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

Three notes:
1. There's fifteen years of posts here, so the search box can help find an answer to common questions, but please consider the age of the posts when you find them. The college admission process changes over time!

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3. Pick a name, real or otherwise, if posting a comment.

Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Curve Balls and the Tricky #UVA Application Instructions

I got forwarded an email the other day that contained an independent education consultant's advice for answering the school-specific writing prompt for UVA. It said that our College of Arts and Sciences prompt was actually asking the student to talk about why UVA was the school for them. The tone of the advice was that our essay prompts are tricky and students should approach them as curve balls that mean something other than what they say.

Plenty of schools use a "why us" prompt on their applications. If we wanted you to write that kind of essay, we'd ask for it. We do not want "why UVA" essays. Don't use the limited space you get for your responses to talk about UVA. After all, we know UVA is awesome - we're here! What we don't know yet is about how awesome you are. We want to get to know you, not read about why you like us.

Now, let me address the larger point: We strive to be clear and helpful with our instructions and prompts. We WANT to get applications that fulfill our needs, which is why I constantly implore students to read the application instructions on our website before applying. If a third party tries to tell you that we want something other than what we say, ignore them. If someone says they get into UVA because they submitted something we didn't ask for, they are wrong. They simply made the application more cumbersome for themselves and for us. 

If you have questions about the application instructions, please reach out to us for clarification. We are happy to help you! When we get lots of questions about the same thing, that helps us update our instructions, too. 

We are here to help, not throw curve balls!

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Why Early Admission Statistics Shouldn't Determine When You Apply to UVA

Students and parents often ask for admission rates for our early and regular rounds of admission as they try to decide which application option is most advantageous. While I have shared admission statistics for years on this blog (here are past statistics posts), I am always hesitant to cite them without an explanation of why the admission rate of the different rounds shouldn't drive the decision to submit an application in the fall versus the winter.

We review the applications the exact same way throughout the entire application season. The admission rates are telling you about the strength of the different pools at UVA, not about a different style of application review.

A lot of people also look to test scores to tell them about the competitiveness of the admission process. I've written so many posts about testing over the years that helps explain why that's not the best idea, but another one is coming, but our early and regular pools have had pretty similar testing. What can't be conveyed in statistics: strength, consistency, and breadth of work in core subjects, recommendations, and essays. What's more, a good portion of our class won't submit testing this year because we are test optional.

My advice: Submit when you can share your very best application with us. Some students have had time to put together an application they can be proud of in the fall and others will be better off with a little more time.

Golden retriever looking overwhelmed by toys all around him.
Too much on your plate this fall? Don't feel pressured to apply early.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What is the Counselor's School Report?

As students read application instructions and start working on their Common Apps, they sometimes wonder about the School Report (also called the SSR or Secondary School Report) that counselors submit to support the application. 

This School Report is sort of like a "cover sheet" for the documents sent by the counselor. In our system, this form is bundled with the high school profile and counselor's recommendation. The School Report and a high school profile help admission officers calibrate to read the file. Generally, the high school profile gives information about the curriculum at the school, grading scale, and information about how statistics like GPA and rank are calculated (remember, those are not standardized). The School Report is a little more specific to the applicants and the current year's senior class.

The first page has biographical information on it and the privacy waiver...

The questions on the back of the School Report aren't all required, but they prompt the counselor to provide information about the student and contextual information. 

Some high schools don't allow their counselors to complete all sections of this form. For example, the sections asking counselors to rate a student compared to others and the disciplinary questions are regularly left blank.
Do you have questions about the School Report? Post them in the comments below. If you're on a mobile device, you'll have to look at the "full" version of the site instead of the mobile version to see the comment box.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Does Your #UVA Application Need to Show a Spike?

What does "spike" mean to you? If you've been spending time on websites where college admission advice is given out in the last few years, you've probably seen it used in conversations about extracurricular activities. Let's talk about that and what UVA admission officers are looking for when we review the activity section of your Common App.

The Definition

The spike being talked about on those sites refers to the notion that students should tailor their activities (and in some cases, the entire application) to fit their intended major. Most recently, I've seen people talk of showing a "business spike" or "psychology spike." 

The General Concept Isn't New

There were people talking about crafting and packaging yourself to fit a specific theme back when I was applying to college! We thought you had to be either well-rounded or pointy. We'd also hear people talk about students being specialists and generalists. I think that the internet has made "spike" spread very quickly to the point that it's become generally accepted.

My Take on the Spike Messages I'm Seeing

When it comes to activities, we don't craft the class to cover certain interests because we don't have to. When you have an incoming class of ~3,900 students, you don't have to engineer variety. No one is going to say "where are the drummers" or "who will write for the newspaper?" There will be drummers. And writers. And dancers. You get the idea. 

When I look at your activity list, I simply want to see that you're making a contribution in some area of your life. Activities don't have to be related to each other. Activities don't have to be related to your academic interests. Activities should be rewarding, interesting, and fun. You shouldn't be afraid to try something because it doesn't fit into a strategy.

Also, consider the fact that we are looking for curious students who will take advantage of all the wonderful options in the UVA curriculum. It's great to have an idea about what you'd like to study, but I hope you're excited about explore subjects you haven't had access to in high school.

What Applicants Should Do

Ask a few admission officers about this spike concept. You might have to explain what it is, as this idea didn't come out of admission offices. I hope you'll see that we are all interested in learning more about you in the activity section, but we aren't expecting your involvement to dovetail with your academic interests.

Activities should be rewarding and fun, not part of a strategy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What Does Test Optional Mean at #UVA?

I shared that UVA has gone test optional for Fall 2021 applicants in the beginning of June. The feedback to my accompanying posts on Twitter and Instagram was positive then. We had a nice q&a session on Instagram, too. 

Recently, there's been a resurgence of questions about what test optional means as exams have been cancelled. I see people on social media talking about traveling hours to take the SAT or ACT, perhaps because they're listening to inexpert voices on what test optional means. A lot of people are worried that admission officers will penalize students who don't submit testing. They have decided that we'll assume a student is withholding a poor score if one isn't submitted. 

Full stop.

This is a year unlike any other. We have watched along with you as tests have been cancelled. If an application doesn't have testing, the assumption will be that you did not have access to testing. If you have a score and you think it will help your application, feel free to self-report it on your application. If you don't, move on to editing those essays and juggling all the other things that come with being a senior. 

Optional means optional. 

Monday, June 08, 2020

2020-2021 #UVA Application Writing Prompts

There are three required pieces of writing on our application: the Common App essay and two shorter responses that are specific to UVA. The Common App prompts are on their website. Our prompts are below.

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

2020-2021 First-Year Application Writing Prompts

1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, literature, or other media has surprised, unsettled, or inspired you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.
  • School of Architecture - Describe significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.
  • School of Nursing - Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.
  • Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to apply to the kinesiology major. 

2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that "...there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints." Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

We are Test Optional for Students Applying to #UVA for Fall 2021 (and a Deadline Change)

I've gotten your emails, comments, and DMs asking about our admission policies for next year. I promised to share any changes that UVA leadership made as soon as possible. I have two updates to share today...

Given the uncertain prospect of universally accessible, reliable and equitable SAT/ACT testing in the next admission year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Virginia will not require that applicants submit standardized testing to be considered for admission for at least the next application cycle.

“Students and families face enormous challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” President Jim Ryan said. “This change in our admission system during a year in which all applicants might not have the same access to testing will remove at least one obstacle that might otherwise discourage a student from pursuing her higher education aspirations. At the same time, this will give us an extraordinary opportunity to explore the utility of tests in our overall admissions process going forward.”

A test-optional approach could also assist first-generation and underrepresented student populations including minority and low-income applicants who historically have not  benefitted as frequently as others in preparatory help such as test-tutors.

When making admission decisions, the Office of Admission will continue to offer a comprehensive, personal, thorough and holistic evaluation of each application, Dean of Admission Greg Roberts said. Students who wish to include testing as part of their application may continue to do so, but those who do not will be at no disadvantage in the application review.  

The pilot testing policy applies to all applicants for undergraduate admission to UVA – domestic and international, first-year and transfer students.

Additionally, the University has pushed back its Early Decision application deadline to Nov. 1 to give students more time to examine their college options and submit an Early Decision application if UVA is their first choice for college. 

“Before making this recommendation, we consulted with the deans of the undergraduate schools that accept first-year applicants,” Roberts said. “All expressed a deep commitment to equity and fairness in the admission process for their schools, and given the uncertainty surrounding the availability of testing this year, all offered clear and unwavering support for a one-year, pilot test-optional admission plan.” 

UVA will review the data related to this new, test-optional cycle to inform potential, longer-term policy considerations in the future, and will decide by next spring whether to extend the pilot.

You can see the full announcement on the UVA website. Our application instructions have been updated as well.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A #UVA24 Waiting List Update

Hello, everyone! I'm stepping back into the blog after weeks of student takeovers to let you know some more about this year's waiting list. If you haven't read the Waiting List FAQ page (linked in your letter) and the first post about the waiting list on this blog, those might be helpful.

During our 4/21 question and answer session on Instagram, I shared that we would be making waiting list offers, but I couldn't predict how many offers we'd make. Historical data can help admission officers predict their yield (that's the term for the students to accept admission after we offer it) and something that is called melt.

Melt (sometimes referred to as "Summer Melt") happens when students who paid an admission deposit decide that they aren't coming after all. You can see melt happen as other schools go to their waiting list. Someone who deposited at UVA might get off the waiting list at another school and decide to withdraw from here to accept that other offer.

While admission officers have historical data to look at when trying to predict their yield and melt, no one anywhere had data that could predict the impact of a global pandemic. We are all learning about this together.

So...Who is Getting Offers?

You are probably aware that I think of our waiting list as having ten different segments: in-state and out-of-state for the five academic entry points. There are years when we need all of the segments to fill in spots and years when we might need one or two. Generally, more spots are available in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering. The College is the largest school with about 11,500 of the 17,000 undergraduates enrolled there. Engineering is the next largest with 2,870. As usual, those are the schools where we've made almost all of our waiting list offers. We have made offers to both Virginians and non-Virginians.

Why is This So Slow?

This is a time when we work one-on-one with students, not with large groups. It may feel a little slow on your side. We review the applications of those who accepted a spot on the waiting list and submit the names of students we'd like to admit from our regions to the Dean. The Dean approves some of our students for an offer and we get to call to let them know that an offer is coming in the student portal.

Students coming off the waiting list get a few days to think about their offers and make a deposit.. If the student applied for financial aid, we let Student Financial Services know so they can put together an aid package and their days to consider the offer begin when we get word that the package has been posted to their SIS account.

On our side, the waiting list process moves like a pendulum. We make some offers, we wait for the replies, then we make a few more offers.

What Can You Do?

There are two things you can do if you are on the waiting list. First, you can submit any updates through your applicant portal. Second, you can look for an email that is going out to everyone on the waiting list asking you to confirm that you still want to be considered. That's it.

I'm going to make some calls myself in a moment, so I'm in for a happy afternoon. I hope I get to talk to a few of you!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Meet Kelley, a Spanish and Anthropology Double Major from Virginia!

If you're a Virginia student, this blog post might be of interest! Even though Kelley didn't travel too far to go to college, she's made a new home at UVA.
As a reminder, if you are viewing this on a mobile device, you'll want to click the "View Web Version" link at the bottom to get the Disqus comment box to appear.

Hi guys! My name is Kelley and I’m from Fredericksburg, Virginia. I’m a second year studying Spanish and Anthropology with a concentration in culture and communication. I’m planning to graduate a year early to pursue an accelerated Master’s in Anthropology here at UVA! Outside of the classroom, I’m really involved in research, the University Guide Service, and Madison House (which is our volunteer center here on Grounds). I love UVA and am so excited to share a little of the place I call home with you all.

UVA is a big school, but it starts to feel much smaller once you arrive. I quickly met friends on my hall and in my dorm, and began to join clubs and other activities that gave me my own community within the larger UVA bubble. One of these communities has been the University Guide Service, which I joined second semester of my first year, and which gave me some of the best mentors and friends I could have ever asked for. The other organization that I joined was the Latinx and Migrant Aid (LAMA) program through Madison House. We travel to different places around the Charlottesville community and work with Spanish speakers and students to help with English language practice and other tutoring. LAMA is one of my favorite things to do at UVA because it has allowed me to grow a community and build relationships with people in the Charlottesville area, not just inside the UVA bubble.

I have loved my experience at UVA so much, but what’s crazy is that when I was a senior in high school, I really didn’t think I wanted to come here at all. As an in-state student, I knew a lot of people who came here every year and I wanted to be the one who did something different. I toured a bunch of different schools, waiting to have that “a-ha” moment that everyone talked about, the moment when I was supposed to magically know that a school was for me. But it never really came, and I think that for a lot of people, it never really does.

It wasn’t until I began to attend events for admitted students, watch silly Instagram takeovers, and talk to current students that I began to really see myself at UVA. I began to realize that what I was looking for in a school was not that “a-ha” moment standing on some campus, but people who made me excited to get up and learn something every day. These are the people that I’ve found here in Charlottesville: people who are passionate about the things they study and the place they get to call home. I have met people who 3D print toys for fun, who organize climate strikes, and who take on passion projects to keep making this University a better place. Whether I’m watching my best friend nerd out over Russian history or listening to my roommate tell me about his 20 mile run, it is thanks to them that I get that “a-ha” feeling every day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The #UVA Class of 2024 Facebook Group (Again)

This is a repost from December because it seems some folks missed it the first time around...

I've had a hands-off approach to Facebook over the years, except when I see companies trying to be part of groups that should be left to students. It seems it's happening again. There is ONE Facebook group for the Class of 2024 that is being run by current UVA students without an agenda.


Who Is in the Facebook Group?

Membership will evolve in the next few weeks as students make their college choices. The students in these groups often create questionnaires to facilitate roommate matches. I'm told that the questionnaires the students create are more detailed than any roommate matching service. Student self-governance works again!

Who Is Moderating the Facebook Group?

There are a few current UVA students who keep an eye on the group. They are not paid to promote a business or product. They are students who know the ins and outs of UVA and have offered to field questions without an agenda. You'll notice that we don't really sell UVA. We present UVA to you and let you decide if the University has the things you need to be happy and challenged. Their answers to your questions will be honest and straightforward. I am not in the group.

What Happens to the Group in the Future?

When your class elects officers, the admins will hand the group over to your chosen leaders. This has been happening for over a decade and it works pretty well. For now, the admins are fine with answering questions, but they usually sit back and let you chat. Nothing in these groups will be saved or connected to your applications.

Is Facebook Activity Used for Admission Purposes?

Nope. I have absolutely no interest in tracking you or looking at your profiles. 

Can Parents Join?

No. Every so often, I hear about a parent requesting to join the student group. Please let the students have their space to talk. There's a group called UVA Parent Network that may be of interested to parents.

Why Does UVA Create the Group?

We didn't always create a Facebook group for the classes. I used to talk about how it was the students' domain (it was back when you had to have a .edu email address to get an account!) and groups should grow organically. I changed my mind in 2008 when a company started creating groups with school names on them. Content in the group we created won't include advertisements from third parties and your information won't be mined.

What About GroupMe?

I fully support students using whatever channels they feel are most helpful. We don't create or sanction GroupMe chats. GroupMe seems to be the most problematic of all the social media channels these days. Please be careful using it.

Regardless of what social media channel you use to connect with other students, just keep an eye on the admin/mod of groups you join and don't share too much information in groups that may include companies looking for data.

Remember that anyone can slap the word "official" on a group. That doesn't mean the admin is affiliated with UVA. A good hint that they aren't part of our community: they call you freshmen and they talk about campus. Those words aren't in our lingo.