Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UGA Holistic File Review Process

It is almost December, which means our large scale holistic file reading process will begin soon. Instead of giving you a nice "slice of life" story which then transitions into our reason for reading files, I will just go straight into the process. For a large group of our applicants (ones who are not admitted based on their academics alone in November and February), we spend almost three months diving into everything in a student's application to better understand them, look at them in comparison with the rest of the applicant pool, and ultimately make final decisions about our freshman class. This process takes time, but we would rather take time to make good decisions than rush through the process.
I have had a number of comments on the blog asking what we look at in this process, so here are the areas we look at in our holistic review. I could probably write six pages worth of explanation about the process, but I have summarized each area to lessen the pain of exhaustion for the reader. There is more to our review process than just these brief descriptions though, but at least this gives you some details of the process.

  1. Activities/Involvement/Leadership The first thing you should know about activities is that we value quality over quantity. What we are looking for is somewhat about the range of what a person does, but more so the depth of their involvement. It is not about how many clubs/sports/activities you can join, but instead looking at is what things you have committed to during your high school years, both in time and in consistency. In addition, another area we look at a student's dedication to family and work. At times, a student may have limited involvement in clubs, but that might be due to a dedication to their family and/or job. 
  2. Writing/Creativity/Expression - In the review of an applicant's writing, our focus is more the writer's voice, how well they communicate their ideas, and how well they "show" us their information, and less focus is put on grammar and structure. Yes, we still want a student to write clearly and spell check their work, but that is not the key. The other area within this part looks at a student's creative side. While we see some of these items within the activities section, we want to see how a student shows their creativity. We look at their involvement in the arts, but also in the "non-artistic" side of things such as robotics, design, newspaper, etc. We try to get an understanding of their aesthetic side of life. We will focus more on the writing part during this review, but a student's passion for creativity does come into play.
  3. Academic Review - When we look at a student's transcript during the holistic review process, we are trying to understand how a student has progressed over their 3+ years in high school. Have they been consistently strong throughout the years, did they start slow and then jump up to all A's, did they have a tough time in a specific subject, are all their B's low or high B's, etc. We are looking at core grades, we are focused on the actual grades, not a GPA on a transcript, and we are looking at trends and how you have done in your most challenging classes.
  4. Strength of Curriculum/Intellectual Challenges - First,there is no magic number of AP/IB/Honors/Advanced/Dual Enrollment/Post-AP classes needed for admission, because there is no right answer. Instead, we look at the academic opportunities both at your school and in your community for the answer. What I mean is, most competitive colleges are going to look at what academic options are available to you as a student, and what you have then chosen to take. What have you done within the context of what is available? We also look at summer programs (Governor's Honors programs, Girls State, etc), activities which focus on developing your academic side, and how you are preparing yourself for the academic challenges at UGA.
  5. Integrity/Work Ethic/Maturity - One area of admissions that is not always talked about, but which has a great impact over the entire file, is the idea of work ethic and maturity. I often refer people to a scene from the movie Rudy, where the main character never lets up, even on the last play of the last day of practice. UGA recognizes the overachiever, the one that has taken what they have been given and gone beyond everyone's expectations.
  6. Respect for Others - In looking at applicants, we are looking at future members of the UGA community.  They will be living in the residence halls together, studying together, dating, hanging out, and generally interacting with the people in the UGA community 24/7. In light of this, I want to know how they interact with other people in their own community right now. Which students step outside their comfort zone to grow and understand others? Who reaches out to people in their community in need, using their time and effort to give back to other people? What students actively learn about other cultures and other people, and share a bit of themselves as well?

It takes a while for our team to review the large number of applications, and to dig into everything within the file. These files are reviewed by multiple counselors, and we are looking at everything in the application, including activities/sports/summer events/employment sections, transcripts, test scores, recommendations, resumes, essays, etc. We expect final decisions to go out sometime in mid-March, but that is based on current growth projections of how many total applications we will receive this year, so that could change.

Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 16, 2018

2019 EA Decisions and Data


Early Action decisions will be released late this afternoon, so here are some details about the EA applicant and admitted groups. I will also add a comment to the top of this post when decisions go live, and I will announce it on Twitter as well. For students who were deferred, please understand that this is not a denial decision.  We want to be able to have a more in-depth review of you, including short essays, activities, recommendations, etc.  Please be sure to read the deferred student FAQ page before commenting on here. There is also a 2019 Early Action Decision story at UGA News which gives more broad details on the class as a whole, so I suggest you also review this information.

Quick Early Action Numbers (These numbers are mid-ranges, not minimums.)

Applications Received: 17,000 (16,921 with fee paid)
  -UGA received roughly 2,000 more EA applications than last year.

Offers of Admission: 7,556
  -This is slightly below last year's admitted numbers, but with the spike in EA applications and current RD data, it makes it harder to predict what will happen with overall application numbers.

Mid 50% Admitted Average GPA: 4.07-4.33 GPA
  -Please remember this is not the GPA students see on their high school transcript, but rather the GPA that UGA recalculates for everyone based on the core academic courses taken in high school and looking at the actual grades posted on the transcripts.

Mid 50% Admitted Average SAT (EBRW+M): 1360-1490
  -This is data for students who were admitted with the SAT being the highest or only test score in their review.

Mid 50% Admitted Average ACT (Composite): 31-34
  -This is data for students who were admitted with the ACT being the highest or only test score in their review. Remember, UGA focuses on the ACT English and Math scores, but we report the Composite data as that is the official/accepted data for national publications.

Mid 50% Admitted AP/IB/DE courses over 4 years of HS: 7-12 courses
    -We determine academic rigor based on all core classes a student has taken (CP, Honors, Advanced, AP, IB, DE, etc.) as compared to what is offered in the school/community, but this information is the most specific data we can give on it.

The rough breakdown of decisions are as such: 7,556 admits, 6,900+ deferred, 2,000 denied and slightly under 500 incomplete. If you have questions about your specific decision, please do not post them on this blog.  As well, do not give out or request personal academic information in your post, as we would then need to delete these posts. We are not able to answer questions about individual students here because we will generally not have your information in front of us and we cannot disclose individual student information in a comment.  I would recommend talking with both your family and high school counselor first, then reviewing this previous post on suggestions about how to react to an EA decision, and finally reading the FAQ's available from your Status page.

Please be patient, be nice and be courteous. Have a great weekend and go Dawgs!

Monday, November 12, 2018

2019 Early Action Details

As we stated earlier this month, UGA is planning on releasing the EA decisions on the Status page on Friday, November 16 in the late afternoon unless some serious problem arises, which I do not expect. If this changes, we will let you know, but this is the plan at this time. Please do not call/email/text/message/tweet asking for the exact time of "late afternoon", as I cannot give an exact time. We will post a message here when it opens up. We are excited about this, and I am guessing you are as well, and hopefully it will allow for a little less nerve-wracking Thanksgiving break for some of you. I will also have an updated post on Friday with data on the applicant pool and mid-range data on the admitted group.

In addition to the decisions being available on the Status page, letters will go out in the mail for Accepted students. Freshman denial letters will not be mailed out, as almost all applicants see their decisions online, and we, along with a number of colleges, did not want to have a letter that only served to reinforce the negative feelings they might already have.

Here are a few suggestions on how to react to the four different decisions:

Admit: Celebrate with family, buy a lot of UGA gear to wear for the Thanksgiving break, but remember that not everyone has received a decision of admission, and so be a little more low key with friends and classmates. In other words, do not run up to you best friend during English class and scream "I got into Georgia" while 10-15 of your classmates are mentally creating new and painful ways for you to meet your doom. In addition, be patient with the other parts of campus (commitment deposit, housing, the UGA myID system, etc.), as they might need a few days to take in your information. Remember, it takes a little while for information to flow to other offices. Read the materials we give you online and in an acceptance packet as it will instruct you on what to do next.

Defer: This is the most challenging one, as these are applicants who are truly strong students, but we want to see more about them, as well as the rest of the applicant pool, before making a final decision.  Please remember, this is not a denial at all, but instead a way for us to be able to review you in full, from your co-curricular activities, your essays, and your recommendations. We were only able to review a small subset of applicants in our holistic review in EA, as 17,000 applicants is a lot of stuff to get through. As I usually state, defer is not a four letter word (even though you might feel this way), only a delay in an admission decision. This is the time in which we are able to look at your overall application, as we have time to do holistic reads from December through mid-March. While this is probably not the answer you would like, I would suggest you treat it as a call-back for a second audition. Some roles have already been cast (or admitted), and we now want to look at you in more detail to see how you compare to the rest of the people auditioning (or applying). One of the worst things is to call us up and berate us for not admitting you. We will be happy to talk to people, but make sure to communicate in a positive tone, understand that we cannot talk about other applicants, and again please remember that defer does not mean denial.  One step you can take is to make sure we have received a recommendation from a teacher in an academic area (it is optional but we suggest having one sent in). A second step is to give us any updates through an update form you will see on your status page. This could be fall grades (when you know them), a new activity, job or leadership role, or anything you want to add to your file. Remember, UGA is in no way done with the overall freshman admission process. We still have a long way to go, with a great deal of files to read and admission offers to make, so just be patient.

Deny: While this is not a fun situation at all, the reality is that if you have been denied Early Action, you are truly not competitive for admission at UGA as compared to the rest of the applicant pool. It is not easy to write that, and it is very difficult to tell this to a student or parent, but when we look at this  student's application in comparison with the other 17,000 EA applicants (and remember, we expect to get over 10,000 RD applicants as well), they do not match up academically with the others. It is better to tell you now instead of waiting until late March, as this gives you time to make other plans. Unless there seems to be a serious error (you are in the top of your class, take a very challenging course load, and have a strong test score), my suggestion is to not contact us about the decision, but instead move forward with plan B. While we do not mind talking with you at all, the reality is that an Early Action denial means that the admission to UGA is not possible as a freshman.

Incomplete: For the small number of students who did not complete your EA file, you are now automatically deferred to the next step, and so you will need to get in the missing materials from EA, (remember the teacher recommendation is optional but we suggest also having one sent in). We went three plus weeks beyond the deadline allowing you to get in the missing documents, sending reminder emails, indicating what was missing through the Status page, and it was your responsibility to get in the required materials. So I do not suggest contacting us to see if we can take items late, as that time has passed. Focus instead on sending in what is needed to be reviewed in the next round.

Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 2, 2018

2019 Early Action Update


Yesterday the UGA Admissions Office announced that our Early Action decision release date would be Friday, November 16 in the late afternoon. If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know not to ask when late afternoon is, as I cannot give you an exact time. In the lead up to the decisions going out in two weeks, here is some data about this year's Early Action application group.

  • Total EA Applications: 16,906 (submitted and app fee paid)
    • 13.6% increase over last year, which is a very big increase
  • Complete Early Action Applications as of today: 16,320
    • 97% are complete right now, very impressive
  • EA Applicants Applying within 4 days of Deadline: 7,500
    • Wow, just wow
  • Total number of EA Applicants using Coalition App: 5,000
    • We are fine with either application source (in-house app or Coalition)
  • Residency data on EA apps: 54% in-state, 46% out-of-state 
    • We do not make different decisions based on residency, but it is an interesting data point as we saw a large jump in out-of-state apps this year.
  • Most common majors: Biology - 1,850 applicants, Undecided - 1,557
    • We do not make different decisions based on major, but it is always interesting to see the different academic interests of our applicants.

As you can see, a huge number of the Early Action applications are complete. Only 3% of our applicants are incomplete, with some of those having issues due to the recent hurricanes impacting the southeast. We will be shutting down the importing of test scores and documents very soon, so make sure all your materials are in. We import both test scores and documents daily in the early morning, and we are totally caught up with all materials. If your test scores are still not matched up with your application, check to make sure the testing agency has actually sent them, and that the full name and email associated with the scores matches your application data. If there is a mis-match with your name, email and other data and the scores show as being sent to UGA, I suggest you reach out to us by email to fix this issue ASAP.

I cannot guess as to how the increase in applications will impact any decisions right now, but please know that we have a large number of very strong EA applicants. Now we just have to get through reviewing them all!

Good luck, and Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Why Self-Reported Grades?

In our admissions recruitment system, we have 39,427 organizations listed as high schools. We have schools with 1,500+ seniors and schools with one senior. We have Syrupmakers and Sea Kings, Jaguars and Leopards, Dragons and Wolverines, and even Jem Bears and Unicorns (You go Unicorns!). And you know what? It seems like all 39,427 schools have their own way of doing things, especially when it comes to grades. Different grading scales, different grades, different weighting systems, and just plain being different in how they do things. Even the transcripts look different, with some being hand-written, some being 12 pages long, and some with grades from kindergarten up to 12th grade. The one big thing in common is that many of them will have students applying to UGA, and we have to somehow convert these varying grades and grading scales into a somewhat common GPA system so we can look at the academics on a level playing field.

As you can guess, the recalculation of GPA's for 27,000+ applications takes a while. And the more time we spend on trying to figure out a GPA, the less time we have to do holistic file reads. As well, the longer we take in trying to decipher each grading system, the longer it takes to get out admission decisions. This is why we decided roughly eight years ago to ask our applicants to self-report their high school grades on their application. UGA uses these self-reported grades as a framework for the GPA calculation, and our evaluation team then reviews the transcript in every file to make sure we have the correct grades and GPA. Occasionally students make minor errors in self-reporting grades, and that is okay, as we double check them compared to the official transcript. In the past eight years, we have been able to roughly double the number of files we review in the holistic file reading process, and we have also made decisions roughly 3-4 weeks earlier than our time frame prior to self-reported grades, all while having roughly the same level of staffing.

While we have tried to make our self-reported grades system as simple as possible, here are a few common issues we face every year:

  • First things first, get a copy of your transcript. We will be looking at your grades on a transcript, so it only makes sense to have the same thing in your hands when you self-report your grades. Enter in the grades from the transcript, even if your school has added "points" to a teacher's grades on the transcript. See grades, enter grades.
  • A secondary reason for self-reported grades is so you can see your core courses and grades over the past three years, as you might have forgotten exactly how you did in your classes from 1-2 years ago.
  • Most of our applicants have taken HS courses in middle school, so this is not an uncommon thing for us to see. But in our GPA calculation, we only want to use the grades made in 9th grade and beyond. Only enter in grades made in your HS years. HS courses taken in middle school years can be used for state requirements, but we do not use them in the GPA.
  • If your transcript has only year long grades in your core courses worth a full credit, use the year long grades in the self-reported section (so generally 5-6 grades per year on average). If your transcript shows semester grades worth half a credit, put in the semester grades in the self-reported section. Many semester system grades might have a yearly average grade as well, but we only want the semester grades. The one oddity is if your school has a mix of grade types (usually semester for most with occasional courses having only year grades). If this is the case, report everything as semester grades, and count the year grades twice (as 1 year grade = 2 semester grades). Use what is on the transcript. 
  • If you have taken DE courses, or courses at another high school, you should only report these grades if they are on your official HS transcript, and only if they are core courses. As well, if you took summer courses, we are fine with you listing these under either year that surrounds that summer (for example either junior or senior year if taken in the summer prior to senior year).
  • We ask for the total number of AP/IB grades because that is what we use for adding weight for the GPA. We don't use Honors in our weighting system because, unlike AP and IB courses, Honors courses are not standardized nationally. We still use Honors and Advanced courses in our curriculum review, just not in our GPA calculation.
  • We have been doing this for eight years, so trust that we know all the oddities, and go by what the instructions say on the self-reported grades. This is not our first self-reported grades rodeo.
Please let me know if you have questions, and Go Dawgs!