Monday, December 28, 2009

Congratulations Bulldogs!


Congratulations to the Georgia Bulldog football team for a great win in the Independence Bowl! After a tough season,  a big win over GA Tech and then the bowl win over Texas A&M was a great way to close out the year. Congratulations to Coach Richt, the entire athletic staff, and of course, the players!!! Seniors, we thank you for your time at UGA, and underclassmen, we look forward to cheering you on next year!

Go Dawgs!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!


The University will be closed from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4, with limited exceptions on Jan. 4 such as orientation and a skeleton staff in Admissions. As such, I will be limited in my postings on this blog during this time. This does not mean that I do not care, only that I enjoy sleeping in, opening presents, and enjoying time with my family.

I wish all of you a happy and safe holiday season, and good luck for all of you who are completing your applications, or part II's for deferred students. Remember to review my suggestions about writing admissions essays, and make sure to try and get things in before a deadline, not on it!

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Responsibility

Responsibility is a serious word, and while it is not usually something I would leave you with for the holiday break, it is something that needs to be shared with all applicants. There is an expected level of responsibility when a student applies to college, in that it is now your obligation to make sure all required materials are submitted. The responsibility does not fall to your parents, your counselor, your siblings, or the college, but instead rests with you.

Colleges have the responsibility to let you know what is going on with your application, and to update you on the above mentioned materials. If you submit all the materials within the set deadlines, the college is responsible for reviewing your application and making a decision on your file in a reasonable time frame (although the definition of a reasonable time frame varies depending upon who you ask!).

But remember, the duty of getting in all information falls to you, the applicant. For 6+ years, UGA has had the status check, and last year we added a status check for high school counselors as well. We also send out between 2-4 emails to incomplete applicants to alert them to any missing information. In addition, we suggest not waiting until a deadline to apply, as this puts you in a bad position when trying to make sure all materials are received by a college.

In other words, if you apply, get your stuff in at least by the deadline if not hopefully before, and make sure it is received by the college. You, the applicant, control the time line, and if you wait until the last minute to apply and submit materials, you are the one putting your application at risk of being incomplete.

I don't want to be completely negative, as our EA applicant pool had about 97% of the students get all materials in on time! Our office hates to have incomplete applications, and we do our best to get them completed. But ultimately, it is up to you, the applicant, to make sure you have taken care of everything, thus allowing us to make a decision.

Responsibility is a strong word, but one that is important as you make the change from high school to college. We look for this quality in our applicants, and we expect it from our students at UGA.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Honors Program and Scholarships


Every year, right after we release Early Action decisions, two questions are certain to follow; When will Honors start making admission decisions, and when we will hear something about scholarships? These are not bad questions to ask, and I will try to give you a little insight into the time lines for both. Please remember, though, that the Honors program has their own application and their own process, so that office is the best one to answer Honors questions. I will just be passing on information that our office has received.

1) About one to two weeks after our Early Action decisions go out, Honors will generally send out a first wave of decisions, sometimes referred to as "auto-admit" decisions, and these will be based upon an admitted student's academic information. These will only make up a part of the Honors admission offers, as a number of students will also be invited to apply to Honors based upon their academic information, and other students will move forward on their own with the application process. The deadline for applying for the Honors program is February 1, and the Honors Program site can give you more information about this process. The Honors Program will then be able to review the submitted applications and make decisions, with a time line of having Honors decisions out by mid-April.

2) Scholarships follow along a similar path, and are mostly done by the Admissions Office. Within the next week or so, our office expects to release our first wave of scholarship offers, and these will be based on the overall academic information of the applicants. From January all the way through March, we will be reviewing admissions applications both for admission and for scholarship possibilities. We expect that by late March, all of our scholarships will be awarded. We have now made it so the scholarship offers are posted on the status check (for the admitted students who have been offered one),  as well as being sent by snail mail. Please remember, though, that we can only offer a limited number of scholarships, and if no scholarship is posted on your status check, it means that one has not been offered to you (at least at this time). Remember, we will continue to review files and make scholarship offers through March, so you do not need to contact us if you do not see one on your status check.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Defer Is Not A Four Letter Word


What about the word 'defer' could possibly mean deny? Seriously? What about the word 'defer' means 'deny'? Nothing, right? Exactly, nothing.

My name is Joe Carlos, and I am one of the Admissions Counselors at UGA. Working in Undergraduate Admissions for the University of Georgia, I have fielded countless calls of nervous prospective students who have been deferred, and they all seem to have the same tone of defeatism in their questions. A decision of deferral is by no means a decision of denial here at the University of Georgia.

In Undergraduate Admissions at UGA, there are three answers that one can receive from the office of admissions; Accept (which is self-explanatory), Deny (which is self-explanatory) and Defer (which seems to need some more explanation).

When our office 'defers' a student, it means that we find the applicant academically sound, but based on the information that we have received from the student in the early action application, we need additional info to make a final admissions decision. If a student is denied, barring a successful appeal, a student has no chance of attending UGA the following fall. If a student is deferred, we are saying that we are very interested in that student attending UGA, but we want to know more about the student than simply their grades, classes and standardized test scores before a decision can be made.

Think of it this way...wouldn't you rather submit an application that was stronger? In other words, don't you find that it would be more beneficial to you to have an application that showcases your talents outside of the classroom, your myriad of accomplishments and your involvement in diverse areas of extra-curriculars and service? When we ask a student to complete part II of the application we are essentially asking for an application that gives us a better idea or understanding of the student themselves, and not simply their numbers. So tell us about playing lacrosse, or being a part of Interact, or that mission trip you went on last summer, because when you are deferred, you now have the space to do so. You also have the opportunity to take an additional SAT or ACT if you want to as well. In addition to all of those other things, we also require a teacher recommendation (more space for someone to speak highly of you),  part II with four short essays (to give us an even better understanding of how you think and who you are), snd we suggest you send in your fall semester grades (because we know you're finishing senior year strong).

When a student applies Early Action to UGA and they are deferred, it's not to be seen as an end, but rather a beginning. That deferral is an opportunity to learn more about said student than we ever could have in the Early Action application. That deferral gives us a keen insight into the mind and personality of the applicant in ways we often times didn't know existed before.

Last year, 50% of the students who were deferred in Early Action AND completed Part II of the application were later admitted to UGA. 0% of the students who decide not to complete Part II of the application are accepted.

Deferral is not a four letter word no more than it is a final decision. Make the choice and embrace the opportunity. Embrace the opportunity to continue your pursuit of an education at UGA and turn it into a reality.

Deferral is not a four letter word. Deny though, for most people, is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Early Action Decisions are Out!


The status check is now back and open for viewing, and the Early Action Decisions are now available to students! Good luck, I hope your weekend goes well, and remember, I can not comment/discuss on specific decisions on this blog.

P.S. Please remember to follow my advice on EA Decisions and How to React.

Go Dawgs!

Early Action Decision Day is Here!

Early Action decisions will be released today (as of Friday, Dec. 11 in the late afternoon/early evening), and the applicant pool is very strong! Approximately 6,000 students were admitted, and here is the link to the 2010 EA admitted student press release. We are thrilled to have such a strong group of admitted students, but please also know that we will still be admitting a substantial number of students over the next 3-4 months.

If you have questions about your decision, I ask that you not post them on this blog, as I truly cannot answer specific questions about individual students here (both because I generally do not have the actual student's information, and because I cannot disclose individual student information in a comment). My best suggestion is to talk with both your family and your HS counselor, review my suggestions about how to react to EA decisions, and if you still think you need to communicate with our office, either call or email.

Have a great weekend, and Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

EA Decisions and How to React


Early Action decisions will be later this week, so here are my suggestions on how to react to the decision you may receive.

Admit: Celebrate with family, buy a lot of UGA gear to wear for the holiday season, 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 throwing daggers into your back.

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. 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 11,600 EA applicants (and remember, we will get about 7,000 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 (your 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 an offer of admission from UGA is not a reality.

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. This is your chance to let us know what you are like as an overall applicant. 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 you can do is give up and not do part II. The second worst thing 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 please remember that defer does not mean denial. At the end of last year (after all decisions, both during March and Wait List offers in May), just  under half of the deferred applicants who completed part II were later admitted. About 1300 deferred students did not complete part II, so we never even had a chance to even review them! If you are serious about UGA, take the time to complete your application, and then be patient as we review all of these files throughout Jan., Feb. and March.

I hope this helps!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Early Action Timelines


As we have just posted on our Status Check page, we plan on releasing Early Action decisions on Dec. 11 in the early-evening/late-afternoon time period (unless some random act of nature strikes!). As such, you do not need to pull up the status check every day next week, hoping and praying that it will show up early, as it will not. In fact, we have to shut the Status Check down, starting today, so we can move forward with the EA decisions for Dec. 11.

I will publish a new post next week about the EA decisions and how you should react, but for now, just be patient for one more week. I also plan on posting the stats for the EA applicants that we send out in a press release every year, just so you know what the group looks like.

Remember, overall decisions for Early Action applicants are not easier or harder than for Regular Decision applicants. The only difference is time lines and when you hear, and many times (deferred EA students), these two factors still end up being the same. As I have said before, though, admission decisions that are made in December are more competitive (as seen by the strength of the deferred group), but the overall or final decisions are equal. In other words, an EA deferred applicant is treated the same (no better, no worse) that an RD applicant, and a number of RD applicants are admitted in February based upon meeting EA criteria. So EA and RD are truly treated the same, just with different time lines (and for those EA admits, I know you love not having to do part II).

I would suggest reviewing one of my earlier EA posts, and then looking at my posts next week, so you can  feel comfortable with how the admissions process works at UGA.

Have a great weekend and be patient, as the EA release date is almost here!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Would You Change UGA's Application?


Since we still have a short window of time before EA decisions go out, and I cannot give you anything specific about this group (still looking at the complete applicant pool and making decision plans), I thought I would turn the tables on you. I will be silent (although exactly how can you be silent on a blog that you type?), and let you the reader take center stage. Most of you have now either submitted the application or reviewed it for use down the line. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me what changes you would make to our application for the future.

This should not be about the admission process, but instead, the actual application (including recommendations, transcripts, test scores, etc.). What would you add/remove/alter? What do you love or hate? What would you like to see us ask applicants?

Please remember, it really helps if you do not use "anonymous" as your name for the posts, as it makes it hard to let you know who I am answering if everyone is anonymous. You can make up a name if needed!

Ready, Set, GO!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The University of Georgia will be on Thanksgiving break until next Monday, so since we will be out of contact with everyone, my suggestion is to forget about admissions during the break and concentrate on the important things in your life for which you are thankful; Family, friends, time together, and of course turkey.

And remember, when Saturday rolls around, cheer for the Bulldogs to beat the Yellow Jackets! My father, brother and two uncles are all Tech graduates, so life will be a lot better for me if we are able to pull out a win.

Go Dawgs, and have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Damn Good Dawg

Yesterday, a beloved member of the UGA community and the school's mascot, Uga VII, passed away. While it may seem a little odd for a university community to mourn the passing of a dog, the Uga mascot has been a well-loved and honored dog. The Uga mascot has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was named the nation's top mascot in 1997, had a small role in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and attended the Heisman trophy presentation with Herschel Walker.

A few years ago, my family and I were able to go onto the field before the UGA-Marshall game, and while the football game, the food and the whole event were great, my kids favorite part was getting to see Uga and his dog house on the sidelines. Our hearts go out to the UGA community and the Seiler family.

Uga VII, you will be missed. As the Bulldog nation says, you were a "damn good dog"!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Grades, GPA, and Confusion


I have said it before and I will say it again, three letters cause more confusion in college admissions that any other; GPA. I have made it a point this year to try and stay away from the word GPA as much as possible (unless I am forced to talk about mid-ranges), and today brought this topic to mind again for me.

I work with a great team of people, and one group's focus during this time of year is to review and evaluate high school transcripts. At times, I pitch in and help a little bit, both to make sure everything is going well, but also so I can look at the transcripts for our freshman applicants and see if there are any new trends at the high schools. In looking at about 30 transcripts today, I noticed that a number of schools, from New York to Tennessee to Georgia, are starting to add weight to teachers grades. For example, if a student receives an 87 from his AP Lit. teacher for the Fall semester, some schools are now adding points to the 87 grade (generally somewhere from 2-10 points), so the teacher grade at school X that adds 7 points now becomes a 94.

While I am all for schools having a say about their own grading system, I am worried that this is being done to have an impact on college admissions offices, and that the high schools do not really understand how this might affect their students. From my years of seeing a wide variety of grading systems (letter grades, numerical grades, narrative grade reports, non-standard letter grades, etc.), I have noticed, at least at UGA, that this type of grade alteration is actually hurting some of the best students at these schools.

At UGA, we look at individual grades, and if a school does not add weight to the individual grades, we will then add .5 to each AP or IB grade (4 point scale used), so a B grade would go from a 3.0 to a 3.5. If a school does add weight to the individual grades, whether it is 2 points or 10 points, we will then not "double dip" and add any more weight, as this would not be equal. At this point, most people start to think that the individual school adding weight looks great, and want their own school to do this. And yes, for some students in some schools, this does add a little more weight than UGA's method. BUT WAIT!!

What about those student's at the very top, taking a large number of AP classes and making mostly A's? Sam took 5 classes last semester, 3 of which were AP's, and made a grade of 95 in all of them (and an A is a 90 or better at his school). The school then adds 7 points to each AP grade, so he now has two grades of 95 and three grades of 102. To UGA, we look at this and see 5 A's, so Sam has a 4.00 GPA, and do not add any weight because the school already did. But if Sam's school did not add any weight, we would then see five grades of 95, add a .5 for each of the AP grades, and his GPA to us would be a 4.30. This is just one semester, not three years of grades, but you see the point. When a high school tries to work the system, sometimes it does not really work out the way they want.

What can you do? Do your best, challenge yourself, know how both your high school and the colleges to which you apply evaluate grades, and trust that UGA and other colleges like us try our best to look at everyone on a level playing field.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Zombie Attack

As I was walking down to the Tate Student Center yesterday, I saw a student swinging an athletic sock (with a few rolled up socks tucked inside for weight and balance) run by me. A few minutes later, I saw another student with a nerf gun shoot a foam dart at a fleeing student. I had no clue as to what was going on, and it was only after I read this morning's Red and Black newspaper that I understood; it was Humans vs. Zombies in a week-long, campus-wide game of tag.

In 2005, two students from Goucher college started the Humans vs. Zombies game, and it has since spread to over 100 colleges throughout the nation. Silly? Yes. Odd? Yes. But it looked like a lot of fun, and I am guessing I would have played it when I was in college. I am glad to see that way that students can have a safe way to relax, be creative, and interact with a wide range of people they never knew before. The Red and Black article stated that over 1,000 students are playing this week. While the admissions process always seems like it is strictly about grades and test scores, please remember that college is about way more than that. It is about life, and fun, and friends (and of course a lot of studying!).

Have fun everyone, and enjoy your week. And remember, look out for zombies!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Homecoming at UGA!

Since it is homecoming week at UGA, I thought you might enjoy seeing a day in the life of one of our mascots, Hairy Dawg. Enjoy!

Life as Hairy Dawg

Monday, November 2, 2009

Items you should not send to Admissions Offices


Every year, our office receives our fair share of odd and unusual items. Red and Black M&M's with the applicant's name on the side, UGA decorated cupcakes, DVD's containing a comedy sketch of the student, a YouTube video wtih the Uga mascot rapping an appeal for admission (the identical video was also sent to GT using their Buzz mascot), an essay on the side of a football, or sending a shoe with the words "to get my foot in the door" written on it. All of these have been sent to UGA over the past five years or so, along with a variety of photos, cookies, images and cupcakes, all in the hope of getting a leg up in the admissions race. Does it help? In one word, "No!".

While these items are amusing and interesting, and it makes for great admissions stories, these items are not the way to move forward in the admissions process.And as admissions offices are going more and more to imaging systems for their applicant files, it becomes even harder to know what to do with non-traditional items (although, of course, we did not try to stuff cupcakes into a person's file, those were stuffed into our mouths). But seriously, what are we suppose to do with a shoe?

So my suggestion is to leave all the baked goods, videos, and clothing articles at home, and concentrate on the things that matter at UGA, namely who you are as a student and a person. Substance over style wins every time. Enjoy the week!

P.S. About ten minutes after I put up this post, I received something in the mail that I forgot to put in the blog. While cookies and footballs and shoes are over the top, a nice note to the admissions counselor is always a nice thing to send, especially if you have just met them (or in my case, she enjoys this odd blog that I write).

During late March and April, we are overloaded with unhappy phone calls and letters, so nice notes from students/parents are always appreciated. While they will not have an impact on a decision, they do display a manners and thoughtfulness.

Thanks for the postcard Courtney!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October SAT and ACT scores


As the minor panic of the Early Action deadline hits, I just wanted to let everyone know that UGA will accept the October SAT and ACT score reports, as long as you requested the scores be sent when you signed up for the test. As well, make sure that when you sign up for the test, you have the correct name, birth date, and SSN so that the scores can match up with your file. I just worked with a student that misspelled his last name and put in the entirely wrong birth date, which caused our test score system to lock up on his scores. We were able to get them in today, but it will cause you problems if these items do not match up with what you give UGA (or any college).

I expect that the October SAT scores will reach us by either this Thursday or the following Monday (Friday is a UGA furlough day, so we will not be in the office), so look for the scores to drop into our system shortly.

Remember, be patient, and have a great fall semester!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Myth of the HS/County/City/Address Admissions Limit


We are just about a week out from our EA deadline (or as I say, 4 business days), and we are almost finished with getting all of the mail opened, scanned and into the applicant's files. This morning I personally scanned in about 1,000 sheets of paper, all from Counselor Evaluations, and after every sheet I thought about how much better life would be if all schools used our online forms. The online forms get into a student's file generally overnight, do not have to be handled, scanned, or keyed in, and they even save your schools in postage! But enough griping, onto the real reason for my post.

I want to thank all of you who responded to our survey about the most popular myths (and to tell all of you who did not respond to answer our future surveys!), as this helps us understand the mindsets in the schools and communities with which we work. The most popular myth was "Only a certain number of students can be admitted from my school/county/city, etc.", with 41% of the vote! I always laugh when I hear this myth, because if you could see our office before decisions are sent out (both EA and RD), you would see a lot of last-minute file reading, number-crunching, and controlled chaos. Truthfully, we have no time, energy or manpower to figure out how many students from X location we should admit. We make decisions based upon an individual review of the applicant in comparison with the rest of the applicant pool. Even if we wanted to (and we do not!), we would not be able to actually make the kind of decisions this myth suggests.

Patrick Winter, a co-worker of mine and numbers-junkie, has done some amusing and unusual analysis of our freshman class from last year, with a look at all of the odd data that can be pulled out from this groups information. For instance, in the group of admitted students from last year, the most popular name for females was Sarah, and the the most popular for males was William. In addition, The astrological signs of Taurus, Gemini, Leo and Virgo were each 9% of the freshman class this year, while Capricorns were only 7% of the class. Does this mean that we dislike people not named Sarah or William? Do parents talk at ballgames and say "Well you know, the reason UGA did not admit my son was because they already had their limit of Capricorns". Of course not! But every year, we hear the wild stories about how we did not admit a student because of their city/county/zip code/school/blood type.

Just remember, ignore unsolicited admissions advice, work hard, read, and do your best (okay, the last three were just thrown in there because I couldn't think of anything else). Have a great day!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Early Action Deadline


The EA deadline is now in the past, and the Admissions Office is now focusing on pulling all the materials together for each student, reviewing their files, looking at the EA applicants in an overall view, and moving forward with getting ready for sending out EA decisions in mid-December. It looks like we will have about 10,800 EA applicants this year, so please be patient as we go through these files!

It will take about another week or two to match all of the materials to the applications, and the the best advice for parents and students is to just have patience. I just responded to an email where a student applied on Monday, requested his SAT scores and materials on Monday, and was freaking out because by late Thursday, the status check was still not showing everything as in. Now amazingly, I was able to let him know that we received the test scores late Thursday, loaded in his transcript the same day, and if he had just been patient for a few more hours, he would have seen them in our system today (Friday).

We know it is a stressful time (for us as well as you!), but be assured, everyone will get through the deadline panic just fine. Now go have a great weekend!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The EA deadline is approaching!


In three days, the EA deadline will be upon us. For our office, this means that between now and the 15th, we will receive between 2,000-3,000 applications, bins upon bins of mail, and lots of phone calls saying "Where  is my ...(you fill in the blank). The best thing that any applicant can do right now is be patient. This week is kind of like rush hour in Atlanta traffic, where you just have to be patient and wait out the gridlock. No amount of horn blowing (or calling us) will get the materials to our office and into our system any quicker.

The best solution, as I have said before, is to have your school submit materials online through our website, and if your school is in GA, submit the transcripts through GACollege411. We will opening mail, scanning documents, and matching up materials as fast as we can! So, relax, be patient with us, and know that if you have submitted everything on time, we will post it in our system and on the status check shortly!

Monday, October 5, 2009

This One Is For The Parents!

Dear Parents: We know that this is a tough time for you, as colleges seem to focus most of their attention on your child, while leaving you a little bit out of the conversation. The dynamic has shifted, and instead hearing "Oh, you must be Richard and Sharon's son!", it is now "Oh, you must be Jeffrey's parents!" (Yes, these are real names of a great student and his family last week, and I hope you don't mind Jeffrey).

Colleges have a tough balancing act, where we want to work with the student/applicant and get an understanding about their level of responsibility, yet still work with the parents, as you play a major part in the college process. Yes, through all the stories about Helicopter Parents and "Meet the Parents" images, the truth is, colleges value their interaction with an applicant's parents (and not just because you pay the bills!). Many colleges will have special mailings, send out targeted emails, or have special programs or break out sessions during programs for parents. We really do want to connect with you!

So here is your chance, parents. What questions do you have that you are dying to ask? You can post as Anonymous, ask whatever questions you would like through the comment option, and I will try to respond as quickly as possible. Fire Away!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UGA Admissions and Personal Issues


Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with 40-50 people at a college night program for Camp Sunshine, a non-profit organization that offers support and opportunities to children with cancer and their families. I believe this is my eighth time doing this evening program, and I always have a great evening. I have known some of these campers for 10+ years, while others recently diagnosed and are going through treatment right now.

Every year, the one question I am always asked is "Should I tell the colleges I am applying to about my cancer, and if so, what should I say?" My suggestion is always that they should let colleges know about their medical situation (if they feel comfortable sharing this), how it has impacted their lives, but more importantly, how they have both faced this obstacle and overcome it. As the quote from Vince Lombardi states, "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." And it is amazing how well these students have done getting back up on their feet and being active after being knocked down so hard by cancer! I have seen former campers who are now Paralympic Cycling medalists, founders of non-profits, and medical professionals now fighting cancer.

Most every applicant has had some personal issue, from divorce to sickness/injuries to family challenges. These range from the rather minor (I was sick for three days) to the more life changing events (see above). The important thing when applying to UGA is first to tell us about it, but more importantly to show us how you have gotten back up off the ground and gotten over your personal hurdle. While I can not say how this information will impact a decision, it helps us to know what has occurred in your life. there are plenty of places to share this, from the "Special Circumstances" section on the application, the admissions essays, or from your recommendation letter(s). UGA can then have a better look at who you are overall as a student and a person, and see the connections between your academics, activities and personal events in your life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Early Action and Regular Decision - The Director's Cut



Since the deadline for Early Action is quickly approaching (and everyone seems to be asking the question "should I apply Early Action (EA) or Regular Decision (RD)", we thought we would re-post this information (it is not really a sequel, but more like a directors cut with additional footage). Sorry if you have read it before, but we thought this would help answer a few questions that are out there!

In one scene in the movie Forrest Gump, the character Bubba Blue is sitting next to Forrest on a transport bus talking about shrimp. "Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That - That's about it."

Sometimes, the different college admissions plans sound just like that. You've got your Early Action, your Early Decision, your Restrictive Early Action, your Single Choice Early Decision, your Rolling Decision, your Multiple Choice Early Rolling Action (okay, I made that one up), etc. While I can not say what plans other colleges have for their admission process or why they choose these plans, I can tell you how UGA does it.

UGA has two decision plans, Early Action(EA) and Regular Decision(RD). UGA's Early Action program is non-restrictive and non-binding, meaning that we will not limit an applicant from applying in any way to another college, and if admitted, you do not need to let us know if you are coming or not until May 1. No matter how you apply, we want you to take as much time as you need (up to May 1!) to research your options and make a good decision on where to go to college. Our EA deadline is October 15, and we generally will have EA decisions out by mid-December. Please remember, it is not easier or harder to be admitted EA, it is just a different time line for applicants who want to hear something earlier. You may hear a yes (admit), a no (deny) or a defer (deferral to get more information on the applicant). If by mid-October, a prospective applicant feels comfortable with UGA making a decision on their current grades, curriculum, and test scores, then EA might be right for that individual. Just so you know, there are not any specific cut points for EA admissions, but more it is a combination of an applicants core academic grades, curriculum choice and test scores.

If, on the other hand, a prospective applicant wants UGA to look at senior year first semester grades, new test scores, or make sure the student's co-curricular activities and essays, then they should apply Regular Decision(RD). The RD deadline is January 15, and there are two decision dates for this option. If an RD applicant meets the EA criteria for admission, we will send out a decision in late February (this also applies for any EA deferred student who, for instance, sends in new and improved test scores which put them at or above the EA criteria). For all applicants who are not admitted based upon the EA criteria, a decision will go out in late March. This time line gives the office time to read, and read, and read, and read. As for which plan a student should choose, RD versus EA, it is generally based upon the applicant taking an honest look at their academic record and then comparing it to our First-Year Class Profile. Look at the academic mid-ranges for our freshman class and see how you compare, especially when looking at grades and curriculum (on average, UGA freshman took 3-5 AP or IB classes along with a broad range of Honors/Accelerated courses, but this varies based upon what is offered at your school as well). Don't be intimidated by the numbers, but be realistic, and know that during the read process, we look at everything about an applicant.

And for those of you who apply EA just because you do not have to complete part II of the application (with the short essays), even though you are not near the mid ranges in the profile, I would suggest you think again. Give yourself time to get your application together, and do not rush to complete it in the end just because you "knew" you would be deferred but did not want to do part II of the application yet. This is like pushing off writing a 10 page report until the last day, and wondering why it did not turn out as well as you thought it would.

Just remember, Early Action at UGA is non-binding, it is neither easier or harder to be admitted EA or RD (it is just a response time issue), and the applicant needs to look the profile to see how they compare, at least in determining EA vs RD. And as Forrest says, "That's all I have to say about that."

If this is your first time to this blog, please know that we welcome comments and/or questions about the UGA Admission process.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Urban Legends, Myths and Tall Tales

Alligators in the sewers. Sasquatch. The Loch Ness Monster.

These are some of the most popular Urban Legends and Myths that get passed on from generation to generation as stories that people "swear are true because it happened to a friend of a friend of mine". The popular website Snopes.com dispels many of these as untrue or - at a minimum -
embellished stories.

Allow us to add another: Admission to the University of Georgia

When speaking with students, counselors, alumni and parents, we often are asked questions that indicate there is a great deal of misinformation regarding what
WILL or WILL NOT help a student gain admission to the University of Georgia. Usually, the exchange begins with a student approaching us and saying: "I heard that....." or "Is it true that.....". I have to admit that some of the myths that I have heard make me chuckle and some make me cringe to think that students may be basing their application strategy on incorrect information. The college admissions process creates enough anxiety among students and parents as it is. These rumors sometimes only heighten that anxiety.

Just a few of the most popular Admissions Urban Legends we hear:

Admission quotas by state, county, high school, zip code or astrological sign? Myth
Easier to get admitted Early Action vs. Regular Decision? Myth
Minimum GPA, SAT, ACT or AP courses required for admission? Myth
Certain majors in which it is easier to gain admission than others? Myth

The best advice that we can give you is to review the Admissions website for information regarding the admissions process to UGA and to speak with your guidance counselor. Apply to colleges based on what you know, not what you have heard third hand.

In the meantime, stay away from the sewers just in case there are alligators down there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

College Fairs


This past Wednesday, UGA helped host the local college fair for the Athens area community, and it went great! While college fairs can sometimes be overwhelming (our office was at the Augusta, GA one last night and talked to over 1,000 prospective students), there is something about doing a college fair where you know a number of the students in attendance. Let me digress for a moment - Mia, MJ, Robert, Michael, Josh, McGee and all the others I am forgetting to mention, great to see you there!. You may not be able to get all of your questions answered, but it is a great place to start the process.

While College Fairs can never replace actually visiting a school, it is a great way for sophomores and juniors to learn more about a broad range of colleges. Similarly, when UGA or any other college you are interested in is visiting your school, take the time to go talk to the representative, ask questions, and learn more about what each school has to offer. The more you know, the better off you will be. As well, this is a great chance for parents to be a part of the process and talk about admissions.

And just so you know exactly where UGA's admission counselors will be this year, bookmark our Meet UGA Near You page. And if you are still passionate about UGA after all the college fairs, high school visits, mailings, emails, etc., this would be a great time to plan a visit to UGA. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Volunteering and Admissions



Well, the votes are in (at least about what readers want more information on), and you have stated that you would like to learn more about what things play a factor in admissions.Today, I would like to focus on how we look at students giving back to their community. And for student's who are looking at volunteering at UGA, the UGA Center for Leadership and Service is a great place to start.

When the counselors in our office are reading admissions applications, one of the things we look at is how an applicant uses their available time. While we can not say an exact amount of emphasis activities count within the review process, it is important to our review. We do not classify one activity as better than another (such as quilting over baseball, or the science club over the debate team). What we are looking at is what you are active in, how active are you (how long have you been involved, leadership, etc), and how has this impacted both you and your community. If you are a part of your school's theater group or sports team, you are both representing your school, performing for an audience, and putting in time and effort.

We look at volunteering in the same way, with a focus on commitment and impact on the community. But one thing I want to stress is that UGA does not require community service, and just like other activities, we suggest you only be involved if you truly desire to be involved. Don't come at this situation by looking at it as a way to boost your profile or make your application look better. Do it, or don't do it, because you want to. One thing that is a little more apparent when volunteering is the impact to the community, as (hopefully) a person is volunteering specifically to help out others. This does not mean volunteering is better than another activity, all it means is that tells us more about who is impacted and your motivation.

Lastly, I would suggest that if you write about a volunteer experience, especially if you help disadvantaged communities, you should review your essay. More times than we would like to count, our counselors have read an essay where one of the closing lines begins with "I am now much more thankful for all that I have...". While we understand this response, we hope that your time interacting with a culture, background or situation that is different from yours may bring about personal growth and insight about the larger world.

Overall, find activities you love, and if volunteering is one of those activities, we hope you make an impact both for others and yourself.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Feature



In case you did not notice, I have added a new feature to the Blog; Reactions. These are the checkboxes and words beneath each blog that allow you to evaluate the post without having to comment on it (similar to Facebook's Like/Unlike -thumbs up/thumbs down option, only with more detail).

These are for the readers who want to make their feelings known, but would rather do it with a simple click of the mouse instead of writing a comment (although I still love it when you comment about my posts!). As well, this will help me know when my posts help, confuse, or clarify an issue. So go ahead and use the Reaction boxes at will!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

UGA and Score Choice


It is nearing the end of summer, and so begins the season of doubt. "Should I send my SAT/ACT to UGA now, or wait until I see how I did?" Fear not, because this question is a non-issue at UGA.

UGA's policy on test scores is that we only look at the highest sub-scores of the SAT and the ACT, also known as "super-scoring". This means that we take the highest Critical Reading, Math and Writing SAT scores from all your SAT tests to get your best overall combination, and your best ACT scores from each section to make the highest composite score.

The one thing we do not do is overlap the SAT and ACT (we will not take your ACT English of 34 and match it with your 740 Math SAT). But remember, UGA will only look at your best scores for the SAT and ACT, and if you take both the SAT and ACT, we will use whichever test has the strongest overall best scores.

In other words, we are only focused on your best scores (I am trying to see how many different ways I can say this statement). So do not worry about which test scores to send (my best suggestion is to always request them to be sent when you sign up for the test), and enjoy your senior year!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Senioritis, or the "finger of shame" email

One of my brothers has two pet dogs, and over the years, he come up with a unique discipline technique called "the finger of shame". When one of the dogs does something wrong, he would scold them, and at the same time he would curl his index finger into a hook shape and say "shame!" After a while, all he had to do was hold out his curled finger, and the dogs would cower and know they did something wrong. The finger of shame has now become legend in our office, and I occasionally have to raise the finger, mostly in fun, but occasionally as a warning for someone to turn things around.

As you might remember,I wrote a post a few months ago that about admitted students whose senior grades dropped dramatically, and we were just now seeing those grades on the final high school transcripts. Well, today was the day that I sent out the "finger of shame" email to those students. I tried not to be too mean, but I wanted to let them know that a major drop in their senior year work was not a good way to start their freshman year at UGA. At the same time, I directed them to UGA's Office of Academic Enhancement for help in organization and planning, and let them know that we hoped this drop was an aberration and not a omen of the future. I also had one very serious conversation with one student this summer about his academic future, and we placed specific restrictions on his registration for the future until the admissions office could see his first semester grades.

As you can guess, this is not a fun time for anyone, especially me. It is never fun having to scold someone for a serious issue, yet at the same time hope they turn things around. As you go into your senior year (at least most of you), please make sure to keep up the good academic work during this final year. Please don't make me threaten you with the "finger of shame".

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What your email address really says


I hope your school year is off to a great start! My name is Kelly Ochs, and I’m an assistant director of admissions. I'm guest blogging with Dave Graves this week. Thankfully, Dave has tackled the big topics like Early Action versus Regular Decision, leaving me to talk about something somewhat less serious (but still important!).

Each year, we like to pull interesting statistics about our applicants, such as what the most common women's name in the applicant pool was (Sarah this year; William was the most common men's name). This year, we also pulled some information about email addresses. Email is how you communicate with your friends or maybe with that cute guy in your Pre-Cal class. Your email address says a lot about you. But your email address is also one way our office communicates with you. When you apply for admission, we ask for your email address on your application. We send emails to you letting you know if we have not received all of the materials necessary to review your application, and we see your email address when we read your application. We want to get to know you through your application, but there are some things we don't need to know.

It might be alright for your friends to call you "Big Daddy," but it makes me a little uncomfortable emailing "Big Daddy" to let him know his test scores are not here. As far as we can tell from email addresses, we had three "geeks" apply, one "dork," four "maniacs," seven "divas," and three other "daddies." Some other ones that caught our attention were "tallsexythang," "wildthang," and "missthang."

I'm not trying to suggest that you change your email address to "GoDawgs101" (trust me, we get enough of those), but provide us with an email address that you feel represents you in the best way. I'm not sure what the email address "toomuchbootieinthepants" (my favorite) says about you, but I can't imagine that's what you want us to remember you for when we read your application.

What's the best email address you've seen? (Please nothing vulgar! Also leave out the @yahoo/gmail/whatever.com).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Admission Plans - Forrest Gump style


In one scene in the movie Forrest Gump, the character Bubba Blue is sitting next to Forrest on a transport bus talking about shrimp. "Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That - That's about it."

Sometimes, the different college admissions plans sound just like that. You've got your Early Action, your Early Decision, your Restrictive Early Action, your Single Choice Early Decision, your Rolling Decision, your Multiple Choice Early Rolling Action (okay, I made that one up), etc. While I can not say what plans other colleges have for their admission process or why they choose these plans, I can tell you how UGA does it.

UGA has two decision plans, Early Action(EA) and Regular Decision(RD). UGA's Early Action program is non-restrictive and non-binding, meaning that we will not limit an applicant from applying in any way to another college, and if admitted, you do not need to let us know if you are coming or not until May 1. No matter how you apply, we want you to take as much time as you need (up to May 1!) to research your options and make a good decision on where to go to college. Our EA deadline is October 15, and we generally will have EA decisions out by mid-December. Please remember, it is not easier or harder to be admitted EA, it is just a different time line for applicants who want to hear something earlier. You may hear a yes (admit), a no (deny) or a defer (deferral to get more information on the applicant). If by mid-October, a prospective applicant feels comfortable with UGA making a decision on their current grades, curriculum, and test scores, then EA might be right for that individual. Just so you know, there are not any specific cut points for EA admissions, but more it is a combination of an applicants grades, curriculum and test scores.

If, on the other hand, a prospective applicant wants UGA to look at senior year first semester grades, new test scores, or the student's co-curricular activities and essays, then they should apply Regular Decision(RD). The RD deadline is January 15, and there are two decision dates for this option. If an RD applicant meets the EA criteria for admission, we will send out a decision in late February (this also applies for any EA deferred student who, for instance sends in new and improved test scores which put them at or above the EA criteria). For all applicants who are not admitted based upon the EA criteria, a decision will go out in late March. This gives the office time to read, and read, and read, and read. As for which plan a student should choose, RD versus EA, it is generally based upon the applicant taking an honest look at their academic record and then comparing it to our First-Year Class Profile. Look at the academic mid-ranges for our freshman class and see how you compare, especially when looking at grades and curriculum (on average, UGA freshman took 3-5 AP or IB classes along with a broad range of Honors/Accelerated courses). Don't be intimidated by the numbers, but be realistic, and know that during the read process, we look at everything about an applicant.

Just remember, Early Action at UGA is non-binding, it is neither easier or harder to be admitted EA or RD (it is just a response time issue), and the applicant needs to look the profile to see how they compare, at least in determining EA vs RD. And as Forrest says, "That's all I have to say about that."

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Big Day is Here!

Yes, today is a big day, both for UGA and admissions. Fall classes begin today, and the campus is full of life (and full of students!). It is exciting to see all of the new and returning students on campus, and life is now back to normal.

On the admissions side of things, the 2010 freshman application is now available! As I have said in the past, it is not important to be the first one to apply. UGA Admissions is not like Disney World; being first in line does not mean anything, and there is no FastPass option. But I know that everyone is happy to have the application up, both on our side and yours. The Foundation Fellowship/Bernard Ramsey Honors Scholarship application is also be available as of today. Good luck, and let us know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Admissions Numbers vs. Enrollment Numbers


UGA has just sent out a press release on the Summer/Fall 2009 enrolling class, and we are thrilled to welcome them to campus! This is an incredibly strong group of incoming freshman and transfer students, and we know they will do well on our campus.

As I have warned you in the past, though, please be cautious with statistics. For instance, the numbers in the press release are for enrolling students at UGA, not for admitted applicants. At every college, there will be a difference (some big, some small) between the admitted student averages and the enrolling student averages. For example, about 4,700 freshman are enrolling at UGA for the Summer/Fall of 2009. When some people hear we had 18,000 applicants and enrolled 4,700 of them, they calculate these odds and freak out a little bit. But if you look a little deeper, you see that out of the 18,000 applications, we then accepted about 9,000 students, and a little over 4,700 then enrolled. Sounds a little better, right?

I would suggest you look at UGA's First-Year Class Profile for more information about our freshman class, and also for some interesting facts about this group. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Updating the Blog Look

Over the next week or so, I will be tinkering with the overall look of this blog. No major changes, but I thought it needed to have a little more width to utilize space better, and so that longer posts did not look like they went on forever. Please excuse any minor hiccups over the next week or so and I clean the blog up!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Unusual Similarities Between Dating and Choosing a College


You are looking for the perfect match, and so is that significant other that is waiting out there for you. You talk, visit with each other, send emails, and hope that it is a good match, both for you and for that special someone... or college. I know what you are saying, "How in the world is dating and college selection similar?", but trust me, it is not a big jump. In each situation, both sides are looking for a good fit.

In dating, you have a list of criteria you are looking for in a person, be it height, sense of humor, minty-fresh breath, etc. Some of you extremely picky people might have long lists, while others just list "have a pulse". It is the same in the college search process, with only the criteria changing (size of student body, location, cost, etc). Often times these criteria are somewhat malleable, as you might find a person who does not have the greatest cleaning habits (okay, he is a slob), but has a terrific sense of humor. College A might not have intramural kickboxing, your favorite sport, but everything else seems perfect.

In dating, everyone tries to put their best foot forward. You clean out the fast food wrappers and dirty clothes from your car before picking your date up, you wear clothes that at least smell clean (okay, this one is for guys), and you make sure your hair looks right. Now think about all the materials that you get in the mail from colleges. In the brochures, everyone is smiling, the weather is always perfect and the grass is always green. We don't run out to take pictures of the students sleepwalking to their 8 a.m. classes, coffee in one hand, baseball cap covering their "I just rolled out of bed" hair. And when you visit a campus, I am guessing you try to present yourself in the best light possible.

One key in both situations, though, is that generally, there is not just one good match, but a number of good ones. One of my co-workers, Charlie Carabello, likes to compare this to a Malcomb Gladwell talk about the search for the perfect spaghetti sauce. Both in dating and in the college search process, the idea of choice and multiple matches are key, and ultimately you select the one that fits you best. But remember that this is a two way street. If you think you have found a good match with a person and ask them out, they also have to believe it is a good match (and hopefully say yes). Same with the college selection, where both sides have to think it is a good relationship. Life can get a little messy when only one side thinks there is a good connection.

And finally, if that significant other said no when you asked them for a date, I am positive that you would not want one of your parents to call him/her and demand to know why she said no. In the same light, if a college says no, it is probably not the best thing to have one of your parents call and insist on knowing why you were not admitted.

Monday, August 3, 2009

UGA Early Action vs. Regular Decision


WARNING!!! This is a long post (sorry, but it all needs to be said!).

From now until October 15, one of the most common questions for the admission office will be "Should I apply for Early Action (EA) or Regular Decision (RD)"? There is the perceived notion that one option is better than the other (NOT TRUE!). If a student applies EA and is deferred, they will be shifted to the next stage of review and will be looked at the same way as an RD applicant. If a student applies RD and meets the EA criteria for admission, they will receive an acceptance in late February. In reality, the only person that can answer the question of how they should apply is the student who is applying.

First, the EA Vs. RD difference is really about timing. If a student submits an application for EA, they will know something by mid-December. This "something" could be an acceptance, a denial, or a deferral (which means we need more information before we can make a decision). Early Action accepts are applicants that are extremely strong academically, and that our office determines we would admit no matter what that year. EA denials are students that we determine we would not admit for EA or RD based upon the information we have at that time. Deferred applicants are seen as very competitive academically, and we want to review the file after we have receive more detailed information about the student. RD applicants who apply will receive a decision in late February (if they meet EA requirements), or they will hear in late March, when all RD or deferred EA applicants will know final decisions.

Here are my two suggestions when looking at EA vs RD: First, look at the First-Year Profile for previous years, and determine where the applicant would fall within grades, curriculum and test scores. Since Early Action (EA) admitted students are at the top end of the group, if an applicant is not in the mid-50% or higher in at least two of the areas, they should rethink applying EA. Secondly, the applicant should ask if they would like to have first semester grades or SAT/ACT scores from after October in their file before a decision is made. If you want UGA admissions to see more about you, apply RD.

And for those of you who apply EA just because you do not have to complete part II of the application (with the short essays), even though you are not near the mid ranges in the profile, I would suggest you think again. Give yourself time to get your application together, and do not rush to complete it in the end just because you "knew" you would be deferred but did not want to do part II of the application yet. This is like pushing off writing a 10 page report until the last day, and wondering why it did not turn out as well as you thought it would.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought this would help everyone as we get close to opening the application.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Myth of Being the Earliest Applicant


Let me first state that this post has absolutely nothing to do with Early Action, which we will cover in a future post. I repeat, this has nothing to do with Early Action. Today I want to talk about the timing of applications.

First, let me state that I love it when students apply before our deadlines. This makes life easier for UGA, the high school counselor, the parents, and the student. When you give yourself a generous amount of time to complete an application, no one gets too frantic. And let me tell you, I am amazed by the number of students who apply between 10 pm and midnight the day of the deadline. What happens if your internet connection goes down, or kid brother needs the computer for a homework assignment, or you just fall asleep?

But there are people on the other end of the spectrum. Every year, we watch to see how long it takes from the time we open the online application until someone hits submit. One year it was roughly12 minutes from the opening bell until first submission. A small group of people think that if they are one of the first people to submit their application, their chances of actual admission are better. WRONG!! There is no golden ticket for being the first one to apply! While I stand by the statement that we love applicants who don't wait until deadline day, we do not favor the first ones in line. We treat all applicants the same, whether they apply in August or mid-January (though when I read an essay that seems rushed, I do look to see when it was submitted).

The main thing is to give yourself plenty of time to apply before the deadline, make sure all your information is correct, and check to make sure all required materials are submitted (see our Status Check). If nothing else, this will stop your parents from asking "Have you sent in your UGA application yet?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

UGA on the Road


I had a chance to speak with a group of Athens students and parents last night, talking mostly about the college admissions process, but also a little about UGA. In some ways, these students are a little luckier than others, as UGA is right around the corner, and they are able to visit our campus at almost any time they are free. For most students, it takes a little more planning (or sometimes a great deal more) to visit the college of their choice.

That is why, from September to November, admissions counselors from all around the nation begin their travel season, visiting high schools and attending college fairs. Sometimes, I think it should almost be a show on National Geographic, with the camera crew following the migratory trek of the admissions officer, venturing out from it's home on an eight week journey, only to return again to it's natural habitat, exhausted, a little brain-dead, and happy it's journey is complete.

For those wanting to follow the travels of our counselors this fall, we have the "Meet UGA Near You" web site ( updated weekly) with a database listing of our office's travels. Even if UGA is going to be visiting your high school or attending a college fair in your area, we still heavily suggest that you visit our campus. I hope everyone's summer is finishing up well, and good luck with the start of school in the next few weeks!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Spring 2010 Transfer Decisions

Just a quick heads-up to any and all transfer students who applied for Spring 2010. We have started reviewing these files, and as of 7/22, we have begun to send out decisions. Unlike freshman decisions, where there are three specific dates where we send out decisions, transfer decisions go out on a rolling basis and each file takes a great deal of time to review. I expect that we will continue to send out decisions through the end of September, as the deadline is 9/15. And please remember that it is up to you, the student, to make sure your file is complete. Make sure you have sent in updated transcripts with all your work (if you sent a transcript to UGA in January, you need to send another one if you have spring work), and make sure you send in transcripts from all colleges (even if it was dual enrollment in high school or a summer transient class).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Watch out for random advice


I am back from my vacation and am well tanned and overfed. There is something wonderful about a long vacation that allows for time to relax, read, and think about things (usually it focused on food or napping, but occasionally it was about more serious issues). I was also able to do some reading, and I was finally able to finish "Fooled by Randomness" by Nassim Taleb. It was not an easy book to read, but it opened up my mind to a number of different ideas.

One great quote from the book was about an idea from the philosopher Wittgenstein called "Wittgenstein's ruler".
  • "Unless you have confidence in the ruler's reliability, if you use use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler."
Admissions counselors all over are always asked about a student's chances of admission based upon limited data, such as a test score or a GPA, and at UGA, the usual answer is a non-answer. Without looking at both the individual student and the applicant pool as a whole, we have no idea what the chances would be for admission.

But in PTO meetings, college discussion web sites, high schools and private counselor sessions across the nation, random individuals are more than happy to voice their thoughts on a student's chances of admission. Look back at Wittgenstein's ruler and tell me, are student's learning more about themselves, or about the reliability (or lack of) of the person giving the advice. My suggestion, ignore the advice and work directly with the colleges to which you are considering applying. Colleges are generally very open as to what they look at for admissions, and the level of importance of different variables.

For a good look at an example of some of the highs and lows of people getting and giving advice, take a look at a recent NY Times article about independent college counselors. It is a very revealing story!

Please remember that when you hear advice, measure both the advice and (more importantly!) the advice-giver!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Senioritis, or the 12th grade blues

I will be out of the office next week, so there will be no new posts or replies until my return. But I leave you with a quick post about the wonderful topic of senior year grades. Yes, I know how you probably feel about this, but go ahead and read it anyways.

Over the past month, the evaluation team in the admissions office has reviewed about 4,500 final high school transcripts. It is exhausting work, but we are checking to make sure that all enrolling students graduated from high school, completed their required curriculum, and finished well academically. I then get the wonderful job of contacting a handful of these students to get more information about very poor senior grades. I am not talking about one bad grade, but instead a downward trend at the end of high school.

Over the last 12 years at UGA, most of these situations are to give these students a warning that unless they make a change, they probably will not last at UGA for more than a year (our reviews show that low senior grades lead to low freshman grades in college). Occasionally, I will have to flag their record and see how the student has done fall semester before allowing the student to register for spring. And on the worst situations (I have had less than ten in my 12 years), I have had to tell the student that they can not attend UGA at all. It is not a fun discussion, but one that is generally better than having the student bomb out in their first year.

As you can see, almost all new students at UGA did well their senior year, so don't take this as a huge warning. I write this, though, to let rising seniors know that colleges do look at senior grades. This is not to punish the students who had issues, but to make sure they are ready for their freshman year. So keep up the good work during your senior year, if not for me (or your parents!), then at least so you will have a good transition into college. Good luck!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Skip the paper, send things electronically


As I have said before, the UGA Admissions office will be going paperless for the 2010 admissions cycle (and all the people cheered!). What this means is that any data sent to our office will be placed into an electronic file for each applicant. If any paper document is sent to our office, it will be scanned into the imaging system, then matched with the applicant's file. But in our forward thinking office, we have a suggestion for all applicants; When possible, go paperless!

If you apply, do it online through our website. We will still accept paper applications, but here is where reality hits. An online application's data goes into our system overnight, the data enterred is controlled by you, the applicant, and you can view the status check within the next few days to verify the application. For a paper application, it has to go through the mail, be opened and scanned by our system, shifted to another individual, and then keyed into our system by that person (who may or may not be able to read your handwriting). This is not an overnight process, and may take up to three weeks. Life is much easier with an online application, trust me!

The next steps are to get us your supplemental materials, from test scores (must be sent electronically by the testing agency), a school evaluation, a teacher recommendation (if not admitted Early Action), and a transcript. Of the last three items, the first two can be submitted electronically through the UGA website! Direct your counselor and teacher to our High School Counselor page for access to these online options. If your school officials complete these items online, they are generally posted to your application in 2-3 business days. If sent by mail, especially near a deadline, it could take 2-3 weeks. As you can see, it is mutually beneficial to use the online options, and can save both you and admissions headaches and worries.

And for students in GA, we suggest you send your transcript through GA College 411, as it will be sent electronically, and we can link it to your file much easier.

Overall, online submission is the way to go for UGA, and it will make everyone's life a great deal easier. Of course, we can always turn this into an environmentally concious slogan; "Send it online, save a tree (or at least a small branch)".

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

GPA's, Grades and Reality


Every year about this time, the GPA question arises, starting with a low rumble and ending in April with a chorus of voices all wondering, "How does UGA calculate GPA's". Because there are so many school systems using such a wide variety of grading scales, my best answer is always that we start everyone out on a level playing field. To give you an idea of the range of grading scales, here is a small sample; 10 point grading scales, 7 point grading scales, E/S/U grades, narrative grade reports, 6 point GPA scales (to include AP weighting), 4 point GPA scales, plus/minus grades, numerical only grades, etc. As you can see, the GPA on one HS transcript could vary greatly from another GPA.

As such, UGA re-calculates all high school GPA's, and it is based upon the individual grades (be it semester, trimester, full year, etc.) in all the academic classes based upon the grading scale at that school. In addition, we add .5 weight to every individual AP or IB grade (unless a weight has already been added to the individual grade), and calculate a GPA based upon a 4.00 scale. Every A is worth 4 points, every B is 3 points, etc. As I said before, our goal is to review everyone on a level playing field.

As you can guess, this issue causes some serious discussions for everyone involved. Admissions offices across the country deal with questions about fairness and GPA calculation throughout the year, and many school systems have changed their grading scales in response to perceived problems. But the reality is that where we have seen grading scale changes, we have not seen a measurable change in grades from one scale to the other. In addition, no one can truly determine what grade they might have made in another school (in response to the argument "If I was at X school, I would have a 4.00 now"), as the only sure way would be to have them actually take classes at that school.

My best suggestion for everyone is to get a copy of your transcript and calculate your own academic GPA. Every college calculates GPA's in a slightly different method, but at least you will start out with a common academic GPA. One of the worst things you can do is go into the college admissions process with inaccurate information about your GPA.

Overall, the debate over GPA's and differing grading scales reminds me of a scene from the movie "This is Spinal Tap", where the main characters are discussing their band's amplifiers;

" Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven."

Thank goodness I do not have to deal with any GPA scales that go to eleven, or with any member of Spinal Tap!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Back from Camp!


I am back from Camp Sunshine, which is always one of the best weeks of the year. It does not matter if it is raining or 100 degrees, it is always a good time! Even though I am exhausted at the end of the week, it is great to be with my campers and see them grow throughout the week and the year. Over the years, I have seen one of my boys who is legally blind ride a bike through camp (it took a lot of work, but he did great!), helped one camper who spent all week in a wheelchair get half way up the climbing wall, and have seen so many campers who have grown because they have been a part of an amazing experience.

When looking at applications, part of what we want to know is what things have changed you, and what you are doing now to help others. I am not saying that volunteer work is mandatory at all (so please do not rush out to sign up for any and all camps!), but if you do give back to your community, let us know. This can tell us more about who you are as a person, and how you might impact the UGA campus.

Have a great rest of the summer, and I will get back to admissions issues for the next few weeks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Time for Camp

I wanted to give everyone a heads-up that this blog will be idle for the next week, as I am headed to summer camp. For the last 15 years, I have been volunteering at Camp Sunshine, which is a camp for children with cancer. I will be heading out on Saturday for a week of sports, fishing, rock wall climbing, pottery, and an amazing amount of other activities with a group of 11 year old boys in Cabin 13! It is a wonderful (but exhausting) week, and I will most likely come back with some words of wisdom that emanated from a camper's brain.

On a side note, I just reviewed the two web pages I had created on suggestions for writing essays and hints on admissions. A co-worker of mine had reviewed the pages, and noticed 3-4 grammatical errors. It is pretty bad when your words of advice on how to write contain grammar errors! Luckily, I did follow my own advice and had someone review my work for mistakes. This just goes to show you that even the people that review applications are human.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Challenge Yourself!


I was at a swim meet last night watching my son and daughter compete, and I had a chance to watch some amazing athletes. In one 11-12 year old heat, my son was up against a young man whose times were better than some 18 year old swimmers. While it was tough knowing that my son would not win, I also knew that could only improve from this challenge. Would I rather have him race against the 8 year old group and crush them? No way. The way to improve, be motivated and get ready for the future is to challenge yourself.

I am guessing you can see where I am going with this. UGA puts a great deal of emphasis on the rigor of a students course work, and wants students who will rise to the challenge and be ready for the level of work in our classrooms. I am not saying go out and take 14 AP classes and make all C's. My statement has always been to challenge yourself to the level of difficulty you can handle. This is important to UGA applicants because rigor is a major factor in our evaluation, and because overall, it will benefit you in your UGA classes.

So go out there and challenge yourself with Honors classes, IB programs, AP course work, and dual enrollment college courses! Do it for admissions, but more importantly, do it for yourself.