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!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Six Deadline Reminders for #UVA Regular Decision Applicants

Regular Decision applicants to UVA should be putting the finishing touches on their Common Applications this weekend. Here are a few of the most common issues and questions that come up around deadline time.

1. The deadline is January 1st, not December 31st.

You have until 11:59 PM on January 1st in your time zone to submit your application. Keep in mind that many schools share this deadline and while the Common App support team is going to be up 24/7 to help with issues, they are apt to be inundated with help requests on Monday night.

2. Counselors and teachers aren't subject to your deadline.

You need to get all of YOUR parts of the application submitted by the deadline. Plenty of counselors and teachers have already submitted supporting credentials for students, but the system stays open for them. Your counselors and teachers are on a much-deserved break. No need to be emailing/calling them over the weekend.

3. Paying the fee doesn't submit your application.

You have to go through a submission process through the Common Application. Don't stop with paying the fee.

4. Your application will be incomplete the first time you log into UVA's information system.

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 were submitted, 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.

5. We do not accept resumes, abstracts, research, or writing portfolios

We do not accept 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.

6. Virginia residents must complete the residency questions to get in-state status.

If you are a Virginia resident, please be sure to fill out the residency section of the Common App. The first section asks questions about you (you'll answer "no" to most of them). The next section asks about a parent. The parent section is where most of you demonstrate residency since most of you are dependents. 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!

Good luck! I'll be watching the comments below for questions. My Twitter client pushes notifications, so you can also tweet questions to @UVADeanJ.

Monday, December 18, 2017

On Grit, Passion, and Perseverence

I remember arriving at my first graduate school class ready for the most interesting discussions of my [short] academic life. It was a class about research methods during the summer session. I had walked for my college degree just two weeks prior and I was the lone new student in the class since most of my classmates had started the program the previous fall. I was energized and ready to go.

That first class was a blur, not because it was amazing, but because it was horrifying. I couldn't understand a lot of what my classmates were saying. I had read the first couple chapters of the text in my excitement to start my program, but it didn't matter. They were speaking a vernacular full of education buzzwords that I didn't know yet. My excitement dissolved and I dreaded going to that class for weeks as I struggled to adjust to the way people were talking.

I've been a little sensitive to buzzwords and lingo that fly around when people talk about college admission because of that confusing experience in grad school. I try to be simple and clear when I write about our process so  Right now, it seems like people in admission are talking a lot about grit, passion, and perseverance.

If today's buzzwords apply to you, that's great. If you don't think grit applies to you, haven't found a passion, or didn't persevere over a big obstacle, I don't want you to worry. Just because those words are popular right now doesn't mean those are the only things that colleges value.

At UVA, our first year class has about 3,700 students with interesting backgrounds and stories. We don't change our review based on the hot words of the moment. In fact, I have only heard someone say "grit" once or twice so far during our Early Action review. There's room for all kinds of students at the table here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

For those Affected by California Wildfires

I wanted to write a quick note to Regular Decision applicants and counselors in southern California who have been affected by wildfires in the area. Though we are still about three weeks away from the RD deadline, please know that we will work with you if access to the internet is a long-term issue.

Our thoughts are with our colleagues, students, and their families in the area.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Few Status Notes for #UVA22 Early Action Applicants

Our Early Action applicants are obviously keeping a close eye on their status pages. I thought I would go over some of the most common questions that come up when viewing a SIS account as an applicant.

1. The SAT and ACT scores don't come quickly.

It takes the SAT and ACT folks up to two weeks to send your scores to us once you make your request. Once the score files arrive electronically, it can take a few days for scores to be matched up with applications. One common issue we've seen is that students are applying with a different name or address than the one they used with the SAT or ACT. This probably affects international students and those at boarding schools the most. If you know that you used a different name and address with the testing agencies, drop us an email at to inform us.

2. We know your mid-year report isn't ready.

If you attend a school on a semester system, we know mid-year grades aren't ready yet (see the "After You Submit" section of the application instructions). We leave the mid-year report on the to-do list so you know it will be expected. Once a file is marked complete, students often stop checking their SIS account (until decisions get released!). If we waited until the end of the semester to add the mid-year report to checklists, may students wouldn't see that new requirement.

By the way, international students in IB programs can send predicted grades as their mid-year report.

3. Just because something is missing doesn't mean someone dropped the ball.

If something is missing from your file, please don't assume a the document was never sent. Though the USPS works very hard, sometimes the mail goes astray or a document fails to upload. Do not worry! We will work with you. No one is going to throw an application away because a credential is late. We want to get your file to complete so we can read it.

4. If you have to resubmit an item, it goes to

Please use the dedicated email account for application updates when sending anything you want considered with your file. Do not email documents to individual deans or groups of deans. We're just going to forward the email to the account above the next time we check email (we are not on email all day...we're reading!). Sending things to the deans just slows down getting those items into your file. The folks in charge of the dedicated account are on the administrative team that files documents and they will get items into your application quickly!

If you have questions about your status pages, I'm happy to answer them in the comments!

Thank goodness we don't have paper files anymore!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from #UVA!

I've been a little quiet on the blog lately. My personal goal for this week is not to read on Thanksgiving Day as I have in year's past, so I wasn't posting much on social media for the last week. I'm always happy to reply to requests for help, even if a blog post is a few days old, though. Please don't hesitate to post your questions in the comments.

Our office will close on Tuesday at 5 PM and reopen on Monday, November 27th at 8:30 AM. We will not have any tours or information sessions during the break. If you are planning a visit to Charlottesville during this time, please keep in mind that the UVA vs. Virginia Tech football game will be on Friday evening. Traffic is apt to be heavy on Friday and Saturday morning as Hokies and Hoos from all over will be in town for the big game.

 By the way, did you know that plenty of students don't go home for Thanksgiving? Students can sign up to attend one of several Thanksgiving dinner parties that happen both on and off Grounds. If you're a current student who wasn't aware of this, there are still spots open if you'd like to have attend a dinner!

Happy Decorative Gourd Season!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Preliminary #UVA Early Action Numbers

We are already deep into the review process! Transfers applying for the January term had an October 1st deadline, so Early Action students are actually the second group of applicants this season. I thought I would share a few numbers to tide you over for a while since I'm not always able to post regularly in November.

21,393 students submitted applications for Fall 2018 under the Early Action plan. When I post admission statistics at the end of the EA process, you will definitely see a smaller number. Some applicants won't complete their application, though we'll email them plenty of reminders!

Keep in mind that we are still processing applications. There's a lot that has to happen between the time when you submit your Common App and when admission officers get to read it. Applications are downloaded and added to our system, documents that arrive electronically are matched up with applications, and anything submitted by mail has to be scanned into the system and manually linked to the correct applicant's file.

It will take several weeks to process all the documents that are arriving in our office right now. Please do not worry about your status page at this time. Once we are caught up on filing, we'll start contacting students by email about missing items. I know some of you have read this multiple times at this point between our application instructions and the blog, but it's important to get this information to as many students as possible!

Back to reading...

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Five Important Deadline Day Reminders for #UVA Applicants

Ah, deadline day. We're fielding the usual "what time is the deadline" questions. You have until 11:59 PM in your time zone to submit your application. We DO NOT recommend waiting until the last few hours to submit. The Common App team stays up all night on deadline nights, but you can't expect instant help if something goes wrong with submission since there are apt to be scores of students submitting requests for help.

I have five important reminders for Early Action applicants:

1. We don't get your application instantly.
We pull applications out of the Common App and into our system in batches. As long as you submit your application in Common App before the deadline, you are set. Don't worry about the download date.

2. There are two VERY important email addresses: and
As covered in the "After You Submit" part of the application instructions (please read them!), you will get a confirmation email with login credentials for the student system. You will monitor your status in that system. You will send any application updates to (not to individual deans).

3. Do not worry about your status page in SIS yet.
When you log into SIS, you'll see a bunch of items on your "to-do" list. They'll just be labeled as "Initiated" right now. It means the item has not been filed in our office yet. Keep in mind that we have a deluge of documents to file. Don't worry about a missing credential yet. We'll be in touch by email once everything is filed to let you know if we need something from you.

4. Do not worry about your mid-year report until February.
At some point, the mid-year report will be the only thing left on your "to do" list. We leave that on your list because we will need mid-year grades from students who are admitted and deferred. Lots of students don't revisit their status once they are marked complete. If we added the mid-year report later, lots of people probably wouldn't see the addition. 

5. Do not read into "view decision" when it appears on your account.
The Student Information System has a built-in feature that adds a box that says "view decision" at the bottom of your status page when your file is deemed complete and ready for us to read. When you click on it, you'll get a little message saying decisions aren't ready yet.

Early Action Notification = January 31st
(any change will be announced on this blog ASAP)

We release all decisions at once. We've been able to release a little early since 2011, but we won't know the release date until we're almost at it.

Back in the paper days, we knew the release date a good week in advance because the last week was used to print letters and get them into envelopes.  We were basically done with the actual reading. These days, there is no lag time between the end of the review and the release.  When we're done, we can release.  We don't have to wait for letters to be printed.

Good luck, applicants! As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments.

Jack is all dressed up for deadline day!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sending Resumes, Research, and Writing Supplements to #UVA

When you hit submit on your Common App, I think you should feel proud of yourself. You've done the bulk of your job related to the UVA application and now you have to wait for the rest of the pieces to fall into place*. Unfortunately, there are people who are trying to tell students that the Common App is the first of many things they have to send us. Below, I'll go over the things you may have been told to send us and why you don't have to worry about them. In a nutshell, colleges ask for what they need to complete their review. If the admission office didn't ask for it, you shouldn't worry about sending it.

Please don't spend your money on stuff like this.

1. Resumes

The Common App allows each college to turn the resume function of the app on or off. It is OFF for UVA. UVA does not accept resumes. The Common App presents information in a systematic format, which allows us to zero in on pertinent information quickly. You don't need to make more work for yourself. Follow our instructions and use the Common App to share information in a concise way.

2. Outside Recommendations

We require one recommendation from your counselor and one from a teacher of your choice. We are looking for insight into your style in the academic environment. People who have never taught you can't speak to your learning style or how you work in a classroom situation. Also, those people tend to think they need to summarize facts (hours worked, tasks performed). Repetitive information isn't helpful.

Some people want to send recs from faculty they met at conferences or special programs. Consider how long these people have known you. I recently saw a recommendation letter that started by saying the writer knew the students for nine days. Your teachers and counselors have a little more familiarity with you.

The required academic recommendations are perfect! Don't worry about sending extras!

3. Research Abstracts

It's great to tell us about research, but don't send us an abstract. A line or two summarizing what you did is great. A paper is over the top and not useful. In fact, if you send us a paper full of jargon, you're increasing the chances that the gist of the work won't be clear. I promise we will be impressed regardless!

4. Writing Portfolios

We get three pieces of polished writing in your application. The Common App has a long essay and the UVA screen/tab has two short-answer prompts. That's plenty of writing for us. We don't accept portfolios.

5. Copies of Certificates

You sign off on our Honor Code when you apply and promise that the information in your application is accurate. We don't need a copy of a certificate to believe that you are a member of a certain organization or received an award for something. Leave those papers in the baby book or that folder where you stick important stuff.

6. Newspaper Clippings or Pictures of You Doing Something

Anyone who was on the staff of a literary magazine, newspaper, or yearbook is proud of their work. It's best to keep copies for yourself and your family. The same goes with photos (even the adorable baby-on-the-UVA-Lawn photos). They belong in a safe place at home, not in a college application.

We try to make this clear on out website with a statement above our email addresses:

 Again, colleges ask for the things they need to make their decisions. If we don't ask for it, we don't want you to spend time (or money) on it. Further, to make this process fair, we are specific about what we review for each candidate. We accept the Common App and supplements that fit the criteria for arts and architecture supplements. That's it. So when you hit submit, it's time to move on to monitoring your status. You don't need to spend time and money crafting extra items to send us.

*Be sure to read the "After You Submit" part of our application instructions. We explain that it can take several weeks for all the components of your application to meet up in our system, so don't panic if there are items on your "to do" list initially.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Early Action vs Regular Decision at #UVA

I've been Northern Virginia and New Jersey for the last week, making high school visits and attending some evening fairs. With the Early Action deadline looming, many students are feeling pressure to get some college applications submitted. Early Action isn't always the best route, though. Let's talk about how to decide between Early Action and Regular Decision at UVA.

Keep in mind:

1. We have the same review process during Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD).
2. Interest isn't a factor (this is non-binding EA, after all), so an early application is not seen as a statement about your intent to enroll at UVA.
3. The results of an early application could be admission, denial, or deferral.

Successful Early Action applicants usually have transcripts that show consistently strong work across the core subjects. My suggestion is to look at your final report card from 9th, 10th, and 11th grades side-by-side. If you can say that your program builds nicely and your grades are consistent, Early Action might make sense for you. Of course, having time to write well-crafted essays is a consideration and you have to have given your counselor/teacher plenty of time to write wonderful recommendation letters!

Regular decision would be best for a student who needs more time to complete a thoughtful application or for whom one fall semester grades would be very helpful. There are so many scenarios where RD makes more sense then EA - rebounding grades, school changes, and the list goes on.

Early Action = transcript shows 9th-11th grade work and senior courses
Regular Decision = transcript shows 9th-11th grade work and fall grades in senior courses

This is an area where there is definitely some conflicting advice. For UVA, you need to submit your application at a strong point.

 As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments,

Eager to start the reading season!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Does #UVA Look for Consistency in Extracurricular Activities?

One of my colleagues spoke with a parent the other day who mentioned that her child was reluctantly continuing with a particular activity because someone told him colleges want to see consistency in activities. I'd like to share my thoughts on extracurricular activities.

We want students who will contribute in our community during their time at UVA. There are many ways and venues in which to make a contribution - through work in the classroom, research, at a job, in student organizations (we call them CIOs here), in the residence hall, around Charlottesville, etc.  The simple question that is in the back of my mind as I read a student's file is "will this student contribute in some way?"

1.  We don't value certain activities over others.

There are over 900 student organizations at UVA. All of those CIOs make UVA the interesting, innovative, and fun place that it is. Whether you are involved in the most popular club at your school or the most obscure one, we'll be happy that you are making a difference in some facet of your school community.

2. We don't expect you to fill out the entire Common App activity chart.

Most students aren't significantly involved in enough activities to fill every line of the activity chart. This isn't about who has the longest list, it's about understanding where a student spends their time outside of the classroom. The length of your list is not a factor in our review.

3. You don't have to show consistency.

If you are one of the lucky students who found an activity you love early on and have maintained involvement in it throughout high school, that's wonderful! If your interests have evolved over time, you are totally normal! You're a teenager and you are allowed to change your mind about your activities. Please don't apologize if your activities haven't been long-term.

It's fine if your activity list shortens a little bit in junior and/or senior year. As academic responsibilities increase, it makes sense to reshuffle your priorities and let one or two activities fall by the wayside. If you don't have to do this in high school, you'll certainly have to do it in college. Most first-years sign up for a few too many CIOs and realize about a month into school that they have to cut back!

The tl;dr: If you have something to put down in the activity section, we'll be happy.

Jack's activity list: looking cute and greeting visitors

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Picking a School and Academic Interest on the #UVA Application

Spending time in my Virginia territory always gives me a read on what the big concerns are for the year's applicants. I gave 21 presentations at Fairfax high schools last week and sat on a panel at one evening program. Far and away, the most common questions I heard were about picking a major.

Applicants to UVA can enter through one of four schools or one academic program. The options are:

College of Arts & Sciences
School of Engineering
School of Architecture
School of Nursing
Students do not declare majors in Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and Architecture when they apply. The only students who are really entering directly into a program are the Nursing and Kinesiology students. Last year, there were 75 first years in Nursing and 49 in Kinesiology. In the class of 3,683 students, 3,559 have yet to declare a major.

Students in the College of Arts & Sciences declare majors by the end of their second year and students in Engineering and Architecture declare at the end of theor first year. Engineering and Architecture expose students to all of their options (10 majors in Engineering, 3 in Architecture) before they declare at the end of the first year. Once they arrive at UVA, students can also explore the Curry School of Education, McIntire School of Commerce, and Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

You aren't making a permanent decision with your choice of school and academic interest on the UVA application. Please don't stress out about this! Pick the area that feels like the right jumping off point in light of your current interests. Very few students actually have an academic plan right now and those who have plans probably won't follow them exactly!

Interests evolve...that's normal!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Standardized Test Advice for #UVA Applicants

The College Board tweeted that students can see the results of the August SAT test today. Score release days always result in questions from students and parents about how we process and use test scores, so let's go over those topics.

The Basics

1. Take the SAT or the ACT. We don't care which one you show us.
2. There are no cut-offs. The stats we put out are describing the class that enrolled. They aren't telling you admission requirements.
3. SAT IIs are totally optional. If you don't send them, you aren't penalized.
4. The last recommended test dates are the ones in October (Early Action) and December (Regular Decision).

Now, let me explain four things that come up a lot in comments and on phone calls with applicants.

1. How UVA Receives Your Scores

Like most colleges, UVA receive scores from the SAT and ACT agencies electronically. We do not "accept" the scores, our system files them automatically. At slow times, the reports come once each day, usually around 3 AM. Around deadline, 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. I took this screen shot of the score notification emails a few years ago. You can see that we mostly get one or two drops per day at this time of year.

2. How UVA Reviews Scores

When we built our online reading system here at UVA, we taught the system to only show us the best section scores for each applicant. I don't see all the scores a student sent us when I open a file. The system picks the best score from each section of the SAT or ACT. We use sections in our review, so the system doesn't calculate a total score, it simply shows us the best section scores.

For the time being, we'll be suppressing the essay (SAT) and writing (ACT) scores when we review applications. This could change in the future. There are plenty of schools requiring these sections, so you will probably still want to take these optional sections.

3. The Timing of Score Reporting

Send your scores to the schools on your list at least two weeks before the application deadline. In general, it takes the testing agencies 1-2 weeks to send a score report to a college. It could take the college a few days to match your score to your file. It's totally fine to send score reports before you submit your application. Anything that arrives before your application is held in a miscellaneous file. All of the application components will meet up in the end. I usually post on the blog and twitter when we have finished matching up documents so applicants know their to-do lists in our records system is up to date.

Both the SAT and ACT will give you four free score reports to use when you take their exams. Use your free reports to send scores to UVA and any other school on your list that automatically pulls the best section scores. If you wait to see your scores before sending them to us, you'll lose your free reports.

SAT Score Report Fees ($43 for a rushed report!)

ACT Score Report Fees

4. Taking (or Sending) Scores After Deadlines

Back at the beginning of the post, I wrote that the last recommended test dates are the month before each deadline. That doesn't mean you aren't allowed to sit for an exam after the deadline, but there is a chance that we will have already started the review your file before those late scores arrive.

You should still send those scores. After all, our review takes several months. There's a chance that the scores will be seen at some point in the process.

As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments!

Don't forget to order your scores well in advance of deadlines!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Admission Travel Season is Upon Us

Hello! I have to admit that I didn't intend to take such a long break from the blog, but August was a tough month for us here in Charlottesville. The energy of having all the students back on Grounds has been a great thing, but I only got to see a few days of them before going on the road.

My first week of travel was through New England with colleagues from Berkeley, Hopkins, and Emory. Group admission trips allow schools to share the cost of traveling and putting on programs and also helps us expose students to new schools. We hold information sessions for students and parents each evening and counselor breakfasts each morning on our trip and spend the hours between driving to our next stop. This year's New England trip took us to Burlington (Vermont), Boston, Providence, Springfield, and Stamford. If you want to see when we might be holding an evening program in your area, check out the "UVA Visits You" section of the Visit page on our website.

Our team fans out to visit schools and hold evening programs all over Virginia at this time of year. My second and third weeks of travel will be here in the Commonwealth, where I'll be visiting schools and going to college fairs, mostly in my Fairfax County territory. You may see UVA pop up on your College and Career Center's calendar soon! If you're on our mailing list, you'll get an email when we plan to be in your area.

My last week of travel will be in New Jersey. As a Garden State native, I'm excited to spend some time visiting schools or holding programs in Jersey, though it doesn't happen every year. Again, if you're on our mailing list, you'll get an email if I'll be in your area.

Travel season is tiring and being away from UVA is hard, but I really look forward to getting into my schools to talk to students about their interests, demystify the review process a bit, and maybe debunk a few rumors along the way.

All Jack needs for a week on the road is a Hoo Crew shirt and his toys!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

#UVA and The Coalition App

Sometimes, the deans in the Office of Admission will cover the front desk for one reason or another. It's always nice to be reminded that our front desk handles a ton of call traffic and a lot of it isn't admission-related. I think it students become so used to calling us with questions during the application phase that they assume we have the answers when it comes to housing, dining, billing, and so on.

I just spent an hour at the front desk and enjoyed chatting with students and parents about a variety of things. One call that surprised me was about Coalition Applications. The caller insisted that the Coalition's website said we were using their application this season. The Coalition Application website has a note in bold on their UVA page that says we will not be using their application this year. We are members of the group, but have opted not to adopt their application at this time.

In addition, our application instructions tell students to apply using the Common Application. If we change our application process, you would see a change on this page well before the application launch date. We know some students like to get the basic parts of the application squared away before school responsibilities kick in, so we would try to give everyone plenty of notice about a big change!

We'll continue to have one application in 2017-2018, so all rising seniors will be submitting their applications using the Common App. Juniors, we will update our instructions by the end of next June if there are any changes to the process.

FYI, here's the list of schools that, like UVA, are Coalition members while deferring adoption of the Coalition's application:

If you have any questions, I'm happy to see them in the comments.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Notes from Peabody Turns Twelve!

Twelve years ago, I thought it would be funny to chronicle my transition to life at UVA and I started blogging with this simple post. There have been years when people said blogging was dying and everyone was going to move to some other platform. Some of those platforms are gone and some faded into obscurity. A few have stayed with us. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat came along and changed how we communicate and digest information, but I think blogging remains an important component of the social space online.

Whether you've been checking in for a while or are new here, thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Are You Visiting #UVA this Summer?

I have some brief notes for those who have signed up to attend an information session and tour this summer or who will be registering soon.

1. Registration helps us pick our venue.

The Office of Admission doesn't have an auditorium for large groups, so we reserve spaces around the University to accommodate our information sessions. Making a reservation ensures that we have a large enough space for our guests.

Attending the information session and tour will not have any bearing on our review if you decide to apply to UVA.

2. We'll communicate with visitors by email.

A confirmation email goes to the student after they register for the information session and tour. In addition, we will send a reminder with parking information in it a few days before your scheduled visit. Please watch for these emails and share them with anyone visiting with you. Parking can be tricky in the summertime because of new student orientation and summer camps on Grounds. Don't just plug UVA into Waze and expect to park when you get close to the University. Use the instructions we send you.

3. Summer is construction season.

As soon as graduation is over, the work crews get busy with all sorts of projects around the UVA Grounds. Fewer people are inconvenienced by closures and detours during the summer. I try to remind myself that these projects are making UVA even better than ever.

4. Bring a water bottle.

Our tours are about 90s minutes long and it is HOT out there right now. Bring a water bottle and take advantage of the bottle fillers we have around Grounds (they are usually next to water fountains). We have water coolers in our office, so you can get a refill when your tour guide brings you to Peabody Hall at the end of your tour.

It's nice and cool in Peabody Hall!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Hoo Stories: The Inside Scoop on Life at UVA

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you've seen me mention the UVA student blog, Hoo Stories. Every summer, a new group of student interns takes over this blog to share inside information about student life at UVA.

This summer's writers have hit the ground running with posts about traditions, lingo, places to visit around Charlottesville, and more. One of the most helpful posts for first years was their summary of the new curriculum options in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The UVA Summer Instagram account is a fantastic companion to the blog. Make sure to follow them to get to know the students behind the blog and see what life is like on the UVA Grounds during the summer!

Monday, July 03, 2017

It's Not Just About Leadership

Many high school students are pressured to show leadership on their activity sheets if they plan on applying to college. If you happen to be the founder or a club or were elected president or captain of something, that's a wonderful honor that should be shared on your Common App. However, please know that those who don't hold leadership positions aren't at a disadvantage in this process.

There are so many qualities of which we take note when we read an application. Leadership is certainly one of them, but we also acknowledge students who show love of learning or who exhibit academic industry. There are some who have experienced academic setbacks, whose stories of improvement impress us. Maybe a student has experienced some personal adversity or they have an interesting life story that brings an unique perspective to the table. There are students who exhibit character or an ability to build coalitions in the classroom or otherwise that are great assets to the classroom. We all benefit from diversity of thoughts, talents, and backgrounds. Every application tells a story and that story doesn't have to be about leadership.

Keep in mind that just because you can check a leadership box doesn't mean other parts of your application don't have to be strong. No one gets admitted to college just because of a personal quality. Academics will always be our first stop when we're reading an application, but we also want to see that a student will contribute something to our community and evidence of that is often found in recommendation letters, essays, and activities.

As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments.

Jack assesses love of animals in his favorite applicants.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017-2018 #UVA First-Year Application Essays

I hope the rising seniors out there are having a great summer. I share our essay prompts for the next year each June with the hopes that we'll give you plenty of time to think about which one is right for you. If you are thinking about writing your essays this early, I hope you'll revisit them before you actually submit an application. It's amazing how much can change in a few months.

I have three pieces of advice for you as you think about your essays:
1. Don't overthink the topic. These questions are deliberately broad so that people can take their essays in many directions. 
2. Don't feel limited to the essay formula you may use for academic writing. While the five-paragraph essay (an intro, three supporting sections, and a conclusion) you use in school is technically correct, it might not be the best way to get your style and voice to come across.
3. Don't feel obligated to use all of the advice you get. You'll obviously want to get some people you trust to read your essays and give you feedback, but it's okay to ignore feedback that doesn't fit your style.

I'll elaborate on those points in future posts. Now, let's get to the prompts. This past year's applicants submitted some really wonderful essays, so we didn't feel the need to make major changes to our prompts. Remember that these short essays are in addition to your longer Common App essay.

2017-2018 First-Year Application Essay Questions

1.    We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.  Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words. 
  • College of Arts and Sciences - What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
  • School of Architecture - Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing - School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing
  • Kinesiology Program - Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.

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 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 UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, 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?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?

I'm happy to answer questions about our prompts in the comments!

Friday, June 23, 2017

How Much Time is Spent Reading a File at #UVA?

I have filled out the Common App quite a few times in recent days because we are testing the 2017-2018 version of the application (essay prompts will be posted on the blog next week!). I found myself wondering how long it takes the average student to get through the Common App and our school-specific questions. How funny that we get the same question from students and parents all the time.

The quick answer we give when asked how much time is spent on each application is "it depends." There are quick reads and slow reads, so it wouldn't be accurate to throw out a number. A quick read might be one where I'm familiar with the options at the high school and the student's academic story is clear in their transcript and recommendations. It might take longer to understand the transcript from a school I don't know as well or one where the high school profile isn't clear about the school's practices. Of course, there are some applications that aren't filled out carefully, where hastily written essays and partially filled out components lead us to a conclusion pretty quickly.

What most applicants seem to be asking is "how quickly do I have to 'wow' you?" Please know that we'll take whatever time is needed to give each file a thorough, thoughtful review. If understanding the file requires a call to the school for clarification or a slow analysis of the transcript, so be it.

Does this surprise you? Do you have questions about how the mechanics of reading a file?

Take your time! The results are apt to be better.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You Need 9 APs and Other Ridiculous #UVA Admission Rumors

Admission rumors make me laugh sometimes, but not today. Today, I heard that multiple students at a particular high school told their counselors that UVA would put them in a "special category" if they were able to get 9 AP courses on their transcripts.

Let's just nip this in the bud. This is completely false. Every application is reviewed the same way. There is a preliminary review by the Office of Virginia Status that verifies the applicant's residency. Once that is completed, the process is the same for all applicants. Each admission officer reads their applications front-to-back. There is no "first round" that just looks at academics or test scores. There is no "special category" for students with a certain number of AP courses on their transcript. Remember that program options are different from school to school, so having a universal "bar" for applicants wouldn't make sense.

There's another rumor out there that claims we will deny students who have "too many" APs because awarding advanced credit "robs" UVA of tuition dollars. This one is truly baffling. The College addresses their very generous AP/IB/DE credit policy on their website. Students can bring up to 60 credits with them to UVA. The President's office also gives a special stole that those who are completing degrees in 2 or 3 years and President Sullivan makes special mention of those students at Final Exercises. If your school offers advanced options and you feel ready to weave them into your program, go for it!

I suspect that these rumors get cooked up when people try to explain an admission decision that they didn't expect. Keep in mind that while course rigor is very important to us, the other components of the application must be strong and compelling as well.

As always, I'm happy to answer your questions in the comments!

Don't worry! We're here to dispel those rumors!