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. 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.