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!

Monday, April 27, 2015

May 1st is Friday!

In the days of paper applications, admission deans stalked the mail delivery in April the same way that applicants did in March. Did any deposits arrive? How close are we to having the class completed? These days, deposits are paid online at most schools, so there probably aren't as many deans pacing and peeking at the mail bins.

One of the most delightful developments I've noticed this year is that more students are announcing their college decisions on social media.

A photo posted by Mary Peyton Baskin (@mpbaskin) on

Instead of stalking the mail delivery, I find myself looking at the #UVA19 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram a lot and smiling.

While I still think that seeing you all get your decisions is one of my favorite things, seeing your happy faces when you've made your college decision is wonderful, too. I look at the pictures and tweets and think about all the amazing things you will do here. I am excited to see you propel this university forward and enrich this amazing community with your talents.

A photo posted by Kathy Nguyen (@thatonenguyen) on

If you are still trying to make your decision and have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or contact me on twitter (@UVaDeanJ).

And if decide to announce your decision to join UVa's Class of 2019 on Twitter or Instagram, use the hashtags #UVA19 and #ReachHigher. You might just get retweeted or regrammed by the main UVa account!

Friday, April 24, 2015

How Much Time is Spent Reading Each Application?

While I will always enjoy talking about UVa and the amazing things our students do here, I really have fun talking about the mechanics of the application review. I love explaining how things work behind-the-scenes because I know the information helps students and parents feel like applications are cared for and reviewed in a thorough and thoughtful way. Sometimes there's a moment when they realize they can ask about some little detail that they didn't feel comfortable asking before. One of the most common questions is about how long it takes to read a file.

The system in which we read files doesn't have a timer that can measure the number of minutes a file has been open over the course of the entire season (that I know of), but there are "quick" reads and there are "long" reads. If you look at the entire application pool as a line, the quick reads would be at the extreme ends - the clear offers and the clear denies. The files that aren't at the extremes are where we spend the bulk of our time.

Here is a super complex graphic to explain.

The other factor that people don't seem to know is that we read in teams. Everyone is so used to hearing about "regional reps" in admission offices. We do specialize in certain regions (I cover much of northern Virginia and northern New Jersey), but multiple admission officers read and weigh in on an applicant's file (which is why we're always telling you to email updates to and not to individual admission officers). Each application is read by at least two different officers, but can be read by as many as...well, the entire staff. How many times a file is read and how many different people read it depends on the case.

I rarely remember the files on the extremes, so sometimes a counselor will excitedly mention their star student who was admitted and I'll smile, but have no recollection of the name. I'm more likely to remember the files I read over and over again during the season as I journeyed towards a decision for them. We all write notes in the file every time we read it, but I also jot down a couple details about files I want to revisit in a notebook each year. I check up on the files a lot during the course of the review and then shred the pages when the class is full.


I'm always happy to answer questions about logistics. Feel free to post them in the comments.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Today is the eighth anniversary of tragic events at Virginia Tech. I imagine most in the Commonwealth remember where they were on the morning of April 16, 2007 when they heard about what was happening.

Here at UVa, Days on the Lawn was just getting underway when the news broke. Jack Blackburn, our late dean, shared the news during the welcome session and offered our office's phones to those who needed to call a loved one in Blacksburg. What was going to be a fun, upbeat day on Grounds became very different as we worried about our Hokie friends. The entire UVa community came together to support Virginia Tech in a variety of ways.

Some people insist that UVa and Tech are enemies, but the fact is that we are more like siblings. Of course, a sibling rivalry is evident when we face each other in competition, but siblings support each other, too. Every UVa student who went to high school in the state probably has a former classmate at the other state universities. Faculty and administrators here often know their counterparts at the other schools. We look forward to seeing each other on panels or at conferences. There are many families who have "house divided" stickers and flags because one child goes to UVa and another goes to Tech.

We are Hoos, but we love our Hokie friends.

The longest lasting message ever painted on Beta Bridge, April 17-June 9, 2007

The day the Hokies painted Beta Bridge, June 9, 2007

Last year...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Friday Days on the Lawn is FULL! Space available Wednesday and Monday.

We have three more Days on the Lawn events to go! We can't wait to see those of you who have registered to visit on Wednesday, Friday, and next Monday.

The weather forecast seems to be pointing towards us needing to move the welcome sessions indoors for this week, but we'll make the call on each of those a little closer to the start time. As always, there will be signs and volunteers directing you to the proper location.

If you haven't registered yet, there are still spaces available this Wednesday and next Monday. The Friday DOTL is completely full and we can not handle ANY unannounced visitors. This is about fire codes, so we aren't just capping attendance on a whim. For everyone's safety, please pick a different day to visit if you don't have a reservation to attend the Friday DOTL.

By the way, CavDog isn't allowed inside the buildings where we hold our welcome session and panels when it rains. If you want to meet him, come back Peabody Hall after you attend class and he'll be more than happy to spend some time with you! If the weather is nice, you can come see CavDog contort and jump to catch his tennis ball on the lawn in front of Peabody in the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Reflecting on the 2014-2015 Essays

People sometimes assume that once the incoming class is admitted, we get to relax a little bit and take some time off. In reality, we move into the transfer application review season, visit season (Days on the Lawn is only half of it...huge groups of sophomores and juniors are visiting), and preparing for next year's process.

I've been thinking a lot about our essays questions and how we may tweak them for next year. We usually have admission officers, deans from the different schools/programs, and current UVa students weigh in on the questions. After reading thousands of essays, most admission officers are pretty passionate about the questions that need to stay on the application and the ones that need to go or be edited.

I'm wondering what those of you who just went through this think about the options for question #2. If you need a reminder, here are the options that were on your application:

2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language (we’ll welcome you to Grounds, not campus) and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • While a student at U.Va., Fulbright Scholar Rowan Sprague conducted groundbreaking research aimed at protecting the complex structure of honeybee hives. We know that colonies include bees acting in a diverse range of roles, all equally important to the success of the hive. What role will you play in the U.Va. hive?
  • To tweet or not to tweet?      

I definitely have my favorites, but I'm wondering if you do as well. Would you remove one of these completely (I would)? Would you tweak one to work better?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Happy April Fool's Day!

I have to admit that I slacked on putting together an April Fool's Day joke for I'm going to harken back to last year when the UVa Libraries posted this hilarious video. There were a few people around here who actually believed this for a few hours:

My joke last year was announcing that CavDog was retiring and would be replaced by CavSnake. I posted this during a Days on the Lawn event and had people coming up to us expressing their sadness that it was one of his last DOTLs.

The Library helped me out and posted this a few hours later:

I'll start thinking about my 2016 joke now so I have something great to share.