Mar 31, 2016

UVa admits 9,416 for class of 2020

Moments after the admissions folks at the University of Virginia pushed the button releasing decisions at the end of last week, the “regulars” on College Confidential began lighting up the discussion board.

“Accepted from MA!!” crowed one happy applicant.  “It was my first choice I’m so excited does anyone know if there’s a Facebook group?”

Another reported, “I was deferred EA, but accepted RD OSS! Total shock. I thought I had no chance when I was deferred because I applied for engineering. So excited and can’t wait to figure out where I am going to go!”

And from Nebraska: “Surprised? Yes. Excited? Even more so! I’m seeing all of these applications that didn’t make it…GPA and scores aren’t EVERYTHING…They are a part of the picture.” That’s more likely to be true if you’re applying to Virginia from Nebraska.

But the news wasn’t universally happy.

“I don’t get it,” moaned another applicant. “I get deferred so that the committee can review my mid-year report…My report is flawless, yet I still get denied? Not even waitlisted.”

Others were more philosophical, “…being bitter solves nothing. Pick yourself up and move on UVA just helped you in determining which school is right for you—if you weren’t accepted, then clearly it’s not the best fit.”

To give the decisions context, Jeannine Lalonde Smith (Dean J) posted preliminary numbers for this year and recommended that admissions junkies with a real “need to know” could research numbers as far back as 1977 on the webpage maintained by the UVa Office of Institutional Assessment.
But the simple comparison with 2015 is interesting enough. Last year at this time, UVa reported receiving 30,853 applications (this number tends to jump around a little)—a slight decrease from the previous year—and made initial offers to 8,786 students.

For this year’s class, the total number of applications rebounded to 32,426, with the number of in-state applicants increasing from 9,147 reported this time last year to 9,653 for the class of 2020.

The biggest contributing factor to the overall increase in applications, however, was the bump from out-of-state students who submitted 22,773 applications—up from 21,706 during 2014-15.

To account for a steadily decreasing yield (percent of students accepting offers), which dropped from 53 percent in 2005-06  to 40 percent in 2015-16, as well as a need to continue growing class size, admissions increased offers to 9,416—about seven percent more than last year. Of these offers, 4,019 went to Virginians (3,800 last year), and 5,397 went to out-of-state students (4,986 last year). The early action admits accounted for 5192 of the total. Overall, the initial admission rate increased to about 29 percent from 28.5 percent last year.

According to information provided by UVa to the Common Data Set, 4,547 students were offered spots on the wait list last year, and 2,081accepted the offer.  Of those students, 402 were eventually admitted.  

In any event, here are all the "unofficial" numbers released by the UVa admissions office:

Total number of applications: 32,426 (upfrom 30,853 last year)
Total number of VA applications: 9,653 (up from 9,147 last year)
Total number of out-of-state applications: 22,773 (up from 21,706)

Overall offers:
9,416 (8,786 this time last year)
Total VA offers:  4,019 or 41.6% of resident applications (3,800/41.5% last year)
Total out-of-state offers:  5,397 or 23.7% of nonresident applications (4,986/23% last year)
Overall offer rate for the defer group:  21.4%
Students Offered spots on the wait list:  15%

Note that the offers of admission for nonresidents are higher because historic yield for nonresidents is generally lower than that for in-state student.

In a press release, UVa reports that of those admitted, 933 are first-generation college students and more than 30 percent come from minority backgrounds. They come from 49 states, including Virginia, and more than 100 different countries.
And they present outstanding credentials. For those admitted who submitted SAT scores, the middle 50 percent range was 1970-2250 (CR, M and W), with a Critical Reading and Math combined SAT mean score of 1400. The middle 50 percent ACT composite was 30-34. And 92.8 percent of admitted students were in the top ten percent of their high school class, for those who attend schools that report rank.

Mar 29, 2016

Common App changes leadership

The Common Application Board of Directors announced Monday that Paul Mott would be leaving after nearly two years as the organization’s interim executive director. Referring to a “dynamic and changing application market,” the email message gave no specific reason for Mott’s departure, but carefully thanked him for his service during a “period of crisis,” beginning after his predecessor abruptly left the organization.

“The initially planned six month consulting engagement with Mr. Mott developed into a nearly two-year partnership and we are most grateful for his commitment to the Common Application.”

Mott’s appointment followed a national search conducted by the Common App board for someone to take over from Rob Killion, who ran into serious problems during the flawed launch of new application software in fall of 2013.  While his most visible experience was in professional sports, Mott had some background in college counseling at St. Marks School of Texas and had worked in admissions at both Williams College in Massachusetts and Rollins College in Florida.

Working closely with Censeo Consulting, Mott is credited with bringing “stability to the Common Application while also implementing many access and outreach initiatives” over the past 23 months. Aware of increasing member dissatisfaction, which eventually turned into the formation of the Coalition Application group, Mott made major changes in the organization’s mission statement allowing for greater flexibility in membership standards. 

Under his tenure, Common App membership grew by about 100 colleges and universities, while application numbers continued to break all records. At the same time, Mott made a number of specific operational changes designed to reduce some of the “pointless friction” in the admissions process and increase college access among underrepresented groups.

For example, the requirement for an untimed writing sample or personal statement was dropped as was the requirement for at least one recommendation from a school-based counselor or a teacher.  Under his leadership, customer support was upgraded with the addition of “live chat.” Although he took an unpopular stand defending member rights to ask applicants where else they applied, he willingly changed position once the National Association for College Admission Counseling strengthened its rules against such questions. Mott also oversaw the implementation of a new pricing plan for members based on “level of functionality and service” as opposed to more threatening “exclusivity” agreements.
While moving the organization forward, Mott had to contend with a nagging law suit filed by CollegeNET, the vendor selected to launch the Coalition Application.  In a communication describing pricing for 2016-17, which includes increases for those members not agreeing to multi-year contracts, Mott suggests “these increases will not cover the anticipated expense of the now protracted legal defense against the already twice-dismissed case brought against us by CollegeNET.”

Temporarily taking over as interim executive director will be Chad Massie, who came to the Common App from Hobsons and has served as director of technology. He will continue to work with outside guidance from Censeo.

In the meantime, the Common App board has contracted with the search firm of Witt/Kieffer to “identify candidates for future leadership.” Robin Mamlet, former admissions dean at Stanford, Swarthmore and Sarah Lawrence as well as co-author of a guide to the college admissions process, will be heading the search.

Mar 28, 2016

Colleges hit the road for spring 2016

The Claremont Colleges come to Maryland on April 2

Once 2016 decisions are signed, sealed, and delivered, admissions staff around the country will hardly have a moment to catch a breath before they’re expected to hit the road again for college fairs scheduled from Maine to China and back.   
Here are a few local events to which the public is invited (note that a number of these traveling road shows visit multiple regions—follow the link(s) to see if the schools will be coming to a location near you):
  • Claremont Colleges Receptions
    The Claremont Colleges invite students and their families to attend an information session hosted by admission representatives from Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona, and Scripps Colleges. Admission officers will discuss the benefits of attending each individual college, as well as the advantages of participating in one of the strongest and most cohesive college consortia in the nation. The program will include a media presentation, individual college information presentations, a general question-and-answer session, and time at the end of the program for you to speak individually with each college. The Washington DC metro area event will be held on Saturday, April 2, at 1:00 pm, at the Pooks Hill Marriott, in Bethesda, Maryland. Register online here.

  • Coast to Coast College Tour
    The Coast to Coast College Tour  is a joint travel partnership bringing together admissions representatives from Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Princeton University, the University of California-Berkeley, and Vanderbilt University. We travel together because each of our institutions practices a holistic admissions process in a highly selective environment. This program will provide you with the opportunity to learn about each individual institution, receive insight on navigating the selective admissions process, and the ability to connect with representatives from each institution. This year’s program will take place on Thursday, June 9, 2016, at 7:00 pm, a the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel.  Register online here.

  • Colleges That Change Lives
    Since 1998, the Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL)—colleges and universities dedicated to the support of student-centered college search processes—have been traveling together to meet directly with students and families. This year, 42 CTCL members will visit the Washington DC area on Thursday, May 19, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. The program begins at 7:00 pm with a 30-minute information session followed immediately by the college fair.

  • College Prep Fair
    A free College Preparation and Scholarship Fair will be held 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, at Montgomery College (Bioscience Education Center), 20200 Observation Drive in Germantown.  The fair is intended for students in Grades 6-10 and their parents.  Attendees will have an opportunity to meet representatives from various careers, colleges, and universities, learn about financial aid and scholarship opportunities and attend informative breakout sessions. Space is limited, so be sure to register early!  Registration can be completed at

  • Emory University and Georgia Tech
    Admissions officers from both schools are hosting information sessions for prospective students. In Maryland, the session is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda.  All are invited to attend.

  • Exploring College Options
    Exploring College Options is a special recruitment program (not exactly a college fair) sponsored by the undergraduate admissions offices of Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford.  Events are usually scheduled in Alexandria, Bethesda, and Baltimore.  As of this writing, a final schedule has not yet been posted, but details should be available soon on the Exploring College Options website.

  • Exploring Educational Excellence
    Join Brown, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell and Rice for an information session for prospective students and their families. Sessions include a brief overview of each institution, information on admissions and financial aid, and a chance to speak informally with admissions representatives.  Events will be held in Maryland on May 15 (Baltimore) and 16 (Richard Montgomery High School), and in Virginia on May 17 (Alexandria) and 18 (Richmond). You must register to attend.

  • IB-MA College Fair
    The IB Mid-Atlantic Association of IB World Schools is hosting a
    free college fair on Saturday, April 16, 2016, from 12:30 to 3:00, at Gar-Field High School, in Woodbridge, VA. This is a large event attracting many colleges interested in recruiting IB students and others.

  • NACAC National College Fairs (NCF)
    Free and open to the public, NACAC’s fairs annually attract more than 850,000 high school students to forums designed to encourage student and family interaction with representatives from a wide range of postsecondary institutions. This year, NACAC has scheduled two local fairs spanning several days. The Montgomery County NCF will take place on April 19 (evening hours included) and 20, at the Montgomery County Agricultural Center, in Gaithersburg. The Prince George’s County NCF will follow on April 22 at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

  • National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) Health Professional Recruitment Fair
    Organized in partnership with the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), this fair will include opportunities to meet with medical school representatives and admissions staff. In addition, students are invited to attend workshops on how to get ready for the challenges of medical school, the application process, and how to finance a medical education. The workshops and the fair are scheduled for Saturday, April 23, 2016, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, at the Renaissance Hotel, in Washington D.C.

  • Northern Virginia Regional College Fair
    Scheduled for Wednesday, March 30, 2016, this fair usually attracts over 200 colleges and universities, in the EagleBank Arena on the campus of George Mason University. No registration is required and doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with free parking in Lots A or L across from the EagleBank Arena (formerly the Patriot Center).

  • Sherwood High School College Fair
    This fair is scheduled for April 18, 2016, 6:00-8:00 pm at Sherwood High School, Route 108, Olney, MD; approximately 60-70 colleges exhibit at this free neighborhood college fair.  All are welcome.  For more details:
Remember that some fairs offer pre-registration options, but most are walk-in events. You can prepare for the fair by reviewing a list of participating colleges and noting those in which you are interested. It’s a good idea to print out some “mailing” labels with your name, mailing address, phone number, month and year of high school graduation, and email address. These can be quickly applied to information request cards. And bring a backpack or something similar for carrying all the materials you will collect.

Here’s a tip: In addition to admissions information, exhibitors often come equipped with materials introducing summer enrichment opportunities. Be sure to ask about the availability of summer classes, camps, or other similar programs.

Mar 25, 2016

Top video game design programs for 2016

University of Utah

The Princeton Review recently released its seventh annual report on undergraduate and graduate schools with top programs for studying video game design.

And the University of Utah captured the No. 1 spot on the undergraduate list of schools (up from #2 in 2015). The University of Central Florida took the top place on the graduate schools list (also up from #2 last year).
“It’s the way we teach,” says Robert Kessler, executive director and founder of EAE and professor at the University of Utah’s School of Computing, of the program’s success. “We have artists and engineers working together, learning to think like the other side and relying on each other.”
According to CNN Money and PayScale, video game design is the second “best job” in America, with potential for big growth, great pay and satisfying work. What’s particularly appealing about the profession is that the industry is relatively new, so it’s still a very innovative field open to pioneers and creative minds.

"The opportunity to define a new medium of expression comes along once or twice a century and you get to be a part of that," said video game designer Warren Spector in an interview with CNN Money.

Formerly assigned to a far corner of the computer science department, game design has emerged as a highly respectable, multidisciplinary course of study. And schools hoping to cash in on the growing market for designers are building glitzy new facilities tricked out with cutting edge technology and equipment.
“Game design is the next great design field,” according to the USC website. “Students emerge as thought leaders, fluent in many forms of media, with the sophistication to design and create innovative experiences that expand the state of interactive art and play.”

The Princeton Review together with PC Gamer Magazine selected schools based on a survey of 150 institutions in the U.S., Canada, and abroad offering video game design programs or courses.

The 40-question survey asked schools to report on a range of topics from academic offerings and lab facilities to starting salaries and career achievements.

"For students aspiring to work in game design, the 58 schools that made one or both of our 2016 lists offer extraordinary opportunities to learn and to hone one's talents for a successful career in this burgeoning field," said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review's Senior VP-Publisher. "The faculties at these schools are outstanding. Their facilities are awesome. And their alumni include legions of the industry's most prominent game designers, developers, artists, and entrepreneurs."
Although relatively new, George Mason University has a well-respected local video game design program and has received recognition, along with the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) as a one of the 50 best game design schools and colleges by Using slightly different criteria from that used by Princeton Review, GameDesigning ranks the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Utah as the top programs in the field.

And for the record, the Princeton Review’s top 20 undergraduate schools to study game design for 2016  are:
  • University of Utah, UT
  • University of Southern California, CA
  • Rochester Institute of Technology, NY
  • DigiPen Institute of Technology, WA
  • Becker College, MA
  • The Art Institute of Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Hampshire College, MA
  • Michigan State University, MI
  • Drexel University, PA
  • New York University, NY
  • The University of Texas at Dallas, TX
  • Northeastern University, MA
  • Champlain College, VT
  • Vancouver Film School, British Columbia
  • Bradley University, IL
  • Ferris State University, MI
  • Lawrence Technological University, MI
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY
  • Cogswell College, CA
  • Shawnee State University, OH
Keep in mind that like any other "ranking," this list represents one organization's opinions and should provide little more than “food for thought” or a starting place for a more thorough investigation of a whol range of video game design programs.

NOTE:  George Mason University will be holding Game Design Open Houses on April 9 and April 23, 2016. This could be a great way to learn about game design in general and the George Mason program in specific.  Interested students can reserve a space by emailing Mary Bean ( or calling 703.993.5734.

Disclosure: Nancy Griesemer is a member of the Princeton Review National College Counselor Advisory Board, 2015-16