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!

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!