Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Coalition Application and Pizza

For those of you who don't know (or who have not read many of my blog posts), I am a great believer in analogies. I find that most times, the easiest way to explain the sometimes complicated world of admissions is to make it relatable to their own lives. As such, I am going to somehow tie together the new Coalition Application with Pizza. Yes, pizza, that wonderful meal/snack/superfood we all know and love.

Most all of us love pizza, both because of the great taste but also because we generally know what to expect no matter who makes it. Most every pizza is going to have a crust, a layer of sauce and cheese. This is the base of almost all pizzas, and you can be sure that everyone from Papa Johns to your local hometown pizza joint starts with this. In the same way, there are a set of standard questions that most all admissions applications use as a base. Everyone asks for your name, your birth date, your high school, etc. Generally, these questions make up about 75-80% of the questions on the Coalition application.

On the other hand, the thing that makes each pizza unique are the toppings. Everybody has their own favorites, with mine being pepperoni and bacon (don't judge, bacon is great on everything). Yours could be banana peppers, olives and pineapple for all I know, as everyone has their own unique taste. Similarly, each college has unique questions that they need, many times due to their institutional needs or state requirements. Public colleges need data on your state residency, while private schools have less of a need for this information. Some colleges will not ask for essays, others will use the Coalition essay questions, while some (like UGA) will have their own short essay questions. Different universities also have different majors, different admission decision plans, etc. Each college, just like each pizza-loving person, has different tastes. These are the questions which will be displayed on each institutions college-specific pages in the Coalition application.

UGA will continue to use both our own application and the Coalition application, and we have no preference on which you should use. The only issue we will have is if you submit both applications, which will cause problems (like Ghostbusters "don't cross the streams" problems). In other words, submit one or the other application, but not both! I suggest you look at the other colleges using the Coalition application to see if there is any overlap, and then make a decision from there. The Coalition application will allow you to enter a little less data, but if you have already been interacting with our office (you sent test scores, visited campus, etc.), a large amount of this data will pre-populate when using the UGA based application. As stated in a previous blog post, all freshman applicants must write 2 short essays, with one being mandatory and the second giving you the option of selecting one out of four topics (with one coming from the Coalition list of essay topics).

For either application, we will not open up the Fall 2018 option until September 1. We generally wait until early September to give both you and your school counselors time to get back into the swing of things before the transcript/recommendation requests start. As well, all applicants will use the UGA admission status page to check on receipt of test scores, admission materials and admission decisions. If you do submit the Coalition application, you will then receive an email which will direct you on how to set up your admission status page.Prior to Sept. 1, you can get ready to apply by looking at my earlier post of Are You Ready so that when the application opens up, you will be prepared to start the process. FYI: UGA will not be using the Coalition Locker or Collaboration Space, as we will just be using the application.

So go out, eat some pizza and start planning out your application. I hope this helps, and Go Dawgs!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Are You Ready?


Summer is a time for vacations, part-time jobs, and relaxation. But for rising HS seniors, it is also time to prepare for the college application process. I am not suggesting you have everything ready to submit an application on opening day of the UGA application (September 1 by the way), but only that you have some things laid out in order to be on top of the process. In our research concerning last year's applicant pool, there was a dramatic dip in both admission rates and strength of essays for students who either waited until the last minute to apply or who spent only a few days working on the application. In saying this, here are a few suggestions on steps to take get ready to apply to UGA.
  1. Map out your college application plan. If you are like most students, you will apply to 3-5 colleges. If this is the case, you will have to track the deadlines, materials time lines and actions needed for all of these colleges. Get a calendar (electronic or paper) just for admissions time lines, and enter in the deadline dates, scholarship dates, campus programs, deposit dates, etc. for all these colleges. This is the best way to keep this process organized and to not miss out on something. The worst calls we handle are when a student did not do X by a certain deadline and we can't do anything for them except say sorry.
  2. Get prepared. Before you start your application, you will need to have the following items on hand; your correct Social Security Number (SSN), a copy of your transcript which shows grades from 9th through 11th grade, a copy of your resume, your SAT/ACT/AP scores and your counselor's contact information including email. As well, have your payment information on hand (either a credit card number or a digital copy of a fee waiver). It is key to have the correct SSN when you apply, as all financial aid offices use this as a matching field for all financial aid. I heavily suggest going ahead and sending us your SAT/ACT scores, as this will take care of this step, will pre-populate the test score section of the application, and will possibly allow us to communicate with you about certain events.
  3. Start working on your essays. Starting this year (students applying for Fall of 2018), both Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD) applicants must submit 2 short essays, as compared to previous years when only RD and deferred EA applicants submitted them. Summer is the perfect time to start thinking about the UGA admission essays, and to begin the writing process. Make sure to proofread the essays, have someone review them for you, as you do not want to wait until the last minute to start on these.
  4. Don't listen to rumors/myths about college admissions. I have been over this many times, so I won't beat a dead horse. All I can say is that I have had three surgeries in my life, but going through the experience does not make me a doctor, just a good patient.
  5. Let your parents be involved in the admissions process, but only so much. It is okay to allow your parents to be a part of the college admissions process, but make sure that you are the one who completes the application, writes the essays, etc. Your parents can be great at helping you keep track of deadlines, make plans for visiting colleges, and giving you suggestions about your application. In the end, though, make sure you are the one driving/managing this process, as you are the one who will be at college next year.
I hope this helps, and Go Dawgs!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Out of the Office

I will be out of the office for the next two weeks, so I will not be able to reply to any comment until after I return. If you are not able to wait until then for an answer to your question, I suggest you reach out to our office directly.

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Spring 2018 Transfer Update

Today, our office started reviewing Spring 2018 transfer applications. This is earlier than I expected, but we are way ahead of the timelines we have predicted for Summer/Fall transfers updates and final HS transcript reviews for freshmen. The 8/15 application deadline for spring has not passed and we are still receiving applications and documents, so we cannot say how long it will take us to finish or guess when you will hear a decision.  If you applied for the spring term, please be sure to check your Status page to see if we have your most up-to-date transcript(s). If you were enrolled in coursework this summer and have not sent a transcript with your summer grades, you should have one sent as soon as possible.  To be complete and ready to review, we must have a transcript from each college/university you have previously attended.  If you are attending a new college starting in the Fall 2017 semester, we do not need a transcript, as there will not be any grades on the transcript. If you are admitted, we will need a transcript when fall term is done, though, as we will need to post these grades.

Just like Summer and Fall transfer decisions, we will release our decisions every Friday in the late afternoon, and emails will go out to students roughly 15 minutes after a decision is released indicating a change to a student's status (no decision information is in the email, as it directs applicants to the status page for a decision). As such, there is no need to constantly check your status page or contact us by email or phone, as we only release decisions by the status page and by mail.

Generally, our office reviews transfer files chronologically based on when the file is complete (all materials are in), but this is not set in stone, as some file reviews might be delayed due to the complexity of the transcripts or due to our office not having past data on transferable work from certain colleges.

We will be reviewing Spring Freshmen applicants sometime in mid-late September after the deadline has passed and all files are ready for review.


Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Back Door is Closed

Our Admissions Office receives a number of calls each day, with questions that range from the traditional ("When does your transfer application open up this year?") to the unconventional ("What are the tinted window laws in Athens, GA?"). Recently, one father called in to speak with one of our admissions counselors, and he asked "I am looking for a back door into UGA for my daughter. Can you help me?" Yes, that was the actual question. It was almost like he was envisioning an admissions-style Harry Potter Platform 9 and 3/4 train station wall where a few lucky people could enter while the rest remained oblivious to this secret passage.

While some people might see this situation as strange, parents and high school students are hearing from trusted sources such as their neighbors, second cousins and the friendly barista at the local coffee shop that there are back doors to get into X college. Rumors abound about applying for certain terms, playing a specific instrument, applying for a specific major, or overwhelming an admissions office with communications to let them know the college is #1 in the student's mind. On a recent episode of the TV show American Housewife, teenage son Oliver starts taking ballet in order to have a better chance of admission to Harvard. I even know of a family who considered moving their kids to a small town in south Georgia because they are certain it will make it easier to be admitted as compared to being from Atlanta. I am sure the individuals who share these theories are well meaning and think they are being helpful, but they are, unfortunately, misguided.

Every college has their own policies and procedures about admissions, and they vary based on the institution, their mission, and what they look for in their admission review. In addition, each admissions office has to deal with the rumors that swirl around their decisions and juxtaposes these with the reality of their actual admission process. Just the simple fact that so many colleges talk about admissions urban legends should alert you to the fact that we recognize these myths and actively try to share the reality that there are no shortcuts. Here are two examples at UGA of supposed back doors about admissions as compared to reality.
  1. Summer term is easier for admission back door: When a student applies to UGA and selects their term, we have a pop-up message for anyone who selects summer indicating that decisions are no different for summer vs fall students. If a student is admitted for summer, they can contact us and ask to be changed to fall (or vice versa) and we will be happy to do it. At times a university (not UGA) might offer summer as a "trial" term for students to prove themselves, but this is a purposeful decision by the college to move the student to that term, and not a back door that students would select and sneak in.
  2. Choose a lesser known major back door: When a student applies to UGA, we need to have them select an intended major so if they enroll, they can meet with an advisor, plan out their courses, etc. But we also know that many students change their major, and we allow for this, as we want a student to study in the field they desire. As such, a student's choice of major does not impact a decision. In fact, if a student is admitted to UGA and submits a deposit, they can access the UGA student system the next day and change their major. Some universities (not UGA) do have different review procedures for different majors, but most times a student would then be locked into that major/program, which is not always the best option for many students.
My suggestion? Focus on the "front door" by doing research on each college you are interested in, look at what each college lists as the important items for admission consideration, and then work on making these items your areas of strength. In addition, take the time you might spend searching for a back door and use it to try something new or different in your life. I am sorry to shatter any dreams, but there is no Platform 9 and 3/4 in admissions, and no owls will be delivering your acceptance letter (we've tried but they are too hard to train). 

Good luck, focus on the front door, and Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2018 Freshman Essays

Every year, our office reviews the freshman application for changes that we would like to see for the next year. During this review, we also look at the short essay questions that are required for First Year applicants. Starting this year, we will have all freshman, Early Action (EA) and Regular Decision (RD) submit two essays in their application. This is a change, as for the last 10 years, EA applicants have only submitted essays if they were deferred. But to keep the same timelines (with projected application growth) and to balance adding the Coalition application, among other things, we have added the essays (down from three to two) to the EA application.  We require one short essay that all applicants must complete, and four additional short essay topics with the applicant selecting to respond to one of these. These two essays should be between 200-300 words and remember to focus on substance and not word count.  Before submitting your application and essays, always remember to proofread and edit!  The First Year application will be available on September 1, but we thought that some people would want to know the essay prompts earlier than that date.

Here are the five essay questions, with Essay 1 being required and Essays 2-5 being four options from which the applicant selects one.
  
  1. (RequiredThe college admissions process can create anxiety. In an attempt to make it less stressful, please tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself that you have not already shared in your application.
Choose one of the following four:
  1. UGA’s 2017 Commencement speaker Ernie Johnson (Class of ’79) told a story from his youth about what he refers to as blackberry moments. He has described these as “the sweet moments that are right there to be had but we’re just too focused on what we’re doing …, and we see things that are right there within our reach and we neglect them. Blackberry moments can be anything that makes somebody else’s day, that makes your day, that are just sweet moments that you always remember.” Tell us about one of your “blackberry moments” from the past five years.
  2.   Creativity is found in many forms including artistic avenues, intellectual pursuits, social interactions, innovative solutions, et cetera. Tell us how you express your creativity.
  3. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  4. Describe a problem, possibly related to your area of study, which you would like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what actions you would take to solve this issue.
I have also included a sample essay from this past application cycle to give you an example of what we consider a strong essay, and it is one from the required 2018 freshman essay prompt.

"Oh no, what have I done?' explained my facial expression after an unbelievable event happened years ago. The scene took place in my backyard. One day my neighbors left the house and their two dogs, Peanut and Lucky to go to the store. They gave me permission to play with the dogs, but specifically told me to keep a close watch. I usually play with Lucky, the bigger one because he was more aware of his surrounding and did not bark as much, but this time I decided to take Peanut. While we were outside, a huge hawk came flying by but I didn't think much of it. I remember walking inside the house and returning to see the hawk flying away with Peanut in his claws. I didn't know what to do because I knew my neighbors would be home any minute. Shortly afterwards, I saw the hawk sitting in the tree but Peanut was nowhere in sight and that's when I really began to panic. I went next door with intentions to confess until I saw Peanut sitting on the porch. To this day I am the only one who knows that Peanut was almost eaten alive.

Javaris A., thank you for letting us share your essay with future UGA applicants.

Go Dawgs!

Monday, May 22, 2017

2018 Freshman Application Changes



With each new year of admissions comes changes to the application and/or application process so that we can make better decisions every year, and also make sure that we are able to release decisions in time frame that works for both our office and the applicants. As such, here are the changes for the freshman application for students starting in Summer/Fall of 2018.


  1. Coalition Application - Starting this year, we will begin accepting applications submitted through the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success (also known as the Coalition Application). We will continue to have our own application (and we expect a majority of our applicants will use our form), but we wanted to allow students who use the Coalition Application for multiple colleges to have this option. We will still be accepting documents through our normal methods of Naviance/Parchment, GaFutures and documents sent by mail, so there is no change that needs to happen for counseling offices sending us materials. 
  2. Short Answer/Essay Changes - Students who apply Early Action (EA) or Regular Decision (RD) will complete the exact same application, as there will now be two short answer/essay questions for both EA and RD applicants. In the past, EA applicants did not complete the short answer/essays unless they were deferred, but now all freshman applicants will complete these when they apply. As well, we have shifted from three to two short answer/essays for applicants. This change will allow us to begin our holistic read process earlier, will eliminate the issue of hounding EA deferred students to submit the essays at a later date, and will help us maintain our decision release timelines.
  3. Regular Decision Deadline - We will be shifting the Regular Decision application deadline to January 1 (up from prior years of January 15), with a document deadline of January 8. The Early Action deadline will remain October 15 (with the document deadline on October 22). As our application pool has increased, we have been challenged to keep pace with a mid-late March final decision timeline, and this change will help keep us on track.
  4. SAT/ACT Test Dates - For Regular Decision or Deferred Early Action applicants, the last test dates we will be able to use will be the December dates. Both the SAT and ACT have changed their test date offerings, and as such this has caused us to change our timelines. As well (just like past years), make sure you request the scores to be sent to UGA by the application deadline (for both EA and RD timelines). 
We expect the new essay questions to come out shortly, and I will post them here when they are available. I hope this information helps you plan out your application time lines for next year!

Go Dawgs!