Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Past and Present of College Admissions

You hear it all the time - "Back when I was applying to college ...". Yes, things have changed over the last 20+ years in admissions, but trust me, that is actually not a bad thing in many cases. I am currently reading a book titled "Factfulness" by Hans Rosling, and he writes about how, in contrast to what some would have us believe, life is a great deal better today as compared to the past. While there are still areas where the world can improve greatly, Rosling shows that in areas ranging from poverty, health, war, food, etc, the world is actually moving in a positive direction. From the admissions side of the table, there have been some amazing improvements over the years. Here are a few things I remember from when I first started working in the UGA Admissions office.

  1. There was a point in time when we only accepted paper applications. We would print them out and do a huge mailing in late summer to get the applications out to both students and high schools. This also meant that we needed a large staff of people who did one job, entering in a student's biographical data (name, address, school, etc.) into our record system. Every year, we would need to have the printing of the applications bid out (and of course, lowest bidder won the job), and that year, a printing company based out of a state prison won the bid. I can still remember driving to a high school in Louisiana when I got a call from my boss to see if I had heard about the printing issues. A riot had broken out in the prison, and our application print job was on hold due to the issue. Imagine explaining that to students calling in wanting an application sent to them.
  2. When you have thousands of paper applications, you need to have a place to put them. Our office had roughly 20-30 six foot high file cabinets for all the application files, and we used "bankers boxes" (or open lid boxes) to route files by application submission date from one part of the process to the other. Every day when documents came in, we would have to either match them to existing files (by running around and finding the right box) or putting them in the orphan documents bins, which we would then check every day against the new applications for the day. 
  3. Old methods were not just relegated to the application process. For a long period of time, one state used to require admissions people to bring their own table to every college fair. Luckily, this state was within easy driving distance, and we would just have a card table ready for anyone traveling to that state. 
  4. The world of google maps on your cell phone roughly ten years ago was a break-through for admission travel, as we survived on three things; Old paper maps that were horrible to fold and did not function well while driving, Mapquest/Garmin, which seemed to get you lost as many times as it helped to get somewhere, and driving around looking for school signs or the lights for the HS football fields. It was even worse in some cities, as I clearly remember visiting schools in New Orleans and having the street dead end at one of the many canals in the city and seeing the high school just across the water.
  5. Everything was paper. I mean we were overrun with paper. One record setting year, we came back from the December holiday time to 45 bins of mail. It was ugly. The applications were filled out by hand and sent in by mail, the recommendation letters were all done by hand, the transcripts were mailed in, and even a number of test score results were sent by paper. And then it became a game of find the file so you could add all the paper to the application. Then you add in all the paper we sent out, from postcards letting students know what was missing (and it was out of date immediately due to materials flowing in daily), brochures being mailed out, letters being sent, etc. The worst were decision letters done in house in envelopes that had to be licked. Paper cuts on your tongue are the worst. I almost cried when we got our first real recruitment system that sent out automated emails. I did cry when we got our first batch of peel and close envelopes for acceptance packets.
  6. Admissions give-aways are so much better these days. Twenty years ago, the best you would get would be a bumper sticker for your car (not even a static sticker, but an actual bumper sticker) or a pen/pencil with UGA on the side. Now you're getting socks, shirts, backpacks, sunglasses, phone popsockets, stickers, etc. Enjoy it while you can.

While college admissions has its challenges, there was a whole other layer of challenges 20 or so years ago. Be glad that you can submit your application online, that test scores and documents can be matched in seconds to your file, and that you can see your admissions status page online. Like Billy Joel sings in Keeping the Faith, "cause the good ole days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems".

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

UGA Decision Dates for 2019

The final two decision dates for UGA freshman applicants are now set (unless some major issue impacts our office), and the smaller February wave of decisions will be released on Friday, February 8, while the final decisions in March will be released on Friday, March 15. In addition, transfer decisions will begin being released on Friday, March 1. Decisions are all released in the late afternoon, but I do not have an exact time (so don't ask me for one).

February Decisions - UGA will offer admission to just around 2,000 freshman applicants on Friday, February 8. This group of decisions is made up of only offers of admission, and if you were admitted, you will be able to see the decision on your Admission Status page (so only admitted students will see a decision change on their status page) and these admits will receive an email communication. Additionally, an admissions packet will be sent out in the mail the following week. Our office is too busy reviewing files for me to run any mid-range academic averages at this time, but the academic information should be very similar to the Early Action admitted students (it will not be exactly the same, as we had a large number of EA admits who were applying for our top scholarships, which slightly skews EA stats a little higher). My earlier blog post about Early Action decisions gives you more insight into the academic strength of this range of student. As we did in the November Early Action offers of admission, there will be some scholarship offers in this group, and those who have received them will see it on the status page. We will continue to offer scholarships through late March, so please be patient as we do these reviews. These admitted freshman, made up of mostly Regular Decision applicants, met the stringent academic criteria of Early Action admission that we used with our much larger wave of November admission offers. Do not panic if you are not admitted with the February group. We are still very much in the midst of carefully reviewing documents and data on a great many more files, and there are still lots of decisions to make.

March Final Decisions - On Friday, March 15, all final freshman decisions will be released. There will be three decision groups (Admit, Deny and Wait-List), and I will try to post some information on all three of these decisions during the week leading up to the final decision release. We will also have a small group of freshman that we will admit for the Spring 2020 term. We are still deep in the holistic read process, and I do not have any numbers on how many final admits we will make, what the statistics will look like overall, or how many students will be put on the wait-list. When we do release final decisions, I will have statistics on the overall applicant pool and admitted group the following week, but not broken out into the different release dates. After we make final decisions, we will continue to offer scholarships through late March, so please be patient as we do these reviews as well. Thank you for your patience during this review process.

Transfer Applicants - We have begun reviewing the Summer and Fall transfer applicants, and we will release the first group of transfer decisions on Friday, March 1. We will then continue to release transfer decisions every Friday. All applicants with a decision will receive an email alerting them to a change in their status, so you do not need to constantly check your admission status page. We generally review transfer applicants by term first (so summer decisions before fall if possible), and then roughly by the date the file becomes complete. This is not exact, as some transfer files are more complicated than others to review. As such, please do not compare application date to release dates with others, as it might vary due to other factors (included days when several hundred applications were received/completed).

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Summer/Fall 2019 Transfer Application

The Summer/Fall transfer application will open today, January 22. While the application opens today, please take your time completing it. Make sure you are applying for the correct program, the correct campus, the correct term, etc. Here are a few suggestions and updates for transfer applicants. 

  • We project we will begin reviewing transfer files in early February, and we will start releasing decisions in early March. Once we begin releasing decisions, we will do so every Friday afternoon. If a decision is made on your application, you will receive an email late afternoon on that Friday notifying you that a decision is available on your status page.
  • Review our transfer procedures and requirements, as well as our academic consideration levels. The summer and fall deadline for both the application and the materials is March 1. 
  • Select the term you wish to attend, not one you have heard is easier to get in (this is a myth). If you select summer, for instance, we expect you to attend for summer, and if you do not, you cannot then attend in the fall.
  • We are fine if you send in transcripts before or after you apply. As well, we need all transcripts from colleges ever attended as an undergraduate, even if you attended a college during HS.
  • If a transcript has a different name than the one you applied with, please make sure to let us know so we can match up documents. The "other last name" filed is the place to put any other last names, and this will catch any transcripts.
  • If you started a freshman application earlier to set up an account, you will need to select the Freshman application you started on your admissions dashboard and change your application type to Transfer.
  • It is much better to get everything correct before applying rather than try to fix things after you submit an application, so triple check everything.
  • Once you apply, be patient. Review the timelines page on this blog, give us time to match up things, and relax. For document matching purposes, we suggest you give us 10 business days from when you apply or submit transcripts, whichever one comes last.
  • Make sure to monitor your status page after sending in transcripts, but give us time to complete your file.
  • We generally start reviewing transfer files based on the date the file is complete (application submitted and all transcripts are in), but this is not exact. As well, we expect over 1,000 applications in the first day alone, so understand this process takes time and some students will hear before others.
Go Dawgs, and be patient!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Random UGA Admission Thoughts for 2019

It is the start of 2019, and a wide range of things are happening in the UGA Admissions Office. We have just closed down the freshman application for admission, we will open the transfer application for summer/fall 2019 on January 22nd, and we will be spending the next two and a half months or so hiding away in our offices as we read admission files. As such, here are some Admissions Thoughts as we move forward.

  1. The application deadline for freshman was 1/1, and the document deadline is 1/8 for materials. The required documents for freshmen are an official transcript and a counselor school report/recommendation (not a school profile). As well, any test scores must be requested to be sent to us from the testing agency by 1/8 (not an in office deadline), and the last test scores we can use were from the December SAT/ACT. If things are sent in after 1/8, we might be able to use them, but we cannot make any promises. If the item in question shows up on the status page, that means we have imported it into your file as on time. 
  2. We have a very large freshman applicant pool, with the overall number of EA and RD applicants together totaling 29,500+. Some of these applicants will not submit all the required items, so the official number of complete applications will not be known until later (but I expect it will be close to 29,000).
  3. Starting on 1/14, our office will be in quiet time, which means our counselors will not be available to take calls and any email replies will have some delays. Remember, UGA does not use designated interest as a decision factor, so there is no need to send a note to the counselor assigned to your school/area to let them know UGA is #1 on your list. Right now, just make sure all materials are in on time and have patience. When your file is complete, you will see all the checklist items on the status page have a green check and the words "Awaiting Decision" show under the UGA counselor next to the Application Status indicator.
  4. If you applied through the Coalition application system, please make sure to complete the Self Reported grades form off the UGA admissions status page. We do not use the complicated Coalition self reported grades section, as our form is much less complicated and matches what the non-Coalition applicants completed. This helps us to keep on track with our decision time lines, so thank you.
  5. Once you have submitted an application, we cannot go back into it and make changes. If you need to add something to your freshman application that you left out or wanted to submit, either use the Update Form (for deferred EA applicants) or update it as a part of a resume that you upload on your status page. 
  6. On January 22nd, the Transfer application for Summer/Fall terms will open. There is no difference in our review of summer vs fall applicants, so select the term that you truly will be attending. If you are admitted for summer and do not attend, you cannot just show up for fall and enroll. Acceptance is only for the term for which you were admitted.
  7. The consideration level for Summer/Fall have changed for transfer applicants with 30-59 transferable hours, and it is now a 3.30 transfer GPA. Remember, this is not a cut point or requirement, but instead is the GPA for us to begin considering a transfer student with 30-59 hours for transfer admission.
  8. Roughly 5,000 freshmen applied during the last 3 days before the RD deadline, so please be patient as we match up documents. Of the 12,000+ RD applicants, roughly 65% of them have complete files. As such, 4,000+ still need to get in materials and/or test scores.
  9. We will continue to award scholarships through the end of March, so please be patient as we get through the freshman file reading, the transfer decisions and the scholarship process. 
  10. I cannot, will not, and am not able to guess about any decisions. I feel like I am Dr. Seuss when I say this (I will not guess in a box, I will not guess with a fox). 
  11. Remember, senior courses and grades are still very important. We will be looking closely at the final transcripts of all enrolling students in the summer, and we will contact any student who has serious declines in their grades (large % of C's or have D/F grades). If all indicators point to a student having problems freshman year, we would rather take steps prior to enrollment then ask a student to leave or lose any merit aid after their first year at UGA.
  12. Have a great last semester, enjoy your final months of being a senior, and I wish everyone well in the overall college admissions process!
Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I'm not Santa Claus

It is mid-December, so most of the US is in full holiday mode. My favorite radio station has been taken over by holiday music, the houses in my neighborhood are full of lights and inflatable animals, and the tracking of Amazon packages is a daily activity. And while I have grown a little heavier every year and my kids think I am seriously old, the lack of a snowy white beard and a red suit should let you know I am not Santa Claus.

The problem is, many people view admissions offices a little like Santa Claus. We spend the year reviewing the background history of children and young adults, determining if they have been naughty or nice, and then on December 25th (or in our case three Friday afternoons) we deliver either happiness or tears by the type presents we give. It is the ultimate judgment call about a person's self worth. 

Santa is working off of a good vs bad comparison based off of a judgment call concerning your behavior over the last year. He has two choices, and I am assuming he has some gauge to determine how good or bad you have been, and some sort of scale or scoring rubric. I have no idea if he involves any elves, reindeer or Mrs. Claus in his decision making, or if it is just late nights and a lot of cocoa. I also have no idea how convincing the letters he receives are, and whether he puts any stock into begging, pleading and bribes of cookies and milk. Either way, he gets to make the final call and determine your goodness/badness.

Admissions, while seemingly similar, is based off of a different model. Yes, we love kind notes, cookies and milk, and the occasional cup of cocoa or coffee, but these don't sway our decisions. We have no magical workshop filled with cheery elves, but instead an office of wonderful admission counselors reading files and answering questions (although by March, I would not call them cheery - more likely sleep-deprived). We don't have a meter or gizmo to determine good vs bad, but instead are looking at what each applicant brings to the table academically and personally, and then deciding how many we can admit from the applicant pool to bring in just the right size freshman class. And Santa doesn't have to deal with angry parents the day after Christmas (just frustrated parents trying to put together a present at one in the morning and trying not to curse too loud). 

When we make an admission decision, we are not passing judgment on you. We are not saying you are a good or bad person, that we like you or not, or if we want to swipe left or right. Seriously. We have a huge number of great applicants who will do wonderful things in college, but we can only admit a certain number of students due to limitations on our freshman class size. As such, our decisions are not based on how "good" you are, but on selecting a certain number of students who we feel will have an impact both academically and personally on our campus in future years. 

As such, while both admissions and Santa make decisions, our office is not making a value judgment on you being good or bad, naughty or nice. We suggest you go into the admissions process with the goal of finding a good match for your college experience for both you and the colleges to which you apply. Find the fit and stay positive. Remember what Buddy the Elf says: "I just like to smile; smiling is my favorite."

Go Dawgs!