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

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Monday, December 18, 2017

On Grit, Passion, and Perseverence

I remember arriving at my first graduate school class ready for the most interesting discussions of my [short] academic life. It was a class about research methods during the summer session. I had walked for my college degree just two weeks prior and I was the lone new student in the class since most of my classmates had started the program the previous fall. I was energized and ready to go.

That first class was a blur, not because it was amazing, but because it was horrifying. I couldn't understand a lot of what my classmates were saying. I had read the first couple chapters of the text in my excitement to start my program, but it didn't matter. They were speaking a vernacular full of education buzzwords that I didn't know yet. My excitement dissolved and I dreaded going to that class for weeks as I struggled to adjust to the way people were talking.

I've been a little sensitive to buzzwords and lingo that fly around when people talk about college admission because of that confusing experience in grad school. I try to be simple and clear when I write about our process so  Right now, it seems like people in admission are talking a lot about grit, passion, and perseverance.

If today's buzzwords apply to you, that's great. If you don't think grit applies to you, haven't found a passion, or didn't persevere over a big obstacle, I don't want you to worry. Just because those words are popular right now doesn't mean those are the only things that colleges value.

At UVA, our first year class has about 3,700 students with interesting backgrounds and stories. We don't change our review based on the hot words of the moment. In fact, I have only heard someone say "grit" once or twice so far during our Early Action review. There's room for all kinds of students at the table here.