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

There are fifteen years of posts here. The search box works well, but please consider the age of the posts when you find them. The college admission process changes over time!

You are welcome to use the comment section anonymously.

Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Deadlines looming!

I hope some of you were able to relax and enjoy your holiday vacation, though I know that plenty of you were thinking of putting the finishing touches on your applications for the last few days. With the deadline looming, I thought I'd make my annual plea that you hit the submit button BEFORE 11:59 PM on the 1st. Murphy's Law says that the moment you're ready to release your application to us is the moment your computer will freeze or your internet service with go down. Give your essays a final read and hit the submit button.

Now, if you're convinced that something is terribly wrong with the application website, remember this: we are concerned with the information you've written into the text boxes, not the layout or the PDF. If you log out and log back in to see the correct information in the text boxes, you're fine.

Your teachers and guidance counselors have until January 10th to get their information to us. If you're concerned about a component they were supposed to complete, you have a few days once you get back to school to follow up with them.

Remember to log out of your account and log back in to verify that your submission went through. Also remember that we're receiving thousands of transcripts, recommendations, and test scores right now. It will take a while to have each item logged into the system. The note on your account says to check back in the beginning of February to verify that your application is complete. I'd recommend checking more frequently than that (maybe once a week), but I don't think it would be appropriate to call the Office of Admission next week asking why your supporting documents haven't shown up on your status page.

In a few days, a majority of the application process will be behind you! Just think...after you hit submit, all you need to do is wait for decisions and then make your finial choice. Hang in there! The end is in sight!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Radio buttons, check boxes, ethnicity, oh my!

My goal with our online application is to be easy, clean and neat. While bells and whistles are great on most websites, the online app needs to be simple and work well with different operating systems on your side and the databases on my side.

Earlier this week, I read a post on a discussion website frequented by "tech types" like myself bashing one particular part of our online application (the ethnicity question) because of our use of radio buttons instead of check boxes. The person decided that our use of radio buttons meant that we didn't understand HTML. A few others replied, some knowledgeable about databases and about reporting profile information like gender and ethnicity.

If you're going to answer the ethnicity question on our application (and you don't have to, it's completely optional), you have to pick something from our list. The last choice, unclassified, is for those who don't think the choices presented accurately describe them.

If you have an issue with the online application, call or email us. We try to monitor major websites for problems, but I'm sure we miss things!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Who is Dean J?

I think I need to make it clear that I am not Dean Blackburn. I don't think it should really matter who I am, hence the anonymous name.

If you want to know more about me, feel free to ask some questions, but keep them fun and not too personal. I'm all for making students feel more comfortable asking questions and know that that could come from knowing about my taste in music or what I do for fun. Ask away, but understand if I don't respond to all the questions.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Q&A with Dean J, part 2

There were a few comments from my last "Q&A" post that I'll address here. I'm going to ask newcomers to use the comments on this entry to send questions for a future Q&A installment.

Q1. I requested a teacher recommendation (using the email option on the UVA online app) but the teacher I asked has been out on sick leave for nearly 2 months and won't be back before the deadline. I asked another teacher to write my letter instead, but will my application be considered incomplete if Teacher #1 never submits her recommendation, since there is an outstanding request connected to my online application? Will her failure to reply to your email request for a recommendation reflect badly on me?

A1. Let me start with some general information about recommendations. When a teacher's information is entered on the online application's recommendation page, an email goes out with a special URL and password to access their personalized submission page. Plenty of teachers opt to send paper copies of their letters instead. Some will do both (submit their letter online and by snail mail). Usually, when we get the paper recommendation, we'll check the names listed by the student on the online page and see if the sender matches on of the teachers you listed.

We don't read into recommendations that don't arrive through the online site. In fact, when we read applications, we don't even see the names the student entered on the recommendation page, we just see what letters came in for that student.

Q2. Could you please, percentage-wise, list the emphasis you put on GPA, SAT scores, Extracurricular Activities, Essays, Teacher Recommendations, etc? I can't seem to find this information anywhere. Thank you very much.

A2. You can't find this information because it doesn't exist. We don't use formulas here, so components don't carry "weight" the way an AP English class carries more weight than a regular English class when calculating a GPA.

But let's be frank. The transcript (and that means course strength and grades) is going to get the most scrutiny in our review. With the school profile as our guide, we'll rate the strength of the students chosen curriculum (keeping what is offered in mind, so those who don't have access to AP Bio aren't penalized for not taking it). Grades are obviously very important, but again, the profile gives us context so we understand that, for example, an A at Central High is given for grades of 93% and higher while an A at North High is given at 90%.

I know it would be nice if you could reduce everything to a formula to see your chances of admission, but it's just not how we do things anymore.

Q3. What's the best way to have this missing/additional information included when my application is reviewed again? Thank you in advance for your advice.

A3. The best way to have new information added to your file is to mail it to us. We'll make sure anything you send is filed appropriately.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Essay advice...for those who haven't gotten enough yet!

I hope that prospective applicants reading this blog have clicked the link to the right that goes to Parke Muth's essay advice article. Parke talks about "the good, the bad and the risky" essays with examples that might make the idea of writing your essay a little less scary.

Today, The Wall Street Journal published a Q&A session of sorts with UVA Dean Jack Blackburn and officers from Brown and Harvard. It's a pretty short article and I'm sure they omitted some of the conversation. If you have questions about essay writing that aren't addressed, feel free to post them in the comments and I'll try to respond.

Knowing the WSJ, the article won't be on the website for long unless you're a subscriber.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Echols & Rodman Scholars Programs

Echols and Rodman. Everyone asks about these programs. To be frank, the Echols Program website has all the important information (the Rodman Program's page also has good info). There are five whole paragraphs answering the question "What does the Office of Admission look for to determine Echols selection?"

I won't restate what is so well presented there. Instead, I'll address a few of the questions and comments that inevitably come up from prospective students and their parents about the programs.

1. UVa does not have honors programs.
A lot of state universities have honors programs. These are often colleges within the universities that have separate curricula, faculty, and resources. We don't have any honors programs at UVa. The entire curriculum is challenging. We have scholars programs for students who are intensely interested in exploring the curriculum in a way that having area requirements (our words for core curriculum) wouldn't necessarily allow.

2. We consider every single Arts & Sciences applicant for Echols and every single engineering applicant for Rodman.
We keep Echols/Rodman in mind when reviewing every application. When we see an applicant we think is particularly strong, we'll put a note in the file. At the end of reading season, we'll go back through all the applications that had a note and make our selections. This avoids the possibility of us being inconsistent...being too selective with Echols/Rodman at at certain point in the reading season, for example.

3. You can't really "show interest" in being selected for Echols or Rodman.
As you can see by reading the Echols website, we look for a few different things when selecting scholars. Writing a letter about your desire to be selected isn't going to do the trick. The best way to show that you're Echols material is to have a stellar academic record, show intellectual curiosity and a willingness to go above and beyond presented subject matter in school.

4. You can't appeal the fact that you weren't selected, but you can try again next year.
This was a surprisingly common question from parents last year. Part of me wanted to point out that they should be extremely proud of their child for being admitted to the University, not fixating on why they did not get invited into the Echols program. If a student thinks they belong in Echols, they can apply towards the end of their first year to be included after that.

I'm sure there are more common questions. Feel free to post them in the comments and I'll try to address them.

Monday, December 11, 2006

AP Study Hall: What will they think of next?

While I work on an ultra serious entry about the Echols & Rodman Programs, I thought I'd share something that made us laugh here in the Office of Admission.

Every year, we come across a few transcripts that list Honors PE, Health or Driver's Ed. It always gives us a chuckle. A few weeks ago, our Dean came across a new one: AP Study Hall. Of course, the idea had us in stitches, wondering what sort of advanced topics were covered and how grades were determined.

Of course, an inquiry was made and the answer came back from a counselor who probably never realized how the "course" looked to those not familiar with her school. At this particular high school, students who take four or more AP courses can opt to take a study hall as part of their schedule.

So, a little lesson for the applicant. Try to look at your application from an outsider's perspective. If there are acronyms or special distinctions that are unique to your school, write us a little note about them. Similarly, there's no need to explain what FBLA is unless it does not stand for Future Business Leaders of America at your school.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Admission Bribes

I'm sure you're thinking this is going to be about people trying to bribe admission officers. It's not, though we get our share of chocolates, cookies, and fruit baskets. This is about bribes in the opposite direction.

It came to my attention today that two schools, Saint Joseph College in Connecticut and University of Alabama, are offering students free iTunes downloads in exchange for either adding their names to the school mailing list or applying for admission. UofA supposedly offered extra downloads to those willing to give their friends' email addresses as well. Alabama's law school is offering downloads to applicants, too.

In my Google searching about this, I came across more than one article from the business media praising this innovative marketing strategy. Now, I don't fault those groups, as they have a corporate mindset and probably don't understand our environment. But I can't understand how admission officers at those schools reconcile what they're doing.

Those of us in admission roll our eyes when we see the armed forces recruiters at college fairs giving out all sorts of gadgets and nick knacks. Giving out these sorts of things is expressly forbidden by our professional organization, NACAC. I usually console myself by thinking that the students gathered round the recruiter wouldn't have been interested in my school anyway. Of course, these iTunes downloads aren't being given out at college fairs, but they are being used for the same purpose.

It's amazing to me that some schools are resorting to a bribe, of sorts, in order to get students to sign up for a mailing list. The investment seems a bit foolish because (I imagine) students wouldn't really be impressed by the offer. If anything, it might devalue the schools reputation, as evidenced by this message board conversation about Alabama Law's offer.

According to an article in Bama's student newspaper, Mary Spiegel, the Director of Undergraduate Admission said this was an attempt to use methods that high school students "associate with". Associate with what? An instant win game in a candy wrapper? A prize code under the lid of a soft drink? The student paper also points out that the recruitment website
is written with young people in mind. After prospective students give their information, the site asks them to tell friends about the offer, "Because that playa, is just how you roll."

I love quirky marketing, but isn't the goal is to be humorous and clever?

The email from Alabama Law (sent last spring and again in November):
Admit it! You are an outstanding student. For a select number of students like you, The University of Alabama School of Law is still accepting applications.

Your special application deadline is April 15, 2006.

To encourage you to consider Alabama as your law school, we’re making two special offers:

1. We'll waive your application fee, and

2. We’ll present you with 5 free music downloads on iTunes® if you apply now!

To receive your iTunes codes, you must apply online at

No purchase is necessary. If you apply by April 15, your music downloads on iTunes will be available until March 17, 2007. (Info about the school follows)

Online vs. mail submission of credentials

This year, I've had more people than ever question whether documents arriving separately from applications and other credentials will "make it" into students' files. What makes the questions so surprising is that application components have arrived this way for years and years. Online applications haven't brought this about.

If you apply online, there is absolutely no problem with teachers sending in recommendation letters on their own if they don't want to use our online submission feature. In addition, while it's easy for our staff members to log credentials into the computer system when items for the same applicant arrive together, your guidance/college counseling office does not have to collect everything and mail it all it once.

We only ask that your full name appear on each item you send us. Feel free to add other identifying pieces of information if you think your name is common. People seem to like to put their social security number on supplemental documents and while we'll protect that information and limit access to it, we don't need it on every bit of correspondence (SSN is needed on your application to match it with the financial aid record).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Q&A with Dean J

I'd like to know what topics are important to you! What parts of the application are troubling you? I'm not promising I'll get to every topic addressed, but I'll try. Hit the comment link and tell me what's on your mind!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Snail Mail Clarification

It occurred to me that some students might think we were mailing hard copies of your decision letters at 6:30 PM last night, making today the first day they could be processed by the post office.

We actually mailed the letters around mid-day yesterday, so they should be making their way to your home as I type.

Please be sure to read your letters. They aren't just one line for a reason. There's some important information in them for those of you who were admitted and deferred.

Those of you who were admitted will probably experience a reduced amount of communication from us until we finish regular decisions. For now, check out the Office of Orientation and New Student Programs' admitted student website. The "Hoos Got a Question" link is a way to ask current students questions that you might not find the answers to on the UVa website.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Preparing yourself for your admission decision

This evening, most early decision applicants will log into their online application accounts and see a short message revealing their admission status. Please don't hammer the site at 6 PM or even 6:15 PM. I will be changing the settings on the system at 6:30 PM on the nose and they will go into effect within about 30 seconds. Consult if you feel the need to sych your clock.

Some of you will see a congratulatory note and not think a lot about the Office of Admission again. Others will see another message and probably think a lot of things about the Office of Admission.

Deferral, obviously, puts a student in a holding pattern of sorts. We understand that it's frustrating. But, I hope you can also see deferral and an opportunity to improve your application. If you get the defer letter, you have some follow up to do. Send us updated grades as soon as they're available. If a teacher wrote a great rec for a different school, sent that along, too. If something happened in your life that you're really proud of, tell us about it.

I think our acceptance rate for deferred students is low because so many fail to give us new information. When I open the folder of a deferred student in February or March, if there's nothing new to go on, I don't have any reason to push for an offer to be made.

Now, if you're going to call the Office of Admission on Monday, here are a few tips:

1. Don't have mom or dad call for you. We're much more impressed by a student who shows initiative and interest in their application than by one who lets their parents do the talking for them. Even the busiest student can carve out five minutes during lunch or after school to talk with us (we're open until 5 PM).

2. Know why you're calling. Many people call us to rant and have no real questions to ask. We'll sit here and patiently listen, but we'll also think about the students we could be talking to; those who actually have questions for us. So, before you pick up the phone, think about the goal of your call. Do you want to get tips on strengthening your other applications? Are you calling to see what else needs to be done? Write down concrete, specific questions. "How would you rate my program strength?" is specific.

3. Refresh our memory. Sometimes I'll take a call from someone I've met, but don't remember. We meet thousands of students in our travels and while we try to remember them all, it's not always possible. Remind us of where we met and if we had a conversation, what we talked about.

4. Be realistic. We received 2,311 early decision applications last year and we made about 950 offers. The vast majority of students were deferred, primarily because at the time of our review, we could only see information pertaining to freshman through junior year. In many cases, we want to see more information before making a decision.

In addition, while we try to analyze school profiles and use our personal knowledge during our review, we can't possibly know everything that's going on at every high school. If you don't have a top program because of scheduling conflicts, you have to tell us about it. Also, it's very rare that we know that your Physics teacher is the hardest teacher in your school and that your B in class is miraculous.

Hang in there just a few more hours.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


First year, early decision applicants will be able to view their decisions after 6:30 PM on Friday, December 1st. Spring transfer applicants will be able to view their decisions in the first week of December (check back for updates).

Why 6:30 PM? We got complaints from counselors saying that when we posted the decisions at 5 PM, many students were still at school for meetings and practices. We didn't want to push the time back too far, but realized that we had to do something to ease things at certain schools. So, 6:30 PM is the time.

Maybe we'll change notification times each year to end the chatter trying to glean info based on what happened last year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dumbing down the web for today's students

Today, The Chronicle posted a short story about a Ph.D. candidate who was shocked by the fact that college students were less plugged in than he was (video of the lecture is included and I think it's pretty interesting). I'm more saddened than shocked. More students are online than ever, but so very few seem savvy about what they can do with the web. None of the students in the lecture had blogs. None seemed to know what RSS was. The students expressed doubt about the importance of online learning. How creative will the next generation of marketers be if they question the importance of the web?

A few years ago, an absolutely brilliant engineering student at one of my former institutions came to see me. He nervously clutched a spindle of blank CD-Rs and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. I couldn't imagine what was making him so anxious. He softly asked "Dean J...could you teach shins to me?"

I was almost in shock. "Shins" is how a certain type of file extension (.shn) is pronounced by those who use it. Along with FLACs (.flac files), they are used by tapers and traders of live music. Trading live music, encouraged by a whole range of bands, changed from mail based to Internet based in the late 90s. I assumed that all teenagers were familiar with .shn and .flac files and converting them to audio (.wav) or MP3s. The fact that my extremely savvy engineering student didn't know about these simple files or how to get them through Bit Torrent (which, unfortunately, has since become popular with sharing copyright protected music and movies) was pretty shocking.

That little incident made me realize that while students are more "plugged in" than ever, many are only familiar with technology that's packaged in easily digested bits. It used to be that social interaction on the web was done by newsgroup and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). I believe listserves came along next, making messages come to the user instead of requiring the user to go to the messages. Then Prodigy and AOL came along and created "environments" that sat on the web, but didn't require users to actually go to the web. Around that time, I remember seeing a lot of students writing down their email addresses without an "" because they only interacted within AOL, where that wasn't required.

I could go on and on with the time line, but as I stated earlier, what we arrive at is a time when the majority of students are online, but the minority of students are truly savvy about the web. Ask a student to personalize their MySpace or Facebook page and they can put together a page full of bells and whistles. Ask them to create a website and some would need explicit instructions for registering a domain name.

Students, for a while, were the teachers when it came to the web. Perhaps we're approaching a reversal of that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Does the early bird get the worm? Or a nicer worm? Or a faster worm?

When I was a wee little junior in high school, I practiced calling schools to inquire about tour times. I thought, for some reason, that schools would take note of how polite I was on the phone. Surely, the colleges had computers like the 911 operators did, ones that identified the number of the caller immediately and tied the number to an applicant's file. Surely, my manners would get me brownie points! Similarly, when it came time to fill out my applications, I sat tensely over my father's Smith Corona typewriter, convinced that typing my applications perfectly would win the admission officers' favor.

Oh, how silly I was!

We don't read into how you apply, when you apply, and how meticulous you are about positioning staples, mailing labels and stamps. If you submit an application for Regular Decision today, we'll read it just as we'd read an application that's submitted at 11:59 PM on deadline day.

Side story: At my last institution, we took an informal poll at a meeting of first year students, asking when people submitted their online applications. The vast majority hit submit between 11 PM and midnight on deadline day. The sitting student government president (an upperclassmen present at the meeting) sheepishly volunteered the information that he had submitted his application one hour late (we left the system open for a little longer).

So, the lesson of the day is: submit your application when you're confident that it's complete. We don't read into when you apply. We don't even see a date stamp on the application when we read it.

NOW, I will say that if you call the admission office about your application, chances are we'll take notes during the conversation and add them to your file. If you email us, we'll often print out the email and file it as well. It helps us remember conversations (since we get a lot of calls, especially around decision time) and gives colleagues something to go on if you talk to different deans over time. More on calling the office about you application in a future post...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Decisions will NOT be posted early

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, wait...that might be too archaic a reference. At the risk of sounding like a Head On commercial, I feel I have to repost this.

Decisions will NOT be posted early. The notification date is December 1st. That will give us one month to read a few thousand applications at least twice, make final decisions, have letters printed, double checked, stuffed into envelopes, and mailed. It's an extremely tight time line and expecting an early end to the process just isn't reasonable.

Relax. Warm up some leftovers and don't check those status pages for now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The "dreaded" thin envelope

A few weeks ago, a current student who sat on a panel at a program for prospective students told me about the day his UVa decision letter arrived. He came home from school and opened the mailbox to find a thin envelope with a UVa return address inside the box. Upset about seeing the dreaded "thin letter", he closed the mailbox, went inside his house, and went to bed.

Later on, one of his parents came home and asked why he hadn't read the letter. He didn't see a point in opening the envelope, but he did...and found our congratulatory letter inside.

ALL of our decision letters are sent in simple envelopes. That thick package comes a little later. Mailing a simple letter has a few purposes. First of all, it's faster to put a letter in an envelope than to put a fancy package together. Second of all, a regular rate letter probably travels through the mail system faster than a bulk rate package. We're opting for speed over ceremony, as one of my colleagues says. We'd love for all kinds of bells and whistles to accompany your decision letters, but the fact is that we all want those letters to get to their destinations as soon as possible.

Monday, November 20, 2006

For those who applied on paper

I got an email from a student who submitted part of her regular application on paper, but who also had an online account. She thought she could work on parts of her application online.

Perhaps that will be possible one day, but for now, you must choose one method for submitting your part of the application: paper or electronic. Now, if you submit your application online and want to mail supplements, that's fine. However, if you mail us an application, you should not continue to use your online account.


The Office of Admission is getting a lot of calls asking about our notification date. Our notification date is December 1st. That means decision letters will be in the mail and status will be posted on online accounts on that date. I'll restate that. If a student logs into their online account on December 1st (after 5 PM), they will see their updated status.

Now, sometimes, we're able to get all the applications read and reviewed a tad early and our office staff is able to print, check, fold, stuff, and seal those thousands of decisions before December 1st. If that happens, we'll send them out early. We never plan to be done early. We aim for December 1st.

If we're going to be early, I'll post a note on this blog with a date.

For now, relax. There's nothing to do but wait right now. Hang in there!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Standardized testing frustration

Standardized testing instills anxiety in even the smartest of students. Okay, that's a lie...I was a good tester and never really felt nervous walking into a test after my first foray into the SAT world as a seventh grader. However, I'm feeling that anxiety now, as an adult. My feeling is that the testing has become less and less reliable, despite supposed improvements.

Last year, months after the first widespread administration of the "new" SAT (the new format included a writing section), ETS announced that a large number of test results were flawed. The problem: the score sheets had been exposed to extreme humidity which made the machine that read the sheets unable to scan them correctly. ETS notified us of about 70 scores that were higher than previously reported after they found their error. However, they decided it wouldn't be fair to correct scores that had been higher before the error was found. Hm.

So, a year later, I feel the need to tell every student who asks about our SAT score averages about the data possibly being bad. They all seem surprised, which makes me think very few, if any, schools are saying the same. Bad data = bad statistics.

Now, on top of that, I've been keeping any eye on the scores for the essay in the new section of the exam. The essay is scored by two readers, who rate it on a 1-6 scale. The two scores are added, so the highest score possible is a 12. In a year of reading essays (and some of the essays I see are beautifully done), I saw one 12, a few 10s and 11s, and a slew of scores from 6 to 8. I also saw a few 4s. What does this tell me? That most students can throw enough on paper for 25 minutes to get an average score, but that few students can put together a brilliant essay in that amount of time. This makes it hard to spend much more than a second or two glancing at that score.

Cut to present day. We're hearing that there are many, many problems being reported with the October administration of the SAT. Colleagues from the high school side are saying their students are seeing scores cancelled or reports that they ordered sent to colleges not being sent, and some complaints about the actual testing environment at a few schools.

For the first time in my career, I had ETS call me to ask if they sent us some scores! When I questioned the person who called me about what prompted the call, she danced around the fact that they had complaints about schools not receiving scores that were sent.

This post is deliberately disjointed. It seems as there are problems in almost every area of operation at ETS. What is going on? How can a company with so much money and so many resources make so many errors?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Casualties of Election Day

There were plenty of casualties on election day this year. Among them, a slew of programs in the state of Michigan that are going to be illegal because voters struck down affirmative action.

When most people think about affirmative action in education, they think about race being considered in admission decisions. What they often miss is that there are programs aimed to affect all sorts of students that are also included in affirmative action.

A few months ago, I came across a very interesting study put together by the Center for the Education for Women at University of Michigan about proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in California, and the potential effects on Michigan once a similar measure goes through. Those who want the Readers' Digest version can see a summary of the report.

In a nutshell, a slew of special programs are on the chopping block right now. Camps aimed to get kids interested in math & science, special programs that provide college prep for inner city kids, shadowing initiatives meant to give students of color mentors in business and industry...all at risk, according to the report.

October SAT scores late

I've just been told that October's SAT scores aren't being released to colleges until tomorrow, which means Monday is the first day we might be able to see them.

We used to say that October was the last test date for ED applicants, but we might have to change that in the future if score delivers are delayed.

Those of you applying RD will probably want to send scores by the end of November to make sure they're here by January 2nd.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Deadline

In acknowledgement of the fact that we're all procrastinators at one point or another, you may submit your application online until Sunday night at 11:59 PM EST.

Good luck!

Another TV Alert

ABC News is taking The Price of Admission to 20/20. Tonight's edition of 20/20 deals with "The Priviledge of Education". The write up on the station's website talks specifically about Duke and mentions some Ivy League schools, but I imagine that over the course of two hours, the show will go into more detail.

Are there any student bloggers out there?

If so, The Chronicle has a story about a scholarship specifically for students who blog (and blog well). This year's competition is coming to a close, but this might be something the juniors might want to think about.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Checking your status

We will probably get hundreds of calls in the next few days from people (more parents than students) asking why their status page doesn't show transcripts, recommendations, or SAT scores as received despite the fact that they were sent anywhere from two to fifteen days ago. Inevitably, the application will have been submitted just hours prior.

When credentials arrive for a student who has not yet submitted an application, they get filed in a "holding file" of sorts. We don't create a file for every single item because a good number of the students for whom credentials were sent will never finish their applications. So, in the holding file they sit until the student hits the submit button or the paper application arrives in the mail.

Once you submit your application, our staff will create a file for it and pull all credentials in the holding file that match up (this is why it's critical for teachers to use your full, legal name at some point in their recommendations). After that, your status will be updated and you should see notification on your status screen.

At this time of the year (as well as in late December and January), we are processing thousands of pieces of paper each day, so it can take a while for the steps I laid out above to happen. If you submit today, when "traffic" is very high, it could take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for status to update. Be patient. Check back every few days. We'll email you if something is missing.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Printing a PDF of your application

The online application was written when the most current version of Adobe Reader was 5.0. For some reason, if you try to view a PDF of your application with version 7.0, certain components (essays, for example) won't show up.

Obviously, we're looking into the glitch. Rest assured that we receive the data you input on the application, not the PDF. If the fields on the online application are filled out, we will see that information.

Submitting standardized test scores

On our application, you may self-report SAT, ACT, SAT II, TOEFL and AP scores. Official scores should follow and, obviously, we expect them to match those reported by the applicant (especially since all applicants read and acknowledge the honor code prior to submssion).

We don't need official AP score reports as part of the application process, but they may be needed later on if an enrolled student requests credit for those exams.

More notes from Peabody Hall

I decided to start a blog exclusively about the application process at the University of Virginia. This blog will be a "newsletter" style blog, similar to those being done at other schools. I'll still be posting about higher education issues on the original Notes from Peabody blog, but thought this one might be more helpful for students in the midst of the application process at UVA.

Questions about the application process are more than welcome here and I'll do my best get to each and every one of them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A reason to figure out which station is C-Span2

Being on the road, my access to cable TV is limited to whatever 10 channels my hotels deem important to their clients. This rarely includes C-Span, let alone C-Span2. I wish I could watch the channel right now, though.

C-Span's been doing a good number of programs about college admission and tuition. Yesterday, they showed a program about college rankings and one of the panelists was from US News & World Report. Oh how I wish I could have watched that! Today, a UVA student will be one of the panelists during a discussion about tuition and financial aid. I hope the program will be repeated when I'm back in Charlottesville so I can see it.

If anyone watched, please post a comment about anything noteworthy that was said!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth

A particular UVA alumna had a habit of mentioning UVA fairly often on The Today Show while she was a host. I thought the days of hearing about UVA on the show were over.

Imagine my surprise when UVA got mentioned on the Sunday morning edition of Today. Imagine my further surprise at hearing that UVA was part of the reason that American teens are more comfortable than ever with cheating.

The story in question was in response to the Josephson Institute on Ethic's study "A Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth". While 98% of high school students surveyed agreed with the statement "It's important for me to be a person with good character", 60% reported cheating on an exam in the last year and 33% admitted to copying information on the internet (presumably for a school assignment).

The Today Show did a short spot about the survey and then turned to their in-studio guests, one of whom was a student at McLean High School in Northern Virginia. When asked why he thought his peers seemed more comfortable with cheating than those in years past, the first thing out of his mouth was that schools like UVA "are telling people that if they don't have a 3.9 GPA, they shouldn't bother applying." The student then went on to talk about, which didn't exactly seem on topic. Of course, I couldn't really follow the rest of the piece. I thought I had just heard someone partially blame UVA (and colleges like it) for cheating among high school students.

I understand that the college application process is extremely stressful. I'm not so old that I don't remember the uncertainty and anxiety of the process. I don't, however, remember cheating as being part of the process. With an honor code as prominent as UVA's, the message is clear: cheating is not acceptable.

As for the 3.9 GPA comment, just last week, I spent 45 minutes at McLean High School describing UVA's holistic review process and the use of the school profile as a filter through which we look at transcripts. My response to a question about the average GPA of the admitted class was quite long, explaining that GPA scales vary so much that it's hard to put much faith in such a statistic.

Friday, October 13, 2006

More paper...exactly what we don't need

I used to work for a wonderful man who could boast that among his many achievements in the field, he led USC (Southern Cal) into the world of the paperless admission process. He did this back when computers weren't very sophisticated, which was a huge feat. When I worked with him at a different college, he always pushed for us to "go paperless" and we made huge strides in that direction, but never completely got there. Years later, many colleges are making the move to a paperless admission process. Alas, saving paper isn't as en vogue as it used to be and paper is sneaking into the process in others ways.

Over the last two weeks, I've hosted a number of evening programs and sat on a few panels at college information nights. After most of these events, I've had a few students approach me and ask if I'd take resumes. A little baffled and taken a little off guard, I've been accepting them, but I'm starting to wonder if other students are copying this because the numbers keep increasing. Who started this and why? The only place these resumes are going is into the "miscellaneous credentials" files, where they'll sit until an application shows up from the student. I haven't even glanced at the pile that is sitting in the folder usually reserved for driving directions and hotel confirmations.

A colleague of mine thinks private counselors are planting this strategy in students' heads, thinking that every little bit of interaction will curry favor with admission officers. If that's the case, they're forgetting to tell students that we remember those with whom we have significant interaction. That isn't happening in most of these cases.

These same students are depleting my business card stash at an alarming rate. I wonder how many will actually call, email or IM me, as I tell them to or how many will forget about me after they file my card in a UVA folder, next to the brochures and postcards we mailed out a few months ago.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Change is in the air

This time of year is full of changes. The leaves, our clothes, our perspectives. UVA is making a change as well. While we aren't exactly pioneers, I'm extremely excited about some of the things in store...

Stay tuned for an update.

Update: The press release is out, so it's official: Early Decision will not exist in the UVA admission process next year!

The media has arrived...

Friday, September 22, 2006

UVA Application Essays

Because so many students are hitting my other blog (about issues in higher education) by googling our essay questions, I'm posting them here, in hopes that Google will start sending them to this blog instead.


(1) Please answer the question that corresponds to the school you selected on Part I of your application in half a page, or roughly 250 words.
College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised or unsettled or challenged you, and in what way?

School of Engineering: Discuss experiences that led you to choose an engineering education at U.Va. and the role that scientific curiosity plays in your life.

School of Architecture: What led you to apply to the School of Architecture?

School of Nursing: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.


(2) Answer one of the following questions. Limit your response to half a page, or approximately 250 words.

a. What is your favorite word, and why?

b. Describe the world you come from and how that world shaped who you are.

c. "Belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light. " (Franz Kafka) Do you have a belief that is like a guillotine? In what way?

d. What kind of diversity will you bring to U.Va.?

e. "We might say that we were looking for global schemas, symmetries, universal and unchanging laws - and what we have discovered is the mutable, the ephemeral, the complex." Support or challenge Nobel Prize winner Ilya Prigogine's assertion.

f. According to J.H Plumb, "History is now strictly organized, powerfully disciplined, but it possesses only a modest educational value and even less conscious social purpose." According to George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Discuss your point of view.


(3) Please write on a topic of your choice.

If an essay question for another college piqued your interest, feel free to to submit your response to that question. Please limit your submission to one page, or approximately 500 words.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The start of a revolution or brilliant PR move?

Harvard surprised a lot of people yesterday when it announced that it was abandoning the early action program. Interestingly, Harvard was the first school to put "single choice" early action into place in 2003. What brought about this change? For three years, Harvard (and other schools that felt compelled to follow suit) has been using a restrictive form of EA that heavily benefited the school and not students.

So, why the change? Read the news articles about the move and the quotes are about righting the wrongs of the process. If that is the intention, then I think this is a wonderful move and I hope that it takes hold elsewhere.

But, there's a tiny, cynical voice in my head that can't help but look at this as a PR/marketing move.

One week ago, Daniel Golden's book came out. Harvard was blasted repeatedly. Story after story talked about admission practices that gave preference to the rich. One admission professional estimated that only 40% of space in the incoming freshman class was open to students without "connections".

So last week, news agencies picked up on the hype. Golden's former employer, Wall Street Journal, has a story front and center about "silver spoon admission". All the major cable news networks had articles. The buzz was good and I'm sure Golden's publisher was elated.

But then the Harvard story came out. All of a sudden, the news cycle was hijacked. Golden's book was last week's news and Harvard was the big story. Brilliant work on the media/public relations office if my cynical voice is correct. Announce a year early to allow others to follow along, do what so many wish would be done, and bury a story that was unfavorable.

Regardless of why Harvard did what it did, I'm thrilled that a step has been made in the right direction. I can't wait to see what comes next!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Price of Admission

After leaving Peabody Hall last night, I rushed to Barnes & Noble in hopes of securing a copy of the newest college admission "tell all", The Price of Admission. Talk amongst colleagues and the college search set (well, mostly the parents in that group) has been swirling for days and I imagined arriving at the store to find a Harry Potter-esque frenzy.

Instead, I walked around the "New Releases" and "New Non-Fiction" tables without seeing any sign of the book or an empty space where it could have sat prior to my arrival, when hordes must have snatched every copy. The information desk staffer was quick to take me to the children's section where one copy was shelved, spine out (not display style) next to The Chosen and The Gatekeepers.

Of course, I immediately looked UVA up in the index. The results aren't too surprising: one mention of alumni children, one of recruited athletes and one (oddly) of our initiative to give full scholarships to low income students (what we call AccessUVA).

Though I haven't gotten too deep into the book yet, I'm fairly certain that I know what Golden will say about two of the three issues above (what he finds problematic about scholarships for low income students is a mystery at the moment). My ability to predict his comments isn't a function of working in the industry. I believe these "juicy" bits of information are common knowledge (comments will support or refute that). I doubt anyone is ignorant to the fact that certain people get into college because of factors other than their GPA, rank, and SAT score.

So far, my reaction has been a "so what". Unless he proposes some sort of action, he's turned his Wall Street Journal articles into a 300 page book.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's alive!

Traffic (both vehicular and web) is way up which means two things: UVA students are back in Charlottesville and the online application for admission has launched. Grounds are bustling with students again and the laid back summer vibe is gone from our office.

We're getting ready to hit the road for school visits and college fairs, which means application season is right around the corner. I'll be in California, the mid-west and parts of Virginia this year...a schedule is coming soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ranking season is upon us

The college ranking issue of US News & World report is arriving at bookstores this week, set to hit the newsstands on Friday. Of course, a few back room types have swiped copies and posted the rankings online.

To coincide with this extremely important event (sarcasm), media outlets are full of stories about college rankings and admission. There's the "Who Needs Harvard?" article in August 13th's issue of Time, which, in a nutshell, says what so many already know: the college search is about fit. Just this weekend, UVA and 24 others were deemed the "new ivies" by Newsweek and Kaplan (hmm...Kaplan in the college ranking business). The same publication came up with the top 100 universities in the entire world (UVA is #80).

The merits of US News' methodology are examined in many, many places on the web, so I won't bother explaining my reluctance to put much weight on the number they assign us (#24 this year). Out of curiosity, though, I looked at the method used to determine Newsweek/Kaplan's world ranking and found it pretty interesting.
Fifty percent of the score came from equal parts of: the number of highly-cited researchers in various academic fields, the number of articles published in Nature and Science, and the number of articles listed in the ISI Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities indices

40 percent of the score came from equal parts of: the percentage of international faculty, the percentage of international students, citations per faculty member (using ISI data), and the ratio of faculty to students.

The final 10 percent came from library holdings (number of volumes).
There's no mention of student satisfaction, resources/support services for students (especially underrepresented students), study abroad programs, popularity of language or cultural study, or placement in graduate/professional school. Maybe it's silly of me to expect more student info than a faculty:student ratio in ranking methodologies.

Among all the articles, one jumped out at me as putting things in perspective. Looking at the colleges where the CEOs of the Fortune 50 companies went to school, the message is clear. Success is not a function of your alma mater.

I know better than to hope people will ignore the rankings. I hope, though, that people will put things in perspective. When I was 18, you could have put me in a Harvard classroom (oh wait...I was in one for a high school program), but I wouldn't have learned. It didn't feel right. In a similar (but newer) chair, not too many miles away, I was happy, engaged and learning.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

New Office of Admission website!

And we're back...

The Office of Admission just launched a brand new website! Some of the content is the same, but there are plenty of new features to explore. Unfortunately, as with almost any new website, there are some blips to be worked out. We just noticed that the essay questions posted are from last year and the visit calendar doesn't go past June.

Fixes are on the way. For now, the essay questions for the 2007 application are:


(1) Please answer the question that corresponds to the school you selected on Part I of your application in half a page, or roughly 250 words.
College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised or unsettled or challenged you, and in what way?

School of Engineering: Discuss experiences that led you to choose an engineering education at U.Va. and the role that scientific curiosity plays in your life.

School of Architecture: What led you to apply to the School of Architecture?

School of Nursing: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the School of Nursing.


(2) Answer one of the following questions. Limit your response to half a page, or approximately 250 words.

a. What is your favorite word, and why?

b. Describe the world you come from and how that world shaped who you are.

c. "Belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light. " (Franz Kafka) Do you have a belief that is like a guillotine? In what way?

d. What kind of diversity will you bring to U.Va.?

e. "We might say that we were looking for global schemas, symmetries, universal and unchanging laws - and what we have discovered is the mutable, the ephemeral, the complex." Support or challenge Nobel Prize winner Ilya Prigogine's assertion.

f. According to J.H Plumb, "History is now strictly organized, powerfully disciplined, but it possesses only a modest educational value and even less conscious social purpose." According to George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Discuss your point of view.


(3) Please write on a topic of your choice.

If an essay question for another college piqued your interest, feel free to to submit your response to that question. Please limit your submission to one page, or approximately 500 words.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Show me the money!

When I have a little extra time at the end of my information sessions, I try to talk a little bit about scholarships. I've heard about so many interesting ones, but despite financial aid search engines all over the web, many students seem unaware of all the money that's out there.

A colleague of mine put together a comprehensive list of all the scholarships we have at UVA and I thought I'd profile some of them. We're working on getting them all on our website (we're launching a new Office of Admission website this summer), but until then, I thought this might be a good place to post that information.

The Jefferson Scholarship
A full tuition scholarship sponsored by the Alumni Association.

Criteria: Excellence in leadership, scholarship and citizenship

Selection Process:
Candidates are nominated by participating schools (see website for more info) and interviewed locally by alumni panels. Finalists attend a selection weekend in Charlottesville in early spring and notified of awards around May 1st.

Special Notes:

-The Office of Admission may nominate "at large" candidates who do not go to nominating schools.
-International students are eligible and have been awarded this scholarship.

The University Achievement Award
About 50 full tuition scholarships awarded to exceptional students from Virginia who will add to the diversity of the student population.

Criteria: Virginia residency, academic merit, leadership, need and citizenship. A student must also satisfy at least two of the following conditions: (1) have a history of overcoming disadvantage; (2) be a first generation college student; (3) be a member of an underrepresented minority or ethnic group; (4) be a member of a low income family; (5) reside in a rural or inner-city location; (6) have been raised in a single parent household.

Selection Process: A committee reviews all applicants from Virginia for possible awards. Award notifications are sent in early April.

Faculty/Staff Undergraduate Scholarship
Need-based scholarship for children of full-time faculty or staff. The average award is $3,000. Open to first year and transfer students.

Criteria: Parent must be employed by the University full-time for at least one year; student must be in good academic standing.

Selection Process: Student must complete all Financial Aid paperwork by March 1st and submit a separate application for the scholarship (link opens a PDF).

The Holland Scholarship
Administered by the Holland Alumni Board and Ron Brown Foundation. Provides a $10,000 (Virginian) or $20,000 (out of state student) scholarship annually to outstanding African American students.

Criteria: Demonstrated love of learning, academic achievement, involvement and leadership.

Selection Process: All African American applicants are reviewed by a committee. Finalists attend a selection weekend in Charlottesville. Award notifications are sent in late March/early April.

The Ridley Scholarship
Awards for African American students administered by The Black Alumni Association. Renewable for four years.

Criteria: African Americans demonstrating financial need, academic performance, leadership, and community service. Must maintain full-time enrollment, 2.0 GPA and be involved in university organizations.

Selection process: All African American applicants are sent application information between December and March. Applicants must submit their responses by March 30th. A selection committee reviews applicants and makes award notifications in mid-April.

Special Notes: The Ridley Board administers a number of other scholarships as part of The Ridley Scholarship. The pages linked below include information about specific funds, some with stories about the students for whom the funds are named.
The Gregory Raven Batipps Memorial Fund
The Ravenell Ricky Keller III Scholarship
The Meikel Andrade Memorial Scholarship
Annetta Thomapson Fund
Richmond/Ridley Endowed Scholarship
The Guinee Family Endowed Scholarship Fund

Virginia Engineering Scholarship
Scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for outstanding minority applicants to the engineering school. Administered by the Director of Minority Programs* in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Criteria: Strong performance in the sciences, leadership potential, involvement, and research interests.

Selection Process: All minority applicants to the engineering school are reviewed. Award notifications are sent in early May.

*This might be from old documentation. SEAS now has a Center for Diversity in Engineering that may oversee this award.

Berkley and Susan Fontaine Minor Foundation Scholarship
Scholarship awarding $4,000 annually to two outstanding students from West Virginia.

Criteria: West Virginia residency, superior academic achievement, involvement and leadership

Selection Process: All applicants from West Virginia are reviewed by the Office of Admission for possible award. Finalists are recommended to the Minor Foundation. The Foundation notifies award winners in April.

H. Kruger Kaprielian Scholarship
Need-based scholarship awarded to a student of Armenian descent.

Criteria: US citizen or permanent resident with Armenian ancestry.

Selection Process:
Candidates must submit a letter to the Office of Financial Services to be considered.

Charles F. Wonson Scholarship
A need-based award given to a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton, VA.

Criteria: Attendance at Robert E. Lee High School, good academic standing.

Selection Process: Admitted applicants from Robert E. Lee High School are automatically awarded this scholarship in their financial aid packages.

Glover Scholarship
Award given every four years to one student, worth approximately $6660. Next award year: 2007.

Criteria: Attendance at Lynchburg, VA area high schools, good academic standing.

Selection Process: A local alumni committee oversees selection process. Area high schools are sent application information.

V. Thomas Foreland, Jr. Scholarship
A merit and/or need based scholarship of approximately $3,000 awarded to two students from Chesapeake, VA who attended Oscar F. Smith High School, Norfolk Academy, or Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Criteria: Attendance at one of the above schools, good academic standing.

Selection Process: Office of Financial Aid reviews all applicants from the geographic area for possible award. Notification sent in April.

George E. Hamovit Memorial Scholarship
Need based award of $1,500 to $3,000, renewable each year, given to a student from Petersburg, VA who attended Petersburg High School.

Criteria: Petersburg, VA residency, strong academic standing, demonstrated need.

Selection Process: Office of Financial Aid reviews all applicants from Petersburg for possible award.

Zirkle Scholarship
A $2,000 award for students of Rockingham County/Harrisburg/Staunton, VA, renewable each year. Three students are typically selected for the award.

Criteria: Residency in areas listed above, good academic standing, financial need.

Selection Process: Office of Financial Aid and the Alumni Association consider all applicants from eligible area. Top candidates given to the local alumni chapter for review.

Mississippi Scholarship
A need-based award of approximately $7,500 given to an African American student from Mississippi. Next award will be made in 2009.

Criteria: Mississippi residency, good academic standing

Selection Process: All African American applicants from Mississippi are considered. Award notifications made in early April.

Mellon Scholarship
A one-time $2,000 award given to a non-traditional student attempting to complete a degree. Often given to transfer students.

Criteria: Non-traditional student in good academic standing

Selection Process: All non-traditional students are automatically reviewed by the transfer admission dean. Nominations sent to the Alumni Association and notification is made in May.

Bailey Tiffany Scholarship
A grant for residents of Accomack or Northampton County, VA. Award typically covers tuition and fees.

Criteria: Residency in Accomack or Northampton County, VA.

Selection Process: Automatically awarded as part of the Financial Aid package.

Margaret E. Phillips Scholarship
Awarded to students striving to become Ministers in the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. Amount varies.

Criteria: Interest in religious studies with intention to become and Episcopal minister.

Selection Process:
Candidates must submit a letter to the Office of Financial Services to be considered.

Special Note: Rarely applied for.

Warwick High School Class of 1952 Scholarship
A $100 award to students from Warwick High School (VA).

Criteria: Attendance at Warwick High School, good academic standing

Selection Process: All students offered admission from Warwick High School are invited to apply. Award is deposited directly into the winner's account in the University Bursar's office.

Los Angeles Alumni Club Scholarship
Award for LA area residents administered by the Alumni Association chapter.

Criteria: Residency in the Los Angeles area, good academic standing

Selection Process: A local alumni panel reviews all applicants from LA for the award.

Special Notes: Need considered, but not strictly a need-based award.

Other places to look for UVA scholarships:
UVA Alumni Association's comprehensive list of AA funded scholarships
Center for Undergraduate Excellence scholarship page
Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards ($3.000 for current students interested in research)
Computer Science Wiki (engineering school)
SEAS Career Development scholarship page
Curry School of Education's scholarship page (many, many awards for ed students!)
UVA Financial Services scholarship page

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mapping the Blogsphere

I'm thoroughly entertained by the referral and exit pages I see on the tracker for this blog. I always wonder about the route readers took to get here or where they'll go when they move on.

A team of scientists have thought about this on a much larger scale: what can we learn from blogs about human behavior? There's a fascinating article in The Chronicle about work being done at a few universities. Some are literally trying to map the blogsphere.

Make sure to follow the link on the right hand side of that's pretty interesting!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"E-Recruiting" Practices

I've never really worked with enrollment consultants before (unless you count the fact that my very first boss in student affairs is now employed by an ed. consulting firm), but I found a report compiled by one such group, called The E-Recruiting Practices Report, extremely interesting.

They polled 231 colleges about recruitment practices, focusing on the use of "cutting edge" tools like IM, blogs, chat rooms, online applications, etc. UVA wasn't included in the survey and from what I can tell, we would have stacked up pretty well because we've tried to communicate in ways our students do.

It'd be great if the same group would follow up with a broad sample of students to see how this is being received. I find myself wondering if students like our methods. We send email, but only once a month during application season in hopes that students won't feel bombarded. I have my IM address on my business cards and encourage students to contact me that was (some seem to prefer IM to the phone). We have chat sessions with current students, professors and admission officers as well. While this blog isn't specifically for students, I hope those who read find it interesting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

MySpace/Facebook Revisited

The New York Times did a feature about online information coming back to haunt students during their job searches on Sunday.
Many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job. But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster, where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy.
Despite anecdotal evidence that companies are checking up on student applicants, some college career center directors don't think the practice is widespread. While students have always thought Facebook was "private" because it requires a .edu email address to join, some companies are using student interns or employees who have .edu email addresses provided by their Alumni affiliation with a school to access that site.

I've commented before that we aren't looking students up during the admission process (and still get the question routinely), but that shouldn't make students feel secure in posting evidence of bad behavior online. I think every student needs to err on the side of caution and edit the information they are including in their online profiles.

Monday, June 12, 2006

New addictions affecting our students

"Smart Pills"
Back when I first created my MySpace and Facebook accounts, I did some browsing and found some pretty surprising info among the "Groups". Students were openly praising drugs like Adderall for helping them study.

Back when I was in school, our only chemical study aids seemed to be Jolt and No Doze (no link...maybe they're out of business?). No Doze was seen as dangerous enough to warrant a "very special episode" of Saved By the Bell about Jesse getting addicted to caffeine pills (a classic episode that lives on, here and here, in YouTube land). In my Residence Life years, we heard rumbles about Ritalin abuse, but my RA staff didn't feel it was widespread on our campus. Those who were using prescription drugs weren't talking about it.

Somehow, attitudes have shifted and students are open about using pharmaceuticals. The Washington Post finally gave the issue the front cover (though of the Style section) yesterday. The students quoted in the article are pretty candid. One UVA graduate said they showed up here in the last two years. A student at University of Delaware said he was shocked by a survey he did for a class project.

"With rising competition for admissions and classes becoming harder and harder by the day, a hypothesis was made that at least half of students at the university have at one point used/experienced such 'smart drugs,' " Salantrie writes in his report. He found his hunch easy to confirm.

"What was a surprise, though, was the alarming rate of senior business majors who have used" the drugs, he writes. Almost 90 percent reported at least occasional use of "smart pills" at crunch times such as final exams, including Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera and others. Of those, three-quarters did not have a legitimate prescription, obtaining the pills from friends.
The pressure to succeed and gain admission to a top grad school is mentioned over and over again, as is ignorance about the prevalence of these drugs.

I hope three things:

First, obviously, that people come to their senses and stay away from this stuff.

Second, that high schoolers aren't getting in on this. The side effects are bad enough for adults (liver failure!?!), I can't imagine how bad they'd be on bodies that are still developing.

Third, that students who don't pop pills will be seen as having the real smarts and those who use "Smart Pills" will be seen as having artificial smarts. I see a difference between an A that results from planning ahead and studying hard verses one gotten because of a drug-assisted cram session.

Onine Gambling
Another sort of addiction is taking hold of students: online gambling. The Sunday New York Times published and article about this disturbing trend.

What I found most surprising is that some colleges are allowing tournaments to take place on campus.
Some schools have allowed sites to establish a physical on-campus presence by sponsoring live cash tournaments; the sites partner with fraternities and sports teams, even give away a semester's tuition, all as inducements to convert the casual dorm-lounge poker player to a steady online customer. An unregulated network of offshore businesses has been given unfettered access to students, and the students have been given every possible accommodation to bet and lose to their hearts' content. Never before have the means to lose so much been so available to so many at such a young age.
The gist of the article is that students are losing thousands to these online sites and spending most of their waking hours (even ones in class, thanks to wireless internet) gambling.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Search Terms

Every once in a while, I check the referral pages for this site. More often than not, Google has led people to this page and I always find it interesting to see the search terms that caused Notes from Peabody to pop up in the returns.

I'm not posting the duplicates and the terms below (especially the essay questions) have often showed up multiple times.

teacher admission blog
uva admissions
college admission stats
uva 2006 admission scores
law school, admission, waitlist
uva admission sat scores
UVA transfer SATs
community colleges, UVA, accepting top third
UVA Admission Blog (smart cookie there!)
UVA admission gpa
waitlist UVA
uva class start
"every generation needs a new revolution"
how to view a facebook UVa
get a facebook uva
music admission blogs
When does the Case Western Reserve Law School waitlist start to move? (huh?)
sat score needed to get into uva out of state
out of state admission stats UVA
uva athletics admissions problems
behind door admission UVA
admission to UVA sample transcript
VCCS lawsuit
uva honor video
cornhole charlottesville
accepted UVA african american sat gpa
FOOD OF THE PEOPLE IN DELEWARE USA IN PRECIS (a French child's school project?)
UVa early decision contract
vccs transfer architecture uva
college admissions process at UVA
uva admissions good bad risky essay
average GPA needed to get into UVA (we don't really have an average because schools compute GPA so differently these days)
uva accepted 2010 class
cryptology major (by the way, the new Computer Science major in the Arts & Sciences school is another way to head towards cryptology work)
UVA 2007 Essay questions
college fair northern virginia october 10th uva
uva national merit
how to get into UVA (simple...I like it)
policy lsats average take highest uva (I link to Matt's blog, but why would someone do a search when they know the address?)
polyprep average SAT scores (PolyPrep's in Brooklyn!)

"We might say that we were looking for global schemas, symmetries, universal and unchanging laws - and what we have discovered is the mutable, the ephemeral, the complex." (that's a lot ot Google, but clearly, someone is looking for help on one of our application essays)

"History is now strictly organized, powerfully disciplined but it possesses only a modest educational value and even less conscious social purpose." J.H. Plumb (essay question)

"Belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light" (essay question)

uva essay topic santayana plumb (yet another person researching one of our application essay questions)

"What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised or unsettled or challenged you, and in what way?" (yet another essay question)

Update (10.17.2006)
taking no- doze while on adderall (wow...I'm speechless)

Here we go again.

Looks like it's the ACT's turn to have some problems. Apparently, a slew of students have had their scores thrown out because their testing center didn't start the exam on time. The reason for the late start time at a few of the schools, according to The Chicago Tribune: breakfast. The schools, in what I think is a nice gesture, are giving their students breakfast before the exam.

I remember plenty of times when standardized tests were started late. I distinctly remember hearing students in other classrooms taking breaks or leaving when my classroom was still in test-taking mode.

A lot of people in the east (where the ACT hasn't always been popular) have been talking about the ACT as a great alternative after some of the problems the SAT has had in the last few years. Looks like neither exam is exempt from issues.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Who is most impressed with rankings?

I think it's safe to say that many of us in higher ed are reluctantly obsessed (and obsessed might be a tad to strong) with the rankings we receive from the press. Regardless of our opinion about the authority of the magazines and their methodologies, constituents' interest in the rankings translates in our interest in the rankings.

Our publications list our accomplishments on these lists, even if The Princeton review rank us 2nd in ability to take a bus to the airport (no, that's not a category, but there are some odd ones on that list). Each year, we brainstorm ways to improve our rankings and secretly hope that those above us on the lists don't maintain their positions.

I admit that I get caught up in this. I'd love to believe that people analyze school websites and course catalogues before deciding that one school is "better" than another. I have to face facts, though. The guidebooks and ranking issues affect the perception of quality.

But, I want to know why. Why do YOU care about the rankings? If you comment, I'd love to know if you're a student, parent, colleague, etc.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Where are the admission blogs?

About a week ago, I emailed a listserve made up of my colleagues asking for links to any blogs being written about the admission process. The results were a little disappointing. Plenty of emails came in asking me how to set up a blog, but not many came in with URLs for others.

I did some Googling and came up with the short list on the sidebar of this page. I was very surprised by the lack of "issues" oriented blogs. Most are newsletter style, telling students information that they can find elsewhere (Our deadline is coming up!). We aren't exactly lacking in "hot button" topics in this field. Perhaps people just don't want to take a side for fear that their opinion will reflect poorly on their institution. Or, perhaps, many of us think we're too busy or not savvy enough to write in a blog.

If you know of a good admission blog, please share it via the comment function. If you want help starting a blog, contact me (leave your email address in the comment box) and I'll walk you through it. There should be other admission officers blogging out there!

Friday, May 12, 2006

A little help for NOLA

I've already written about my love for New Orleans. For those "in the know", yes JazzFest ran the last two weeks and no, I wasn't there this year. MSN had a live stream for some of the shows, so I got to watch a bit of the festivities. Another local blogger posted a link to some photos from the weekend.

Anyway, scrolling through my Headline News this morning (a daily email about UVA in the news), one of the stories jumped out at me:


Of course I had to check it out.

The students competed with professionals and were recognized for their talents from the 275 entries. The judges selected two winners, three commended projects and about 20 others for exhibition.

Projects by finalists are currently on display at New Orleans’s Ogden Museum of Art and will be exhibited at the American Institute of Architects convention in Los Angeles in June. Winning designs will be published in the June issue of Architectural Record magazine with selected designed posted on the McGraw-Hill Construction Web sites.

I'll definitely be picking up Archtectural Record (okay, maybe reading it in the aisle at Barnes & Noble) when the next issue comes out.

I know I usually focus on "issues" on this blog and stay away from being a newsletter, but this was such a great story that I had to post about it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's been a while...

...since I posted a picture.

When we go "on the road", it's with mixed emotions. On one hand, we know we're going to meet great kids and see colleagues who have become our friends over time. On the other hand, it's time away from home, often with a grueling schedule, unhealthy food and non-stop repetition of the same answers to the same questions.

Despite this, I've always loved my trips to NYC for the spring college fairs (maybe because I grew up in the area!). One afternoon on this year's trip, I found myself taking the subway all that way out to the last stop in Brooklyn with my friends from Kenyon to the fair at Poly Prep. The walk to the school was like any other walk in Brooklyn, but when we turned into the school's gate, I saw a first: a live chicken.

I'm a "city kid". I've only seen chickens on the dinner table. I never saw a live chicken before and I was delighted! The college counselor at the school said the chickens come from people who want to get rid of Easter chicks that have gotten too big to keep (they toss them over the fence at night!). Regardless, the Poly Prep campus has a slew of chickens running around.

On my way out of the campus, I snapped a few pictures. Scratch that. I chased some chickens and took their pictures. I wonder what the high school students thought of the crazy admission dean running after their chickens.

Waitlist, Part 2

I guess I should lead this off by saying this blog is about my take on the admission process. Please do not interpret my blog as the gospel according to UVA.

Here's what I think about the waitlist at UVA. It's big. There's no way around that. We have to bring in a class that will maintain that 2/3 : 1/3 ratio for Virginian and non-Virginian students. So, think of the waitlist as two main groups, in state and out of state. Next, consider that we have to fill four different schools within the university: College of Arts & Sciences (CLAS), School of Engineering (SEAS), School of Architecture (SARC) and School of Nursing.

Now, we don't break up the waitlist into smaller groups, so don't think of this as eight separate waitlists. It's still just one bunch with no ranking.

By May 1st, all the admitted students are supposed to have mailed their enrollment confirmations, saying that have either accepted or rejected our offer of admission. It usually takes a week for all of those letters to get to us. Only when the enrollment confirmations are counted do we know what will happen with the waitlist. We might realize that the Architecture school needs a few more students or that there's room in the College for a few. While keeping the in-state/out of state ratio in mind, we then go to the waitlist.

The time between April 1st and May 1st is always an uneasy one for us. It seems as though students are applying to more schools than ever (I met a student who applied to 20 at my last institution) and as a result, we always worry that a tiny fraction of the students who receive an offer will accept us back. Just yesterday at our retreat, our dean told us about a time when he'd accept just a few hundred more than the class needed because yield wasn't a huge issue. People were applying to 1-3 schools back then, so if they got accepted to a school, the odds were high that they were going there. Because of the uncertainty on the yield side, we have to maintain a sizeable waitlist.

Yes, the waitlist is still quite large. I wish we didn't have it at all. I remember the state of limbo I was in as a waitlisted student a one of my top picks. Thankfully, I wasn't admitted and wound up where I belonged.

For a future post: Why I think everyone feels the need to apply to 20 schools.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Waitlist, Part 1

In early April, we start taking "decision calls" in our office. Those are calls from parents asking why we made the decision we did for a certain student. For the first two weeks of the month, the calls are almost non-stop. The most popular question: "Why was my child waitlisted?"

Now, I've always worked in the private college sector where we didn't entertain these conversations at all (and not many people called to question our decisions). However, at a state school, we try to be responsive to our constituents and respond to each and every call.

There's a reason this is titled "Part 1". I'll continue this tomorrow. I'll be on retreat with the office for the rest of the day, discussing how we'll change strategies for next year's admission cycle.

For now, take a look at my colleague's blog at Johns Hopkins. He wrote a great entry about the waitlist a few weeks ago. Interestingly, they have a waitlist similar in size to ours at a school that doesn't have state and individual school ratios to maintain.