Mar 9, 2011

Inside the UVa Admissions Office

As the days tick down toward release of admissions decisions, the University of Virginia is providing a few glimpses into the inner workings of the office that will decide the fates of nearly 24,000 applications for the UVa class of 2015.

“It’s a huge task that involves every member of the admission team,” said Dean of Admission Greg Roberts. “While we understand that we might not be able to make each applicant happy, this is a personal process for us.”

And here are the facts:

  • Thirty-three full time admissions staff members have logged a combined 354 years of service at the University—an average of more than 10 years per person.

  • Applications begin trickling in as early as August, but the most come at the end of December—one-third of the applications this year arrived between December 31 and January 1.

  • 99 percent of UVa’s applications are submitted electronically.

  • The reading process began in November.

  • Each staff person is expected to read 30 applications per day during “evaluation season” while simultaneously taking turns being “dean of the day,” which requires fielding calls, meeting with visitors, and conducting information sessions.

  • The admissions office receives about 500 phone calls per day.

  • To keep morale up from November through March, staff members organize “grazing” days where everyone brings food to share, attend exclusive movie nights in Newcomb Theater, and participate in monthly birthday celebrations.

  • Every application is read at least twice.

  • On occasion, a massage therapist is called in to give seated chair massages to the weary application readers.

  • Counselors and assistant deans make the first evaluations; Dean Roberts and his three senior associate deans do all of the second reads.

  • After initial reads are completed, the admissions committee meets to vote and select candidates “to add to those already accepted” into the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Nursing, and Architecture.

  • “Likely letters” are mailed to specially-recruited candidates two or three weeks in advance of official notifications.

  • Students can anticipate receiving electronic decisions some time on or before April 1st.

  • The busiest night of the year for Dean J’s admissions blog is the day notifications are released—last year she received 400 comments on her site.

  • When the incoming class has been chosen, the information posted and letters mailed, the admissions staff traditionally celebrates at the Mellow Mushroom.

With the University’s new “growth initiative,” the goal is to enroll 120 more first-year students this year bringing the incoming freshman class to a total of 3,360.

“We’ll send out admit notices by the end of March,” Roberts said. “Our review is holistic; we read every document a student submits. We are looking to build a class of interesting, smart, fun, honest, hard-working students who come from many different backgrounds.”

And what about the applicants and their amazing stories? “We open the files and fall in love,” explains Abby Self, a 2002 UVa alumna and admissions counselor.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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