Friday, February 26, 2010

Freshman February Wave of Admits

The status check is now back and open for viewing, and the small wave of freshman February admit decisions that I discussed earlier are now showing up on the site. Please remember that this is a small group of admits who meet the EA criteria used in our December admits (and are mainly RD applicants due to this fact), and remember, I cannot comment/discuss specific decisions on this blog.

Do not panic if you have not been admitted in this wave, as we still have a lot of files to read and lots of decisions to make. Final decisions will be made by roughly the end of March, so try to be patient as we finish up the process over the next month or so.

Go Dawgs!

February Wave of Admits

Later this afternoon (Friday, 2/26), we will be releasing acceptance letters for a small group of freshman applicants. These admits, who are primarily Regular Decision (RD) applicants, are students who meet the criteria that UGA admissions used for Early Action (EA) admits. Whenever we release these late February decisions, we always get questions, ranging from "Why didn't I hear" to "Does this mean that more decisions will roll out through the month of March" and so on. for those of you who have been following my blog, here is a quick reminder.

The three freshman decision release dates:

  • Mid December - EA Decisions released
  • Late February - Admit letters for applicants meeting EA admit criteria
  • Late March - Final Decisions for all remaining freshman applicants
Why do we release a small group of February acceptances? Well, if an applicant has applied Regular Decision, have a perfect 4.00 GPA, 8 AP classes in a variety of areas, and a 1600/770 SAT (an actual situation this year), why wouldn't we want to admit this student? Just like with EA admits, there are a group of Regular Decision applicants who are well above what is expected academically, and we want to move forward with admitting these students now. As well, this is a good example of the of how the rumors and myths out there, such as it is easier/harder to be admitted EA/RD, are not true. We are carefully reviewing the applicant pool, and treating them equally regardless of EA/RD.

Please remember, we still have a large amount of file reading, reviewing of the overall applicant pool, and a great deal more admission decisions to make before this year's admission cycle is done, so be patient. Ignore any wild rumors, know that there will still be a substantial number of admit letters to go out, and finish up your senior year strong!

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

File Reading - Admissions Counselor Perspective

As a follow up to Dave’s file reading entries, Kelly Ochs – with the help of Bartley Sides – gives you a picture of file reading from an admissions counselor perspective.

When I first became interested in working in college admissions as a college senior, I sat down with the director of admissions at my undergraduate institution talk about the life of an admissions counselor. It was March, and his advice to me was to walk around the admissions office and ask admissions counselors about their careers. It was some of the best job-searching advice I got - the month of March is one of the toughest months in college admissions (and not just for the students who are eagerly waiting to hear back from the colleges to which they have applied.

Admissions is a cyclical job - in the fall we are on the road meeting with prospective students at college fairs and high schools, in January, we start reading applications for next year's incoming class, and over the summer, we get ready to do the whole thing again with a new class.

It's a life of extremes - just when I think I can't live out of a suitcase or eat at McDonalds any longer, it's time to start reading applications. And just when I feel like I can't read another application, it's time to start working with the next class.

Reading season isn't the most glamorous time of year - we read file after file on a computer screen until our eyes are bleary. Most of us look a little rough around the edges - tired eyes from staying up reading applications and a cup of coffee never far away. If you've tried to contact our office in the past month you've probably noticed that we really aren't available to speak to visitors like we generally are. The only way we can review applications, is to shut down to some extent and really focus on what students are sharing with us in their applications and selecting the students we will invite to be a part of our next incoming class out of an incredible pool of applicants.

Since many of you have applied and are eagerly waiting to hear back from us, I thought we could share a little bit with you about what this time of year is like in our office. Dave has given you a great overview of what we are looking for when we read applications and I hope you've been able to review it, but this entry will outline a typical morning in the office during "Reading Season" in admissions.

8:00 a.m. Arrive at the office - This is the first year we are reading applications on the computer. In the past, we've had paper applications, but this year, we read everything on a computer screen. We used to have applications stacked on our desks and floors of our offices; now we just have desktop computers. Our desks may look a lot cleaner, but we're just as busy!

8:10 a.m. Coffee run - Programs, information sessions, campus tours, emails to students and other things don't stop during file reading, so many of us read applications from home to try to keep up when other things take up our time in the office. This means a lot of late nights, so during this time of year, our office probably keeps the coffee shop across the street in business.

8:15 a.m. Back at our desks armed with caffeine and energy from the brisk walk outside, we're ready to start reading applications. Right now, in order to finish reading applications to have decisions to you April 1, we are each reading 20 applications a day. Given that our office responsibilities continue during reading season, we spend anywhere from 15-25 minutes reviewing each application and getting to know the student through their application. This is why the essays you've written and the activities you've shared with us are so important - since we do not offer interviews, the only way we can get to know you is through your application. Whether you are shadowing doctors, training for the upcoming cross country season, or working on your bug collection, we want to know what you are doing when you leave the classroom or over the summer because these are the things that help us get to know you.

10:45 a.m. Because our office also has a fitness challenge going on, many of us use our breaks as a chance to earn points for the fitness challenge. Last week, I took a walk down the hall to Bartley's office and found another one of our counselors, Tino Johnson, doing push ups during a break from reading.

11 a.m. After working up a bit of a sweat, it's back to file reading for the rest of the day with a break for lunch.

Over the course of reading season, counselors will read anywhere from 700-1000 applications. At least two counselors review each application, and sometimes a third counselor will also read the application. Although the number of applications we receive may seem overwhelming, each application we read is a chance for us to get to know a student as they share with us their experiences and interests with us.

For many of us in admissions, file reading can be a tough time of year because of the long hours and amount of applications. But it is also one of the most rewarding parts of our job. We've spent months helping students figure out where they want to apply, answering questions about UGA and about the application, and hearing about what they are interested in and what they are capable of in college. It's incredibly rewarding to read applications and find those students who are a perfect match for UGA - who have excelled in and out of the classroom and who are ready to tackle new challenges and make a difference at UGA.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summer and Fall Transfer Decisions

As our review of the freshman transcripts (just the transcripts, not the entire file!) comes to an end, we are now starting up our transfer reviews. The transfer decision process is very different from the freshman process, so please take note. While the freshman decisions go out at three times during the year (December, late February and late March), the transfer decisions go out beginning in February and ending in late May/early June, and are made on a daily basis. In fact, we made about 30 transfer decisions yesterday!

Just so you know, though, transfer decisions are not a quick process. First, the file has to have all transcripts from any and all colleges an applicant has attended, and we must have any completed work through the Fall term of the previous year (so for this year, it would be Fall 2009 work). We then have to review the transcripts, see what classes transfer in, determine the number of transferable hours, and calculate a transfer GPA. If we then admit a student, we must plug in exactly how the transferable courses come into UGA, and whether they match specific UGA courses or come in as elective work. In addition, we must plug in the hours and GPA for HOPE scholarship purposes for those applicants that fall into this situation, and make sure that everything is correct. In other words, it can take a while.

In addition, the speed of the review depends upon the colleges an applicant has attended. If we have a large database of knowledge about a college and the courses from there (for instance GA State Univ.), then almost all of the equivalent courses are already in our database. But if you have attended several colleges where we have almost no information on (for instance, Green River CC and Central Washington Univ.), then it will take a while to research your classes and determine how the courses translate over to UGA courses.

As you can guess, this means that I have no idea how many transfer applicants we can review a day, and how many decisions will go out on X date. As well, I cannot even begin to guess, beyond a rough monthly estimate, when you will receive a transfer decision. What I would suggest is that you should make sure that all transcripts are here through the status check system, that if you have any other names you have used (last name is Jones now but was Smith), you should contact us to let us know after the transcript is sent, and be patient. Remember, transfer decisions will both come in the mail and will be posted on the status check.

I hope this helps!

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Wisdom of Walt Disney

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."  Walt Disney

A recent post brought up a good point for all high school junior and below students and parents about how to learn more about colleges and the opportunities at each institution. In order to start the process, you need to quit talking about colleges and actually begin the college search process. This means sending colleges your SAT/ACT scores (like the family from the recent post did), visit the campus to take a tour or attend an information session, sign up on a schools mailing list, etc. It is only then that a college will really start to know more about you, and can start to communicate with you. Every college will have a different time line concerning how and when they send you things, based upon their budget, their time lines, and the information you give them. But no matter what, a college can't really start contacting you unless you start the ball rolling!

We have a few families every year who are unhappy because we "heavily" recruited a friend or neighbor, but "barely" recruited them at all. When we go back and look at their file, it is generally due to the fact that we only learned about the student when they applied, and that was generally right around the deadline. In pulling up a random applicant for this coming fall, I see that she did a great job of contacting us early (fall of her junior year), and has since had about 10 different communications from our office. Contrast this with the following student in our recruitment database, whose first action was to send us test scores in late December of his senior year, and who applied right on the deadline. He has given us almost no time to communicate with him at all!

So the best thing you can do now is to start working with colleges early (soph. to junior year) by visiting the campus, sending SAT/ACT scores (remember, we only look at the strongest sub-scores, so there is no negative to sending us junior year test scores!), going to college fairs, and generally just letting a college know that you are interested. With 60,000+ prospects every year, I can't say that we will send you 2 or 3 letters every week, but you can at least put yourself on our radar. So as Walt Disney so succinctly uttered, "quite talking and begin doing!"

Go Dawgs!

Friday, February 12, 2010

File Reading, Part VI (the final chapter!)

Several years ago, I read a great book by Robert Fulghum called "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten", and a portion of it applies to the last part of File Reading:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
In looking at applicants, we are looking at future members of the UGA community.  They will be living in the residence halls together, studying together, dating, hanging out, and generally interacting with the people in the UGA community 24/7. In light of this, I want to know how they interact with other people in their own community right now. Do they play nice with the other kids in school, are they respectful to people from other cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic groups, how do they treat teachers, etc. In other words, how well do they get along with others?

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

I hope that this six part review about file reading has helped, and it came about by a suggestion from one of the blog readers. So, if you have any suggestions about future posts, please let me know!

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

File Reading, Part V

The fifth part of the review is already known to most everyone, but I will go ahead and share it with you. In this section, we are looking at an applicant's academic progress over the 3-3.5 years of high school where we have grades, looking at both the overall picture and the grade trends.

When we look at a student's transcript, we are trying to understand how a student has progressed over their 3+ years in high school. Have they been consistently strong throughout the years, did they start slow and then jump up to all A's, did they have a tough time in a specific subject, are all their B's low or high B's, etc. We then use this in combination with the other factors impacting their life, from family issues that occurred where we saw a dip in grades to how a student did once they got into a specific AP course. If a student made a D in Geometry in 10th grade, did they bounce back from it or keep on a downward trend. All of these factors help us understand the overall picture that the transcript gives us.

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

That is the end of Part V, and I am amazed that I was able to keep it so brief!

Go Dawgs!

Monday, February 8, 2010

File Reading, Part IV

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

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

Tied in with this is the idea of personal maturity. When a student is faced with a dilemma, how do they handle themselves now, and how will they handle themselves at UGA? Do they take responsibility and handle issues in a mature fashion, or do they blame others? One telling item (though by no means the only one), is how a student deals with discipline/conduct issues. I have looked at the large majority of files where there is a conduct/criminal issue, and it is very telling as to how a student reacts. Some will take full responsibility, and focus on both making amends and getting back on track. On the other hand, I have seen student's make the same mistakes over and over, relying on someone else to get them out of their situation.

Maturity also shows up in a person's interaction with others, be it teachers, friends or classmates. Many of these applicants will be studying in UGA's classrooms, living in our residence halls, and being a part of our community. What will they be like when they are on our campus, and how will they interact with the rest of the UGA community?

"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all." Sam Ewing

Which one are you?

Go Dawgs!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

File Reading Part III

This section will be brief, as I have written about it a number of times. The file reading topic for the day is Intellectual Challenge/Rigor of Curriculum. First, don't ask how many AP/IB/Honors/Advanced/Dual Enrollment/Post-AP/TBE (The Best Ever!) classes you should take, because there is no right answer. Instead, look at the academic opportunities both at your school and in your community for the answer. What I mean is, most competitive colleges are going to look at what academic options are available to you as a student, and what you have then chosen to take. What have you done within the context of what is available?

In two files I am looking at right now, one school offers 31 Honors courses and 28 AP courses (including at least four language options), while the second has 18 honors courses and 1 AP (with only two languages offered). These are just two examples, and there is an even wider range of options within the 2,524 high schools from which we have applicants this year. In addition, we are not just counting AP classes, but looking at the depth and breadth of a student's rigor in their core academic areas. I would rather see a student challenge themselves across the board with rigorous classes than to take 4 AP courses in one field, but basic courses in the rest. And don't fall for the idea that you should take the lightest load so you can make all A's, because this is not a good move if applying to UGA, and it is not a good way to prepare for college. Challenge yourself to the level that you can handle, and understand that this is a serious factor in admissions at UGA.

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

So challenge yourself, find your passion, and understand how we look at an applicant's academic challenge. I guess this wasn't so brief, was it!

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

File Reading, Part II

Here is the second installment of the UGA holistic file reading overview, with a focus on the area of an applicant's writing, self-expression and creativity. I know, it is a mouthful, but this is the section where we look at the student's overall writing (both the essays and any other written areas on the application), and as well, any other areas where a student displays their creative talents. This would be something along the line of musical expression, theater/drama, etc.

In the review of an applicant's writing, our focus is more the writer's voice, how well they communicate their ideas, and how well they "show" us their information, and less focus is put on grammar and structure. Yes, we still want a student to write clearly and spell check their work, but that is not the key (and neither are "big" words or writing about UGA in your essays!). When I talk about a writer's voice, and about "showing" instead of "telling", I will direct you to my Suggestions for Writing Admissions Essays, as this tells you more than I could cover in one post.

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

The other area within this part looks at a student's creative side. While we see some of these items within the activities section, we want to see how a student shows their artistic side. We look at their involvement in the dramatic, visual and performing arts, and try to get an understanding of their aesthetic side of life. We will focus more on the writing part during this review, but a student's passion for the arts does come into play.

That is it for part II, and hopefully these posts will help you understand a little more about the file reading process. Only four more to go!

Monday, February 1, 2010

File Reading, Part I

Last week, I said I would write about file reading, and I will break it up into six areas. The first thing we generally see during the review of the files is how a student spends their time outside of the classroom. As such, lets talk a little bit about how we look at an applicant's commitment to activities, service, family and/or leadership areas. Remember, this is one of six areas I will talk about, so don't get too focused or hung up on just this area.

The first thing you should know is that we value quality over quantity. What we are looking for is somewhat about the range of what a person does, but more so the depth of their involvement. I see far too many applicants get involved with multiple clubs or organizations in their junior year after the light comes on (or the parent's voice starts to be heard) about being involved. Suddenly a student is involved in 7 different groups, from the Green Campus club to the knitting for kids group. Anything and everything gets thrown in.

What we are really looking at is what things you have committed to during your high school years, both in time and in consistency. I am much more impressed with a student who does three things, let's say scouting, cross-country and Habitat for Humanity, growing in ability and responsibility each year, than a student who bounces from group to group, having ten areas of involvement, but not staying with any one of them. This isn't to say that we don't look at times where a student gets involved in a range of activities to find their niche, but we do focus on dedication and commitment.

Another thing to look at is that I listed family and service. Two years ago, I read a file where the applicant worked 35-40 hours a week (supervising 15 people!), and was the main bread-winner for a family of four. He was not working simply to afford movie tickets or gas money, but to put food on the table and keep the electricity on in the house. While he had limited involvement in clubs, he was dedicated to his family and his job. It comes down to looking at a student in context within his/her situation, and what is available or expected within their situation.

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

So go find the activity you are passionate about, have a great day, and Go Dawgs!