over the years, more and more people have taken to submitting extra items that don't fit into the parameters of the art and architecture supplements. I think the assumption is that either the Common App, long though it may be, doesn't provide enough information or that the exceptional student must go to extraordinary lengths to convey their awesomeness.
For UVa, you really don't need to submit extras with your application. Sure, now and then, there's an extra recommendation that tells us something that didn't come through in other components. We'll definitely read those if you send them. Outside of that, we think you should focus on completing the Common App instead of chasing down supplemental items.


By the way, did you know what we have a special place for anything that comes in that doesn't fit into the application? It's called the "Not Art Supplements" bin. We don't look at the things that go into that bin. It'd probably be a lot of fun to go through those bins, but with 29,000 applications to review in just a few months, we don't really have time for that.


The good news is that if you are a busy high school student with many commitments on your plate, you don't have to spend time crafting elaborate application documents. The required credentials are exactly what we need for our review.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

24 Hours in the Life of an Admission Officer

The whirlwind that is group travel is about to end for me. We have several trips with other schools (called consortium or group travel).  I've been covering the northeast swing for about seven years at UVa. This year, I'm visiting Boston (really Bedford, MA), Portland, Providence, Stamford, and Fort Lee (NJ). I grew up in the NYC area and spent 10 years in New England, so this trip always feels like a trip home...a very rushed trip home.

When we tell people about these trips, they often think we must have such a fabulous time. While we definitely enjoy much of the work we do, I don't think I'd consider it fabulous. Since readers seem to have loved the "behind the scenes" posts on Notes from Peabody over the years, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into the life an admission officer on the road.

Wednesday
5:55 AM
The alarm goes off and I wake up not really knowing where I am or what day it is. Every Marriott looks almost identical and when you check out of your hotel every morning to move to a new city, it can take a few minutes to figure out where you are on your itinerary. I slowly realize that it's Wednesday, so that means I'm in Providence, Rhode Island.

Two of my travel partners work out in the morning, but I take a few minutes to do a little writing, get ready for the morning's event, and pack my bag so I'm ready to check out quickly later.

Is this Providence or Portland?

6:45 AM
I arrive at the meeting room we'll be using for breakfast. We're hosting guidance counselors from schools in Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut this morning. Coffee isn't ready, but a staff member covering our breakfast brings me a mug right away. I love the Marriott in Providence. They're always so good to us.

 Coffee is a constant part of the day.

7:00 AM
Counselors start to trickle in and we talk about the evening program we held the night before in the large ballroom down the hall. For some reason, we had a larger crowd than we've ever seen in Providence. We hypothesize about why this year might be different.

8:00 AM
We start the formal part of our program. We each discuss new developments on our campuses and then field questions from the counselors.

9:00 AM
The counselors have to get back to school, so the breakfast ends. We all head to our rooms to pack and check out. The drive to Stamford will take 1.5-2 hours, depending on how the traffic is on I-95, so we debate spending a little more time in Providence. Since I lived in this city for a while, I suggest we head over to Federal Hill (the Italian section of town) for canoli and coffee. It's a beautiful day, so we can sit outside in DePasquale Square. It's a nice change from being cooped up in hotels.

Federal Hill...a little bit of Italy in Providence.

11:30 AM
While on the road to Stamford, I research a place for us to grab some lunch. I feel pretty strongly about eating properly on these consortium trips. Some groups might stop for fast food or a mediocre, rushed lunch at a chain spot on the highway, but I think it's important to eat well and patronize local restaurants along the way. Because I lived in many of these areas (one of my colleagues jokes that we are touring my former homes), the pressure is on to pick a good place for lunch.

1:30 PM
After a quick stop at Remo's in downtown Stamford for pizza (when I get close to NYC, I have to get some pizza), we check into the Stamford Marriott. Thank goodness they have rooms available for us even though we have arrived before check in. We're all exhausted and need naps.

3:30 PM
I close my laptop and vow to get at least a quick nap before it's time to get ready for our evening program.

4:15 PM
My colleague from Berkeley realizes that the room in which we'll hold our evening program wasn't set up with enough chairs to accommodate our crowd, so he works with the event staff to increase the room's capacity and get more AV set up.

6:30 PM
The first families being to arrive for our 7:30 PM presentation. We also realize that there's going to be an event in the room next to our ballroom and we might have to compete with their sound system.

7:40 PM
Our evening program was supposed to start at 7:30 PM and people are still streaming into the room. Two recent UVa graduates have arrived to help us and they cover the registration table so my colleagues and I can get the program going.

8:10 PM
The event next door sounds like a pep rally for some sort of sales force. I see how high I can push the volume up on the soundboard in our room without getting that dreaded feedback. I hope people can hear my colleague from Emory.

8:45 PM
We finish answering group questions and go to our tables to talk to families who didn't want to ask their questions in front of the group. The crowd in Stamford has great questions and my alumni volunteers are pretty popular.

Most of the people leave fairly quickly, but a few linger to ask questions. We start eying the clock around 9:30 PM because we haven't eaten dinner and most hotel restaurants close at 10 PM.

9:45 PM
We get out of the ballroom and race to the restaurant. It's closed! We panic, but one of the staff members says he'll take care of us. We eat dinner in the empty restaurant and wonder why people aren't taking as many brochures as in years past. We're all lugging massive boxes of materials and don't want to fly home with them. We hope that the good people of New Jersey will gobble up the rest of our brochures tomorrow.

11:00 PM
We finally head to our rooms. I check my phone and see that I've gotten a message from home.


The alarm goes off again at 5:55 AM on Thursday.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How UVa Uses Demonstrated Interest

Many years ago, I experienced a college fair unlike any I had experienced before. My experience at that fair has become sadly common.

The college fair was organized by a consortium of private schools in a nearby state. It was a massive fair, held in the field house of a college. I set up my table, found the refreshments too late to have anything to eat (and kicked myself for not stopping somewhere on the way), and watched as crowds of attendees gathered outside the doors of the building. In my mind, the opening of the doors had a similar sound to the opening of the gates at a horse race. The doors opened, the crowd poured in, and the massive space was immediately filled with noise. Then the thing that made this fair so unusual happened.

A receiving line formed at my table. One after another, students stepped forward, stuck an arm out to shake hands, and simply said "Hi, my name is ___ ___." I'd reply "Nice to meet you, I'm Dean J. Do you have any questions?" The answer was almost always "no." It was a long fair. There were times when I wondered why I was there. Those 15 second exchanges weren't helpful to anyone.

I left that fair so confused. Looking back, I wonder if that was my first experience with something that has become almost ubiquitous. People assume that demonstrated interest matters. Everywhere. Some folks think that if they can just get some "face time," they will be in a better position later in the process. In reality, the names of the students at that fair fell out of my head the moment they stepped away from my table.

Today, we have students doing all sorts of things to put their name in front of us before they apply. They send emails that either contain questions easily answered on our website ("Is it true that I can't apply to McIntire until my 2nd year?") or no questions at all. They reply to the mass email that alerts them to programs in their area. They send thank you notes for tours.


We don't use demonstrated interest in our application review. The message doesn't seem to be getting through, so I put it on the "Contact" page on the Office of Admission website:

In my mind, your application is how you demonstrate your interest. When you visit us for a tour and information session or come to see us at your high school or a hotel program, you are gathering information about us. We are not making an assessment about you as a candidate.

Monday, September 09, 2013

On the Road in the Northeast

Greetings from Boston! I'm writing to you from my hotel in Bedford (a hotel I never knew existed in my 10 years of living here) as I get ready for a breakfast with local guidance and college counselors. I'm traveling with colleagues from UC Berkeley, Hopkins, and Emory and it's a bit of a reunion. This group has traveled together for several years.

Here's what the room looked like last night at our program here:

(photo taken by my colleague from Berkeley)

The schedule for the rest of the week:
Monday, September 9 - Portland, ME
Tuesday, September 10 - Providence, RI
Wednesday, September 11 - Stamford, CT
Thursday, September 12 - Fort Lee, NJ

If you're in the area and are on the mailing list for any of our schools, you got an invitation to the program. At this point, our sessions in Stamford, CT and Fort Lee, NJ are full, but there's still room for folks to join us in Portland, ME and Providence, RI. You can get RSVP information (and information about other evening programs around the world) on our UVa Visits You page.

You can follow along as we travel via my Instagram account.

CavDog is represented on the road by my luggage tag.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

UVa Admission Quotas for Northern Virginia

If you ever want to fire an admission officer up, mention the word "quota." Back in 2010, I wrote a post in which I said we bristle at the word and I still think that's valid.

Every admission officer I know bristles at the mention of the word "quota". Maybe we hate it because it implies that we don't have control over our processes and that we are slaves to demographics while we read applications. During every Q&A session, every College Night panel, and every phone call, I think we all brace ourselves for that word, which usually comes in a sentence that starts with "We heard that UVa..." and ends with the name of a county or a region.
The one statistic that governs our process is that two-thirds of the students at UVa must have Virginia residency. One-third may come from out-of-state (commonly referred to as OOS). Beyond that, there are no restrictions on how many students we can take from a school, town, county, or region.

Rumors about quotas are particularly pervasive in densely populated areas. People worry that they are at a disadvantage because they are in NOVA or Richmond or at the beach. Those areas have lots of great students and we admit a lot of them. 

Year after year, when I talk to families from Northern Virginia (or read college admission discussions online), I find that someone has declared themselves an expert on our process and tells anyone who will listen that UVa has a quota for NOVA as a region or for individual schools in the area. This stuff never comes for someone who has worked in our office. Oftentimes, that person has never worked in any college admission office or a high school's guidance office or career center. They are wrong.


I'd be the first in line to rally against a NOVA quote if we had one. After all, I've been covering the region for a long time. I visit high schools in Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Loudoun every year (I'm well aware that the definition of "NOVA" now includes more areas, but others travel to those areas). I love those schools. They have amazing counseling staffs, the most amazing resource in those wonderful Career Center Specialists, and fantastic students.


CavDog is bored of quota talk.

If you want to dig around in more admission statistics, check out the Office of Institutional Assessment's website. They are the official statisticians of the University. Remember that the statistics are the result of the process. We don't walk into the year with targets beyond that 2/3 : 1/3 ratio.