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 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!