Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UGA Holistic File Review Process

It is almost December, which means our large scale holistic file reading process will begin soon. Instead of giving you a nice "slice of life" story which then transitions into our reason for reading files, I will just go straight into the process. For a large group of our applicants (ones who are not admitted based on their academics alone in November and February), we spend almost three months diving into everything in a student's application to better understand them, look at them in comparison with the rest of the applicant pool, and ultimately make final decisions about our freshman class. This process takes time, but we would rather take time to make good decisions than rush through the process.
I have had a number of comments on the blog asking what we look at in this process, so here are the areas we look at in our holistic review. I could probably write six pages worth of explanation about the process, but I have summarized each area to lessen the pain of exhaustion for the reader. There is more to our review process than just these brief descriptions though, but at least this gives you some details of the process.

  1. Activities/Involvement/Leadership The first thing you should know about activities 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. It is not about how many clubs/sports/activities you can join, but instead looking at is what things you have committed to during your high school years, both in time and in consistency. In addition, another area we look at a student's dedication to family and work. At times, a student may have limited involvement in clubs, but that might be due to a dedication to their family and/or job. 
  2. Writing/Creativity/Expression - 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. 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 creativity. We look at their involvement in the arts, but also in the "non-artistic" side of things such as robotics, design, newspaper, etc. We 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 creativity does come into play.
  3. Academic Review - When we look at a student's transcript during the holistic review process, 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 are looking at core grades, we are focused on the actual grades, not a GPA on a transcript, and we are looking at trends and how you have done in your most challenging classes.
  4. Strength of Curriculum/Intellectual Challenges - First,there is no magic number of AP/IB/Honors/Advanced/Dual Enrollment/Post-AP classes needed for admission, because there is no right answer. Instead, we 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? We also look at summer programs (Governor's Honors programs, Girls State, etc), activities which focus on developing your academic side, and how you are preparing yourself for the academic challenges at UGA.
  5. Integrity/Work Ethic/Maturity - 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. I often refer people to a scene from the movie Rudy, where the main character never lets up, even on the last play of the last day of practice. UGA recognizes the overachiever, the one that has taken what they have been given and gone beyond everyone's expectations.
  6. Respect for Others - 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. Which students step outside their comfort zone to grow and understand others? Who reaches out to people in their community in need, using their time and effort to give back to other people? What students actively learn about other cultures and other people, and share a bit of themselves as well?

It takes a while for our team to review the large number of applications, and to dig into everything within the file. These files are reviewed by multiple counselors, and we are looking at everything in the application, including activities/sports/summer events/employment sections, transcripts, test scores, recommendations, resumes, essays, etc. We expect final decisions to go out sometime in mid-March, but that is based on current growth projections of how many total applications we will receive this year, so that could change.

Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 16, 2018

2019 EA Decisions and Data


Early Action decisions will be released late this afternoon, so here are some details about the EA applicant and admitted groups. I will also add a comment to the top of this post when decisions go live, and I will announce it on Twitter as well. For students who were deferred, please understand that this is not a denial decision.  We want to be able to have a more in-depth review of you, including short essays, activities, recommendations, etc.  Please be sure to read the deferred student FAQ page before commenting on here. There is also a 2019 Early Action Decision story at UGA News which gives more broad details on the class as a whole, so I suggest you also review this information.

Quick Early Action Numbers (These numbers are mid-ranges, not minimums.)

Applications Received: 17,000 (16,921 with fee paid)
  -UGA received roughly 2,000 more EA applications than last year.

Offers of Admission: 7,556
  -This is slightly below last year's admitted numbers, but with the spike in EA applications and current RD data, it makes it harder to predict what will happen with overall application numbers.

Mid 50% Admitted Average GPA: 4.07-4.33 GPA
  -Please remember this is not the GPA students see on their high school transcript, but rather the GPA that UGA recalculates for everyone based on the core academic courses taken in high school and looking at the actual grades posted on the transcripts.

Mid 50% Admitted Average SAT (EBRW+M): 1360-1490
  -This is data for students who were admitted with the SAT being the highest or only test score in their review.

Mid 50% Admitted Average ACT (Composite): 31-34
  -This is data for students who were admitted with the ACT being the highest or only test score in their review. Remember, UGA focuses on the ACT English and Math scores, but we report the Composite data as that is the official/accepted data for national publications.

Mid 50% Admitted AP/IB/DE courses over 4 years of HS: 7-12 courses
    -We determine academic rigor based on all core classes a student has taken (CP, Honors, Advanced, AP, IB, DE, etc.) as compared to what is offered in the school/community, but this information is the most specific data we can give on it.

The rough breakdown of decisions are as such: 7,556 admits, 6,900+ deferred, 2,000 denied and slightly under 500 incomplete. If you have questions about your specific decision, please do not post them on this blog.  As well, do not give out or request personal academic information in your post, as we would then need to delete these posts. We are not able to answer questions about individual students here because we will generally not have your information in front of us and we cannot disclose individual student information in a comment.  I would recommend talking with both your family and high school counselor first, then reviewing this previous post on suggestions about how to react to an EA decision, and finally reading the FAQ's available from your Status page.

Please be patient, be nice and be courteous. Have a great weekend and go Dawgs!

Monday, November 12, 2018

2019 Early Action Details

As we stated earlier this month, UGA is planning on releasing the EA decisions on the Status page on Friday, November 16 in the late afternoon unless some serious problem arises, which I do not expect. If this changes, we will let you know, but this is the plan at this time. Please do not call/email/text/message/tweet asking for the exact time of "late afternoon", as I cannot give an exact time. We will post a message here when it opens up. 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 for some of you. I will also have an updated post on Friday with data on the applicant pool and mid-range data on the admitted group.

In addition to the decisions being available on the Status page, letters will go out in the mail for Accepted 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.

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 creating new and painful ways for you to meet your doom. 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. Remember, it takes a little while for information to flow to other offices. Read the materials we give you online and in an acceptance packet as it will instruct you on what to do next.

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. We were only able to review a small subset of applicants in our holistic review in EA, as 17,000 applicants is a lot of stuff to get through. 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 the time in which we are able to look at your overall application, as we have time to do holistic reads from December through mid-March. 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 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 again please remember that defer does not mean denial.  One step you can take is to make sure we have received a recommendation from a teacher in an academic area (it is optional but we suggest having one sent in). A second step is to give us any updates through an update form you will see on your status page. This could be fall grades (when you know them), a new activity, job or leadership role, or anything you want to add to your file. 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 just be patient.

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 17,000 EA applicants (and remember, we expect to get over 10,000 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, (remember the teacher recommendation is optional but we suggest also having one sent in). 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 Status 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.

Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 2, 2018

2019 Early Action Update


Yesterday the UGA Admissions Office announced that our Early Action decision release date would be Friday, November 16 in the late afternoon. If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know not to ask when late afternoon is, as I cannot give you an exact time. In the lead up to the decisions going out in two weeks, here is some data about this year's Early Action application group.

  • Total EA Applications: 16,906 (submitted and app fee paid)
    • 13.6% increase over last year, which is a very big increase
  • Complete Early Action Applications as of today: 16,320
    • 97% are complete right now, very impressive
  • EA Applicants Applying within 4 days of Deadline: 7,500
    • Wow, just wow
  • Total number of EA Applicants using Coalition App: 5,000
    • We are fine with either application source (in-house app or Coalition)
  • Residency data on EA apps: 54% in-state, 46% out-of-state 
    • We do not make different decisions based on residency, but it is an interesting data point as we saw a large jump in out-of-state apps this year.
  • Most common majors: Biology - 1,850 applicants, Undecided - 1,557
    • We do not make different decisions based on major, but it is always interesting to see the different academic interests of our applicants.

As you can see, a huge number of the Early Action applications are complete. Only 3% of our applicants are incomplete, with some of those having issues due to the recent hurricanes impacting the southeast. We will be shutting down the importing of test scores and documents very soon, so make sure all your materials are in. We import both test scores and documents daily in the early morning, and we are totally caught up with all materials. If your test scores are still not matched up with your application, check to make sure the testing agency has actually sent them, and that the full name and email associated with the scores matches your application data. If there is a mis-match with your name, email and other data and the scores show as being sent to UGA, I suggest you reach out to us by email to fix this issue ASAP.

I cannot guess as to how the increase in applications will impact any decisions right now, but please know that we have a large number of very strong EA applicants. Now we just have to get through reviewing them all!

Good luck, and Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Why Self-Reported Grades?

In our admissions recruitment system, we have 39,427 organizations listed as high schools. We have schools with 1,500+ seniors and schools with one senior. We have Syrupmakers and Sea Kings, Jaguars and Leopards, Dragons and Wolverines, and even Jem Bears and Unicorns (You go Unicorns!). And you know what? It seems like all 39,427 schools have their own way of doing things, especially when it comes to grades. Different grading scales, different grades, different weighting systems, and just plain being different in how they do things. Even the transcripts look different, with some being hand-written, some being 12 pages long, and some with grades from kindergarten up to 12th grade. The one big thing in common is that many of them will have students applying to UGA, and we have to somehow convert these varying grades and grading scales into a somewhat common GPA system so we can look at the academics on a level playing field.

As you can guess, the recalculation of GPA's for 27,000+ applications takes a while. And the more time we spend on trying to figure out a GPA, the less time we have to do holistic file reads. As well, the longer we take in trying to decipher each grading system, the longer it takes to get out admission decisions. This is why we decided roughly eight years ago to ask our applicants to self-report their high school grades on their application. UGA uses these self-reported grades as a framework for the GPA calculation, and our evaluation team then reviews the transcript in every file to make sure we have the correct grades and GPA. Occasionally students make minor errors in self-reporting grades, and that is okay, as we double check them compared to the official transcript. In the past eight years, we have been able to roughly double the number of files we review in the holistic file reading process, and we have also made decisions roughly 3-4 weeks earlier than our time frame prior to self-reported grades, all while having roughly the same level of staffing.

While we have tried to make our self-reported grades system as simple as possible, here are a few common issues we face every year:

  • First things first, get a copy of your transcript. We will be looking at your grades on a transcript, so it only makes sense to have the same thing in your hands when you self-report your grades. Enter in the grades from the transcript, even if your school has added "points" to a teacher's grades on the transcript. See grades, enter grades.
  • A secondary reason for self-reported grades is so you can see your core courses and grades over the past three years, as you might have forgotten exactly how you did in your classes from 1-2 years ago.
  • Most of our applicants have taken HS courses in middle school, so this is not an uncommon thing for us to see. But in our GPA calculation, we only want to use the grades made in 9th grade and beyond. Only enter in grades made in your HS years. HS courses taken in middle school years can be used for state requirements, but we do not use them in the GPA.
  • If your transcript has only year long grades in your core courses worth a full credit, use the year long grades in the self-reported section (so generally 5-6 grades per year on average). If your transcript shows semester grades worth half a credit, put in the semester grades in the self-reported section. Many semester system grades might have a yearly average grade as well, but we only want the semester grades. The one oddity is if your school has a mix of grade types (usually semester for most with occasional courses having only year grades). If this is the case, report everything as semester grades, and count the year grades twice (as 1 year grade = 2 semester grades). Use what is on the transcript. 
  • If you have taken DE courses, or courses at another high school, you should only report these grades if they are on your official HS transcript, and only if they are core courses. As well, if you took summer courses, we are fine with you listing these under either year that surrounds that summer (for example either junior or senior year if taken in the summer prior to senior year).
  • We ask for the total number of AP/IB grades because that is what we use for adding weight for the GPA. We don't use Honors in our weighting system because, unlike AP and IB courses, Honors courses are not standardized nationally. We still use Honors and Advanced courses in our curriculum review, just not in our GPA calculation.
  • We have been doing this for eight years, so trust that we know all the oddities, and go by what the instructions say on the self-reported grades. This is not our first self-reported grades rodeo.
Please let me know if you have questions, and Go Dawgs!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Random Admission Thoughts- September 2018

Sometimes when writing the admissions blog, I have a specific topic to present based on the time of year, what is happening in our office at that time or something in the news that is timely. Other times, I just have random thoughts and ideas in my head of what is important or being talked about on social media or questions being asked about during our travels. Luckily for you, this is the second type, so no philosophical ramblings. As such, here are some random UGA admissions thoughts:


  • There is no award for applying early in the process, but there are some consequences in waiting until the deadline to apply. We will treat your application the same if you apply on the first day or the last, but a majority of the files that are incomplete at decision time happen due to applying on the deadline. If you wait until the end, you cause others in the process (counselors, teachers, test agencies, etc.) to do things at a later time, causing some things to be late. Don't wait until the end to apply.
  • UGA uses "best scores" in the admission review, so we only look at the strongest sub scores for your SAT or ACT tests. If you take the SAT or ACT multiple times, we will only look at the strongest scores. What does this mean? Don't wait until the last minute to send in scores after you see how you did.
  • UGA requires a school report as a part of the freshman application process. This can be our online counselor form, a Secondary School Report (SSR) or a counselor recommendation letter. This is NOT a school profile. This is a document telling us more about the individual student from the school counselor's point of view.
  • UGA does not use demonstrated interest in our review. Let me say it again - demonstrated interest does not impact a decision. We care about what you are like, not how much you "like" us.
  • We will accept test scores which are both taken and requested by the application deadline. As such, we will be able to use the October SAT if you have put UGA as a score recipient prior to taking the test. In addition, we cannot use the October ACT, as it is given after the 10/15 EA application deadline.
  • We are fine if you apply through our "UGA" application or through the Coalition application. If you use the Coalition, know that our essays are on the UGA specific page, and one of the essay prompts we use is also one of the general Coalition essay prompts.
  • As well, if you apply using the Coalition application, you will receive an email about a day after you submit the app giving you access to the UGA admissions status page. You can check on documents, test scores, and complete the self-reported grades form for UGA.
  • We can't guess about a decision, no matter what. No matter how you phrase your question, we will still say "I have no idea". Why? Because we have no idea. It all depends on your overall application, the applications submitted by everyone else, and how many people we decide we can admit. As Yoda says, "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."
  • Pay attention to the emails and/or texts that an admissions office sends you about your application. It might just save you some frustration.
  • Deferral is not a bad thing, just a "please wait" thing. If you can't handle being deferred, don't apply EA.
  • Whether you are applying EA or RD, take your time and fully complete the application. Don't just phone in the activities or essays for EA because someone told you UGA does not look at them. 
  • If you have questions about applying, ask them now. Don't wait until the night of the deadline (or later) to ask me. Admissions people might seem all powerful, but we can't go back in time.
  • I can't guess if a student should apply Early Action (EA) or Regular Decision (RD), as that is up to the applicant. There is a Diet Coke ad right now where the actor says "If you want to live in a yurt, yurt it up!" Same here. If you want to apply EA, EA it up. If you feel comfortable with us looking at your file in October, apply EA. If you need more time, later scores, fall grades, etc., apply RD. 
  • I will finish off with another Yoda quote - "Do. Or do not. There is no try." I am okay whether you choose to apply to UGA or not. But if you want to be considered for admission to UGA, you've got to apply. I don't want students to look back in May and say "I wish I had applied.". 
If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask them, and Go Dawgs!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Changes



Changes. They happen all the time in all areas of life. David Bowie even has a song about it. It is a fact of life, an Admissions Offices are no different. Every year we look at what has happened over the past year, what has worked and what needs fine tuning and what we need to change for the future.

For this coming year, we have been looking at our review process for our freshman admission decisions and as well our transfer admission process. The transfer review process is still being discussed by both our office and the faculty, while the freshman review process changes will impact our incoming EA and RD applications for the 2019 year.

Over the past several years, our applicant pool has grown much stronger, both in the academic and co-curricular areas. In addition, our applicant pool has grown in size, with the expectation that we might have close to 30,000 freshman applicants this year. As the applicant pool's academic data-points have grown, we have started to see a much larger group of students who are very similar in their academic profiles. In order to make more informed decisions during our admission reviews and have a positive impact on our incoming freshman class, we have decided to increase the number of files we look at in our holistic review process (looking at everything in the file).

While we will still have a number of applications where we focus primarily on the academic areas of core grades, rigor of curriculum and test scores, our goal is to expand our review of a larger group of applicants to take into account all that the student does inside and outside of of the classroom. This will not change the timing of our decisions (unless we are suddenly overwhelmed with a huge growth in our applicant pool), so you can look back at our previous timelines over the past years and know we will be following those three decision timelines fairly closely.

The biggest admissions points where this change might be seen will be in our November Early Action decisions and in our small group of February admits, where in past years our review has been primarily based on academics. While we have always had a small group of EA applications where we looked at everything in the file, mainly to determine if a student's application should be deferred or denied, we will now be increasing this holistic review process into a much greater number of applicants for these decisions. We will still have a number of decisions during these times where our review is focused on the the core academic areas, especially in our EA round where a large number of applicants have extremely strong academic records. Since we try to make our process as clear as possible, we have been communicating this message in our fall travel and now in this blog post so that our applicants and families will feel more informed about our process.

Hopefully, this message clears up any questions you might have about our review process, and it will help slow down the comments on the blog asking if X or Y really needs to be submitted since "we are just looking at academics".

Go Dawgs, and good luck out there!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Language of Admissions


My daughter, who is a sophomore International Affairs major at UGA, probably thinks she can hold her own in a hospital operating room. Why? Because being a Grey's Anatomy fangirl has taught her all the medical lingo she would ever need in this life. Fourteen seasons and 317 episodes of the life of Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Miranda Bailey, McDreamy, McSteamy, and all the other doctors of Seattle Grace/Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital have taught her well. Words like V-Fib, central line, metastasis, Pre and Post-Op, and phrases such as "I need a ten-blade and 100 cc's of epi stat" can just roll off her tongue. Me, I am terrified of blood, and almost all medical terms just go right over my head, even with a wife who is a nurse.

In the same way, a number of occupations and offices have their own language. If you have ever been to the Varsity (a wonderfully greasy hamburger place in Atlanta and Athens), you know they have their own lingo for food, from a Naked Dog to Chili Steak all the way (see the Varsity Lingo page for the full details). Whether you are an accountant, in construction, work in finance or are a lawyer, every field seems to have their own language. College admissions is no different, and it can sometimes get confusing. Here is a helpful guide to some of the key words and phrases in the world of admissions.


  • Binding: While there are many "Early" terms (early decision, early action, early notification, early admission, and EA II), the key term is for all of these is whether the offer is binding, meaning that X college is considered an applicants top choice, and if admitted, they will attend (thus a binding offer). A number of colleges such as UGA have a non-binding Early Action option (see Early Action below).
  • Blind/Neutral : For many colleges, there will be information that the university as a whole will need to ask for some specific reason (gender for housing, family finances for financial aid) which are not used in the admission process. If a school is need blind, for instance, this means that the admissions office does not use (or even see, thus the word blind) the financial data of an applicant when making an admission decision (such as UGA). Other times, there are questions on the admission application that need to be asked for purposes other than admission (alumni information for the alumni office, gender and ethnicity for federal reporting), but are treated as a neutral non factor in the admission process. At UGA, these three factors-alumni, gender and ethnicity, have to be asked (along with a few others), but we do not use them in our admission review process.
  • Common/Coalition Application: There are two applications which are used by a number of colleges and allow for a student to enter in a majority of their personal information (biographic data, co-curricular info, etc.) for all colleges to use and then complete a smaller amount of institution specific questions needed by each college. UGA uses both the Coalition application and our own application.
  • Dawg: Also known as a bulldog, it is the most fierce and wonderful mascot in the known world. This is not an admission term, but one that you should know nonetheless.
  • Defer/Deferral: A deferral decision is generally associated with an Early decision of some kind, and the college is not able to make a decision due to wanting more information about the applicant and the overall pool of applicants and more time to review the files. This is neither a denial or an offer of admission (or a wait list offer), but simply a need by the college for more time and information before making a decision on the student. The student will then be placed within the other applicants waiting for a decision, and they will be treated the same as these other applicants.
  • Double Deposit: This is when a student sends in a deposit to two colleges (without a wait list offer being involved) to hold a place in the freshman class instead of just one. This is really looked down upon by colleges, and I compare it to a person being engaged to two people at one time. At times, this could cause a student to have an offer of admission be rescinded, as a student should only deposit at one institution.
  • Early Action (EA): This decision plan is a non-binding review of a student's application during the early part of the admission process, and it takes place in the fall of the student's senior year. At UGA, the focus is on the overall academic standing of both the applicant and the Early Action applicant pool, and the deadline is earlier than for Regular Decision applicants (at UGA the EA deadline is 10/15). The decisions can be either Admit, Deny, or Defer, and a denial decision is final. 
  • FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal government form that students and parents complete in January/February of their senior year to apply for need based federal assistance. This form helps to determine the student's eligibility for federal aid, including grants, loans and student work-study aid.
  • Holistic Review: This is when an admissions office will do a detailed review of everything within an applicant's file, and look at things such as academics, academic trends, essays, activities, leadership, recommendations (if required), supplemental materials, the rigor of a student's coursework, etc. The readers of the file will try to get a sense of the overall applicant, and how the different areas of the file interconnect. This process has nothing to do with crystals, wheat germ, or any other uses of the word "holistic".
  • Interest/Demonstrated Interest: Some colleges (UGA is not included) take into account the amount of interest a prospective student has shown towards the college when making an admissions decision. If a student attends X college's program at their high school, visits the college either on special prospective student days or for a tour and information session, or keeps in contact with the admissions counselor for their area, it can show that a student is seriously interested in X college. On the flip side, there are some students who are unable to visit X college, have limited resources, or finds out about X college late in the senior year, and cannot show as much "interest". Again, some colleges use this in their process, while others (like UGA) do not.
  • Melt: After admitted freshman send in a deposit to a college, they at times will change their mind about attending said college. Most admissions offices know that if they receive X deposits, about 3-5% of these students will ultimately not enroll, as they could have issues with finances, be admitted of a wait list at another college, have academic issues, decide to delay college, double deposit (see above), etc. At times, this is also called "summer melt", as this occurs generally between May 1 and mid-August. Most colleges, such as UGA, will build this into their projections for their freshman classes.
  • Prospect/Prospective Applicant: When a student contacts a college to request more information, sends an SAT/ACT score to admissions, or indicates gives a college their contact information at a college fair, they go into the college's recruitment system as a prospective applicant so that the college can begin communicating with them. In addition, if you take the PSAT/PLAN or the SAT/ACT, you can ask to be a part of the student search process, and this will allow colleges to access your information from the testing agency to start communicating with you about the college search process.
  • Rigor/Rigor of Curriculum: Colleges look at what options a student has with their course options in high school, and what courses they actually then take over their four years. In an admission review, the context of a student's academic course load, and it will be come a part of both the academic and overall review of an application. Colleges look at what Honors, Advanced, Accelerated, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Dual Enrollment, and other types of courses in a review of a student's rigor.
  • School Report/Counselor Recommendation: A majority of colleges that have competitive admission processes will ask for a letter of recommendation and/or a form from a student's high school counselor. This gives the college some detailed information about the school, the individual student, and the counselor's insights into what the student has done academically and personally.
  • Superscoring SAT/ACT's: A number of colleges (including UGA) will use the strongest subscores of standardized test (either the SAT or ACT) to make the strongest overall score within that specific test type. So if your first SAT exam had results of SAT EBRW 600 and SAT M 700 and your second SAT exam had results of SAT EBRW 700 and SAT M 650, your overall superscore would be EBRW 700 + M 700 = 1400. The same goes for the subscores of the ACT making a superscored ACT Composite. UGA does not combine SAT and ACT scores though (we do not add an SAT EBRW of 700 to an ACT M of 34, etc.)
  • Wait List: Many colleges (such as UGA) have a limited number of freshman that they can enroll each year, and thus must try to come as close to possible in predicting how many admitted students will actually choose to enroll at their college. If the admissions office's prediction is low, they will go to a group of students they have not admitted or denied, called the wait list, where if there is enough room in the freshman class, they will then consider for admission. Wait List students are told to move forward with a plan B college, as colleges will not know if they can go to a wait list until mid-May at the earliest, and wait list students are given the option if they would like to stay on the list or not. 
  • Yield: Colleges know that not all students they admit will choose to enroll, and the percentage of students who do decide to enroll is called the Yield percentage. There is a wide range of yield percentages at colleges, with UGA averaging slightly over 50% over the past several years.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Admissions Checklist

I will tell you right now, I love the podcast for NPR's "Hidden Brain" by Shankar Vedantam. I hope that one day I might be a part of a story about college admissions on this podcast (I know, keep dreaming). And one of my favorite episodes on this program is "Check Yourself", a podcast about how checklists, similar to the ones airline pilots now use, can be vital in other areas. The start of the program deals with the growth of the airline business, and a 1935 Boeing crash that led to the development of the first airline pilot checklist. It then leads into the other business sectors which can be improved by using checklists. In our research concerning last year's applicant pool, there was a dramatic dip in both admission rates and strength of essays for students did not plan ahead in their college application process and who waited until the last minute to apply. Preparation is key for a number of things, including the college admissions process. With the opening of the UGA Freshman application on September 1 fast approaching, here is a quick checklist for potential applicants. While the first two checklists are key right now, I thought I would throw in the last one so you can see what is down the road.

Pre-Flight Checklist

  1. College Spreadsheet: Create a basic chart with the name of each college you are considering, the application and material deadlines for the different schools and decision plans (EA vs RD for instance), the materials needed for each, and the rough decision dates.
  2. HS Transcript: Obtain a copy of your HS transcript for self-reporting your grades, and also to look back and see what courses you have taken and how you did.
  3. Resume: Create/Update your resume, and have it available for the co-curricular sections of the application. It is much easier to complete the activities sections of an application when you already have a rough framework.
  4. Personal Data: Make sure you have the correct Social Security Number, full name and birth date, then verify them all again. Roughly 100 enrolling students a year get one of these wrong, then have issues with their FAFSA or HOPE aid, and the issue generally arises around the time to pay for the first semester.
  5. School Contacts: Have your HS counselor and teacher information available (name, title, email address). 
  6. Payment Info: Have your payment information available, be it a credit card number or a fee waiver document.
In-Flight Checklist
  1. Review the Data: During the application process, look at the Freshman Profiles for each college you are considering. Remember that these are only the mid-ranges, so there are students above and below the middle. As well, try and understand what different colleges focus on in their review (grades, test scores, essays, hair color, etc.).
  2. Start working on your essays. Most students start roughing out their UGA admission essays after the application opens (but you can start sooner!), but remember that you don't need to either rush through them or obsess over each word. We suggest you write them first in a program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and make sure to proofread the essays, have someone review them for you, and don't wait until the last minute to start on these.
  3. Double Check Required Items: While you know you requested your test scores, transcripts and recommendations to be sent, you always want to make sure that X/Y/Z college actually received them. UGA has an online admissions status page so you can see what we have received, what is still missing, and the details of the items we have in your file.
  4. Don't listen to rumors/myths about college admissions. I have been over this many times in many blog posts, so I won't beat a dead horse. All I can say is that I have had three surgeries in my life, but going through the experience does not make me a doctor, just a good patient.
  5. Let your parents be involved in the admissions process, but only so much. It is okay to allow your parents to be a part of the college admissions process, but make sure that you are the one who completes the application, writes the essays, etc. Your parents can be great at helping you keep track of deadlines, make plans for visiting colleges, and giving you suggestions about your application. In the end, though, make sure you are the one driving/managing this process, as you are the one who will be at college next year.
  6. Senioritis: Don't catch it. Seriously.

Post-Flight Checklist

  1. Reply to Colleges: Once all of the decisions are done and you have make a choice about your future college, make sure to submit any required deposits well ahead of time. As well, let the colleges you will not be attending know your decision (you can do this with UGA straight from your admissions status page). 
  2. Orientation: In order to get ready for your freshman year, you generally are required to attend an orientation session, learn about the procedures and policies of each college, talk to an advisor and register for classes. Don't delay in signing up for Orientation.
  3. Financial Aid: This actually should be in all three checklists, but make sure you start working with college financial aid offices well before it is time to enroll. Life gets hectic in the summer for financial aid, so take care of this well ahead of time. You do not want any surprises in this part of your college life.
  4. Final Documents: Make sure to get in your final HS transcript, your immunization forms, Housing and meal plan contracts, and any other items needed for your college to allow you to actually enroll.
Good luck in the admissions process, follow a checklist so you don't crash, and Go Dawgs!

Friday, August 10, 2018

What should I take? - Course rigor and a balanced life


In College Admissions, there is an ongoing struggle with trying to relay information concerning a high school applicant's course selection. How do you relay the idea to students that colleges want you to challenge yourself in preparation for college classes, but not overdo their coursework load to the detriment of their work/play balance and overall mental health. One of the main reasons that this is such a tough discussion is due to the differences in individual students and how they are able to handle challenging coursework. For every student who is able to handle a full AP/IB course load there is another student who gets in over their head with their junior/senior schedule. There is no one right answer for how challenging a student's course work should be, just like there is no one right answer for any number of life's choices. If a parent calls and asks us to sketch out the schedule their student should take in high school, a college admissions officer is no real knowledge of the student and family dynamic has no real insight into what courses that individual student should take. We can talk about the state or institutional base minimums, and what previous students have taken, but that only paints a very broad stroke on the canvas. As such, here is what we can give as far as suggestions and guidelines. To be honest, no admissions person can say what your individual student should take as far as HS courses, as this decision needs a great deal more information than we would have from one email/phone call.



Academically speaking, we suggest that students challenge themselves to the best of their ability while still having strong grades in high school. We do not want a student to take 5 AP courses in one year, and come out having 3 C's and 2 D's. A student needs to be successful in their classes. But a 4.00 GPA while taking some of the most basic courses offered at the high school is not a good option either, as the strong grades would indicate that the student could challenge themselves with more advanced classes and better prepare them for the next academic level. We want a student who is willing to challenge themselves and still do well in their courses. When we give this advice though, we also try and couch it within the scope of the academic interests and individual strengths of the student. Generally, if the student is looking at engineering/STEM majors, then advanced math and science classes are key to prepare yourself for the beginning courses in these areas, with an understanding that there still needs to be a strong base of English courses and possibly the other core areas. If you are looking within the social sciences areas, you will want to make sure you have taken advanced work in English, economics, history/psychology and many times statistics or foreign languages). But again, this is a very broad brush stroke, as each student is different. When we give out data points on the average number of AP or DE courses, this is not an expectation for our entering class. We look at what is available, what is taken, and how four years of coursework play out over the five core academic areas. If you are shooting for taking X number of AP courses because of an average number, you are aiming at the wrong target.


As far as a good balance between a student's academic and personal lives, it is again up to the student and family to determine the tipping point. Students should challenge themselves with a rigorous course schedule that is manageable while also having time for family, friends, activities and a social life. It does not do anyone any good (student, family, high school or college) for a student to become so overwhelmed with their coursework that their academic and personal lives begin to collapse. At the same time, students and parents need to be aware that the opposite problem can occur when their personal/social lives so dominate their days that it negatively impacts their academics, which then spirals into a different (but just as bad) collapse of their world. If your sixth or seventh activity/sport is negatively impacting a student's coursework, the reality is that the student and family need to reassess the co-curricular imbalance. Admissions offices understand that not all learning comes from the classroom, and we want to see that potential students are able to interact with other people, help other people and learn from other people. We are looking for applicants who will be able to make an impact on our college campus both in and out of class. We also want to make sure students can handle that same balancing act of academics and personal life when they are on our college campuses.

I hope this helps a little of this very difficult question.


Go Dawgs!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Senior Year Do's and Don'ts



It is that time of year again, when K-12 schools are starting back, students (and teachers) groan and parents quietly celebrate. Colleges are beginning to open their applications for the Class of 2023 (UGA's app will open on September 1), and the college admissions process suddenly gets real. With the flip of the proverbial switch, applying to colleges suddenly changes from a vague future action to a reality and the tension level goes up to a seven or eight. I honor of this time of year, here is a list of do's and don'ts for parents and students.

Rising HS Seniors:


DO: Have a wonderful senior year, as your senior year should be special. Focus on doing well in your classes, but also take time to strengthen your ties to your friends, meet new people, and enjoy your last year of HS.

DON'T: Let senioritis overtake your brain. After you are admitted to a college, they will still be reviewing your final HS transcript, and you need to make sure your grades have not dropped to a level that causes problems in enrolling at your intended college. We rescinded eight offers of admission this year - please don't be one of these next year.

DO: Stay active in clubs, sports, volunteer work or other activities that you have been involved with during HS. Senior year should be a good finish to your HS years, not a count-down until you are out of there.

DON'T: Be so active in all things outside of school that you let your grades drop (see the first DON'T). Know (or learn) how to juggle different demands, and know that your academics come first.

DO: Look at the college search process as a time to learn more about yourself, what you want to do for the next four years, and find several good matches in your college search. This should be an exciting time where you are able to look into the future and see how you fit with each college, and the possibilities that are down the road.

DON'T: Listen to myths, rumors or people who say "I heard that in order to get into UGA...". Senior year and the college search should not be a time of panic or despair, and most of the stress is not necessary. College admission offices want to work with you and help you through the process, so listen to their suggestions. Generally, college admission rumors start when someone does not understand the admissions process, and they then attempt to guess about a reason X/Y/Z happened. Don't get caught up in this cycle of misinformation.

DO: Pay attention to deadlines, take responsibility for your own college applications, and make sure things are in well before they need to be.

DON'T: Do things at the last minute. How you act in HS and in the application process shows us how you might be on our campus. If you do things at the last second (or later), procrastinate, and do not take care of your side of things, what do you think the colleges will be thinking about how you will handle things once you get to college.

DO: Enjoy your senior year, take time to enjoy the college selection process, and thank your parents, counselors and teachers for all that they have done for you.



Parents of Rising HS Seniors


DO: Support your student during this challenging year of transition. Find a good balance between helping them and getting out of the way and letting them handle things, as they will be out of the house next year and having to do things on their own soon enough. 

DON'T: Make this process about you. We all want our kids to succeed, whether it is in four year old soccer or applying to college, and as parents, you feel each joy and pain your child feels. But make sure that the focus is on the student, where they want to apply, and what is best for them. If you find yourself saying "We applied...", stop and reassess the situation. There are many comparisons we use for parents (training wheels on a bike, safety net, coach, cheerleader), but in the end the student is going to be on a campus next fall, and they need to learn how to handle this college thing on their own.

DO:  Learn about the colleges your student is interested in, and ask questions of admissions about the process. Our offices are happy to answer all questions, and I try and reply to any and all comments on this blog. We still want the student to ask questions, and you should encourage your student to take the lead, but we are fine working with parents during this process.

DON'T: Ask for advice on UGA admissions decision process from your friends/neighbors just because they have had a child apply to UGA in the past. First, things change, from deadlines to requirements to how our process works. Second, having a child apply to college makes you knowledgeable about applying to college, not on how admission decisions are made. Myths and rumors abound in the college admissions world, but I heavily suggest you try and avoid anyone sharing them. If a person starts a sentence with "I heard that UGA Admissions ...", think twice (or more) about the advice.

DO: Have a discussion with your student on the realities of attending X/Y/Z college, especially if college costs are a major factor. Make sure they know what the reality is concerning what is possible and what is not based on admissions/financial aid.

DON'T: Eliminate a college from your student's list just because it is a rival of your alma mater. If you are an Alabama fan, life will be okay if your child goes to Auburn. Same with UGA/GT, Cal Berkeley/Stanford, UNC/NC State, and Harvard/Yale. Let your student find the colleges that match their interests and go from there.

DO: Help your student find a number of colleges that fit their needs. In the college search, there will be a number of institutions that "check off all the boxes" of what your student is looking for in a university. Help them understand that there are a number of great options and to find good matches with their needs.

DON'T: Tell your student that there is only one perfect college for them. Having only one "perfect" option puts a great deal of unnecessary pressure on getting into that one institution. I know a number of previously denied students who found a great match at another college, even if at first they thought not getting into UGA was the end of the world.

DO: Tell your child you love them no matter what admission decisions occur over the next year or so. 

Good luck in managing the college admissions process, and Go Dawgs!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Etiquette for Visiting Colleges

Like many parents in our community, my wife and I had our two children go to an after-school etiquette program during the fifth grade. We got past the actually moaning and groaning and had them ready to learn more about how to interact with others. I can still remember sending my now college senior son to his first day with a pre-tied necktie in his bookbag, only to have him come home with the tie pulled up tight against his neck above his actual shirt collar. Seriously, it was the strangest sight ever. I should have known then that he was destined for a more casual, less proper life - just like me. While my kids only went through one year of this program, both of them did learn a few manners, my son understood how to actually tie a necktie, and hopefully some of the etiquette did sink in.

In the same way that there are certain etiquette rules for social events, interacting with others and dining at restaurants, there are also certain steps you can take when visiting colleges. While many students might have already starting visiting colleges by now, a large number of you will be attending admission events during your senior year. This could involve campus tours, visitation days, open houses and the like. Here are a few suggestions on how to make sure the visits go well for everyone involved. Don't worry, this has nothing to do with table manners, how to bow, or how to drink tea properly.

  1. Make a reservation - While you don't need to always schedule an official visit to a campus, things generally work out much better when you plan ahead. Sign up for the campus tours well ahead of time, especially if it is for a visit in March/April (key Spring Break times) or during the summer. Showing up unannounced can add stress, not only to your own party but to the admission offices. You don't want to visit a college only to be told the tour is full or the office is closed that day. If you are going out to a nice restaurant, you probably want to make a reservation ahead of time, right?
  2. Alert the college if there is a need to cancel - If something comes up that causes you to not be able to attend a scheduled tour/event, let the admissions office know about it. Many times, space at these events are in high demand, so letting the college know of a change in plans can free up space for another student/family to visit. Many times, the emails sent confirming the visit also have instructions on how to chance/cancel a visit. If you make a reservation at a restaurant and then just don't show up, the front desk is going to waste a great deal of time calling out your name and holding a space for you unnecessarily.
  3. Hold questions which are not "large audience-appropriate" for later - At any admissions event, we love questions. We truly enjoy talking to both students and parents, and you asking questions helps us direct the conversation towards meaningful discussions. But at times, there are questions that should be held onto until a time that is more one-on-one. One of the most awkward times my wife and I had at a restaurant was when the couple next to us starting loudly berating the waiter about the wine options (they even suggested one wine that should be on the list which we had seen in a gas station earlier that day). I think the entire restaurant heard this discussion, and it would have been much better if instead they had requested a quiet talk with the manager. In the same way, if you have an issue with how decisions are made or  if you have somewhat personal questions, I suggest you talk with an admissions person on the side at a later time. It makes it much less awkward for everyone.
  4. Give feedback - At the end of the day/event, admission offices generally send out surveys for visitors to complete. We are glad to hear back from you about the day, and your thoughts and ideas can help us in shaping future events, either by making changes or by keeping some things the same. UGA is not a college which bases our decisions on "demonstrated interest", so feel free to give us your honest opinion on how things went on your visit. Responding to our surveys means that you cared enough to let us know how you feel.
I hope these notes help, and Go Dawgs!

Friday, July 6, 2018

DIY Admissions-Parent Edition

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about how students should be able to handle the application process on their own, with a limited amount of guidance from parents/counselors friends. This month, the focus is on how parents can help get students to that stage of the process:

Last week, I was volunteering at a camp for six days, and I had eight campers in my cabin from a range of placed in Georgia. It was a wonderful week, but as you can guess, there were also a few challenging times, usually associated with either getting all eight out of the cabin on time or that wonderful event of mealtime, also known as "please just eat your food and don't make too much of a mess". One of our campers had a challenge with certain mealtime things, from cutting up meat, eating yogurt without getting it on his face, and the horribly sticky mess that is syrup (they really should just ban this substance from all children under the age of 13).

One of the newer counselors at the table stepped up to help this camper by cutting his food, going to get paper towels, and pretty much sticking close to the camper for every meal in case of emergency. About a day later, one of the wiser, older counselors (not me, I swear) stepped in and essentially said "Stop helping him. He needs to learn how to do these things himself." The focus became less on doing things for the camper, and more on helping him learn how to take care of himself. The first day or so was a challenge, watching the camper struggle with the steps. If you have ever watched a kid struggle trying to learn a new skill, your first instinct is to help in any way you can. But by the end of the week, everyone was less stressed, the camper was much more independent, and mealtime was much better-if you don't count syrup as being the devil's condiment.

This same situation plays out again and again in a number of areas. Think back to elementary school projects, with some seeming to have been created by a professional artist, while others are barely able to remain standing, but at least completed by the actual student. Or how about some thank you cards being written in too-perfect script, while others have letters of all sizes and dirt smudges on the edges. There is a time for helping our kids with certain activities, and a time to let them handle the process on their own. This is one of those times. As one of my fellow counselors just said, let your student ride the bike and you just act as the training wheels, because the training wheels are coming off next fall whether you like it or not.

The Admissions application process is a key point in letting the student take care of their own "project". Yes, parents are there to give guidance, to gently nudge their kids in the right direction, but to also know not to cross over the line and just do it themselves. It might be easier to go ahead and be a big part of the application process, but the skills that are learned by having the student do it themselves will translate into more comfort in managing their first year in college, apply for internships, etc. When students start signing up for their first semester of classes, generally during orientation, the first step many times is telling the parents that they should go get some coffee as the student needs to handle this step.

I have been through this process twice as a parent, and I know it can and will be challenging, but you will make it (and so will your child).

Good luck, and Go Dawgs!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Spring 2019 Transfer Admission Update

This week, our office started reviewing Spring 2019 transfer applications. This is earlier than I expected, but we are progressing well with Summer/Fall transfer updates and final HS transcript reviews for freshmen. The 8/15 application deadline for spring has not passed and we are still receiving applications and documents, so we cannot say how long it will take us to finish or guess when you will hear a decision.  If you applied for the spring term, please be sure to check your Status page to see if we have your most up-to-date transcript(s). If you were enrolled in coursework this summer and have not sent a transcript with your summer grades, you should have one sent as soon as possible.  To be complete and ready to review, we must have a transcript from each college/university you have previously attended.  If you are attending a new college starting in the Fall 2018 semester, we do not need a transcript, as there will not be any grades on the transcript. If you are admitted, we will need a transcript when fall term is done, though, as we will need to post these grades.

Just like Summer and Fall transfer decisions, we will release our decisions every Friday in the late afternoon, and emails will go out to students roughly 20 minutes after a decision is released indicating a change to a student's status (no decision information is in the email, as it directs applicants to the status page for a decision). As such, there is no need to constantly check your status page or contact us by email or phone, as we only release decisions by the status page and by mail.

Generally, our office reviews transfer files chronologically based on when the file is complete (all materials are in), but this is not set in stone, as some file reviews might be delayed due to the complexity of the transcripts or due to our office not having past data on transferable work from certain colleges.

We will be reviewing Spring Freshmen applicants sometime in mid September after the deadline has passed and all files are ready for review.


Go Dawgs!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

DIY Admissions


For the last few weeks, my shower has suddenly started to drip water, even with the handle set at full off. I could live with a tiny leak, but this was becoming a steady leak, leading to other issues. So this weekend, I took on the task of repairing my shower in my house. I waited until my family was gone for the week, did some research on the internet on how to fix a leaky shower, and then built up my nerve to tackle the project. I am fine with fixing simple things around the house, even to the point of scaling the roof to fix a few torn shingles, but plumbing work terrifies me. I have nightmares about the entire shower suddenly falling into the kitchen due to my plumbing mistakes. But after looking at what was needed for a basic dripping shower, I figured I could take on the project. I watched the YouTube videos, read the package instructions, and I was ready.

It started out simple enough - Step 1, remove the handle. 20 minutes and a lot of WD-40 later, the handle was removed. Step 2, remove the metal shower sleeve - done in 20 seconds. Step 3, remove the bonnet nut - you guessed it, 30 minutes, one new wrench and a lot of WD-40 later, bonnet nut removed. Step 4, remove the cartridge and look at the rubber gasket washers. Step 5, notice there are no rubber gasket washers. Step 6, watch a lot of plumbers on YouTube fixing. Step 7, 45 minutes, one trip back to the hardware store to buy a new cartridge with the washers already built in, several times of asking myself why I am doing this, then pop the new cartridge in. I put the nut, sleeve and handle back on, said a small prayer, turned on the water and the shower worked. Now, I can still see a few minor imperfections, as the handle is not aligned perfectly and the there is a tiny gap that might or might not have been there before. But it works, it looks pretty good, and I learned a new skill (and I didn't have to pay a plumber $200+ for his work).

Now why in the world did I just tell you a story about me fixing a shower, and how does it even remotely relate to admissions? Well just like my minor plumbing job, applying to colleges can be a little scary, and you might hit a few speed bumps or need a little metaphorical WD-40, but you can handle this process. Unless you have a seriously unusual or challenging situation, you don't need a personal counselor, a test prep coach or an essay expert to get you through college admissions. This is a DIY project, and you can do it. Yes, you might need some advice from your parents, your counselor or Khan Academy (I don't think there is a perfect YouTube video on this subject yet), but you will make it through this process. I am not against students working with independent counselors or test prep programs, but I want to make sure people know that it is not a required part of the process or that "everyone else" is getting assistance.

As well, many times admissions offices can grasp whether a student has or has not been given assistance in the application process. It's a little like third grade science projects, where the range of parental assistance can clearly be seen in the finished work. Did eight year old Johnny really build a working scale model of the Mars rover climbing out of a crater on the red planet? We are looking for your voice in the essays, your interests in the co-curricular activities, and an overall view of what you are like in the application. For some applicants, the over-polishing of essays by third parties or activities added in senior year because someone suggested it would look good on a resume makes the application lose it's vitality. Again, I have no issue with students receiving advice on their admission application, but make sure you are the driver of this process, not the passenger. You know who you are, so you be you, and show us that in your application.

Good luck, and Go Dawgs!


Friday, May 11, 2018

2019 Freshman Essay Topics

Every year, our office reviews the freshman application for changes that we would like to see for the next year. During this review, we also look at the short essay questions that are required for First Year applicants. Based on our review of the essays from last year, we are keeping the essay prompts the same as last year. We require one short essay that all applicants must complete, and four additional short essay topics with the applicant selecting to respond to one of these. These two essays should be between 200-300 words and remember to focus on substance and not word count.  Before submitting your application and essays, always remember to proofread and edit!  The First Year application will be available on September 1, but we thought that some people would want to know the essay prompts earlier than that date. Based on the essays we read last year, we do have one suggestion - Please remember your audience. For some reason, we had a large number of essays about bodily functions this year, and while these might be good stories for late night gatherings with friends, they might not be the best admission essays.

Here are the five essay questions, with Essay 1 being required and Essays 2-5 being four options from which the applicant selects one.  
  • (Required) The college admissions process can create anxiety. In an attempt to make it less stressful, please tell us an interesting or amusing story about yourself from your high school years that you have not already shared in your application.

Essays 2-5, Choose one of the following four:
  • UGA’s 2017 Commencement speaker Ernie Johnson (Class of ’79) told a story from his youth about what he refers to as blackberry moments. He has described these as “the sweet moments that are right there to be had but we’re just too focused on what we’re doing …, and we see things that are right there within our reach and we neglect them. Blackberry moments can be anything that makes somebody else’s day, that makes your day, that are just sweet moments that you always remember.” Tell us about one of your “blackberry moments” from the past five years.
  • Creativity is found in many forms including artistic avenues, intellectual pursuits, social interactions, innovative solutions, et cetera. Tell us how you express your creativity.
  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a problem, possibly related to your area of study, which you would like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what actions you would take to solve this issue.

I have also included a sample essay from this past application cycle to give you an example of what we consider a strong essay, and it is from the "character" essay prompt. 


It’s unassuming, the tiled top square table with mismatched chairs, its lacquer wearing thin from dishes being passed back and forth, room for four but always crowded by eleven. It may be unassuming but its power is undeniable.


As I grew older, the after-dinner conversations grew more intriguing to me. I began to stay and listen, to the politics I didn’t understand and the adult gossip I shouldn’t have been privy to. The dynamic of the debate shifted almost every time the topic changed, but the one thing that was consistent was that after all the plates were cleared and the chairs were pushed back in, everyone came together for dessert; pizzelles and biscotti. No afterthoughts, no bitterness.

I admire my family's ability to embrace each other for their differences, instead of letting it break us apart. There was no greater example of the lesson in acceptance than when my family learned of the change in sexuality of one of our relatives. After the dissolution of a marriage and a traditional family, the initial resentment towards her for the challenge to our family values was difficult to digest, yet unavoidable. It was the first dispute that ever brought tears to that weathered table with the peeling laquer. Instead of allowing differing lifestyles to drive a wedge between us, our family challenged each other's misconceptions, we discussed, we cried and we accepted.

Being raised in such a racially, economically and religiously diverse community, I am lucky to have developed the skill set to empathize with the people around me and understand that not everyone thinks the same way. In fact life would be pretty boring if everyone acted in uniformity; in a more harmonious world, everyone should be able to voice their opinions and speak their minds, and still come together for dessert.   - Micaela B., Gaithersburg, MD