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!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Checking your status

I posted this note about your status pages on the 2014 Facebook group earlier in the month and I realized that I should post it here, too.

-The amount of processing we have to do right now is staggering. All of your credentials may not be checked in until early February. Do not send duplicates unless we contact you. Don't worry about your status page until February.

-"Initiated" in a term used by our Student Information System to show that an item has been added to your to do list. It means the item has not been completed yet.

-If you get to the point that the only item on your to do list is your mid-year report, that's great! We know those don't arrive until February.

-Once your application is complete and it moves to the "ready to read" mode, you'll see a box pop up at the bottom of the status screen. "View decision" will appear in the box. It doesn't mean your decision is ready. That's just something that's built into the computer system that we can't change. If you hit "view decision", you'll just see a note about decisions not being ready at this point.

-If/when you apply for Financial Aid, their office's to do list will appear on your status page. Our offices are separate, so we in Admission have no knowledge of what's going on with your aid application. Direct all questions directly to them.

-While the Office of Admission is paperless, you'll be getting a paper decision letter from us in addition to seeing a short version on the decision screen on notification day.

-Financial Aid packages are posted online ONLY. They won't be sending your paper documents. You'll probably want to take screen shots or print out the screen when your aid package gets posted so you can share it with your parents.

-If you ever forget your SIS password or want to change it, you can follow the steps in that first email you got to generate a new password.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Friday Fun

It's Friday and I figured I'd show you something fun that got my attention this week.

Perhaps I have application fatigue. I took a pretty extended Youtube break and got lost in a sea of lipdubs (lipsyched music videos) created by college students to go with the Black Eyed Peas song "I Gotta Feeling". Those who don't listen to top 40 radio (myself included) know this as the song that played while a massive group danced in the street on the Oprah show a few months ago.

The first video I watched was by students at a school in Montreal. The video was cute and I was surprised that it was done in a single take. More impressive was the "behind the scenes" video they put on Youtube.

Well don't you know those "related video" links led me to students in Japan and the Philippines doing their own versions, inspired by those students in Montreal. I made the mistake of searching for "I gotta feeling lipdub" and saw the idea is viral and students around the world are making posting their own version, all inspired by the students in Montreal.

I love this stuff. I love seeing college students being silly and quirky and not taking themselves too seriously. I've found just a handful of lipdubs made by students in the US, so I guess this hasn't hit us in a big way yet. I can't wait to see what our students come up with, if this hits the states.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photos from the back office

We're still processing credentials that were mailed to our office. Some of you have probably noticed updates to your SIS status pages, but there's still some work to be done before you should worry about missing items. Sit tight for now!

Some mid-year reports have already arrived

This is where each admission officer used to find their allotment of folders.
Each of us had a vertical row. Now, the bins are used to store documents.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let's talk about GPAs

When students or parents try to gauge an applicant's chances of admission, GPA is always mentioned along with a flurry of accolades. They usually cite the number and breeze right on by to the next statistic. This makes me worry that people don't think about the subjective nature of GPAs these days.

The methodology for calculating GPA varies dramatically from place to place. What's more, grading scales are all over the map (there are seven different grading scales in use in Virginia public schools alone!). There are schools where 4.0 GPAs are rare and signify all As in the very best courses and there are schools where 4.0 GPAs are common and could be earned with okay grades in average courses. This year, I've read applications from schools with pretty interesting GAP scales, including 18 point and 500 point scales. I've seen schools where no courses are weighted and I've seen schools where Honors and AP courses have the same weighting.

So when you see or hear people from other school districts cite their GPAs, resist the urge to make comparisons. Chances are the grading scales and methodologies in use at your schools are different.

By the way, we don't have any opinion about all those grading scales. Whatever works for your school is fine with us.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feeling worried?

CavDog looked perpetually worried as a puppy

The application reading season is extremely hectic and while I try to carve some time out of each day to check in on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and College Confidential, it's not always possible. Sorry for the delay between posts.

It's still too early to worry about your status pages. We will contact you at the end of January or beginning of February if you have missing credentials. Hang in there. I know you feel a little lost right now. I'm here...I'm just a little busy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CavDog around Virginia

A recent Facebook message and follow up tweet asked for a CavDog interlude. Here's a collection of CavDog pictures from around the Commonwealth. He's a Virginia boy through and through!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Replies to some comments

A few comments came in over the weekend that I thought I would address in a post so all could see.

First up, a question about essays:
Call me Curious said...

We appreciate all of the reading you are doing this month. While I don't envy you, I am curious about what you do get to read. What is the most popular book or work of art chosen for that essay question? What other essay question do most applicants choose to answer? Do more applicants secretly like something they pretend to hate or secretly hate something they pretend to love? Have you noticed a different trend this year over last?

At times, I'll mention a trend here and there when it comes to essay topics. However, there are some out there who think that mentioning a particular book will send applicants who used that book as a topic into a panic, convinced they are doomed because their choice wasn't unique. So, let's get to the bottom of that. Applicants, if I tell you that writing about Dave Matthews Band songs was common and you wrote about a Dave Matthews Band song, would you be upset? I'm not saying DMB topics are common, that's just a relatively safe example I'm using.

Second up, a few questions/comments about deadlines:
Anonymous said...

What's with the SUNDAY, JANUARY 10 deadline instead of a work day? A recommendation came in for my son and we live in Charlottesville. We go over to Admission's office and it's buttoned up tight! We meet someone else who has a BAG of documents and couldn't get the on-line system to work. Turns out, HE is the GUIDANCE counselor for a local school! What he had in that bag I hate to imagine! Would that be everybody's transcripts, recommendations, etc. which would be the responsibility of the GUIDANCE COUNSELOR from a school and usually uploaded to the Common App? Ouch. We may have to go to our deaths knowing which school this just happened to! However, the school my children go to school at was unaware of the SUNDAY deadline on Thursday when I told them and though they only have a couple of apps each year from this private boarding school, they were certainly caught off guard. Even the Guidance Counselor told my husband that he just THOUGHT that January 10th was a Monday. So, what's up with the SUNDAY deadline for those that may have something to deliver? Or, is that point? Keep more away? :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, my husband found a fax number on the bottom of the page and faxed it and kept the receipt. Hopefully the recommendation that came in and coujldn't be sent UP to the kid's school to be up-loaded by the staff will make it where it is to go. It worried us that we didn't have any problem getting onto the fax machine. Shouldn't it have been a bit busier on Saturday the 9th of January with deadlines on sunday the 10th? I wouldn't want the job of reading all these apps, but it is probably very encouraging and up-lifting to read about young people's lives and knowing that they are probably some of the best in the world.... not too shabby a job after all I guess.

This is a long one and I'm hope I'm going to address all the issues here. If there are any outstanding questions, give our office a call during our normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). While many of us work far beyond those hours at this time of year, we don't keep the full staff in the office beyond the normal 40 hour work week.

Out deadlines are generally on easy to remember dates. Before we went to the Common App, our deadline was always a moving target, which was confusing. We had to make the deadline a day when post offices were open. I remember one year when we had to move the deadline at the last minute due to the closing of post offices for a National Day of Mourning. Anyway, our deadline is now January 1st and applicants don't seem to have a problem hitting the submit button before 11:59 PM on that night. Teachers and guidance counselors get a few extra days. Most credentials are submitted late at night, regardless of the day of the week.

Obviously, some people aren't comfortable with the submission system and we are flexible about that. If there's a problem outside of normal business hours, we will work with people. If a recommendation can't be submitted electronically at the deadline, a teacher or school counselor should put it in the mail or fax it.

Back when I was in school, it was common to furnish a recommendation writer with a stamped, addressed envelope. If you don't think the person writing for you will use the online system, perhaps that's the best way to ensure the letter comes to us (and not back to you, which seems to have happened in the case above).

I don't think our fax line was busy yesterday because most teachers submit through the online Common App system or mail documents over the holidays. Faxed documents aren't so common these days.

Hope that helps! If you have more questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Early numbers

It's still early to have a final count, but we have just under 22,000 first-year applications. This is an increase. I thought apps would go down (you can search posts from last year for my thinking on that).

Back to's going to be a long season.

Since this came up in the comments, I thought I'd post this here. Total apps from past years:

2005: 15,922
2006: 16,298
2007: 18,046
2008: 18,598
2009: 21,831

If you want to see more, you can find all kinds of data in the Data Digest and Historical Summaries on the Office of Institutional Assessment website. Hit the "statistics" tag below to see past blog posts that contained data.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Status updates take time

Our office will open tomorrow morning for the first time since deadline. Inevitably, there will be a mountain of mail to process (and plenty more arriving for the next two weeks), the front desk will be overwhelmed with calls, and there will be hundreds of emails in the general account to answer.

Please understand that there is no way to process all of your applications tomorrow. As I've written before, it will take weeks to get everything checked in and get your status pages updated.

Do not worry about your status pages at this time.

We will contact you when we are through the bulk of the processing if we are still missing documents. This will happen at the end of January or beginning of February.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy Deadline Day!

CavDog's dressed up for the big day!

The countdown has begun. I know a lot of schools have a January 1st deadline, so some of you will inevitably be putting the finishing touches on multiple applications right up until 11:59 PM.

Keep in mind...

We can't fix Common App website problems.
Submit a help request on their website if you have any trouble.

Also, today is your deadline. Your counselors and teachers have until January 10th to submit school forms, transcripts, and recommendations. We prefer online submission, but you won't be penalized if these items are sent by snail mail.

If you want to chat with other applicants to relieve a little stress, check out the Class of 2014 Facebook page. We set this page up so you'd have a place to congregate online. Obviously, the membership evolves in the spring as students commit to schools.

The group I created for last year's applicants is now the Class of 2013's page. I turned over administration to students and now the Class Council uses the group to publicize events (though we have an internal networking system that they use, too).

Good luck, everyone! If you have general questions, feel free to post them. Be sure to read the "after you apply" part of the application instructions on our website. It's really important to understand the timing at work here. In the wee hours of the morning, Common App's system will transmit all applications submitted today. It will take a few days for our system to process the applications and send our confirmation emails with your Student Information System login information.

EDIT: I've repeated this a few times today on College Confidential, so I'll post it here:

Don't be alarmed by your to-do list at this time.
Read this if you're worried.