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!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Five Tips for #UVA20 Regular Decision Applicants

The Regular Decision deadline is around the corner and from the tone of the calls I've gotten today, some of you are freaking out. Here are my final notes for all of you who are putting the finishing touches on applications right now:

1. Read the application instructions. There's a whole section about "Accessing the Student Information System" and so many of the questions I get on the blog are covered there.

2. Get YOUR part of the application submitted by 11:59 PM on January 1st. Your teachers and counselors have a grace period for submitting their parts of the application.

3.  You don't have to "rush" your SAT scores. As long as you have submitted your request to ACT or SAT, we can work with you. In an ideal world, you'd have submitted those requests earlier in the month, but we'll have plenty of things to work on if the scores aren't here on deadline day.

4. I know I mentioned this the other day, but make sure you submit your Common App. Paying the fee doesn't submit your application. Every year, there are people who submit a payment, but don't submit their actual application.

5. If you have any trouble, hit the "Instructions and Help" link that is on every page of the Common App website. They have support team members staying up into the wee hours to help students. That isn't permission to procrastinate. Can you imagine how many help tickets get submitted on the night of a big deadline?

That's all I have! Feel free to tweet at me (@UVaDeanJ) or post in the comments if you have a last minute question. Good luck!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Last Minute Notes for #UVA20 Regular Decision Applicants

January 1st is around the corner and it's time to remind Regular Decision applicants of a few things. Early Action applicants, you're going to recognize a lot of the information here. 

Deadline Night

This comes up every year. The deadline is January 1st. It is still January 1st up until 11:59 PM that evening. Don't wait until the last minute to submit just in case there is a technical glitch and you need assistance. The Common App team stays up all night to help students, but you can probably imagine that there are tons of support tickets being submitted on deadline night. Don't procrastinate!

Paying the Fee Doesn't Submit Your Application

Make sure you follow the submission procedures in Common App. Paying the fee won't make your application come to use. You still have to submit the application. We spend a few weeks following up with people after deadlines because they neglected to submit an application, but sent us a fee!

After Submitting, You'll Monitor Your Application Status in SIS

This is explained in our application instructions. A few days after your file is pulled into our system, UVA's Student Information System will send an email with login information to the email account you used on your Common App. On the main screen, you'll see a "to do" list of items that need to be checked into your file.

The first time you log in, you might see items that are in our system, but just haven't been matched up to your file yet. Please be patient. It takes a few weeks for our staff to match all those transcripts and teacher recommendations to newly submitted applications.We only log required documents due to volume.

Mid-Year Reports will be sent by your counselors once first semester grades are available.

SAT and ACT Score Aren't Sent Instantly

Despite the testing agencies having this on their websites, many people don't know that it takes the SAT and ACT folks a few weeks to transmit scores to us. Even if you sent your scores a week ago, you might see them on your "to do" list in SIS for a while. Don't delay. Send your scores NOW.

Sending Resumes, Papers, and Other Supplements

We do not accept resumes, papers, and supplements that fall outside the lines of art supplements (for the arts, architecture, and marching band). Your activities should be listed in the activity section of the Common App. Be concise and brief. If we have any questions about your activity list, we'll email you. Recommendations should come from your counselor and a teacher of your choice. The feature for submitting "other" recommendations is turned off in Common App.

If you are a Virginia resident, please be sure to fill out the residency section of the Common App. Only send extra documentation to the Office of Virginia status if they contact you with a request for supporting information.

Submitting unnecessary documents slows the process down for everyone. The Common App is a robust application that provides us with plenty of excellent information. Don't complicate the application process with extras!

Jack loves the Common App...scarf.

Monday, December 21, 2015

View Decision Status in SIS for #UVA20

It seems some students have started to encounter some of the wonderful quirks (ha) of the UVA Student Information System (SIS). They are seeing "View Decision" at the bottom of their SIS status pages and are assuming their decisions are ready. Decisions are not ready.

Applications move around in our reading system. They go from incomplete, to complete and ready to read, and then they start getting passed around by the different counselors and deans who are reviewing them. We are in that third phase, the part of the reading season that takes the most time. When you see "View Decision" on your page, it means your files has reached that third stage and we're reviewing it.

On notification day, clicking on "View Decision" will take you to a decision letter instead of the message you see now about checking back on January 31st.

Waiting is so hard!

About Notification Day

January 31st is the official notification day. If you log into SIS on that day, you will be able to see your status by hitting "View Decision." That being said, we have always been able to finish a little early and post decisions before January 31st. When we are done, we release the decisions. If there are updates, I will announce them here, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Class of 2020 Facebook Group

I try to create as many avenues for applicants to chat and ask questions as possible.  This is why I'm available here (I answer questions in the comments on posts) and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and email.

Sometimes, you'll want to chat with each other and ask questions in a student-only space.  You can do that in the Class of 2020 Facebook group.  In the spirit of student self-governance, which is a big deal here at UVa, this is a space just for students

Click the image to go to the group on Facebook!

Who Is in the Facebook Group?

Obviously, the group will be for students who hope they'll be members of the Class of 2020 at this point. Membership will evolve as decisions are released and students start committing to colleges. After decisions come out, the students in these groups often create questionnaires to facilitate roommate matches. I'm told that the questionnaires the students create are more detailed than any being used by a housing office or roommate matching service. Student self-governance works again!

Who Is Moderating the Facebook Group?

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

What Happens to the Group in the Future?

When your class elects officers, the current admins will hand the group over to your chosen leaders. We've been doing this for about six years and it works beautifully. For now, the admins are fine with answering questions, but they usually sit back and let you chat.  Nothing in these groups will be saved or connected to your applications.

Is Facebook Activity Used for Admission Purposes?

I am not in the Facebook group. I have absolutely no interest in tracking you or looking at your profiles.  If you have questions and want to ask them on Facebook, you can use the Office of Admission page.

Can Parents Join?

No. if you are looking to check in with parents of UVa students, check out the UVa Parents page. Every so often, I hear about a parent requesting to join the student group. Please let them have their space to talk.

Why Does UVA Create the Group?

We didn't always create a Facebook group for the classes. I used to talk about how Facebook was the students' domain (it was back when you had to have a .edu email address to get an account!) and groups should grow organically. I changed my mind in 2008 when a company started creating groups with school names on them. They've modified their model over time, but they are still at it.

Content in the group we created won't include advertisements from third parties and your information won't be mined.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tune in to #UVA's Lighting of the Lawn 2015!

I love being asked about favorite UVA traditions and it happens pretty regularly. Most of the students with whom I interact already know the basics about UVA. They want to know some of the things that don't get written done or what doesn't come across in college guides and websites. I always wind up talking about student self-governance, the Hoo Crew and Marching Bands, the club fair, and the event that is happening tonight, the Lighting of the Lawn.

The Lighting of the Lawn started in 2001 as a way to bring the University together after a solemn fall semester. The tradition has continued and it marks our transition into reading days and final exams. Over the years, the event has become more elaborate, with students, faculty, facilities, and administration collaborating to make LOTL a special memory for all of us.

The Lighting of the Lawn starts around 7 PM with performances by several (dozens?) different choral and a capella groups. After the reading of a poem that greets each class and recaps the past year, there is a countdown to the "flipping of the switch." For the first time ever, you can watch the LOTL from home via a life stream. Check out the Lighting of the Lawn website for the link.

With scaffolding on the Rotunda due to a restoration project, the committee has been pretty creative in recent years. Some people didn't even think they'd get lights on the physical building.

2013 (here's a video from the students' perspective if you want to hear their reactions)

2014 (from the students' perspective)

I can't wait to see what the LOTL committee has planned for this year! 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Timing of SAT Score Reports

I've written about the timing of SAT score reporting in the past and it seems like a good time to revisit the topic. First of all it is worth mentioning that the UVA Application Instructions page has a link to a page all about standardized testing.

There are going to be 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 is going to be a long post, but I think understanding the logistics of score reporting will answer a lot of the questions we are getting right now.

1. How UVA Receives SAT Scores

We get a lot of email from people who ask if we will "accept" scores sent way before or way after a deadline. If you understand how scores get here, you'll know the answer.

Most colleges (UVA included) receive scores electronically. We do not accept or reject the scores, they arrive automatically. At slow times, the reports come once each day. Around deadlines, 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.

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.

If you have UVA listed as a school that should get your scores up front, the scores arrive pretty quickly.

However, if you wait to see your scores and then submit a request that UVA get them, it will take much longer. As a result, we do not recommend waiting to see scores before sending a report. ETS isn't totally consistent in the dates that they say they'll deliver scores. There's one spot where they say it'll take five weeks for colleges to get scores.

Screen shot taken here, 12/1/2015

However, the SAT folks assured me via Twitter last year that the five week wait is for international schools and most scores are sent to colleges one to two weeks of a request being made. If you are applying for Regular Decision and are reading this, send your scores well in advance of the deadline.

3. Sending Scores After Deadlines

In the first part of this post, you saw that we don't accept or reject score reports that come to us from ETS. So let's talk about what happens if you send scores after the deadline.

In our application instructions, we say that the last recommended test date is October for Early Action students and December for Regular Decision students.

If you take tests on those dates and designate in advance that UVA should get your scores, we know your scores will be here when we start to review your file. This doesn't mean you aren't allowed to send scores from tests taken after the deadline. It just means that there is a chance that we will have already started to review your file before those scores arrive.

You should still send those scores. After all, our review takes a few months and there's a possibility we'll be looking at your file several times after the scores arrive. Make sure there are SAT or ACT scores in your file by the deadline, but it is perfectly fine to send updated or new scores later.

Feel free to ask questions about testing in the comments!

Jack isn't stressed about testing at all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Missing Credentials Emails from UVA

On Sunday night, we emailed anyone missing a required application item. If you got one of those emails, don't panic. You aren't in trouble. We know that things sometimes get lost in the mail, sucked into a internet black hole, or misfiled. 

If you got an email from us, please double check your status in SIS and then get in touch with the appropriate person to get that missing item sent to us. We know some schools are already closed for Thanksgiving and are fine with items coming to us next week. Remember that if someone wants to email an application document, they should be using Don't send credentials to individual admission officers. This will delay filing of the document.

Do not worry about the mid-year report at this time. 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 the mid-year report. Many students stop checking their status once the to do list disappears, so we need you to see this requirement now as opposed to adding it to the to-do list in January.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sending Application Supplements to UVA

I've already covered sending us resumes, papers, and abstracts in a past entry (tl;dr we do not accept these items) and today I want to cover a different kind of supplement. The expensive ones.

Every year, we get beautifully packaged submissions from students who want us to see pictures, certificates, art, and newspaper clippings. The use pretty folders, binders, and, in some cases, professional bindery services to present these items. They come in express envelopes or were dropped off by DHL/FedEx/UPS. It's clear that the students spent a bit of money on all this.

Everything that doesn't fit one of the categories of application credentials (transcript, recommendations, school profiles) goes into a bin labeled "Extra materials." Theses items are not reviewed by the deans. It's pretty time consuming to holistically review 30,000 applications. It takes us several months. We won't have time to include the books and binders in the review.

Please don't feel pressured to spend money on this kind of thing. The Common App is exactly what we need! Once you've completed your Common App, turn your energy back to the other things on your very full plate.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

About the SIS Application Status

I just got off the phone with a counselor from my territory who said he has a super nice family that is getting really worried about their student's status page. The counselor mailed the school credentials on the 29th and they thought that a week was enough time for the documents to get to us.

First of all, if you are at a school where counselors aren't allowed (ahem, my territory) or don't have the computer system to submit documents online, I can almost guarantee that it takes more than a week for a document to get to us. Just think about the chain of possession on that envelope.

1. Your High School
First, the counseling office prepares the required documents and probably sends them to the location where all the outgoing mail for your school is collected. Either the same day or the next day, the envelope leaves the building with the US Postal Service.

2. The Journey to Charlottesville
The US Postal Service has their own network of facilities that sort and distribute mail. We all know it is hard to predict how busy the distribution system will be. Eventually, the envelope will make it's way to Charlottesville, possibly after a stop in another city.

I don't have a picture of a mail truck. Pretend that is one. Beep beep!

3. The Journey to UVA
The US Postal Service delivers all mail for UVA to UVA's University Mail Services. Mail Services handles all of the mail for the University and the UVA Medical Center. This includes all the "messenger mail" that we send from one office to the next. Just because mail arrived at UVA doesn't mean we have it in our office.

University Mail Services sorts all the mail that comes in for UVA and then delivers it to each building. Once something arrives at Peabody Hall, our staff sorts it and distributes the items to the proper staff members.

Now, our staff members are pretty busy at this time of year. We have have a little over 16,000 Early Action applicants and each has a counselor and teacher sending us documents to support their application. Opening all that mail takes time and checking all those documents in takes even longer.

A long line of mail bins.

If your school sends items electronically, it still takes a few days for that information to make it into your file. The Common App doesn't send anything until YOU hit submit your application. After that, it will probably take a few days for us to get the documents downloaded from the Common App and then our staff has to match the newly-arrived item up with an application that is here. 

Bottom line: At this time, your SIS status is not a call to action. It is view into where we are with your file. There will be a point when we start contacting students about items that are missing, but that won't happen until December. Please do not rush into your counselor or teacher telling them they didn't send the documents correctly. In all likelihood, those items are either on the journey to us or are waiting to be checked in and linked to your application. I'll let you know when all submitted documents have been filed.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Post-Deadline Notes for #UVA20 Early Action Applicants

The day after the Early Action deadline is always an interesting one. We look at the numbers, but know that the final application number won't be known for a few weeks. We only count completed applications in our statistics, so though we have a total number of applications right now, it's just the submitted number and we won't have an official count until all the credentials that have been sent by counselors and teachers are logged into the system. For now, we are up over 16,000 applications. We are a tad higher than last year at this point, but we will see how many of those applications become complete.

Let's talk about some of the topics that always come up after deadlines:

1. Teacher and Counselor Submissions are still being processed.

We give school counselors and teachers a grace period for submitting documents. Do not worry if your counselor or a teacher is still working to get all of those credentials out.

2. The first time you log into SIS, your file will probably be incomplete.

As I hope you read in the application instructions, a few days after we download your application and get it into our system, you'll get an email about logging into SIS. SIS is where you will monitor your application status for both admission and financial aid. On notification day, you'll also check your decision in SIS.

At this point, most applications are incomplete. Please do not worry! As long as you submitted your application in time, everyting will be okay.

3. Mid-Year reports stay on the SIS to-do list.

If you receive an offer of admission or a deferral, we require that you send us your mid-year grades. We leave the mid-year report on the SIS to-do list for EA applicants so our applicants are aware of this. If you get to a point when the only thing on your to-do list is the mid-year report, you are done for now!

As a reminder, here are posts about:
-sending supplements and resumes to UVA
-SAT score report delays
-ACT score report delays

As always, you can ask questions anonymously (but please pick a name!) in the comments.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Final Countdown for Early Action Applicants

Early Action deadline day is here and we know there are still some applicants out there putting the finishing touches on their applications. A few reminders...

1. The Common App help desk is FAST.

Even when I have asked the most complicated question, I've had a response from the Common App folks in under and hour and often in just 15-20 minutes. If you have a problem while on the Common App website, open a help ticket. The individual colleges don't support the Common App website. The Common App has a great team of folks who do that.

2. You need to double check your responses to a couple questions.

Every year, we hear from students who accidentally applied under Regular Decision instead of Early Action. Double check your selection before you submit. If you hit RD, we won't even begin to work with your file until after the EA review is complete. While you're at it, make sure you are applying as a first-year student. Even if you are coming in with AP, IB, or college credit, even if you are getting an Associate's Degree concurrently, you are a first-year student if you are still working on getting your high school diploma.

You can verify all of this on the first UVA screen you come to on the Common App website.

3. Read the our application instructions.

The application instructions explain what happens after you submit your UVA application. If you read them, you will not be surprised to see items on your "to do" list the first time you log into the UVA student information system (SIS).

I'll be online as late as possible tonight to answer questions that come in by email, blog comment, Twitter, or Facebook. Our office will be open tomorrow morning in case you need to talk to someone about your application.

Good luck! Don't stay up too late!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sending Resumes and Supplemental Information to UVA, Fall 2015 Edition

I normally spread posts out by a couple days, but the emails I'm getting are prompting me to combine my usual note about sending resumes with some more information about supplemental documents.

First of all, this post is not about the optional UVA supplements applicants interested in the arts, architecture, and the marching band are able to submit through SlideRoom. This is about all the other stuff that people want to send us.

1. Don't send resumes to UVA.

The Common App has a resume upload function and lets each school decide whether they want to use it. We are one of the schools that turned that function off. We prefer the Common App activity section to the various ways people choose to present their activities on resumes. Our reading loads are heavy and a systemic format ensures that we can zero in on the major pieces of information. Accepting resumes would slow the process down immensely (and increase the chance that we'd miss something) because everyone chooses their own resume style.

2. Don't send extra documents to Virginia Status unless prompted to do so.

The director of the Office of Virginia Status emailed me the other day and said that Virginia families are going through her website and filling out forms she has on there "just in case" they are needed. Submitting unnecessary documents slows the process for everyone. We ask our residency questions on the Common App. There are a few people who have to send extra documents and they will prompted to do so.

3. Proof of activities is not needed.

Some people seem to think they are getting into college because of their activities. Activities are part of the puzzle, but they play a role that's secondary to the information we get from your school. Listing your activities on the Common App provides enough information about your extracurricular work. We don't need documents that prove that stuff happened.

At the end of the Common App, you sign a statement saying that what you submitted is true. Certificates and nice notes from coaches or club advisers should go in your scrapbook, not get submitted with your application.

4. Application updates don't go to individual admission officers.

Right over the spot where people can find our email addresses is a note that application updates are sent to and that we aren't concerned with you demonstrating interest right now.

If you have some important information that needs to be added to your file, send it to, not to one, two, or several admission officers. Please don't copy us on emails to the application account either. We need to read applications right now and our inboxes are already getting flooded with lovely, but unnecessary emails from students.

It's no secret that applying to college can be complicated, but it seems like some are trying to make applying to UVA have even more layers. As a student, you need to request that school officials do their thing, have tests scores sent to us (posts about that here and here), and then focus on finishing up your Common App by the deadline. Once that is all done, go back to juggling all the other things that are part of being a senior.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Timing of SAT Score Reports

I'm going to address four topics in this post.

1. Delayed score reporting by the SAT (the ACT was addressed earlier this week).
2. Rushing scores.
3. Canceled test dates.

1. Delayed SAT Score Reports

The SAT folks went on hiatus for a little while and weren't sending score reports to colleges. The files are starting to roll in again. Yesterday, we received just over 3000 reports in the first transfer since the break and it will take a few days for the system at UVA to match scores with applications that have already been submitted. 

If you are one of the students who has been told that your scores are delayed, please know that we will review your scores whenever they arrive. You can still apply under Early Action.

2. Rushing Scores

If you didn't send your scores already and you are applying under Early Action, send your scores ASAP using the standard delivery option. At this point, it is not worth $31 to rush your scores. We have enough files to read to keep us occupied until ETS can get those scores to us.You do not have to rush scores at this point.

3. Canceled Test Dates

This happens every year. A storm, a power outage, or some other problem causes a testing center to cancel the administration of the SAT or ACT. My own nephew was affected when Hurricane Joaquin came ashore earlier this month.

Admission offices have always been flexible around deadlines. If your SAT or ACT was rescheduled, you will be okay. Make sure you submit your part of the application by the deadline and that your teachers and counselors have everything they need to get their part done (we give them a grace period, by the way). The testing piece might just have to come later this year and that will be fine with us.

 CavPup's first major rain event. He was not pleased.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Regarding ACT Score Report Delays

I'm bumping my scheduled post about resumes to later in the week to address those who are worried about the timing of ACT score reporting this year.

In case you've missed the news, some students who took the ACT in September have been told their score reports will be delayed because of changes in the writing section.

The large majority of scores for those who took the ACT with writing have also been reported, and we are working to score and report the remaining results as quickly as possible. We anticipate that all results will be reported within the normal 3-8 week time frame communicated on the ACT student website and in other materials.
                                                                    -Statement to admission and school counselors from ACT

The line I emphasized above is why I don't think you need to be worried about getting your scores to us if you are applying through Early Action to UVa. ACT anticipates having scores to us by November 6th. Because of our application volume, we'll be reviewing applications well into January (back in the day, we had far fewer applications and finished the review before the holidays).

Application files get opened over and over again during the review. If you note that you took the ACT in September in the testing section of your Common App, we'll know that we might not see those scores for a little while. We'll keep an eye on your file and won't make any final decisions until the ACT folks finish scoring the September exams. We have plenty of information to review in the meantime. You can still apply under Early Action.

I know the ACT statement says you should be sending screen shots or forwarding emails to us, but I don't think that's necessary at this time. If we get into late December and scores are still missing, I'll post an update for those who are affected.

tl;dr: If your ACT scores are delayed a few weeks, you'll be okay!

HALP! Where are my scores?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Three Interesting Questions from the Fair Oaks Mall Fair

The always massive, usually chaotic Fairfax County Public Schools college fair was Sunday night at the Fair Oaks Mall. I don't know if this is because UVa was in a new location (the center of the mall instead of by a department store) or if attendance was down, but the fair wasn't as frenzied as it has been in years past. Instead of people shouting basic questions over the crowd (what's your SAT score? what's your average GPA?), we actually got to have some nice conversations with students and parents.

This fair always gives us insight into the issues that are on people's minds in one of the most densely populated areas of the state. Most of the questions were totally normal, but a few raised an eyebrow.

1. How many hours of community service do we need for UVa?

 When I got this question from a dad, I realized that there are still people out there giving really bad advice to people about the college process. I don't think students and parents come up with a question like this on their own. Rather, they're told by someone who claims to know better that colleges want a certain number of volunteer hours on the activity sheet. Perhaps there is one out there, but I have never heard any admission officer state any sort of service requirement for admission. 

If service work is something you do, that's great. It is not required for admission to UVa, though. When it comes to your activities, there are no check lists and no preferred activities. We are looking to see that you will contribute to our community is some way.

2. Is a bad grade in a really tough course okay?

 One student asked a pretty standard question about course selection. She wondered whether it's better to take a top course and get a "bad grade" or to take a lower-level course and get an A. When I asked her to define a bad grade, her answer almost made me tear up. She said "a B+ or an A-." I was pretty shocked.

I think some of you are way too hard on yourselves. I think your ideas of weak credentials and my ideas of weak credentials are really, really different. It makes me wonder if there are students who don't even apply to their dream schools because they have convinced themselves that they aren't competitive for admission.

When we look at your transcript, we are looking at all four years of work. One grade doesn't derail an application. If we see a low grade, we look to the next semesters to see if the student has rebounded. I think it's smart to address a dip in grades if you have one due to illness, a family situation, a change in schools, etc.

3. What will the admit rate be for ______ High School this year?

I think this points to how someone is using admission statistics. Admission statistics are the result of the process. We don't start reading each year with a goal of having a certain admission rate or a certain testing statistic. The data can help you understand some of the characteristics of the incoming class from the prior year, but it doesn't tell you exactly what will happen in future admission seasons. The applicant pool can evolve over time.

Jack with members of the Class of 2019. Your admission process won't be exactly like theirs!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Farewell to CavDog

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or the Office of Admission page on Facebook, you already know that we had to say goodbye to CavDog, my beloved Baxter, just over a week ago. Posting the news on those sites was relatively easy, though heartbreaking. A photo and a short caption were all that was needed.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

The idea of sharing the news on my blog was a little more daunting. Writing a short caption is one thing and composing a post is another. It took me a while to be able to do this, even though we've known this was going to happen since the beginning of June, when Baxter was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer.

I've been overwhelmed by the support I've gotten from the UVa community in the last week. The kind comments and notes have been wonderful. My original thought was to highlight some of the lovely comments people made about meeting CavDog, but I think I'll share some of Baxter's quirks instead.

1. To teach him not to bark whenever he wanted, we trained Baxter to bark for specific words. The word set evolved over the years from just "squirrel" and "kitty cat" to the names of our athletic rivals. The day we debuted his bark for that state school in the upper mid-west that beat our basketball team a couple times, we had students cheering.

2. Baxter loved everyone, but he especially loves Allegra, one of the women at our front desk, and Jane, a former admission counselor here. Allegra says Baxter must remember she was holding a doughnut the first time she met him, but I think he loves her because she's just a lovely person. Jane had an office near mine and Baxter used to sneak over to her when I wasn't watching. The day she left us, he seemed to know it was her last day.

3. Baxter would go completely bananas when he saw CavMan. If I wanted to get a picture of them together, I'd have to wait for Bax to run in a massive circle a few times so he'd be calm enough to sit for the camera. I know the people inside the costume changes, but Baxter seemed to know that they put good people in that position!

4. He could identify a "to go" box from the dining room in Newcomb Hall and a bag from Bodo's Bagels. He was not subtle about his interest in them if he saw them.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

5. He loved your little brothers and sisters.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

6. Days on the Lawn were Baxter's favorite days. He loved to come to work with me, but when he realized it was a DOTL day and not a regular day in the office, he would get so excited. In his early days, he would do tricks during the welcome talk. It was a little random, but it was a way to start the day off with some laughs.

April 2008, Baxter's first Days on the Lawn
Playing "dead" doesn't see funny today, but it was at the time.

7. He despised the sound of Facebook notifications. It got to the point that he would get up and leave the room over Facebook Messenger alerts. There's a certain irony that a dog who had been all over social media would find notifications of new activity annoying.

8. While he was extremely happy on the UVa Grounds, there were a few things at UVa that unsettled Baxter: the steam grate behind Monroe Hall, the black floors in the Peabody Hall stairwell, and the squirrels. The UVa squirrel was his greatest nemesis.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

9. His selfie game is strong thanks to a few of the Virginia Ambassadors. They taught him to take selfies during their office hours. We used treats at first, but he got the hang of it pretty quickly.

10. One of Baxter's sisters is a Hokie and I think they exhibit the perfect Hoo/Hokie relationship. They each wanted to "win" when they were playing, but when playtime was over, they were great friends, as siblings should be.

I hope you enjoyed to getting to know Baxter beyond his "CavDog" role. Back in 2008, I thought including him on the blog was risky and that I'd have complaints about a dog being on the blog. That worry seems so silly now. These days, if I post a few entries without a CavDog photo, someone usually points it out. Last week, I told a student that Baxter was gone and they said something like "is it really Days on the Lawn if you don't get your picture with CavDog?" It'll have to be, but it'll be a little bit different.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Recommendation Letters for UVa

Sometimes I worry that the anxiety of this process makes applicants think that if they want to show a school they are worthy, they have to go above and beyond the application requirements. One of the areas where people seem especially intent on doing this is in the recommendation letter department. Today, I thought I would share my thoughts about letters. Hopefully, you'll understand what we are looking for as we work through this part of your file and you'll realize that for the vast majority of applicants, the two required recommendations fulfill our needs. Sending a bunch of repetitive recommendations doesn't help us in our review. Keep it simple.

Now, let's talk more about what is required. We require a counselor's recommendation and a teacher's recommendation. These can be submitted however the counselor/teacher wants to get them to us. Some schools have systems that facilitate submission, some counselors/teachers will use Common App's online system, some will email us (application documents go to, and some will drop them in the mail. Any method of submission is fine with us.

The Counselor Recommendation

Your counselor will send us your high school profile, transcript, a school form with some basic information on it, and their recommendation.The recommendation can take on any form. Many counselors write a letter, some bullet out a few statements about their student, and some schools have a form that that prompts their counselors to cover different topics. It all works for us. A school in one of my territories has a large senior class and 100% of the class typically goes on to a two or four year college. As you can imagine, those counselors are BUSY. When they created a form with areas to address different topics (academics, extracurricular, character, outside issues that may have impacted the student), it was a great move for both "sides" of the desk.

Students always ask what would happen if a counselor didn't know a student well. Those counselors will sometimes share what they have learned from the student's file or from conversations with the students' teachers. There is also a way for counselors to let us know if the constraints of their job prevent them from writing a recommendation. In those cases, the school form is sufficient.

The Teacher Recommendation

We require one teacher recommendation here, but we don't specify the grade level or subject area for that teacher. We want you to pick the teacher who you think has the best insight into your classroom performance and style. Who might talk about your role in class discussion or your style when working on a group project? Who might have a story about you working really hard to get through a particularly different concept? That's the teacher you should ask!

These recommendations aren't about summarizing information we will learn from other parts of the application, so I don't recommend giving your teacher your activity list. You could remind them about the project you did that impressed them or about the time they asked to hold onto something you did so they could use it as an example. Those little anecdotes bring the data that we get in the rest of the application to life.

If you feel like your style is very different in different classrooms, it makes sense to send an extra teacher recommendation. 

"Other" Recommendations

When it comes to recommendations from folks who don't know you in the classroom, I think you have to be careful. Recommendations in the working world have a different purpose than academic recommendations. Academic recommendations supplement the data. Recommendations from outside academia are usually simple endorsements that restate the facts. Having a supervisor at work or where you participate in an activity certify that you do, in fact, work at that place does not provide us with new information. You've probably told us about this in the activity section of the application.

We turned the "other" recommendation feature off in the Common App. Stick with recommendations from people who know you through school.

Do you have any questions about recommendations? Feel free to post them in the comments.

Monday, October 05, 2015

UVA Evening Programs in Virginia

While we will always do lots of high school visits around the state, we realize that it's hard for students to leave class to attend our visits sometimes and parents can feel left out of the loop. We are holding six evening programs around Virginia to give more people a chance to meet us, learn about UVa, and become more familiar with the admission process.

Charlottesville - Tuesday, October 6th (TOMORROW NIGHT!)

This program will be led by Dean of Admission Greg Roberts. There will be a panel of faculty and students, too!

Williamsburg - Tuesday, October 6th

Richmond - Wednesday, October 21st

Fredericksburg - Sunday, October 25th

Newport News - Monday, October 26th

Yorktown -  Tuesday, October 27th

Harrisonburg - Date TBD (keep an eye on the UVa Visits You page for an update)

Students, parents, and counselors are welcome! We ask that you RSVP for these programs, so please click through to register. There is still room for more guests at each event.

If you aren't in Virginia, check our "UVa Visits You" page to see if we'll be in your area this fall!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Should I Apply Under Early Action or Regular Decision?

I've heard some interesting opinions about when you should submit your application to UVa. Many of those opinions seem to be about the mood or level of activity in the Office of Admission. I thought I'd address when you should apply.

Apply to UVa when you can present your strongest application. Remove thoughts about testing, how the admission officers will "feel" at certain times of the year, and offer statistics. Think about your application when making the decision. Here are a few questions to consider:

1. Does your academic program build nicely over the first three years of high school?

We know that freshman year of high school doesn't allow for too much variety, but that you are allowed to make more choices about your program as you advance. Your counselor will send us a document called a high school profile that explains how the curriculum is structured at your school. If you have stepped up each year to take on more challenging courses, you  might be ready to submit an Early Action application. Early Action is not binding, so you aren't committing to UVa if you submit under EA.

If you think your senior year might really help showcase your ability to take on challenging coursework, you might want to wait for the Regular Decision period. Students who apply RD will have their mid-year grades in their file before we make final decisions.

2. Have your grades from freshman to junior year been consistently strong?

If your grades have been pretty consistent, Early Action might be the route for you since we will be making our decision based on the work you did in first three years of high school. If fall semester of senior year is really going to help you, wait for Regular Decision. RD is probably better if your grades dipped at some point (maybe you were sick, moved, or had a touch transition to junior year). Your fall grades can show that you've rebounded and the stumble is a think of the past.

3. How long will it take your to finalize thoughtful, interesting essays that convey your personality?

I think many students make the EA/RD decision based solely on academics (or sometimes testing, which I'll address below), but the subjective parts of the application are important, too. If fall semester is super busy and you don't think you'll be able to present yourself well in the written parts of the application right now, it might be best to wait for Regular Decision.

4. When will you be able to have a complete application ready?

If you are late asking for recommendations or won't have results from either the SAT or ACT ready by the early deadline (November 1), you might want to apply for Regular Decision (January 1).

This is NOT saying that planning on taking SAT Subject Tests or making a second pass at the SAT or ACT should stop you from applying early. The Subject Tests are optional and can come in after deadline. New SAT/ACT scores will be added to your file as soon as they are sent to us by the testing agencies. You need a score in your file at deadline time. That doesn't mean you can't send more later.

 So many students worry that they can't apply to a college under and early plan if they have signed up to take a standardized test in November. In short, I don't think testing should determine when you apply.

Our review process is the same no matter when you apply. We aren't "easy" on the early group, which is a common perception. The applicant pool is strong no matter when you apply. When thinking about when to submit your application to UVa, I think you should think about the strength of your application right now and compare that to what it might look like once the first semester of senior year is finished. Apply when you feel your application presents the best case for admission to UVa!

That isn't the type of strength I meant, Jack.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Three Sources for UVA Admission Statistics

I was a little startled today when an independent counselor complained that they couldn't find admission statistics broken down by residency, so I thought I would point out a three resources for those who are looking for UVa admission data.

First of all, I always post unofficial admission stats just after our decisions are released. You can click on the "statistics" tab at the bottom of this entry to see those posts. I'm pointing this out because some readers ask questions about data in the comments and the discussions might be interesting to you.

Second, there are tables of data on the Office of Institutional Assessment websites. Most schools have an office that generates official statistics. The name of the office will often have to words "institutional assessment" or "institutional research" in it. You can review the Common Data Set (all schools fill these out) and also see admission and enrollment data broken down by school and residency on the assessment website.

Third, there are some government websites that aggregate statistics from many universities. On the IPEDS website, you can look up specific schools and even compare multiple schools that you may be considering. If you are looking at Virginia schools the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) collates statistics from all Virginia schools on their site.

If you decide to dig into the charts, just remember that in a holistic admission process, decisions aren't made using numbers alone. We'll be reading your entire file before rendering an admission decision. There are obviously pieces of data in your file, but all of the components of your file tell your story.