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!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Submitting Resumes, Research, and Writing Supplements to #UVA

As application numbers increase, so do the emails from students who want to submit additional information. We instruct applicants to submit updates through the student portal, but we realize that there are other voices out there telling them to get in touch with admission officers. Please follow the application instructions. We want our staff to be dedicated to application review, not tending to a constant stream of emails. Following directions helps the process move quickly. Not following directions slows us down...and I know you all want us to work efficiently so we can get decisions made!

Remember that the application is enough. The application includes a lot of information: transcripts, two recommendations, three pieces of writing, test scores, and an activity list. We ask for the things we know we need to make our decisions. If someone is telling you that UVA needs things that aren't listed in our application instructions, they are mistaken.
Please don't spend your money on stuff like this.

Here are some of the things people may tell you to submit and why they aren't necessary:

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 application 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 application 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 briefly these people have known you and remember that 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 in the activity part of the application 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.

4. Writing Portfolios 

We get three pieces of polished writing in your application. The application has a long essay and there are 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.

 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 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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Role of Demonstrated Interest in the #UVA Admission Process

There's a really cute surprise that you'll see when you finish your Common App. I won't mention it specifically so those who have yet to submit applications get to enjoy it, but if you applied during Early Action or Early Decision, you know what I'm referencing. It's a little "hooray, you did it" moment that I've seen several students mention on reddit, Instagram, and Twitter. That moment means you are done with your part of the application.

Unfortunately, there are some students who have been advised to start a mail and email campaign in conjunction with applying to UVA. They send us notes with no questions in them (sometimes weekly!). I can't help but feel badly for these students. The senior year of high school is so jam packed and I wish people wouldn't feel pressured to spend time on something that doesn't move the needle in our review process.

When we read applications at UVA, we do not consult attendance lists from high school visits, information sessions and tours, or evening programs. We don't save and file the emails or letters expressing interest that people send us. We are always happy to answer your questions by phone, email, or social media. However, don't feel that you have to spend precious times and energy on making contact to demonstrate interest in UVA.

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

Don't feel pressured to send us letters of interest.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Role of GPA in the #UVA Admission Review

I finished my travel season helping a colleague out at two large college fairs in Northern Virginia. We get asked "what's your average GPA" so many times at those fairs that we made little signs explaining that GPAs aren't standardized, so the average GPA statistic is meaningless.

The GPA could be seen as the schools' way of summarizing the work that's on the transcript. GPA methodologies vary from county to county in Virginia (and this is fine with us...each district uses the method that works for their students). The GPA doesn't tell us the full story, though. We may see classmates with identical GPAs who have very different coursework and grades on their transcripts. What's more, GPAs don't provide the level of detail we need to make a decision. We look at every course and grade, not the GPA, to understand your academic preparation. Resist the urge to fixate on GPA alone and instead think about how we read your transcript.

Some may suggest that high school-specific GPA data is more reliable and use scattergrams to estimate admission chances. The scattergram is a feature of a student information system called Naviance or Family Connections that many high schools use. Scattergrams plot past admission decisions on a chart using just GPA and testing as the variables.

A scattergram I found online. This is NOT for UVA.

If you have access to them, remember that scattergrams are plotting the results of an elaborate application review process on a chart with just two factors. They show how our decisions correlate to those pieces of data, but they don't tell you how admission officers make their decisions. A student whose offer of admission is plotted on a scattergram wasn't admitted because of their GPA and test score, but because the details of the application were compelling.

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