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/

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.