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!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What is the Counselor's School Report?

As students read application instructions and start working on their Common Apps, they sometimes wonder about the School Report (also called the SSR or Secondary School Report) that counselors submit to support the application. 

This School Report is sort of like a "cover sheet" for the documents sent by the counselor. In our system, this form is bundled with the high school profile and counselor's recommendation. The School Report and a high school profile help admission officers calibrate to read the file. Generally, the high school profile gives information about the curriculum at the school, grading scale, and information about how statistics like GPA and rank are calculated (remember, those are not standardized). The School Report is a little more specific to the applicants and the current year's senior class.

The first page has biographical information on it and the privacy waiver...

The questions on the back of the School Report aren't all required, but they prompt the counselor to provide information about the student and contextual information. 

Some high schools don't allow their counselors to complete all sections of this form. For example, the sections asking counselors to rate a student compared to others and the disciplinary questions are regularly left blank.
Do you have questions about the School Report? Post them in the comments below. If you're on a mobile device, you'll have to look at the "full" version of the site instead of the mobile version to see the comment box.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Does Your #UVA Application Need to Show a Spike?

What does "spike" mean to you? If you've been spending time on websites where college admission advice is given out in the last few years, you've probably seen it used in conversations about extracurricular activities. Let's talk about that and what UVA admission officers are looking for when we review the activity section of your Common App.

The Definition

The spike being talked about on those sites refers to the notion that students should tailor their activities (and in some cases, the entire application) to fit their intended major. Most recently, I've seen people talk of showing a "business spike" or "psychology spike." 

The General Concept Isn't New

There were people talking about crafting and packaging yourself to fit a specific theme back when I was applying to college! We thought you had to be either well-rounded or pointy. We'd also hear people talk about students being specialists and generalists. I think that the internet has made "spike" spread very quickly to the point that it's become generally accepted.

My Take on the Spike Messages I'm Seeing

When it comes to activities, we don't craft the class to cover certain interests because we don't have to. When you have an incoming class of ~3,900 students, you don't have to engineer variety. No one is going to say "where are the drummers" or "who will write for the newspaper?" There will be drummers. And writers. And dancers. You get the idea. 

When I look at your activity list, I simply want to see that you're making a contribution in some area of your life. Activities don't have to be related to each other. Activities don't have to be related to your academic interests. Activities should be rewarding, interesting, and fun. You shouldn't be afraid to try something because it doesn't fit into a strategy.

Also, consider the fact that we are looking for curious students who will take advantage of all the wonderful options in the UVA curriculum. It's great to have an idea about what you'd like to study, but I hope you're excited about exploring subjects you haven't had access to in high school.

What Applicants Should Do

Ask a few admission officers about this spike concept. You might have to explain what it is, as this idea didn't come out of admission offices. I hope you'll see that we are all interested in learning more about you in the activity section, but we aren't expecting your involvement to dovetail with your academic interests.

Activities should be rewarding and fun, not part of a strategy!