Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

There are 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 every year!

References to emailing updates to your application are from the years when we didn't have the current applicant portal. Please follow the instructions in your portal to submit all updates.

Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Friday, January 29, 2016

What To Do When You're Deferred for #UVA20

Being deferred is tough. I still remember the feeling of limbo that I got when I was deferred in high school. There are different reasons for deferring a student out there, but there are two that come up a lot in our discussions.

1. The Big Senior Program

Many schools allow students to have more control over course selection as they advance. Senior year is often the year with the most freedom and many students go for the big finale. This is awesome! Senior year should be the finale to your high school career. Your transition to college is going to be smoother when the leap to college-level work isn't a huge one, so a strong senior program is smart.

Seeing mid-year grades from these top courses can help us make a final decision on the file.

2. The Upward Trend

We try to counsel students about waiting for Regular Decision if they are rebounding from some shaky grades earlier in the high school career. We know that there are lots of other voices pushing students to submit applications early because there is a belief that early rounds are easier. That might be the case at some schools, but not at UVA.

When we see someone who is rebounding, we often feel it's best to get one more semester of work in the file. If you are rebounding, know that we are rooting for you!

How Do I Respond?

There's a link in the decision letter you received that goes to a Defer FAQs page that covers what you are supposed to do next.

We get plenty of emails/comments that start with an acknowledgement of those FAQs, but then a question about sending the things we tell students not to send. You do not need to start a defer campaign. I think there are people out there who insist that you must do this and that might influence the process at other schools. If you look back at the two scenarios I cited above, the issue isn't with supplements or recommendations (remember, we turned off the non-academic recommendation function in Common App). An academic update about how the first semester went will be most helpful.

If you are a senior, you have a lot on your plate. I can't tell you how many essays I've read about sleep deprivation and time management in the last few weeks. You are all obviously busy and you have to be smart about how you spend your limited time. If a college tells you not to worry about doing something, don't do it. Use your energy elsewhere!

A Word About Statistics

People inevitably ask me for stats about the defer pool. I haven't been able to run reports off multiple years, so it wouldn't be appropriate to cite a trend. Suffice it to say that residency is still a factor, with more deferred students from Virginia getting offers. School choice and the size of the pool are also factors.

Waiting is so hard.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unofficial Early Action #UVA20 Statistics

The Office of Institutional Assessment is the source of all official statistics about UVa. They take a census in October to determine the final statistics for the class. You can see official admission data in the data digest part of their website.  Obviously, what happened in past years isn't going to predict the future, but some people have fun playing around with the different charts on their site. 

Here are some unofficial numbers about the early action process. These numbers are up to date as of 8 AM this morning, January 26, 2016. If you are a reporter, please contact the Media Relations team in the Office of University Communications for current, official information and all of your reporterly needs. :)

Early Action Applications 

Total number of Early Action applications: 16,768 
Total number of VA apps: 4,460 
Total number of OOS apps: 12,308 
We use completed application numbers in our statistics. There are schools that include incomplete applications in their stats.

Early Action Offers

Overall offers: 5,192
Total VA offers:
2,237 (50% offer rate)
Total OOS offers: 2,955 (24% offer rate)
*Schools admit more students than the enrollment goal with yield in mind.
Yield is how many students accept an offer of admission. Check out yield from past years, broken down by residency (these numbers are for the entire applicant pool, not just early action). 

Early Action Defers

Overall defers: 4,065   
Total VA defers: 1,060 
Total OOS defers: 3,005 
Some applicants will withdraw, so these numbers will go down!

Early Action Testing/Rank

Middle 50% SAT score (offers only): 2020-2270 
Middle 50% ACT composite (offers only): 31-34 
We use scores from each section in our review, but the reports on averages generate totals.  
95% of admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school class  
This number only reflects those who attend schools that report rank.

Please understand that I do not have additional statistics. We are already immersed in the Regular Decision review process. There will be a post about deferral tomorrow, but if you clicked the link in your letter and read the Defer FAQs, you know much of the content.

The Echols, Rodman, and College Science Scholars programs are sending invitations by mail on Friday. Welcome packets with information about next steps will be leaving our office soon!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Let's Talk about #UVA20 Early Action: The Offer

Admitted students can use this entry to talk. I imagine you might also want to join the UVa Class of 2020 Facebook group to chat with your future classmates. That group is just for students. Parents, you can check out the UVA Parents Page and the UVA Parents Facebook page.

I'll have post about admission statistics and Days on the Lawn (our admitted student open houses) in the coming days. Just for reference, below your letter are buttons to accept or decline your offer. If you accept, you will see a button to let you pay your tuition deposit online*. I believe orientation registration will open after April 1st, but you'll get more information about that in the future.

You have until May 1st to decide whether you'll be joining us in Charlottesville. If you decide to go elsewhere at some point in the coming weeks, I hope you'll decline the offer immediately via your self-service page.

Congratulations! We are so lucky to have you considering UVA!

Image by Sanjay Suchak

*We have an e-check system for deposits. You'll type in the numbers on the bottom of a check. The system will take certain kinds of credit cards, but it's primarily an e-check system. Be sure to turn off your pop-up blocker when you go to pay the deposit!

Let's Talk about #UVA20 Early Action: The Defer

Deferred students can use this post to talk.

Your application hasn't finished it's journey yet.

Once your mid-year grades arrive, your file will be reviewed again during the Regular Decision round. At this point, you should simply make sure your mid-year report is sent when the grades are ready. Most of your counselors will do this automatically.

We know the wait is tough, but we think your mid-year grades could help your case. Hang in there! You should have already seen the link to the defer FAQ page, which answers the most common questions.

Jack hopes you can find a peaceful place to wait.

Let's Talk about #UVA20 Early Action: The Deny

Denied students can use this entry to talk.

I know this is hard to handle and some of you might not have gotten a disappointing admission decision yet. I hope you all can look at your options and get excited about your other schools. If your immediate reaction is "I'll transfer", don't let that plan keep you from getting involved in campus life at the school you choose. I think many students come to think of their next choice as "home" and can't imagine leaving it after a little while. Give yourself time to explore your options.

Some students inquire about being moved to the defer group. Please understand that we do not have an appeal process.

Please be polite and respectful of others when posting.

BTW, if you signed yourself up to read the blog by email and don't want the messages anymore, there's an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the page. 

Get Ready for a #Cavalanche of #UVA20 Hoos!

Though the instructions say that Early Action notification happens at the end of January, it's no secret that if we finish the review early, we release the decisions instead of waiting for the 31st. It seems as though everyone has analyzed my past posts every which way to figure out where we are in the process.

Our counselor friends want you checking your decision at home, where you won't have an audience of classmates and a parent can be standing by to give you a big hug regardless of your decision. That's more likely to happen in the evening (we've actually consulted a lot of counselors about this).

With a huge snow storm poised to hit the east coast, the weekend has already started for many of our applicants. So let's just get to the announcement. We are releasing decisions tonight! Please keep reading! I have a few notes...

1. The release is always exciting, but some of you aren't going to get the decision for which you hoped. I hope you'll focus on the college options you have instead of the ones you don't at the end of the day. I hope those of you who get offers will celebrate your success, but also be gracious around those who might not have gotten good news.

2. At some point tonight (this is handled by the tech people these days and I don't control the exact time), the "View Decision" link at the bottom of your SIS page will go to a decision letter. If you can't find your login info for the SIS, use the links on the login page to generate a new password. A welcome mailing with info about next steps will come later for those who are admitted. Please do not open multiple windows or constantly hit refresh. Students have slowed SIS down to a crawl in the past by doing it. Use one window. Set a time tonight when you'll check and do something offline until then.

3. I will post blog entries where you can talk about the different decisions. I'll be back to work through any questions that are asked in the comments tomorrow.  I trust you to be respectful of others in the comments. Feel free to flag a comment if you need me to step in. That notification will go to my phone. A lot of people on Grounds will be watching #UVA20 so they can welcome our newest Wahoos to the UVA community. Some of you seem to be using that tag already!

Keep an eye on the UVA Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook accounts. There might be some nice messages!

4. Please don't post personal information in the comments (contact info, statistics, etc.). As we discussed yesterday, school-specific statistics like GPA are subjective these days and don't represent the applicant accurately. GPAs are meaningless without the high school profile's explanation of the methodology used to calculate them. What's more, there have been times when enough information about an applicant has been shared that their classmates could identify them.

5. Echols, Rodman, and College Science Scholars will be notified by mail next week. Posts about deferral, Days on the Lawn (open houses for admitted students), an EA statistics will come next week. There is no lag time in our office, so we are now reading Regular Decision applications. Please understand if my responses to questions are a little delayed.

6. You don't need to call us to verify this. It's true. We are releasing decisions tonight. The receptionists can't tell you an exact time (see #2 above) or your decision.

THANK YOU to all of you who have read and commented on the blog so far this season. This season was a tough one for me and your excitement and enthusiasm was so helpful.

Regardless of what SIS shows you tonight, you are going to attend a great school. You're going to learn from amazing, inspirational professors, administrators, and peers. You're going to meet people with whom you will stay friends for the rest of your lives. You're going to pull all-nighters studying. You're going to pull all-nighters not studying. You're going to have great successes and you're going to fail miserably at some things. What's going to make or break those experiences is your response and your openness to learning from them, not your location when they happen.

Remember that your decision is not a statement about your value. Most of our applicants are qualified. They are perfectly capable of doing the work at UVA. Our first-year class just isn't large enough to accommodate everyone.

Best wishes to those who won't be back to the blog after this (if you're reading this by email, you can unsubscribe yourself at the bottom of the email). To the rest, I hope you'll continue to comment and stay in touch.

It's a big night and I'll be thinking about you all. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Let's Talk About Everything #UVA20

Whenever I see or hear chatter about the admission process that warrants a blog post, I jot a note in the task app on my phone. If you've been reading for a while, you know that I try to address one big topic at a time. Well, this week, my task app looks like this:

I'm going to attempt to address each of those topics in half a page or roughly 250 words (haha, get it?). If you've been reading  the blog for years, you have probably read posts where I have addressed these topics many times before. I'm going to link to some of those longer posts at the end of each section.

GPAs are Meaningless Without Context

Almost every time a parent starts a conversation about a student, they begin by citing a GPA. That number is meaningless without context. What does a 4.0 mean when there is no standardization in that calculation of that number?

The way I see it, your GPA is an attempt to summarize the work on the transcript. It doesn't tell the whole story, though. Two students at a school could have identical GPAs with very different paths behind them.

More about GPAs.

Strength of Program

A conversation I had with a parent on Facebook last night prompted this one. We look at progress over the course of four (really 3.5) years across academic disciplines. We don't just count up the number of AP courses to assess program strength. After all, there are students who load up on APs in one subject area and shy away from challenging courses in others.

More about program strength (see the second part).


There are people out there who have decided that you have to be either well-rounded or angular when it comes to involvement. This is false. The bottom line is that we are looking to build a well-rounded class. There is room for all kinds of people in a well-rounded class. If you have something to put down in the activity section (and that would be clubs, sports, a job, or other responsibilities), you did it properly. You don't need a resume (we don't accept resumes at UVA). Just fill out the form on the Common App and move on to the next section.

There are 959 student organizations on the books at UVA. They cover things you have your high school and then the list goes off into all sorts of directions, even into fringe-y and strange territory. We want students who are going to help propel all those things along. That's why we don't prefer certain kinds of commitments over others.

More about activities.


Keep it simple. UVA asks for two recommendations, one from a counselor and one from a teacher of the student's choice. Most students should send two recommendations. If your style is dramatically different in different classrooms, it might make sense to send an extra recommendation. Repetition is not necessary, so think carefully about whether you really need the extra recommendation.

I see recommendations as a compliment to the transcript. The transcript provides the data and the recommendations bring the data to life with examples and anecdotes about the student's efforts and style in the classroom.

More about recommendations.

Holistic Admission

People throw the word "holistic" around and want it to mean lots of different things. In a nutshell, holistic admission means that all components of the application are considered when rendering a decision. If your school has Family Connections, I know your instinct is to draw conclusions about our process by looking at scattergrams, which plot past admission decisions on a chart that uses GPA and SAT scores on the axis. This isn't appropriate. Scattergrams show you the result of our review, not the methodology.

In our review, academics come first. After all, that transcript represents 3.5 years of development. Most of our applicants are perfectly qualified to do the work here, so we also look to recommendations, essays, testing, and activities to understand the big picture.

More about holistic admission (and some really bad drawing from me).


I try to have a sense of humor when it comes to the rumors that fly around about our process, but that gets difficult at this time of year because students are so eager for this process to conclude. When you hear a rumor, choose to do the ration thing and check it out with us. You can call, email, tweet (@UVADeanJ), or comment here to get our take.

This was especially long, so we need a Jack picture to close the post.


Friday, January 15, 2016

A #UVA20 Non-Update Update

I don't think I've ever done this, but there are people who claim to have insider information getting our applicants worked up. Decisions won't be posted today. I know you are eager for the Early Action process to conclude, but we can't take shortcuts and sacrifice a careful, thorough review. Hang in there!

Committee work

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Early Action Status Pages (and Why this Takes so Long)

It's the time of year when Early Action students get a little punchy. They're obsessively checking SIS and wondering if it will give a sneak preview of decisions and every mention of UVA has them looking like Jack waiting for a treat.

Can I have it? Can I have it? Can I have it?

First of all, UVA's SIS is a system that was created by PeopleSoft called Campus Solutions. Lots of schools around the country use the same system. When you implement a SIS, it takes a few years and a lot of resources (human and financial). Customizing parts requires even more resources. There are always going to be features that aren't used by a certain school (but might be perfect for another). I know the boxes that pop up during the application season are confusing, but we can't get around them.

As always, we will have decisions ready by the end of January. I always post an update here, on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Word spreads quickly. We also queue up a mass email to go out, but those can take a little time to land in in-boxes. You'll know when notification is coming, I promise.

Now, I want to address the timing of our process. Years ago, our early pool was pretty small, just a few thousand applicants. In those days, our review was done before students went on winter break. These days, half of the applicant pool is applying early. It just isn't possible for us to read 16,000+ files in six weeks unless we a) dramatically changed our review or b) had a way to significantly increase the size of our staff.

I like the holistic review that we use here. It means that decisions aren't just about GPAs and standardized test scores. Recommendations, essays, and activities also factor in (though academics come first!). In addition, we don't "auto" admit the top of the pool and deny the bottom. We read every application. I'm sure there are admission folks out there who might find that antiquated or quaint, but it works for us.

As for our staff size, Peabody Hall is already bursting at the seams and I don't think resources allow for more counselors or deans at this point.

So, the process continues. Hang in there, everyone. Decisions will come, but there is still a bit of work to be done.