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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Timing of Reporting Test Scores

As the Regular Decision deadline approaches, I'm getting lots of questions from those who haven't sent their standardized test scores yet.

Perhaps the immediacy of submitting applications online has made many people forget about the parts of the application that need to be done well in advance. Just as your counselors and teachers need a few weeks to prepare supporting credentials for your application, the testing people need advanced notice about your intention to apply to schools. It can take them several weeks to send scores to your schools.

I wrote a very long post about this back in October. In short, the testing companies take several weeks to delivery scores. If you are applying RD and haven't told the SAT or ACT to send scores to us yet, you need to do it right away!

CavDog isn't a fan of standardized tests.

Monday, December 16, 2013

How to Withdraw an Application to UVa

It's the time of year when many schools with Early Decision programs start making their notifications. Applying to a school via Early Decision is binding, so if the school makes you an offer, you're taking it and your college search is over.

If you applied to a school with Early Decision and they have admitted you, you need to withdraw your application to UVa. To withdraw, just email with your name, high school, date of birth, and tell us that you want to withdraw your application.

Some people are emailing admission officers directly, but remember that doing that will slow things down.

Congratulations to those who have come to the end of their college search!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let's Talk about Class Rank

Once upon a time, class rank was really simple. Students in a class were put in order by average or GPA and assigned a rank based on that order. The person with the top GPA got the #1 spot. Now and then, you'd hear about a tie or a school where there were TWO valedictorians. Imagine that!

Many schools still use a fairly straightforward methodology for determining rank, but there are schools where class rank has become a bit more complicated. There are schools where large groups of students are huddled at the same spot in the class. There are school that give the #1 spot in the class to anyone with a 4.0 GPA. Most of those schools are on weighted GPA scales where the highest GPA in the class is in the neighborhood of 4.50. There's a school where 114 students are holding the first spot in the class right now.

 You're in good company, at some schools.

So why is rank interesting to us? When it is reported, it can help us understand how strong an applicant's work has been in the context of their class and their school. We're aren't ruled by rank, just as we aren't ruled by testing, GPA, or other statistics. The reported statistics contribute to review.

Some schools have stopped reporting rank. In those cases, we often get GPA and grade distribution charts (via the school profile...see the second half of those post for more about that) that provide context for us.

Here's an example of a GPA distribution chart:

Here's part of a (much longer) grade distribution chart:

We publish a chart that shows where students who were admitted ranked in their high school class (if they attended a high school that provides rank to colleges) in case you are curious. Just remember that your admission decision doesn't rest on one statistic. All of the information in your file is used to arrive at a decision. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

And then we had a dance party

We're only a month into the application season, but for UVa students, it's the last day of classes. It's fitting that the annual Lighting of the Lawn happened last night. It was a nice way to celebrate the end of the semester and get a little fun in before exam week.

This year, the light show turned into a dance party, complete with flying glow sticks. 

I've seen a "glow stick war" at concerts, but never on Grounds. Isn't it fantastic?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

"View Decision" = Your File is Ready to Read in SIS

I've written about this a few times in blog posts and in my responses to comments, but I think I need to revisit this in depth.

The Student Information System has a built-in feature that adds a box at the bottom of your status page when your file is deemed complete and ready for us to read. 

Here's what it looks like:

The Short Explanation
If you see that box show up, it might cause a little excitement because "view decision" shows up in the box.  Alas, when you click on the words, you get a little message saying decisions aren't ready yet.  Because they aren't.

Early Action Notification = January 31st
Regular Decision Notification = April 1st
(any change will be announced on this blog)

We are just a few weeks into the EA process and there are somewhere around 15,000 applications to read.  Four weeks is not enough time for a thorough review. When we are done, we release all decisions without delay. It only takes a few hours for us to get the system ready to release decisions, so as soon as we know all decisions are finalized, we push them out. I always FLY to the computer to post the update when I get the word.

The Long Explanation
The long version is that student information systems are built by companies that are in the information management business.  The company that built the system that we use did a lot of things right. However, there are a couple things that those of us "on the ground" don't love and that is to be expected. 

The "view decision" box works for lots of admission situations (many undergraduate and graduate programs use a rolling notification).  It just doesn't work for schools that admit a class as a big group.  Our SIS does a lot of things really well, but this one feature doesn't work perfectly for us.

In our process, your file goes through many different statuses. Applications are submitted, incomplete, complete, ready to read, and then they move into the review pipeline. The colors and symbols you see reflect some of those statuses. Don't worry about them. Aside from submitting your credentials, there's nothing you can do to change the symbol. Once your file moves into the reading pipeline, it will go through many different rounds of review. That's why it takes three months to do this. We don't just read a file, throw a decision on it, and move on. We revisit files over and over again during the review process.

If the only thing left on your SIS to do list is the mid-year report, you are done for now. It's time to throw your focus back to school work and preparing for your Regular Decision deadlines. You can also start working with your parents on getting ready to file financial aid forms (the FAFSA comes out January 1 and the CSS Profile is already out). Or, you can take a nap.

I have a feeling that if you have an offer on the big day, you'll be pretty happy with SIS.  Without it, you'd be standing by the mailbox, waiting for the postal service to bring your decision the way I did a long time ago.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Missing Credentials Emails Going Out!

Remember when I told you not to panic about your status pages? Well, you still shouldn't panic. However, we are now in the process of emailing those of you who are missing key components of your applications (recommendations, test scores, etc.).

Mid-year reports are a "to do" item for everyone, regardless of when an application was submitted. EA decisions come out before most schools send mid-year reports, but if you get an offer or are deferred to the Regular Decision round, we expect your counselor to send those mid-years along. We want you to be aware of this now as opposed to having that pop up late in the game. Some students are apt to stop checking their status once the to do list disappears.

If you get an email about a missing credential, don't panic. Please contact the appropriate folks to get that missing item sent to us as soon as possible. Testing comes to us through electronic transfers from ETS. Teachers can send recommendations through the Common App website or email.

Stay calm.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Sending Application Updates After Deadline

My physical mailbox and email inbox are flooded right now. I have to imagine that the same is true for my colleagues. Many applicants are sending updates for their Early Action applications right now.

I know many of you have been conditioned to communicate with a regional representative, but sending your updates to a specific person will delay their appearance in your file. Here's what happens...

How Updates Sent via Physical Mail are Processed
All of the snail mail that comes to UVa goes to the school's central mail facility first. There, it is sorted into divisions/offices/buildings and sent out for delivery. Mail that is sent to the Office of Admission arrives in the Peabody Hall mail room that is in our processing area. Anything sent to the general "Office of Admission" stays in the processing area because those envelopes usually contain application credentials. Envelopes addressed to a specific admission officer get sorted and set upstairs to our mailboxes.

During reading season, admission officers only spend part of the week in their offices. Some days, we stay at home to read, which lets us be more productive (no commuting, no walk-ins, no phone). We love reading from home!

When I read from home, I generally start around 6 AM and will read until late at night. When I read in the office, I have to get ready to come into the office, commute to Grounds, and walk to Peabody Hall from the parking garage. That means I start reading around 8:30 or 9:00 AM and stop reading around 5:15 PM to head home. It might not sound like a big difference, but there's a lot of time lost when we read in the office.

Because we read at home a few days each week, our mail can sit for a while in our mailboxes. When we open the mail and see application credentials, we put them in a bin to go back downstairs. It goes right back to where it started to be scanned.

We are a paperless office, so we prefer electronic submission of application materials. That's why we put the email address on the top of our instructions page.  Let's cover how email gets processed...

How Updates Sent via Email are Processed
When you send an application update to, it gets opened and filed by our administrative staff. That's all there is to it.

If you send an email to a specific admission officer, guess what happens? We sent it right over to our administrative staff to file it. At the height of the season (now through March), we are immersed in the review process. When I'm reading a file, I'm completely focused on the student in front of me. I schedule specific breaks to look at email and clean out all the update emails by sending them to be processed.

Please use the general delivery methods we've give you for updates. 
Application updates should be sent to