Tag Archives: UVA

11 College admissions resources to read now. (Perhaps, even, instead of Dr. StrangeCollege.)

Having gone through college applications with two high school students in the past three years, here’s what we’ve been doing these days:

  • Driving our high school sophomore to his homecoming date.
  • Tailgating and watching UVA defeat Kent State with our third-year UVA student (aka: junior) during his frat’s fall parents weekend.
  • Delivering cough drops and healthy snacks to our first-year UVA student (aka: freshman).
September sky above UVA's Scott Stadium

September sky above UVA’s Scott Stadium

Here’s what we’ve not been doing:

  • Paying much attention at all to college admissions deadlines and news.

We’re enjoying this hiatus. Even though Mod Squad Linc will take the PSAT next month and will start receiving college flyers and emails in January, there’ll be no college applications for him until the 2016-17 school year.

If you happened to subscribe to this blog looking for college admissions news for 2014-15, these sites may interest you:

Head Count: Admissions and enrollment news from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Most recent post:  Applicants to Bennington College can ‘curate’ their applications

True Admissions:  the blog from the College Admissions Book. Latest post by Christine VanDeVelde: De-stress the college application process.

Parents Countdown to College Coach:  Helping parents navigate the college maze. Suzanne Shaffer’s latest post:  The college major debate: 4 points to steer teens in the right direction.

The College Solution blog. Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s latest post:  Please apply so we can reject you!

The College Puzzle:  a college success blog. Latest post by Michael Kirst:  College competition for students may hurt low income students.

DIY College Rankings. Latest post by Michelle Kretzschmar:  Help finding Minnesota Colleges.

On the Fast Track to an Empty Nest, by friend and neighbor, Tara Mincer, who will have three students applying within four years. Lastest post: Getting your high school senior organized.

Prep and study help: Academic advice and study tips for the college-bound

Also, find admissions blogs at colleges of interest. I am most familiar with Notes from Peabody, written by UVADeanJ, who does an excellent job of providing clear information about the process and what the college needs. Look at colleges’ admissions websites for how they communicate.

A variety of posts on this blog from the past three years can still be helpful, and most are searchable by tags, from dealing with deadlines, to essays, financial aid, visits, and more. Please remember:

  1. Any post needs to be read with “As I understand it…” and “as of today” mentally tacked on.
  2. Almost any response to a college admissions question can [and should] begin with, “It depends…”

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Got your FAFSA done yet? Here’s why you need to hurry.

There’s one very big reason guidance and financial aid counselors advise students and their families to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible: The money runs out.

Tweeted 2/16/13 by UVa's Student Financial Services.

Tweeted 2/16/13 by UVa’s Student Financial Services.

Colleges use the FAFSA to determine a student’s eligibility for financial aid via “nine federal student-aid programs, 605 state aid programs, and most of the institutional aid available.”  [Via Wikipedia.] All of those programs have limited pools of funds; most allocate funding on a first-come, first-serve basis.

1.  The Deadline. The FAFSA becomes available online each January 1st for the following school year. FAFSA provides a deadline of June 1st, but some states set an earlier deadline, and most colleges will provide a recommended deadline of March 1st.

2.  The Tax Return. Completing the FAFSA requires at least a draft of the previous year’s tax return. So the Jan. 1, 2013 version of the FAFSA, required for the 2013-2014 academic year, needs data from your 2012 tax return. Some counselors will advise filing taxes first and linking the FAFSA to the IRS electronically for verification. Yet, most families will still be waiting for tax forms (1099s, W-2s, etc.) when they complete the FAFSA; hence, the draft return.

3.  The Paperwork. FAFSA’s Help link provides this list of the records you will need, in addition to the tax return. When dealing with the FAFSA, “you” always refers to the student.

Your Social Security card.
Your driver’s license (if any)
Your 2012 W-2 forms and other records of money earned
Your (and if married, your spouse’s) 2012 Federal Income Tax Return.
Your Parents’ 2012 Federal Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
Your 2012 untaxed income records
Your current bank statements
Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
Your alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

1040/FAFSA Worksheet

1040/FAFSA Worksheet

4. Getting it right. I won’t start a list of all the things that are confusing about the FAFSA. This post would never end. I will try to provide some help.

When preparing our draft 2012 tax return, our accountant provided a worksheet which matched dollar amounts from our return with FAFSA question numbers. If you know the difference between American Opportunity education credits and tuition deductions and which benefits you the most, you may not need any help. If, like me, this sort of help comes in handy, download a pdf of the blank form.

Good luck!

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Filed under Paying for College

Wednesday Weekly Reader: the Virginia Public University Edition

Thomas Jefferson – Third President of the Unit...

TJ graduated from W&M; founded UVa. Image via Wikipedia

Recent news from the college admissions / search / finance front.

Many states’ budget woes have bumped up public university tuition and fees. Some public universities also must maintain a delicate balance between the funds received from the state government with the higher non-resident fees paid by out-of-state admitted students.

Stories published in the past two days bring the Virginia public university picture up to date.

1.  From Monday:  We have state legislators concerned that Virginia residents are not admitted to the state’s premier public universities because they (UVa and William & Mary) are accepting too many non-residents.

Currently UVa admits approximately 30 percent from out-of-state; William & Mary, 35 percent. The legislator quoted in the article — also a W&M grad — would like out-of-state enrollment capped at 25 percent.

One state legislator, upset that so many constituents’ children with stellar grades are denied admission to the University of Virginia, says the school could be called the “University of New York, Charlottesville campus.”

UVa: Percent of In-State UndergradsThe legislator, Del. Timothy D. Hugo, represents Fairfax County, which is well represented at UVa, according to this article (and to those outside Fairfax County, natch). It’s hard to discern a pattern in the out-of-state enrollment numbers at UVa and W&M. The source data is available from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; see the searchable, downloadable database for 1993-2010  here. I’ve included a couple of graphs from those numbers; these show in-state enrollments. [Click graph to enlarge.]

While the legislator seeks a 25% cap for out-of-state enrollment, the lowest for UVa since 1993 is 29.7% (2005); the lowest for William & Mary is 31.8% (2008).

The article hits a lot of admissions topics — how decisions are made, how high schools are compared, what happens when two students from one school with similar records get different decisions, etc. Important locally, state-wide, and to parents trying to understand how it all works.

College of William & Mary: Percent of In-State Students2.  Tuesday’s article updates the tuition and fees data for Virginia public universities. [This article, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was also published in the Daily Progress, but could not be found there online.] The source data for this article is also available from SCHEV, via a 36 page pdf, 2011-2012 Tuition & Fees Report, which can be found here.

Although its percentage increase at 7.7 percent is below the state average, College of William and Mary students also will pay an additional $944 for a total of $13,132. With room and board, W&M is the state’s most expensive public school at $22,024, followed by Virginia Military Institute, which requires cadets to live on grounds, at $20,630.

UVa’s increase is 8.9%, bringing total charges to $20,612.

According to the newspaper article, Virginia states a goal of funding 67 percent of the public university cost, asking the student to pay 33 percent. The state’s contribution this year sets a new low of 51 percent, raising the question of how public these universities really are.

Virginia families are fortunate to have a wide range of public universities available. The most selective of them — the two highlighted here rank high on the USNews list — provide an attractive enough opportunity that Delegate Hugo and others think it should be more readily available to more Virginia students. And yet, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s contribution to the public universities is at an all time low.

What do you think? How many out-of-state undergrads does it take to balance the public university budget?

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Filed under Reports

6 Reasons to Re-Visit a Campus

Mod Squad Pete started revisiting campuses. Here’s where we are, August 1:

  • three months away from Pete’s first Early Action deadline,
  • three weeks or so away from the start of his senior year in high school, and
  • two weeks away from a road-trip to New England for a family reunion.

Right now we need to decide if Pete should see any more colleges and, of those he’s already seen, which he should revisit. The discussion launched on that topic could fill two or three blog posts, so I’ll just stick to why it makes sense for him to go back to a few colleges.

American Palladianism: The Rotunda at the Univ...

UVA Rotunda. Image via Wikipedia

1. To indicate interest.  Some colleges track his points of contact: visits, email responses, conversations with admissions counselors, meetings with professors, etc. CollegeData’s Admissions details provide that information for each college. In our state, Virginia, you could look at UVA‘s ‘Selection of Students’ here and see that the ‘Level of Applicant’s Interest’ is not considered. American University, just a bit further up the road in DC, indicates the the ‘Level of Applicant’s Interest’ is very important to them.

2. To attend an open house or preview day.  Many of Pete’s college visits were booked around our schedule, not that of the college. If he visited a college for the standard admissions information session and tour during Spring Break (and he did many then), he may have the opportunity to learn more, see more, and meet more people at a formal prospective student event.

3. To talk with a professor.  He was able to book a few meetings with professors during some initial visits. We paid much closer attention to this ahead of long-distance visits last summer. Now it’s time for Pete to make contact with professors in his area(s) of interest and find out if a particular college and what he might study there fits with their impression of the college and of Pete.

The front of the Wren Building at the College ...

College of William & Mary. Image via Wikipedia

4.  To talk with a current student. Some colleges offer interviews with current students — the College of William & Mary provides that opportunity to rising HS seniors. Here’s why, and here’s the Washington Post‘s story about it.

5.  To allow the second parent an opportunity to see the school.  It may seem as if our entire household is consumed with this college stuff, but — like most households with school-age children — there are many other school, extracurricular, work, and life activities competing for attention. We’ve visited a number of colleges on family road-trips, but most of the formal admission visits have been made with one parent and M. S. Pete. Colleges that maintain a lock on his short-list deserve a look from parent number two.

6.  To repair, if possible, a bad first impression.  I know we should not dismiss a college based upon a bad tour guide experience, but it’s hard to get past that. Pete and I toured a school on his HS guidance counselor’s recommendation. She had good reasons:  it fit the profile Pete had in mind, she’d been impressed on a recent visit, she thought the student-prof connections Pete values could be made there, it’s a beautiful campus, and more.

We booked a visit, asked questions at the info session, and set off with a current student tour guide who simpered, giggled, apologized, and giggled some more. She was a very nice young woman, she loved her school, she gave a good tour, and I could not wait to get away. I know better than to think the entire school is as naive as this one student. Should we go back and give it another try? Probably.

Help me out here. Why else should Pete revisit a college? Please keep in mind: he needs a very good argument to add anything to his college to do list at this point.

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Filed under Campus Visits

Wednesday Weekly Reader: The Essay Edition

While it may look like Mod Squad Pete is playing soccer, wiffle ball and pool games with his Midwestern cousins this week, I’m certain some part of his mind retains a laser-beam focus on drafting his college essay.

This Essay Edition of the Weekly Reader presents a few links for when he gets back on track.

1. Might help to start by looking at some of the questions. Most colleges now accept the Common App; many also ask for an essay and/or short answers on a supplementary application.

  • The 2011 Common Application is currently offline. The questions can be found on pdf here. (The 2012 Common Application should be available online August 1st.)
  • The University of Virginia‘s supplementary application questions are here.

2.  College Essay Solutions offers some great, brief tips on how to write with emotion. Here’s one:

Be patient. Writing emotionally takes time. People often do not know how they feel about things and even if they do, cannot put those feelings into words. Allow the writing of the essay to unlock emotions you might not have even realized you possess, then keep looking until you find the exact words to capture those emotions.

3.  Tips on writing college application essays from Allen Grove at About.com:

Your character shows up in three places on the application: the interview (if you have one), your involvement in extracurricular activities, and your essay. Of the three, the essay is the most immediate and illuminating to the admissions folks as they read through thousands of applications.

4.  The College of William & Mary‘s Admissions Blog, Admit It!, is running a series of posts on essays. Start with Eeeeek! It’s the Essay!

5.  Finally, to better appreciate the work done by admissions professionals, take a look at actual example essays posted (and graded) by admission counselors at ReadyEssay.com. It doesn’t take long to appreciate how eye-glazing it must be to read thousands of essays at a time, many of them expressing how the student learned perseverance.

Wiffle ball is looking better and better right now.

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Filed under Getting In

Counting down to college.

So it begins. A year from now, in May 2012, our oldest child will commit to a college.

Of course, that presupposes he will be accepted into at least one college of his choice. Which presupposes he will meet the deadlines, complete all the applications, request the recommendation letters, write the essays, and actually pick which schools.

This journey truly began some time ago. Were we thinking about this during the Saskatoon Montessori preschool visit in 1997? Probably not, but in 2004-5 when we anticipated moving from Canada back to the States, a ‘college town’ topped our list of relocation requirements.

We found a new home in central Virginia, ten minutes from one of the top public universities. And we started stopping by campuses on most every road trip.

Five years later, the tall son (aka Mod Squad Pete) turned to me and said, “I feel like we’ve been looking at colleges for a long time, but now it’s serious.”

Here we go.


Filed under Reports