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

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Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sending Resumes, Research, and Writing Supplements to #UVA

When you hit submit on your Common App, I think you should feel proud of yourself. You've done the bulk of your job related to the UVA application and now you have to wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place*. Unfortunately, there are people who are trying to tell students that the Common App is the first of many things they have to send us. Below, I'll go over the things you may have been told to send us and why you don't have to worry about them. In a nutshell, colleges ask for what they need to complete their review. If the admission office didn't ask for it, you shouldn't worry about sending it.

Please don't spend your money on stuff like this.

1. Resumes

The Common App allows each college to turn the resume function of the app on or off. It is OFF for UVA. UVA does not accept resumes. The Common App presents information in a systematic format, which allows us to zero in on pertinent information quickly. You don't need to make more work for yourself. Follow our instructions and use the Common App to share information in a concise way.

2. Outside Recommendations

We require one recommendation from your counselor and one from a teacher of your choice. We are looking for insight into your style in the academic environment. People who have never taught you can't speak to your learning style or how you work in a classroom situation. Also, those people tend to think they need to summarize facts (hours worked, tasks performed). Repetitive information isn't helpful.

Some people want to send recs from faculty they met at conferences or special programs. Consider how long these people have known you. I recently saw a recommendation letter that started by saying the writer knew the students for nine days. Your teachers and counselors have a little more familiarity with you.

The required academic recommendations are perfect! Don't worry about sending extras!

3. Research Abstracts

It's great to tell us about research, but don't send us an abstract. A line or two summarizing what you did is great. A paper is over the top and not useful. In fact, if you send us a paper full of jargon, you're increasing the chances that the gist of the work won't be clear. I promise we will be impressed regardless!

4. Writing Portfolios

We get three pieces of polished writing in your application. The Common App has a long essay and the UVA screen/tab has two short-answer prompts. That's plenty of writing for us. We don't accept portfolios.

5. Copies of Certificates

You sign off on our Honor Code when you apply and promise that the information in your application is accurate. We don't need a copy of a certificate to believe that you are a member of a certain organization or received an award for something. Leave those papers in the baby book or that folder where you stick important stuff.

6. Newspaper Clippings or Pictures of You Doing Something

Anyone who was on the staff of a literary magazine, newspaper, or yearbook is proud of their work. It's best to keep copies for yourself and your family. The same goes with photos (even the adorable baby-on-the-UVA-Lawn photos). They belong in a safe place at home, not in a college application.




We try to make this clear on out website with a statement above our email addresses:



 Again, colleges ask for the things they need to make their decisions. If we don't ask for it, we don't want you to spend time (or money) on it. Further, to make this process fair, we are specific about what we review for each candidate. We accept the Common App and supplements that fit the criteria for arts and architecture supplements. That's it. So when you hit submit, it's time to move on to monitoring your status. You don't need to spend time and money crafting extra items to send us.




*Be sure to read the "After You Submit" part of our application instructions. We explain that it can take several weeks for all the components of your application to meet up in our system, so don't panic if there are items on your "to do" list initially.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Early Action vs Regular Decision at #UVA

I've been Northern Virginia and New Jersey for the last week, making high school visits and attending some evening fairs. With the Early Action deadline looming, many students are feeling pressure to get some college applications submitted. Early Action isn't always the best route, though. Let's talk about how to decide between Early Action and Regular Decision at UVA.

Keep in mind:

1. We have the same review process during Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD).
2. Interest isn't a factor (this is non-binding EA, after all), so an early application is not seen as a statement about your intent to enroll at UVA.
3. The results of an early application could be admission, denial, or deferral.

Successful Early Action applicants usually have transcripts that show consistently strong work across the core subjects. My suggestion is to look at your final report card from 9th, 10th, and 11th grades side-by-side. If you can say that your program builds nicely and your grades are consistent, Early Action might make sense for you. Of course, having time to write well-crafted essays is a consideration and you have to have given your counselor/teacher plenty of time to write wonderful recommendation letters!

Regular decision would be best for a student who needs more time to complete a thoughtful application or for whom one fall semester grades would be very helpful. There are so many scenarios where RD makes more sense then EA - rebounding grades, school changes, and the list goes on.

Early Action = transcript shows 9th-11th grade work and senior courses
Regular Decision = transcript shows 9th-11th grade work and fall grades in senior courses

This is an area where there is definitely some conflicting advice. For UVA, you need to submit your application at a strong point.

 As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments,

Eager to start the reading season!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Does #UVA Look for Consistency in Extracurricular Activities?

One of my colleagues spoke with a parent the other day who mentioned that her child was reluctantly continuing with a particular activity because someone told him colleges want to see consistency in activities. I'd like to share my thoughts on extracurricular activities.

We want students who will contribute in our community during their time at UVA. There are many ways and venues in which to make a contribution - through work in the classroom, research, at a job, in student organizations (we call them CIOs here), in the residence hall, around Charlottesville, etc.  The simple question that is in the back of my mind as I read a student's file is "will this student contribute in some way?"

1.  We don't value certain activities over others.

There are over 900 student organizations at UVA. All of those CIOs make UVA the interesting, innovative, and fun place that it is. Whether you are involved in the most popular club at your school or the most obscure one, we'll be happy that you are making a difference in some facet of your school community.

2. We don't expect you to fill out the entire Common App activity chart.

Most students aren't significantly involved in enough activities to fill every line of the activity chart. This isn't about who has the longest list, it's about understanding where a student spends their time outside of the classroom. The length of your list is not a factor in our review.


3. You don't have to show consistency.

If you are one of the lucky students who found an activity you love early on and have maintained involvement in it throughout high school, that's wonderful! If your interests have evolved over time, you are totally normal! You're a teenager and you are allowed to change your mind about your activities. Please don't apologize if your activities haven't been long-term.

It's fine if your activity list shortens a little bit in junior and/or senior year. As academic responsibilities increase, it makes sense to reshuffled your priorities and let one or two activities fall by the wayside. If you don't have to do this in high school, you'll certainly have to do it in college. Most first-years sign up for a few too many CIOs and realize about a month into school that they have to cut back!



The tl;dr: If you have something to put down in the activity section, we'll be happy.


Jack's activity list: looking cute and greeting visitors

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Picking a School and Academic Interest on the #UVA Application

Spending time in my Virginia territory always gives me a read on what the big concerns are for the year's applicants. I gave 21 presentations at Fairfax high schools last week and sat on a panel at one evening program. Far and away, the most common questions I heard were about picking a major.

Applicants to UVA can enter through one of four schools or one academic program. The options are:

College of Arts & Sciences
School of Engineering
School of Architecture
School of Nursing
Kinesiology
Students do not declare majors in Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and Architecture when they apply. The only students who are really entering directly into a program are the Nursing and Kinesiology students. Last year, there were 75 first years in Nursing and 49 in Kinesiology. In the class of 3,683 students, 3,559 have yet to declare a major.

Students in the College of Arts & Sciences declare majors by the end of their second year and students in Engineering and Architecture declare at the end of theor first year. Engineering and Architecture expose students to all of their options (10 majors in Engineering, 3 in Architecture) before they declare at the end of the first year. Once they arrive at UVA, students can also explore the Curry School of Education, McIntire School of Commerce, and Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

You aren't making a permanent decision with your choice of school and academic interest on the UVA application. Please don't stress out about this! Pick the area that feels like the right jumping off point in light of your current interests. Very few students actually have an academic plan right now and those who have plans probably won't follow them exactly!


Interests evolve...that's normal!