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!

11 comments:

  1. My school offers about 9 AP courses and most are core subjects- Bio, Chem, Lit (English), Calculus, U.S. History, Spanish, as well as Psychology, Stats, and Physics (online). We have block scheduling (four 90-minute classes a semester) but every AP class is one year long, so do you take into consideration that fitting in many APs is difficult when we have limited room and also need to fit in our courses that our high school requires for graduation?

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  2. Anon:
    Yes, we ask about this type of issue on our school evaluation form, and try to gain an understanding about this situation. There are a number of schools who have this issue, along with most schools/districts having some sort of unusual circumstances involving courses, who is able to take specific courses, availability, etc. That is why we try and find out as much as possible about the school through a number of different methods.

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  3. Thank you! Also, most students who are in these AP classes are taking them specifically because it will help them in their majors- Bio or Chemistry for people who want to be doctors, orthodontists, etc., and AP Lit for English majors/people geared toward journalism and writing, etc. (Most students just take the one that will help prepare them for college during their senior year, although there are very few students like in the top of the class that have taken at least 3.) I only took one AP class this year (Psych) but didn't think to take any others because I am going to be a Business major. My guidance counselor never really highly suggested that I take more, but if I had known that UGA had such high standards I would have taken another one. (I'm from out of state and had no idea I was going to apply to UGA before school started so I didn't learn this until it was too late to switch around my schedule.) Every core course I have taken has been Honors, except for one. Even though I may not be majoring in English or Biology, I understand that you look for students to challenge themselves, but do you think that this will hurt my chances? Sorry for asking but I'm just really worried!

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  4. do you look at people's intended major when looking at what classes they took? i choose biology, with ecology as second. i actually wanna major in ecology, but my school doesnt offer ap environmental science, but i took ap biology. my school offers regular enviroental science, but its taught as a class for kids who failed biology.

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  5. Anon: From the student's I have worked with over the past 20 years or so, there are a number of reasons for taking AP classes. Focus on a major, expanding their knowledge base, personal interest, etc. As for business majors, I always suggest advanced math, for. lang., English and social studies classes, as these will prepare you well for both the major and the profession.

    As for how this will impact an admission decision, we will look at what you have taken in all realms (honors, AP, etc) to try and understand the challenge of your coursework, and that will be a part of the review. I can not say how this will exactly impact a decision, only that it is one of many factors.

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  6. Anon: Generally, we are not looking at a student's intended major when they apply, as a number of students change their major before they even start at UGA. But we do look at what their academic interests are in combination with how well they prepare themselves. For instance, an intended music major who has never taken any musical training or music classes might have problems. I would think that a potential ecology major would be wise to take AP Biology!

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  7. I am currently a junior looking to apply next year, and I first want to say this blog has been instrumental in learning what Uga expects from the applicants. I have one quick question. If I apply RD, are any grades from the first semester of my senior year going to be averaged into my gpa. I ask this b/c I’m taking the majority of my ap classes in my senior year. I recently heard that Uga only looks at your gpa till your junior year, excluding any classes taken senior year.

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  8. i am a ESL student and i applied to uga. i feel discourage because everybody that i know that applied to uga had a way better sat score then mine. However my gpa is about a 3.83. i fell that i am able to do well on the sat or act but every time i get on the test i just freeze up. Also most of the time i have the highest grade in my class but i steel manage not to do well on the sat or act. So how are esl student treated during admission please

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  9. and how does the sat and act effect esl admission. thank you

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  10. Anon1: UGA will calculate your GPA based on the transcript we have when we move forward with a GPA calculation, so if you get us a transcript in Nov., it will be based on your first three years, but if you get us a transcript in mid-January with 3.5 years of work, we will calculate the GPA on that work. But, if we calculate your GPA on three years work, and then send us an updated transcript, this will automatically go into your file, and we will be looking at all of your grades during the read process (with a focus for everyone not just on grades, but on up/down grade trends over time). There are just too many applicants and too little time to be able to recalculate all of those GPA's and still get decisions out by late March!

    As well, almost all GPA's that I see, unless you have a serious shift, change by less than .04 when you add in first sem. senior year. We truly like to see senior grades when reading a file, as we are able to see how you are closing out your high school career, and generally in the most competitive courses. I generally will call about 50-75 high schools a year during reading season to ask about senior grades if I don't see them in the file.

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  11. AnonII: There is not a different process for ESL student file review, but this is one thing that we do look at when reading a file, coupled with how long a student has been in the US and in English speaking classrooms. We then use this knowledge when looking at any imbalance between strong grades and low test scores.

    Remember, though, that the SAT/ACT is not the most important thing in UGA admissions, or even the second most important! We are focused first on how you have done in the classroom over 3+ years and the rigor of your curriculum. Don't focus on how other students have done on the SAT/ACT, focus instead on what you are like and what you can do to better prepare yourself for college.

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