Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Withdraw/Cancel your Application

A number of colleges have just released their EA/ED decisions, and now comes the time when some of our applicants decide that another university is a better match for their needs as a college student. This is just fine, as we know that this will happen and we plan for this possibility in our admission offers. FYI: This is not an option for applicants who just want to redo their application because they left off some items, as these student would just contact us and add information to their file.

We have tried to make it easy for students to withdraw/cancel their application, and we have built it into the myStatus page. On the bottom of the site, you will see an option for canceling your application, either before or after an offer of admission. The biggest thing we want you to be sure of before you take this step is that you really want to withdraw/cancel your application (don't just do this on a whim). We even built in an "are you sure" step just to make sure this is what you want.

If you have selected another college to attend, and are sure that UGA is not in your plans, then go ahead and withdraw/cancel your application. This will help you to no longer receive communications from us, it allows us to clear things up on our side and focus on potential UGA enrollees, and makes things easier for everyone.

Good luck, and Go Dawgs!

Monday, December 1, 2014

File Reading Part I - Activities, Writing and Creativity

From January through mid-March, the admissions staff will hide out in our offices and read files during our holistic file reading process. And when I say read files, I mean lots of files (I am guessing I will read over 1,200 files this year alone). As such, we want you to know what we are looking at when we review these files. There are six main areas that we look at in our file reading process, and I will cover two areas each in a three part post. The first two areas focus on a student's activities, involvement and leadership and a review of the student's writing, self expression and creativity.

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. I see far too many applicants get involved with multiple clubs or organizations in their junior year after the light comes on (or the parent's voice starts to be heard) about being involved. Suddenly a student is involved in seven different groups, from the Green Campus club to the knitting for kids group. Anything and everything gets thrown into the resume.

What we are really looking at is what things you have committed to during your high school years, both in time and in consistency. I am much more impressed with a student who does three things, let's say scouting, cross-country and Habitat for Humanity, growing in ability, leadership and responsibility each year than a student who bounces from group to group, having ten areas of involvement, but not staying with any one of them. We also want to see that you had an impact in the club/sport/activity, whether it is as a leader or an active member. 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. We have seen students that need to work to help support their family, or at times are expected to help with taking care of younger/older family members. It comes down to looking at a student in context within his/her situation, and what is available or expected within their situation.

We suggest that you look at your time spent outside of the classroom and let us know what you are passionate about and active in. Don't think that just because it is not a "school" club, that you should not list it. If you play the violin, are active in missions with a community group, have the lead in a community theater production, etc, tell us about it. The worst thing you can do is leave a section blank just because you don't think we would want to know about "X". We will then look at what activities you have chosen to participate in over the last 4+ years, what leadership roles you have taken on, and  what type of time commitment you have put into these areas.

Writing/Self Expression/Creativity

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 (and neither are "big" words or writing about UGA in your essays!). When I talk about a writer's voice, and about "showing" instead of "telling", I will direct you to my Suggestions for Writing Admissions Essays, as this tells you more than I could cover in one post.

I remember reading an applicant's essay where the student really understood the idea of showing, as her essays made me understand what she was going through in the events mentioned in the essays, and I felt like I could almost see the situations as they occurred. One essay focused on her interaction in a politics class where she was the outsider in her political views, and the challenges she faced from both her teacher and the other students (and how she stood her ground while still being respectful).

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 artistic side. We look at their involvement in the dramatic, visual and performing arts, and 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 the arts does come into play.

File Reading Part II - Academics and Strength of Curriculum

From January through mid-March, the admissions staff will hide out in our offices and read files during our holistic file reading process. There are six main areas that we look at in our file reading process, and this post covers the second two areas, focusing on a student's academics and the strength of curriculum. While we look at these sections in our initial review of applications, we now look at them in much more detail.

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 then use this in combination with the other factors impacting their life, from family issues that occurred where we saw a dip in grades to how a student did once they got into a specific AP course. If a student made a D in Geometry in 10th grade, did they bounce back from it or keep on a downward trend. If there is a downward trend or low grade, we also want to know if there were any mitigating circumstances that led to this issue. All of these factors help us understand the overall picture that the transcript gives us.

Three quick warnings/notes on grades: First, we are only looking at core academic work, not PE, Health, Driver's Ed, etc. While your high school may put these classes into your overall GPA, we are not focusing on these course grades. Second, we focus on grades, not on the GPA or rank that is on your transcript. We are looking at how you have done each term in your academic classes, and so when I talk about this area, I try to talk about actual grades. Third, growth in one term, especially the first semester of your senior year, does not count as a trend. If you have B's and C's for three years, then suddenly wake up and start making A's, we look at this, but it is not a grade trend, this is a grade spike. A trend is a relatively constant movement, while a spike is a sudden shift. If you have a grade spike (hopefully upwards), I am wondering why you did not make this jump earlier.

In addition, we will be looking at an applicant's SAT and ACT scores, with a focus on the best subscores from all tests, and using either the SAT or the ACT (with Writing), whichever is stronger. If a student has not done as well on one score type, we will not look at this, but instead we will focus on the "better" score. In addition, we focus on the individual subscores, and with the ACT, we look at the subscores that have shown to predict success in college (the ACT English, Math and English/Writing). We also look at test scores in connection to a student's grades, trying to see if a student has performed in the classroom above or below where the test scores indicate.

Strength of Curriculum

First, don't ask how many AP/IB/Honors/Advanced/Dual Enrollment/Post-AP/TBE (The Best Ever!) classes are needed for admission, because there is no right answer. Instead, 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?

As an example, in two different files, one high school offers 31 Honors courses and 28 AP courses (including at least four language options), while the second has 18 honors courses and 1 AP (with only two languages offered). These are just two examples, and there is an even wider range of options within the 3,000+ high schools from which we have applicants every year. In addition, we are not just counting AP classes, but looking at the depth and breadth of a student's rigor in their core academic areas. I would rather see a student challenge themselves across the board with rigorous classes than to take 4 AP courses in one field, but basic courses in the rest. And don't fall for the idea that you should take the lightest load so you can make all A's, because this is not a good move if applying to UGA, and it is not a good way to prepare for college. Challenge yourself to the level that you can handle, and understand that this is a serious factor in admissions at UGA.

In our file reading, we are not just looking at high school courses, though, but at a student's overall academic challenge. We have applicants who attend college classes in the summer,  take independent study classes in addition to their high school offerings, attend Governor's Honors programs (or similar options) for 4-6 weeks in specialized academic fields, and do independent research in areas in which they are passionate. I still remember the applicant who drove one hour across Los Angeles to take entomology classes (his intended major at UGA), traveled to South America to study insects in the rain forest, and worked with college faculty on research projects. Now, don't run out and start collecting bugs right this minute, but instead understand the broad spectrum of what makes up academic opportunities. In addition, don't suddenly post  replies asking if X,Y or Z activity counts. Just understand that we look at the whole of a student's academic options, and how they have taken advantage of these opportunities.


File Reading Part III -Work Ethic, Integrity and Maturity

From January through mid-March, the admissions staff will hide out in our offices and read files during our holistic file reading process. There are six main areas that we look at in our file reading process, and this post covers the last two areas, focusing on a student's work ethic and integrity/maturity.

Work Ethic

Scene from the movie Rudy
Ara Parseghian: What's your problem, O'Hare, what's your problem?
Jamie O'Hara: Last practice of the season and this *****  thinks it's the Super Bowl!
Ara Parseghian: You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you'd have made All-American by now! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here!     Rudy

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 integrity. When you watch the movie "Rudy", you see a young man that, while not possessing the greatest football skills, is able to translate sheer will and determination to get onto the football field and play at least one play for Notre Dame (although his academic drive is at times less than desired). When I am reading a file, I am trying to get a sense of who this applicant is, what they do with their time, and the effort they put into the things they participate in, from class work to sports to activities. Do they put in the time and sweat equity to get the work done well, or just get done with the job? Do they put forth the effort to make an A, or are they happy to settle for a C?  I am looking for clues, be it in the recommendations, the essays, the commitment of time and/or the difference between potential and results, that will show me what a student's work ethic is like. I often see phrases such as "this student has a lot of untapped potential" or "this student is an overachiever". We prefer the overachiever, the one that has taken what they have been given and gone beyond everyone's expectations.

Maturity/Integrity/Respect for Others

Tied in with work ethic is the idea of personal maturity and integrity. When a student is faced with a dilemma, how do they handle themselves now, and how will they handle themselves at UGA? Do they take responsibility and handle issues in a mature fashion, or do they blame others? One telling item (though by no means the only one), is how a student deals with discipline/conduct issues. I have looked at the large majority of files where there is a conduct/criminal issue, and it is very telling as to how a student reacts. Some will take full responsibility, and focus on both making amends and getting back on track. On the other hand, I have seen student's make the same mistakes over and over, relying on someone else to get them out of their situation. Maturity also shows up in a person's interaction with others, be it teachers, friends or classmates. These students will be studying in UGA's classrooms, living in the residence halls, and being a part of our community, so interaction with others is important.

Several years ago, I read a great book by Robert Fulghum called "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten", and a portion of it applies to the last part of File Reading:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
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. Do they play nice with the other kids in school, are they respectful to people from other cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic groups, how do they treat teachers, etc. In other words, how well do they get along with others?

We look at recommendation letters, essays, personal notes, and other indicators to get an understanding of this. It does not always come through clearly, but we many times can see this through the comments in the overall application. I am not saying that this is the biggest part of the file review by any means, but it does come into play, especially when we see very positive or very negative situations.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 2014 Admissions Thoughts

We have made it past the Early Action decisions, and we are now at the next stages of the admission cycle. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about what happens in Admissions and UGA from November to late March.

  • Scholarships-We are working on the review of files for scholarships, but as of today we have only had about four working days since decisions were released, and most of those were spent talking with families. I expect that we will begin releasing some scholarship offers in mid-December, and this will continue until mid-April as we review files for different scholarships. We will offer about 15-20% of admitted student's scholarships overall, but it takes time.
  • Honors-The Honors program is working with our office to collect data on the admitted EA applicants, so please be patient with this office as they begin their review for their early offers. They hope to be able to start communicating with students in mid-December, but that is an estimate, not a specific timeline.
  • Deferred EA applicants are beginning to submit part II of the application and get in teacher recommendations, and we expect the majority will finish these steps during the December holidays. Deferred applicants do not need to submit a new application or pay a new application fee, and it will cause problems for applicants who try to do this. In addition, the last section of part II is for any updates, where an applicant can give us new information such as updated activities, fall grades, new honors, etc. I also suggest that all RD and deferred EA applicants review the Timeline page for details on when we release decisions.
  • While Fall grades are not required for RD or deferred EA applicants, I heavily suggest sending them in, either self-reported on part II or on a transcript. Accepted students do not need to send us updated grades unless requested by another office (Honors for instance). There are too many RD applicants and deferred EA applicants for us to recalculate every GPA with new grades, but senior grades are used in our holistic read process, and we do look at them carefully.
  • For RD applicants, it is best to apply first and then send in any school documents, as it is easier and quicker to match these items. Test scores can come in prior to applying without issue, but documents have to be saved in our holding files and then matched every day, and these files get a little overwhelming during deadline times with thousands of non-matched documents.
  • During your senior year, do not catch senioritis or do something that you will regret the next day. The main reason we would ever rescind an admission offer would be a serious drop in grades or a problematic conduct issue, so stay strong and focused. This is also not the time to start to drop challenging courses for spring term. If we admitted you, it was in part based on the strength of your core classes. As such, we want to see you continue to challenge yourself in the courses you are in. We are fine if you need to change from PE to Health, or from one similar class to another, but we don't want to see you suddenly dropping AP Calc, AP Physics, etc. just to have an early release period.
  • Remember, more is not always better. If you have ten teacher recommendations sent to us, or decide you need to send us a five page resume, or decide that the word short answer limits are too limiting and decide to send us two page essays by mail, know that it becomes harder to see the forest through the trees. Brevity and being concise are not bad things.
  • We will accept SAT/ACT scores from exams taken and requested to be sent by the end of January. Please make sure you request your scores be sent to UGA when you sign up for the exam. Do not wait until you have seen your January scores before requesting them to be sent, as that might be too late. Remember, we only use the highest scores, so there is no need to wait before sending them.
  • We are often asked about what teacher to select for a recommendation. We do not need a teacher who is a UGA alum, a department head, a person who has taught for 30+ years, or any other designation. Select a teacher who knows you well and can tell us what you are like as a person.
  • Remember to check your myStatus page to make sure we have everything we need for admissions. The worst calls/emails are the ones where we have to say we could not make a decision due to an incomplete file. As well, re-review the Top 10 Urban Legends for UGA Admissions, as odd myths start to appear after EA decisions are released.
Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 14, 2014

EA Decisions are now available

Early Action decisions are now available online!  You can view the press release with some statistics about EA students who were admitted here.  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.

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 myStatus page.

Please be patient, be nice and be courteous.


Have a great weekend and go Dawgs!

The Long Road in Admissions

In the past, I have used the image of a long cross country trip when looking at the Admissions process, and how we would not know the exact arrival time until we were almost to the destination. Now picture the Admissions process as a road trip with three legs to the journey. The first leg is Early Action, and we are now at the end of that part of the trip. The second leg is a little shorter, and finishes up in late February when we review all Regular Decision and deferred EA applicants to see if they now meet Early Action admission standards (some EA defers will have a jump in their SAT/ACT scores that could shift them to admit). The last leg is the hardest, as it is the file reading part of the trip, and it does not finish up until late March when final decisions are released.

So please know that UGA will not be done with the entire freshman admission decisions after we make our Early Action decisions. We will be done with the Early Action leg of the trip, but we are still a long way from being done with final decisions! We will still be receiving a large number of RD applications, deferred EA students will be completing their part II sections, we will be reviewing transcripts, reading essays, doing holistic reviews, etc. So if you are deferred, please know that we still have a lot of admission decisions to make! My rough estimate based on prior years is that will still be admitting a large number of freshmen after EA decisions. As well, please know that UGA will be treating deferred EA and RD applicants the same during the next steps of the process. The rumor always hits that deferred applicants will now be "put at the back of the line behind RD applicants", so let me just cut that off now and let you know that is incorrect. Again, in the next stages of the admission process, we will look at deferred EA (who get in part II and a teacher rec) and RD applicants in the same way.

In addition,  I heavily suggest that any deferred applicants that start comparing themselves to people who were admitted and questioning the decisions remember that UGA has a full view of everything in an applicant's file, from the various SAT/ACT subscores, and problem areas such as a D/F grade, lower grades that are out of balance with strong test scores, an applicant's overall curriculum, and more detailed information about their overall information, while others only have a partial and sometimes inaccurate view of things. This is just my suggestion, and you do not have to follow it, but it comes from 20+ years of talking with families about decisions.

Go Dawgs!

P.S. To quote Forrest Gump, "I'm pretty tired...I think I'll go home now".