Monday, November 28, 2011

Officially on Twitter

 If you have not noticed yet (see the right hand side of the blog), I am now officially on twitter! I have absolutely no idea how I will use this within the UGA Admissions role, but I have a few ideas. Since file reading will be starting soon, and I will be overwhelmed with files, I am guessing I might share some interesting thoughts from the process. Feel free to follow me if you wish, but please be patient as I adapt to this new technology. Please let me know if you have any suggestions/ideas, but remember that I will be very limited text-wise. Now I just have to learn how to write in 140 characters or less.

Go Dawgs (and beat LSU)!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

Like most people, I will be out of the office through the Thanksgiving holiday. As such, I will not be responding to blog questions until my return late Sunday/early Monday at the earliest. My suggestion is to put aside any thoughts of admission at this time, and just celebrate the holiday season with family and friends. Hold off on your comments and questions until after the break, and have a wonderful long weekend.

As always, Go Dawgs, and beat the Yellow Jackets (sorry Dad!).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grades vs. GPA

In the wake of Early Action decisions going out, we generally have a number of questions about why a decision was made, and a great deal of confusion surrounds the concept of GPA. Most of the disappointed comments and email I am seeing have a GPA listed in them, and usually they do not match what I have as a GPA. As such, here are a few examples of why UGA looks at the grades on a transcript (and recalculates a GPA), and not on the GPA listed on a transcript. In case you have not guessed, I have written about this in the past, but this is an updated version of previous posts.

While writing this post, I have selected three files from the EA applicant pool that all have the same UGA GPA of a 3.32. Why did I select this GPA? Because it was the first random GPA to pop into my head. I then reviewed the transcript for each file and looked at the GPA listed on the top of each transcript. The first applicant has a GPA listed on their transcript as a 3.44 transcript GPA, the second has a 4.01 transcript GPA, while last one has a 4.45 transcript GPA. As you can see, what a high school has as a GPA may vary greatly from what UGA has calculated (that last one has a difference of 1.13!). Why is this, you may ask (yes, I know you are asking it right now). As I have said several times before, UGA is looking at your actual posted grades in your academic classes, whether it is semester or block or trimester, and then calculates an admissions GPA based upon these course grades.

In other words, UGA Admissions does not look at the GPA listed on your high school transcript! You can take a Sharpie pen and mark through it for all that I care, because we do not use it! And the reason why? Because most school districts in the country determine their own method of calculating a GPA, adding weight here or there, using X classes or Y classes, etc. I have even seen an Honors PE course before where the weighted grade was added into the transcript GPA. I am fine with that, as every school district has the right to calculate a GPA however they want, but please do not confuse what we list as a GPA for our purposes as what you would see on your transcript.

In the UGA Admissions Office, we try to look at all the grades in an equal method, whether you apply from Arizona or Athens, GA. We look at your academic core grades to understand how many A's, B's, C's, etc. you have earned, and then go about determining a GPA (for more details on how we calculate an admissions GPA, see an earlier post I wrote about calculating GPA's at UGA. We give out our mid-range GPA so that people will have a general baseline for where applicants fall within a certain understood range, but the reality is that you need to have a common method of calculating GPA's (as UGA does) in order to get a true understanding of the situation.

So when you submit a comment like "I have a 3.32 GPA, ...", I have no real understanding what that GPA is. My suggestion? Start looking at your grades within the A/B/C/D/F categories, and try and understand if you are a mostly A/a few B student, a mostly B with a few C's student, and so on. Go ahead and figure out what your UGA GPA would approximately be. Because the next time I hear someone say "My son is a 4.0+ student", and when I reply stating that they must have all A's, I hope that I do not see a look of confusion. Remember, it is grades that we look at on a transcript, not a GPA posted on the top corner!

Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 18, 2011

2012 EA Decisions are Now Available!

Due to between 40,000-50,000 individuals trying to access the site, we are having server problems, so we suggest checking back later this evening when we have the server working correctly and the traffic is not as heavy. In addition, do not have multiple devices or people trying to access your student information, as that may slow access to your information.

Early Action decisions are now available online, and the applicant pool was very strong! Approximately 5,700 students were admitted, and here is the link to the 2012 EA admitted student press release with some statistics included. 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.

For those of you who were deferred, please understand that this is not a denial decision, but just a situation where we wanted to look more in-depth at you as student and a person, and we want to be able to take the time to review everything in detail about you, from your short essays to activities to recommendations. Also, make sure you read the deferred student FAQ, especially before commenting on here please.

If you have questions about your specific 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 read the FAQ's that are available off your myStatus page.

Also, please be aware that I will be at a youth retreat until Sunday evening, so a co-worker of mine, Lindsey Whittaker, will be responding to some of your comments while I am absent. Be nice, be patient, be courteous, and I hope our earlier timeframe was a help to all of you.

Have a great weekend, and Go Dawgs!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2012 Early Action Decision Reactions

Since Early Action decisions will be going out in the late afternoon on Friday, November 18, here are a few suggestions on how to react to the four different decisions:

Admit: Celebrate with family, buy a lot of UGA gear to wear for the Thanksgiving break, 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. In addition, be patient with the other parts of campus (commitment deposit, housing, the UGA myID system, etc.), as they might need a few days to take in your information. You will also receive materials in the mail as far as the next steps to take.

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. As I usually state, defer is not a four letter word (even though you might feel this way), only a delay in an admission decision. 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 the essays. 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. In past years, about half of the deferred applicants who completed part II were later admitted. Each year, about 1000 deferred students do not complete part II, so we never even have 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. When completing part II (the essays), you do NOT need to do an entirely new application, and there is no new/additional application fee. You just need to go to your myStatus page after decisions are out, complete part II (the essays), and hit submit. As well, get a teacher from an academic area to write your teacher recommendation. Remember, UGA is in no way done with the overall freshman admission process. We still have a long way to go, with a great deal of files to read and admission offers to make, so make sure you do your best to show UGA what you are like as an overall student/citizen.

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 as compared to the rest of the applicant pool. 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 10,800 EA applicants (and remember, we expect to get over 8,000 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 (you 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 that the admission to UGA is not possible as a freshman.

Incomplete: For the small number of students who did not complete your EA file, you are now automatically deferred to the next step, and so you will need to get in the missing materials from EA, and also submit part II of the application and a teacher recommendation. We went three plus weeks beyond the deadline allowing you to get in the missing documents, sending reminder emails, indicating what was missing through the myStatus page, and it was your responsibility to get in the required materials. So I do not suggest contacting us to see if we can take items late, as that time has passed. Focus instead on sending in what is needed to be reviewed in the next round. When completing part II (the essays), you do NOT need to do an entirely new application, and there is no new/additional application fee. You just need to go to your myStatus page after decisions are out, complete part II (the essays), and hit submit.

I hope this helps!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Half-Baked Reactions, 2012 Edition

Last year, I wrote a post shortly after the EA decisions were released, and I thought it would be a good post to revamp and have out prior to the 2012 EA decisions going out. Here it is:

Last night, my son wanted his favorite meal for dinner, fettucini alfredo with chicken. We pulled together to boil the noodles, cook the chicken and blend the sauce, along with making a salad, garlic bread and dessert. We had to put some time and effort into it, making sure not to burn anything while having every part come together to be ready at the same time. We were finally able to sit down together for a meal that everyone had a part in, and it was great.

When we judged how good the food was, we based it on the finished product. We did not taste the pasta after only four minutes of boiling and decide to throw it out. In addition, we did not look at the chicken half way through cooking and throw it out because it was still pink inside. We based our decision on how the meal was after was all prepared and sitting on the table.

In the same way, UGA will not be done with the entire freshman admission decisions after we make our Early Action decisions. We will be done with the Early Action part of the process, but we are still a long way from being done with final decisions! We will still be receiving a large number of RD applications, deferred EA students will be completing their part II sections, we will be reviewing transcripts, reading essays, doing holistic reviews, etc. So if you are deferred, please know that we still have a lot of admission decisions to make! My rough estimate based on prior years is that will still be admitting 4,000+ more freshmen after EA decisions. As well, please know that UGA will be treating deferred EA and RD applicants the same during the next steps of the process. The rumor always hits that deferred applicants will now be "put at the back of the line behind RD applicants", so let me just cut that off now and let you know that is incorrect. Again, in the next stages of the admission process, we will look at deferred EA (who get in part II and a teacher rec!) and RD applicants in the same way.

So please do not judge the UGA admission decisions half way through the process based only on EA decisions. Right now, UGA is still in that middle period of the cooking process, and the overall meal is still not fully done. It will not be until late March when final decisions are made that we can look at the overall class and see what it is like. Again, please be patient and know that there is still a lot to be done in the admissions review process.

Friday, November 11, 2011

2012 Early Action Decision Release Date

For all of you who are waiting anxiously by your computer/mailbox, nervous about your Early Action decision, here is some good news. UGA is planning on releasing the EA decisions on the myStatus page on Friday, November 18 in the late afternoon (unless some serious problem arises, which I do not expect). We are excited about this, and I am guessing you are as well, and hopefully it will allow for a little less nerve-wracking Thanksgiving break. In addition to the decisions being available on the myStatus page, letters will go out in the mail for Accepted, Deferred and Incomplete students. Freshman denial letters will not be mailed out, as almost all applicants see their decisions online, and we (along with a number of colleges) did not want to have a letter that only served to reinforce the negative feelings they might already have.

 I will not be able to access the blog for most of the decision weekend (chaperoning a youth retreat), but I will try to have someone in my office monitor the site and try to help with any questions. Please remember, though, that we cannot answer questions about other students on the blog, that an Early Action decision is based primarily on academic information, and to make sure you do not try to compare yourselves to others, as you most likely do not have all of the information that we do about the entire applicant pool. In addition, I will be sharing more details about the EA applicant pool the week after decisions are released, but I will not have the data on hand over the weekend, as we are focused on getting the decisions out first, not running statistics.

Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

UGA and the ACT

Over the past 8-10 years, UGA has had a huge jump in the number of students submitting ACT scores. UGA treats the ACT in the same way that we do the SAT (neither one is better or worse, easier or harder, etc.), but there still seems to be a great deal of mystery about how UGA looks at the ACT. I will try my best to give you some insight into our process.

First, UGA requires that at least one ACT Writing score be submitted to UGA for us to use any ACT scores. For both the SAT and the ACT, UGA uses the Writing score information, so if we do not have an ACT Writing score, we cannot use a student's ACT scores. We are fine if one of your ACT exams has a Writing score and one does not, as we just need one (or more) Writing scores for the ACT. But we must have at least one ACT Writing score to use any ACT scores as a whole, and we cannot use the SAT Writing as a substitute.

When we look at the ACT scores, we are one of the schools that will superscore the ACT. This means that UGA will take your highest subscores in multiple ACT exams and use these highest scores both individually and in calculating the highest composite. The ACT determines the composite by adding together the English, Math, Science Reasoning and Reading subscores, then dividing by 4 (rounding to the nearest whole number). Since the Writing section is not required by the ACT, it is not used in the Composite score by the ACT. This is how you might have a higher overall Composite score than what your individual Composite scores are. Here is a quick example:
  • ACT 1: English-28, Math-29, Science-25, Reading-26 - Composite 27
  • ACT 2: English 24, Math 31, Science 27, Reading 23 - Composite 26
  • UGA Superscore:  English 28, Math 31, Science 27, Reading 26 - Composite 28
  • As well, UGA will use the highest ACT Writing score if you have more than one score.
When UGA looks at the scores in more detail, though, we are focusing on the subscores that match the SAT scores. As such, our focus is on the English subscore, the Math subscore, and the Writing subscore, as these match up with the SAT subscores. If you have both SAT and ACT (with Writing) scores, we will then use whichever test has the strongest scores. In addition to these three subscores being a good match to the SAT subscores, there has also been research showing that these three subscores are the best ACT score predictors of student success in college. The Washington Post has a good article about this ACT issue, although they use harsher language that I would.

So when you look at your ACT results and are discussing them with other people, know that we are looking at specific subscores, and that a Composite Score does not always give the most accurate information. Here are two more examples to give you a good understanding of the situation:

  • Student A: English -29, Math -30, Science -24, Reading -24, Combined English/Writing -31
  • Student B: English -25, Math -22, Science -29, Reading -31, Combined English/Writing - 26
The Composite score for both students is a 27, but the eyes of UGA, Student A has a much stronger ACT, specifically in the English, Math and Combined English/Writing subscores. So if they both go out and state that they have a 27 ACT, that does not really give the full and accurate story.

I hope this helps a little bit in understanding how UGA looks at the ACT, and Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 4, 2011

1 Million Pageviews!

Sometime late last night/early this morning, a prospective student (most parents are asleep before 2 a.m.) viewed a page of the blog, and the UGA Admissions blog officially had its 1 millionth pageview!! No, I cannot track down this visitor, and no gifts or prizes will be given out. But I am excited that a small idea that I had about two and a half years ago has led to the type of questions, responses, and healthy and open discussions about admission at UGA.

Thank all of you for helping make this blog what it is today!

And of course, GO DAWGS, especially for Homecoming!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Early Action Update, November Version

We have made it to November 1, and we are finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as matching up recommendations, test scores, transcripts, etc. for Early Action. We are importing the last of the test scores that were requested prior to October 15 (and a few just after it), and we are trying to work out a few issues we seem to be having with the College Board/SAT as far as a few remaining test score issues (we had about 1,800 test scores come in on Friday/Saturday, and we just pushed them into our system).

Right now, we are still at about 10,800 Early Action applicants, and at this time about 9,000 are complete, and I expect about 500-700 will become complete with the test scores we just loaded today. This is looking like a very strong applicant pool for Early Action, but it is hard to tell specifics yet, and we are reviewing transcripts, checking on the rigor of applicants, and reading a few files at this time.

One big piece of news is that, due to a few minor changes in our process (self-reported grades, cutting off test scores to those requested by the 10/15 deadline, etc.), we expect that we will be releasing the EA decisions sometime between (dramatic pause) mid-late November. Take a moment to do a small dance and shout for joy, then do me one small favor; Do not ask me for a specific date or time. I do not have one, I will not know one until later, and I will not give out a date that I am not 100% sure of it. So be patient, but know that we are almost excited as you are about this.

If you are missing any documents for Early Action, you need to take care of this ASAP! If your SAT/ACT scores are not showing up, wait until later today when we do an update to the myStatus page to see if they just came in, and if they are still missing, call the testing agency to see what is going on. Remember, if your name, birth date and SSN (or if you left the SSN blank) on the SAT do not match the ones on the application, it may take longer to match up the scores, and you may want to email with your information if you know they have been sent to UGA and if you know there is an issue with these fields.

I hope you are as happy about the mid-late November EA decision release date, and Go Dawgs!