Jun 5, 2019

UVa announces essay prompts for 2019-20

The University of Virginia announced this week that essay prompts for fall 2020 applicants will be looking pretty much the same as those in previous years, with only a few minor tweaks to keep things interesting.

Our prompts aren't changing too much,” said Jeannine Lalonde, “Dean J” of the UVa Admissions Blog.Our staff is really happy with the essays we've been getting and the student feedback we've gotten has been positive.

In addition to a required personal statement, UVa applicants will be asked to write two short responses to prompts specified in the application.

As in past years, UVa is “looking for passionate students” to join a “diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.” Applicants are asked to answer in a half page or approximately 250 words 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: If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
  • Kinesiology Program: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
  • School of Nursing: School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing.
  • School of Architecture: Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
For the second essay, applicants are asked to pick one of five questions to answer in a half page or 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?
  • UVA students are charged with living honorably and upholding a Community of Trust. Give us an example of a community that is important to you and how you worked to strengthen that community.
In her advice to students, Dean J gently suggests, “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.”

Students applying to the University of Virginia will be using the Common Application, which goes live on August 1, 2019.
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 even the new October 15 early decision deadline, should they choose to go that route.

UVa reinstates Early Decision for 2019-20

After over a decade in mothballs,  binding early decision has returned to the University of Virginia for 2019-20.

The new old plan offers high school seniors the opportunity to apply to the University by mid-October and receive their admission decision before winter break. Admitted early decision applicants who apply for need-based financial aid and have completed both FAFSA and CSS Profile by November 15 will receive aid awards at the same time they receive their admission offer in December.

Early decision is designed for students who have determined by early fall that UVa is their top choice for college. It is a binding admission plan, meaning those who are admitted are committed to accepting an admission offer to UVa and promise to cancel applications to all other schools.
With the addition of early decision, UVa will offer three application options:
  • Early Decision: applications due by October 15 and students notified by December 15
  • Early Action: applications due by November 1 and students notified by January 31
  • Regular Decision: applications due by January 1 and students notified by April 1
“Early decision is for students who know without a doubt that UVA is their top choice for college,” said Dean of Admission Gregory W. Roberts. “Early action was established in 2011 and is for students who would like to receive an early notification of their admission decision, but want to keep their college options open over the winter.”

According to a press release, Roberts indicated that “all applicants will be evaluated in the same manner regardless of which plan they choose,” and he promises that no advantage or disadvantage will be given in the process based on which plan the applicant selects.

“Our mission is unchanged,” Roberts said. “We are committed to identifying and recruiting talented, interesting, ethical students from diverse backgrounds, high schools and communities who will both benefit from their experience at UVA and make our community, and the world, better.”

UVa began non-binding early action in fall 2011, after eliminating an older early decision option in 2007. At the time, Virginia stood alone with Harvard and Princeton supporting policies condemning all forms of early admission as disadvantaging low-income students. Although deans from the three schools have since traveled together as part of a fall tour promoting greater accessibility in admissions, they all eventually backed down from their positions and reinstated various forms of early admission. But only Virginia has gone back to early decision. 

Possibly a desire to spread the huge administrative crush of applications now routinely coming in early and a wish to improve yield (the percent of students accepting an offer of admission) figured into the decision to add early decision as an option. But the fact remains that UVa is the only college in the country that has opted for an October 15 early decision deadline—the earliest permissible under NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP).

Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde explained, “…we will release the results of the Early Decision review in December. We haven’t been able to do that in about a decade. The applications are a bit higher than back then, so the deadline for the first group is moving up to October 15.”

UVa joins a number of other public institutions squeezing the application process by moving application deadlines up to October 15, such as Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina. No doubt school counselors with start dates after Labor Day will feel the pressure placed on them by the new UVa early decision option to get recommendations and transcripts out by a deadline set a few weeks into the school year.

And note that the University of Virginia will only be accepting the Common Application this year, which doesn’t go live until August 1, 2019.