For new readers...

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

There's a decade of posts here, so the search box can help find an answer to common questions. Pick a name, real or otherwise, if posting a comment.
Please link to the specific post if referencing what is written here elsewhere.

Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Demonstrating Interest in UVa

Did you ever have a pen pal? I had one in fourth grade. Her name was Lorelei and she lived in Terre Haute, Indiana. I imagine my teacher and hers were old friends and decided to expand our horizons by connecting students from very different areas. Lorelei made life in the Midwest seem lovely and I'm sure I made in the suburbs of a major eastern city sound exciting. In time, we lost touch, as many pen pals do.

This summer, I have a veritable flock of pen pals. It seems that several students want to keep me updated about what the summer has been like for them. I've heard about summer reading, jobs, and even a few trips to exotic locations like Long Beach Island. One student started her first email to me with a note about how her counselor told her that it's very important that admission officers get to know her as a person and not as a student.


Of course it's fun to get to know our applicants, just like it was fun getting to know what life was like for Lorelei in Terre Haute. As a UVa admission officer, I'm more concerned with answering questions than with getting updates about how the summer is going. By all means, reach out to us if you need help finding answers to your questions, but emailing for sake of putting your name in front of us is not going to do anything to improve your admission chances.


I think there's a two part issue here. Generally, this is what I think is going on:

1. People think all schools use demonstrated interest.
UVa does not use demonstrated interest in the application review process. When I read a file, I don't know if a student has visited us, called with questions, attended an evening program in their community, or got out of class to see one of us when we visited their high school. The period prior to submitting an application is for the applicant to gather information. While we obviously keep track of who attends events, this is more about assessing our activity than about your candidacy.

On our contact page, right over the list of admission officers and our email addresses, there is a line that says we do not use demonstrated interest. I just went in and put it in bold because some people seem to be missing it.
 
2. Students don't know what demonstrates interest in a school.
It is totally fine to ask an admission officer if they are using interest and what they consider a good way to show it. Many come right out and say what they value: a campus visit. You can demonstrate your interest in UVa by submitting an application. That's it. At this point, frequent emails, especially when they contain no questions or questions that are easily answered by a Google search, probably aren't going to impress admission officers.



I hope you can take a little time to relax and enjoy your summer without getting too worried about the admission process.  The Common App doesn't launch for another week, but if you want to do a little thinking about your application, you can always check out our application essays, which I posted back in June.

CavDog at the lake just north of town

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Getting College Search Advice

I'm using a comment left by "GFK" as the jumping off point for this post.

I found this blog through a search (after reading a New York Times oped about admissions essays and feeling hopeless about advising our child on this topic) and have spent the entire weekend reading it almost in its entirety. This is the most incredible college admissions resource we have encountered. Living in Fairfax Country, there is no shortage of advice about the admissions process and it is hard to separate truth from fiction.

I realize that this blog is specific to UVA and though much of the information is applicable to the process overall, I wonder if you might share some advice for those of us who are hearing admissions information from all kinds of "insiders" right now.
First of all, I'm thrilled that GFK is asking about this. When you first start getting information in the college search, you read, you ponder, you share. It all seems like great stuff. As the information pours in, you might get overwhelmed.

GFK is in an areas where the public (and most of the private) schools have excellent College and Career Centers. The Career Center Specialists and guidance counselors should be your first stop for general information about the college search. Those folks will also be able to share some tools for narrowing all the options down. They often have historical data about your school population and many different colleges and universities. If you know what a scattergram is, you know the one of the most popular resources out there. Of course, scattergrams don't tell you absolutes, but they can give you some basic information. 

We talk to counselors and career center specialists fairly regularly. Even the career center specialist I know who worked in admission for years will call or email to verify information. Things are always changing, so the policy or practice that was in place three years ago may have shifted. I tend to have a mental list of things to tell my counselor/career center friends when I visit them in the fall so they know about what's new or different at UVa that year.

If your counselors have huge case loads or feel like you aren't getting enough information about the schools that interest you from the resources available to you online at at your school, contact the admission offices with your questions. This seems like a no-brainer to some, but others seem to feel either nervous about calling us or have convinced themselves that we are suspicious folks who can't be consulted. Until I move into the reading season, my job is to make sure students have the information they need to decide if they should submit an application (more on this in a future post...I have a lot to say!).

You've probably encountered well meaning folks who want to help by sharing their observations of the admission process or experiences they've had helping past students through the process. There's a different between being an observer and being an "insider" (to use GFK's term). Again, remember that schools and practices evolve, so what someone observed about the process in the past (when their child applied, for example) may not be relevant today. Admission officers are happy to talk to you by phone, email, or via social media. Reach out to us if you'd like to get current information.