Monday, December 1, 2014

File Reading Part III -Work Ethic, Integrity and Maturity

From January through mid-March, the admissions staff will hide out in our offices and read files during our holistic file reading process. There are six main areas that we look at in our file reading process, and this post covers the last two areas, focusing on a student's work ethic and integrity/maturity.

Work Ethic

Scene from the movie Rudy
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 integrity. 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". We prefer the overachiever, the one that has taken what they have been given and gone beyond everyone's expectations.

Maturity/Integrity/Respect for Others

Tied in with work ethic is the idea of personal maturity and integrity. 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. These students will be studying in UGA's classrooms, living in the residence halls, and being a part of our community, so interaction with others is important.

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.

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