Jun 24, 2021

UVa announces essay prompts for 2021-22

The University of Virginia announced this week that essay prompts for fall 2022 applicants will remain exactly the same as those used last year.

According to associate dean of admission Jeannine Lalonde, “Dean J” to the readers of the UVa
Admissions Blog
, “
Feedback from students and admission officers have helped us tweak our prompts over the years and it seems like we have them in a good place because we don't really have edits this year!”

As in the past, there are three required pieces of writing on the UVa application—the Common Application personal statement and two shorter responses that are specific to UVa. And once again, UVa continues to look “for passionate students” to join a “diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.”

For the first essay, applicants should respond in a half page or approximately 250 words to one of a series of questions corresponding to the school/program to which they are applying:

  • College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: Describe an engineering feat that serves the common good and why it inspires you to study engineering.
  • Kinesiology Program: Discuss experiences that led you to apply to the kinesiology major.
  • School of Nursing: Describe a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying nursing.
  • School of Architecture: Describe [a] significant experience that deepened your interest in studying in the School of Architecture.

While the College of Arts and Sciences has remained loyal to the tried-and-true prompt seeking a challenging or surprising work of art, music, science, mathematics or literature for several decades, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has occasionally tinkered with wording to mix things up a little. This year, however, both stood pat—good news for the essay coaching industry!

For the second essay, applicants are being asked to pick one of five questions to answer also in roughly 250 words:

  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • Rita Dove, UVA English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate, once said in an interview that “…there are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.” Describe a time when, instead of complaining, you took action for the greater good.

In her blog, Dean J reminds applicants, “…the prompts are deliberately broad, these are supposed to be personal, and the word counts are guidelines meant to remind you to be concise.” And she has gently suggested in previous years, “A good essay conveys the voice and personality of the writer. A good essay shares something that hasn't come through in the other parts of the application. A good essay has made it to its final form after a round or two of editing.” 

The Common App will go live on August 1, 2021. And if the past can predict the future, UVa will be among those colleges actually launching on that day.

But in the meantime, the early release of essay prompts will give prospective ‘Hoos months to consider their topics carefully and write compelling essays in time to meet either the nonbinding early action or the binding early decision deadline—both now set for November 1.

Mar 25, 2021

James Madison University joins the Common Application


The Common Application announced today the addition of over 30 new members for 2021-22,
including James Madison University. JMU joins 28 other Virginia colleges and universities currently onboard with the Common App, which has long been used by the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond, Washington and Lee University, George Mason University, Hampton University, and most recently Virginia Tech. With the addition of JMU, the Common App will be accepted by all but two of Virginia’s public institutions.

Common App’s newest members also include nine public universities in Illinois, which joined the platform as part of a state effort to increase college access. Three public universities in the state, Northern Illinois, Chicago State and the University of Illinois Chicago are already members. The addition of the other public universities makes Illinois the second state in the nation to have all public universities use the Common App, according to a press release from Northeastern Illinois University.

The Common App annually serves and supports over three million students, teachers and counselors in the U.S. and around the world. And with the addition of several well-known institutions including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the University of Alabama, and the Colorado School of Mines, these numbers are bound to increase significantly.

“Key to our mission at Common App is lowering the logistical and systemic barriers to college access,” said Jenny Rickard, President and CEO of Common App. “Thanks to our diverse membership, all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to apply to the colleges or universities that will help them achieve their best future.

Membership in The Common Application is open to colleges sharing the organization’s mission of advancing college access and must be

  • Not-for-profit
  • Undergraduate degree-granting
  • Accredited by an association recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education
  • If located outside the U.S., a member of the Council of International Schools
  • Committed to the pursuit of access, equity and integrity in the college admission process

Member institutions are no longer required to also be members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). The requirement to evaluate students using a “holistic” selection process including a recommendation and an untimed writing sample (essay) was also dropped to accommodate a wider variety of member institutions.

  As a result, Common App membership before any new members are included includes

  • Colleges from all 50 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico
  • 400+ colleges with no application fee
  • More than 75% with admission rates greater than 50%
  • 200+ public universities
  • Over 50 minority-serving institutions and 10 historically black colleges
  • 60+ international universities
  • Over 630 accepting transfer applications

But the Common App isn’t the only online application from which students can choose. They may consider the Coalition Application or the Universal College Application (UCA). The Common Black College Application enables students to apply to any number or combination of 55 HBCUs for a single low fee. The QuestBridge National College Match application is currently welcomed by 45 highly selective colleges and universities. And a significant number of colleges, including Georgetown University and MIT, use a variety of school-based applications created specifically to meet their institutional needs.

With all these different application platforms, it’s not unusual for a college or university to offer two or more options for prospective students. While the Common App remains by far the most popular of the platforms, it’s usually worth investigating how other applications are structured and what specific questions are asked. There can be significant differences some of which might provide better vehicles for presenting credentials.

But the Common App can’t be beat for its reach into a variety of academic communities. And among the new member colleges and universities offering the Common Application for 2021-2022 are

Gordon College (MA), Manor College (PA), Westfield State University (MA), Via Maria College (NY), Pratt Institute (NY)

Concordia University-Ann Arbor (MI), Eastern Illinois University (IL), Governors State University (IL), Grace College (IN), Illinois State University (IL), Indiana Tech (IN), Mount Saint Joseph University (OH), Northeastern Illinois University (IL), Rockford University (IL), Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (IL), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (IL), University of Illinois at Springfield (IL), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL), University of Northwestern, St. Paul (MN), Western Illinois University (IL)

Austin Peay State University (TN), Belmont Abbey College (NC), Charleston Southern University (SC), James Madison University (VA), Mississippi College (MS), Saint Augustine’s University (NC), Texas Wesleyan University (TX), University of Alabama (AL), University of North Georgia (GA), Wingate University (NC)

Colorado Mesa University (CO), Fort Lewis College (CO), Colorado School of Mines (CO), Oregon Institute of Technology (OR), Portland State University (OR)

Lebanese American University, University of the Commonwealth Caribbean

Feb 6, 2021

UVa extends early action offers to 6186 for the Class of 2025


Early action applicants to the University of Virginia’s Class of 2025 received decisions yesterday considerably ahead of the mid-February release date originally suggested to follow early decision notifications in December.

And it’s clear that admission to the Commonwealth’s flagship university remains a highly sought-after prize among high school students—both from within the state and across the country.

Following application trends for this year, UVa received 47,827 applications, besting the previous record of 40,971 applications set last year by a whopping 17%. Of those new applications, 28,897 were submitted through early action, also up from 25,160, at the same time last year. And yesterday, UVa extended non-binding offers of admission to 6186 or 21% of those prospective ‘Hoos.

In addition, UVa’s binding early decision option attracted 2,937 applications—an increase of 38% over last year’s somewhat disappointing pool. Of those applicants, 968 or about 33% were offered admission in December. These students, representing about 25% of the planned incoming class were expected to send deposits and withdraw all other applications by January 1, 2021. For the record, Virginia Tech consistently fills about 20% of its class through binding early decision, while the College of William and Mary typically uses early decision to fill about a third of its incoming class. So far, it appears that UVa is steering a middle course.

In total, UVa made 7,154 offers through both early decision and early action—considerably up from the 5,967 early offers made last year. But still to come is regular admission, with decisions set to be released by April 1 (or most likely earlier). Note that 781 students deferred from early decision plus 7,185 deferred from early action will be considered in the regular decision pool (about 16,000 before the addition of deferred students).

The enrollment target for Virginia's Class of 2025 is about 3,800. According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SHEV), the class entering in fall of 2020, totaled 3,788, slightly exceeding original projections but far smaller than the class of 3,921 entering in fall of 2019.

Drilling a little deeper into the numbers, about 27% of the early action applicants and 54% of the early decision applicants came from Virginia. The majority of early action applicants, or about 73% came from out of state—a percentage that is a little higher than in past years.

Early action offers were made to 30% of the Virginia applicants (35% last year and 43% the year before) and 18% of the out-of-state applicants (15% last year and 19% the year before). Early decision offers, however, went to 39% of the Virginians (40% last year) and 26% of those from out of state (28% last year).

Most experts believe the large increase in applications for the class of 2025 comes as a result of students encouraged to apply by the new test-optional policy announced for this year and then recently extended for the next two years.

According to Admissions Dean Greg Roberts in an interview with The Cavalier Daily, “We worked extremely hard developing panels, programs and events throughout the summer and fall that allowed us to showcase the University and its extraordinary opportunities. With that said, it is likely that our move to test-optional admission also contributed to the increase.” He adds that 42 percent of this year’s applicants opted to submit applications without test scores.

Although a number of students were denied admission during the first rounds of consideration, about 25% were thrown a lifeline by being deferred to the regular decision pool. And of the 47,827 students applying for spots in this year’s entering class, about two-thirds came through one early option or the other.

Decisions for deferred students and those applying regular decision should arrive sometime before April 1. Note that deferred applicants are specifically encouraged to send new test scores and midyear grades as soon as possible.

All students admitted under early action will have until May 1, to make up their minds. And those applicants who were lucky enough to be admitted to UVa’s Class of 2025 can expect to receive significant encouragement to commit as soon as possible.