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

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Essay Advice for UVA School of Engineering Applicants

My serious of posts with essay advice for the specific colleges at UVA continues. Last time, I covered the College of Arts and Sciences. Today, I'm addressing the essay for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you do?


Here are three pieces of advice for those who are going to be responding to this prompt.

1. Small is a key word.
Years ago, this question took on a different form and this question asked students to describe a project they'd do with a "limited budget." The enthusiasm in the essays was fantastic, but the projects were a little over the top. Solar panels for everyone! Purify all the water!

It's great to aspire to use engineering to solve big problems, but for this essay, we'd like you to look for an everyday problem that needs a solution that can be found through engineering.

2. Think outside your box.
Many students seem interested in addressing their own time management issues or sleep deprivation in their essays. Reminder apps or alarm clocks that turn on the shower for you have been popular ideas (don't use those...they've been done!). We'd like to see you turn outward with your problem solving. We added the "friend or family member" part to the question this year to help make that happen.

3. Be creative!
I can't tell you how many essays I've read about things that already exist while reviewing engineering applications (iRobot created the Roomba almost 15 years ago, so no more robot vacuums, please).  I've also read about using the funding to pay other people to do something. Show us that you have that innovative streak and have an eye for problem solving in your essay!


One more thing I have to say: don't be intimidated. We aren't expecting anyone to actually know how they would prototype, build, or finance their idea.


Good luck, future engineers! These are my favorite essays to read and I hope the information above makes writing them a little less scary. As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

In honor of Orientation Season, here are some 2015 OLs with CavDog and Jack. :)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Heads up: Order Test Scores Well In Advance of Deadlines

I started writing posts about the timing of test scores a few years ago. The posts always seemed most appropriate for October, a few weeks before the first application deadline (our Early Action deadline is November 1). A colleague told me something she learned on a conference call a couple weeks ago that made me think a summer post was more appropriate. Seeing the info repeated on the SAT website confirms the move.


Be sure to send your scores well before the deadline. The SAT is saying it could take them longer to deliver scores from the Fall 2016 test dates. The last recommended test dates have always been the month before the application deadline. Be sure to use your free reports to make sure scores get to us before the deadlines.


From the SAT website:

We built our system to automatically select the best scores from each section of the SAT. When we open a file, we don't see all of the scores the student has submitted, we just see the best ones. So, there is no need to wait to see your scores and then spend money sending just your best ones to us. Use those free reports!
 



In case you are wondering about ACT score delivery:



Friday, July 15, 2016

Essay Advice for UVA College of Arts and Sciences Applicants

It feels like there is so much college application essay advice out there and there isn't a real need for me to add more, but the questions we're hearing from callers and visitors have me thinking I'm wrong. So I thought I'd add some more thoughts to the essay conversation (you can see past posts by hitting the "essays" tag at the end of this post). I'm going to break the advice up, so come back next week for posts for the specialty schools. First up, the College of Arts and Sciences.


 What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
 
This prompt is a bit of a tradition here and students in the College can often remember the work they used when they wrote their response. Most of us in admission can cite the most interesting responses we've read and rattle off the ones that fell flat. Here are some ideas to consider if you'll be writing the College essay this year.

1. The phrase "work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature" in the prompt is deliberately broad. Go in whatever direction feels right for you!

2. Make sure your choice isn't forced, since authenticity comes through pretty clearly in writing. Some students seem to look to the reading list for their English class for inspiration, which means we read a lot of essays that sound like assignments. Be careful about that!

3.We want to learn about growth. Some students spend a lot of time summarizing plot or describing their work and the "in what way" part of the essay winds up being one sentence. The part that is about you is the most important part. If you feel you need to include a description, make it one or two lines. Remember that admission offices have Google, too, so if we feel we need to hear the song or see the work of art, we'll look it up. The majority of the essay should be about your response and reaction to the work. How did it affect or change you?


Are you applying to the College? What questions do you have about the College essay prompt?

Jack's favorite work of art is Jack Blackburn's portrait!