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!

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Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The EA Deadline is Approaching!

I've been getting so much email from worried students in the last few days that I think I need to draw attention to some things that have been covered on the blog this season. Feel free to use the comment section on this post to ask a question about anything application related.
How we are dealing with Common App issues
Hints for those submitting art or architecture supplements
Logistics of submitting SAT and SAT Subject Test scores
How applying for aid affects your application
Sending extra supplements
Demonstrated interest as a factor in our review
Quotas for densely populated areas like Northern Virginia
Every year, I implore students not to procrastinate when it comes to submitting applications. You can imagine that the support team at Common App is already inundated with requests and the volume of help requests is apt to increase dramatically as deadlines approach. Submit well before deadline in case there's a problem on your side or on the Common App's.

 The EA deadline is coming!

Monday, October 28, 2013

One UVa Student's Thoughts on AP Courses

This morning's Cavalier Daily has an opinion piece about Advanced Placement and how it prepared the author for the academic challenges of UVa. I'm not going to summarize the author's thoughts because I think you should read her entire piece.

After you read it, I'd love to hear your opinion. I will come back and edit this post to add my thoughts later.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Notes from the Road

My last week on the road for the 2013 travel season is coming to an end. This week has been full of college fairs in Northern Virginia. Some of these events have been huge and I'm so thankful that our alumni have come out to help answer questions and talk about life at UVa.

Last night's table team at the Ballston Commons Mall

College fairs are always interesting. While we get the same questions over and over again, we also get insight into what rumors are floating around about admission to UVa this year. Some of the more interesting ones I've heard:

Rumor #1 
Only 2,000 students from Northern Virginia are allowed at UVa.
I've been answering the quota question for years (we don't have them), but I'm surprised that someone attached an actual number to that rumor. The number makes no sense. There are about 14,600 undergraduates at UVa. Using a pretty strict definition of "Northern Virginia," I counted well over 4,000 students from the region when I added up headcount totals.

Many students in densely populated areas worry about restrictions or quotas affecting them when it comes to the college admission process. I assure you that we don't have them for areas within Virginia.

Rumor #2
Having a Virginia529 college savings plan affects admission to UVa.
When someone told me this, I asked them for clarification. They said that some believe we are easier on applicants with Virginia529 plans because "UVa gets more money from them."

First of all, I don't know how the Office of Admission would even know that a family had set up a 529 plan for an applicant. The group that oversees that plan in Virginia is an independent state agency. They aren't part of University of Virginia.

In addition, our application review system has no financial data in it. That information is between you and Student Financial Services. When I review a file, I don't know if you applied for aid or if you have a college savings plan. My job does not include guessing about how you'll be paying your tuition bill.

Rumor #3
We don't recognize International Baccalaureate programs.
This one really surprised me. IB programs are extremely common in Virginia and have been for years. From the

"The states with the largest number of IB World Schools are California (120), Florida (114), Texas (102), Colorado (79), Virginia (73), New York (63), Georgia (57) and North Carolina (55). 

More than 55% of all U.S. IB World Schools are located in these eight states. California has the largest number of DP, while Virginia has the most MYP and Texas has the most PYP."
We also offer credit to students to score well on their higher level IB exams. This isn't new. I've been referencing the chart on that webpage for years.

Something else to consider, from an IBO report:

If you have a rumor you'd like to check out, feel free to post it in the comments.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Note about Common App Difficulties

Our Spring transfer application deadline has come and gone. While some of our staff is still on the road for evening programs and high school visits, some of us are already entrenched in the transfer review process. The new version of the Common App is getting positive reviews by those reading files, but we know the system is giving many of you trouble.

The Spring transfer population is pretty small compared to the one that is applying for our next deadline. The Early Action group will be quite a bit larger. Rest assured that we're monitoring what's going on via Common App's known issues page, Facebook, and Twitter. If the problems they are having aren't resolved by the next deadline, you'll see an announcement here and in your email inbox (if you have an application started) about next steps. Submitted applications and credentials are coming to us just fine at this point.

We are still two weeks from deadline. There is time to get things submitted. We have always been understanding when things outside applicants' control have affected their ability to apply. In just the last couple years, Hurricane Sandy and a freak snowstorm on Halloween prompted us to extend our deadline for students in certain regions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When an Honor isn't an Honor

It's the time of year when letters start arriving in mailboxes with news that students have been nominated to join fabulous, exclusive organizations. The arrival of the letters coincides with filling out applications, which isn't a huge surprise. Some students may be looking at the honors or activities sections of their applications thinking that an extra item or two might make their list look nice. Or, the anxiety of applying to colleges might make the student susceptible to the flattery that comes from some impressive sounding groups.

Many of these groups solicit "nominations" from your peers or teachers. For some high school students, the nomination is often related to having taken the SAT, which sells mailing lists of student names to colleges and others. If you were somehow able to sign your baby sister up for the SAT, you might be able to get her into one of these things, too.

Even I have gotten the letters. This one came back in 2011 and I shared it on the blog then, but plenty have come since then...

Are these organizations legitimate? Yes, insofar that they exist and have members who pay fees for programs and conferences. However, admission folks aren't really impressed by expensive certificates or conferences. No one has ever excited told me "and they're part of the International Consortium of Future Publicists!" when they've been telling me about an applicant.

If you thinking about paying for one of those honors, don't do it because you think it will look good on an application. If you think the experience will be beneficial to you in another way, go for it. Just don't do it thinking it will have an effect on your application.

By the way, I just checked up on the organization that sent me the above letter. The website from the letter is dead, but they are still around. I don't think I'll be joining, though.

I dug that picture from 2011 up because someone recently shared a link to an old New York Times article about expensive leadership conferences. It's worth a read.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Slideroom for Art and Architecture Supplements

If you are interested in the arts or architecture, you may be thinking about submitting a supplement to your application. Supplements are optional, but can allow students who are thinking of majoring, minoring, or being significantly involved in the arts a chance to share their talents with faculty.

This year, art supplements are submitted online. The Common App teamed up with Sideroom, a company that has managed portfolio submission for many schools for a while now. Our faculty are thrilled that this part of the application is moving online. Submission is easier for students and professors can review supplements without hauling packages around with them. Most think that this will also save students some money, since the mailed portfolios required making slides or burning discs and mailing things in protective packages. It costs $5 to submit a supplement in Slideroom. Looking at the mailers in our supplement bins from the past, it seems like most people spent about that in postage.

If you tell the Common App, in the UVa section, that you'll be submitting a supplement, you'll see a new tab appear at the bottom of the application menu.

When you go into Slideroom, you'll see that there are 18 different ways to submit an art or architecture supplement. In the past, we had a massive document that listed all of the requirements from the different departments. Now, you only see the instructions that pertain to the supplement you are submitting. So, those submitting supplements about playwriting don't have to see the instructions for jazz instrumentalists.

One quirk of Slideroom is that they don't allow us to show you multiple deadlines at once. If you log in right now, the deadline shown is November 2, 2013. That's the art supplement deadline for Early Action applicants.

Once the Early Action deadline has come and gone, you'll see the next deadline appear. January 2, 2014 is the deadline for Regular Decision applicants.

So, why the 2nd of those months? Slideroom wisely only lets your submit a supplement once you actually apply. This saves faculty from reviewing supplements from students who aren't applicants. It might sound odd, but this happens every year.

Any questions about submitting an optional supplement?

Monday, October 07, 2013

On the Road in NOVA, Week 2

I'm back in northern Virginia for another week of school visits. If you're on the UVa mailing list and attend one of the schools on my itinerary, you already got an email about my visits. If you want to come see my presentation, you probably know how to sign up for it. At most schools, you have to log into Family Connections to get on the list with your Career Center Specialist.

Monday, October 7
Herndon High School
Potomac Falls High School
Academy of Science
Dominion High School

Tuesday, October 8
West Springfield High School
Hayfield Secondary School
Edison High School
R.E. Lee High School
George Marshall High School (evening program for Marshall families only)

Wednesday, October 9
Stone Bridge High School
Broad Run High School
Briar Woods High School
Park View High School

Thursday, October 10
Freedom High School
John Champe High School
Oakcrest School

Friday, October 11
Foxcroft School
Middleburg Academy
Wakefield School
Highland School

If you don't see your school on the list, you'll probably see me or another admission officer later in the month.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

What you NEED to Know about Sending SAT Scores

There are three parts to this post..
  1.  How we (and many colleges) receive your SAT scores.
  2. The timing of SAT score reporting.
  3. What happens if you send scores after the deadlines.
This might get a little long, but I think understanding the logistics of score reporting will help you figure out when you want to take care of this part of your application.

1. How UVa Receives SAT Scores
So many students want to know if we will "accept" scores from the November administration of the SAT if they are planning to apply under the Early Action plan. That's coming in part 3 of this post. Let's cover how scores get to us first.

Let me address the vocabulary. Most colleges (UVa included) receive scores electronically. We do not "accept" the scores, our system files them automatically. At slow times, the reports come once each day (around 3 AM). Around deadline, the reports come more often. I get an email every time there's an electronic transfer, regardless of whether the delivery is of one person's scores or of a massive group of scores from a popular test date.

Okay, so we're clear that UVa doesn't accept or reject your scores. You tell the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to send them to us, they get sent electronically, and our system grabs them to add to your file.

2. The Timing of SAT Score Reporting
Now, let's talk about timing. The good news is that ETS has improved a lot over the years when it comes to how long it takes them to deliver scores. They aren't totally consistent in the dates that they say they'll deliver scores, but the general idea is that it takes a few weeks for scores to get to us.

From the student part of the SAT website, on 10/2/2013:

From the college administrator part of the SAT website: 

Again, the dates don't agree exactly, but you get the gist. Those dates only apply to schools you identified as score recipients during registration. Again, from the student part of the SAT website:

3. What Happens if You Send Scores After Deadlines
If you don't send colleges your scores until after you get to look at them or send scores after deadlines, it will take a few more weeks for the scores to get to us. I can't find language about how long it takes on the website, but once upon a time, ETS had a line on there that said it took five weeks. I really hope they have improved since I read that.

In our application instructions, we say that the last recommended test dates for students applying through Early Action are the October dates. The last recommended test dates for students applying through Regular Decision are the December dates.

If you take tests on those dates, we know your scores will be here when we start to review your file. Now, November is a super popular time to take SAT Subject Tests. Some students planning to apply through Early Action worry that we won't "accept" those November scores. We've already taken care of that "accept" part above. So, here's the deal with the rest of that question. The November SAT scores will be sent to us around Thanksgiving. There is a chance that we will have already started the review your file before those scores arrive.

You should still send those scores. After all, our review takes over two months and there's a possibility that you could be deferred to regular decision. There's a chance that the scores will be seen at some point in the process.

If you planned to apply under Early Action and are taking the November SATs, I encourage you to designate UVa as a score recipient in advance so scores aren't further delayed.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Will This Help?

When talking about activities, many students ask admission officers to gauge to what extent their involvement will affect their application. The questions normally go something like "I did 642 community service hours last year. Will that help?" or "How much will Eagle Scout help?"


Those questions are a bit hard for us to answer. Of course, we want students who are active and engaged in life outside the classroom, but we don't have a strong opinion about certain activities being better than others. There are 924 student organizations currently on the books here. They all make UVa an interested place. Will doing community service help? Sure. That's a great thing to do outside of the classroom, but there are many other activities that are great, too.

The questions about "how much" something will affect an application are hard to answer as well. I think students want to know that we definitely take the time to read all of those details they share in the activity section of the application. We read it all, but there isn't a rubric that we are filling in as we work through a file. You don't get points for involvement, so weight isn't being assigned.

Feel free to use the comment section to ask questions about how we use the activity section.