Making your college decision: Are you intuitive or a fact-finder?

At yesterday’s admitted student visit day, Vice Provost Annie Stevens asked the students in the audience if they took a fact-finding or an intuitive approach to their final college choice. Her question made me reflect on the decisions that many high school seniors will be facing in the next two weeks. The role of information in that final decision is an interesting thing to ponder and something that we think about a lot. What do students need to make the final decision (and most students wait until these last two weeks to make their decision?)

About the facts….over the course of the last eighteen months, we have been sharing lots of facts. Student faculty ratio, enrollment, graduation rates, average class size, percent of our students that study abroad, job placements, etc. All these facts paint a picture of a place that prepares students in an exceptional way in their academic area of interest because of our great faculty and staff and because of the unique commitment to undergraduate education in the context of a great, small research university. Dr. Stevens shared lots of facts yesterday as she described all the features and the accolades that describe a UVM education.

About the intuition…..often I find that the intuition plays a greater role this time of year in the final decision. Intuition is that feeling that you can’t put words to…you just know. You walk around campus, and around Burlington, and say, “I can see myself here for the next four years. I love this place!” Our admitted students get that feeling by watching UVM students interact, by confidently navigating the campus, by enjoying a meal on Church Street and seeing people smiling and enjoying themselves. I accompanied a student to pay her acceptance fee yesterday who already had the check made out and they came back for a final visit just to confirm her intuition that UVM was the right place. I spoke with another family who described the energy around campus and around Burlington….”you can just feel it.” In my opinion, UVM is the perfect place – a place that is both filled with natural beauty combined with an excitement and energy that comes from interesting and passionate students, faculty engaged with students and their own research, and welcoming and comfortable community. This vibe comes through when students walk around campus. The intuition becomes the strong voice that says yes, I love it here.

Over the next two weeks, many more students will say yes to UVM. Our staff is here to answer those last factual questions. We will welcome several thousand more students and parents in our last admitted student visit days. We can’t wait to see people on campus!

During yesterday’s visit day, nearly 25 students made the decision to say yes to UVM! For many of them, they simply said, “this is the right place.” Was it because of the facts or just taking in the atmosphere? My guess is a little bit of both.

Get a Jump Start at UVM

Have you chosen to attend UVM in the fall? The Class of 2018 is coming together nicely this year and the campus is engaged in preparation for our new class joining us in August. Long before students move into their residence halls in late-August, we have two ways that students can come to UVM before August 22!

UVM Jump Start is a unique program that provides UVM incoming first-year students with the opportunity to experience UVM’s curriculum, work closely with members of our faculty, and engage with other members of UVM’s Class of 2018. Participating students can commute or live on campus in UVM residential housing, take a credit-bearing course, and participate in workshops and activities designed to help them transition into the university. This program is a great opportunity for our new students to be on campus this summer and complete a course before the start of classes. The courses offered are ones that apply to many general education requirements or prerequisites for most colleges/schools at UVM.

How does Jump Start work? Basically, students participate in pre-class learning online June 16-20, participate in the on-campus portion of the course June 25-July 3, and then complete the course online July 7-11. The timing coordinates well with two of our June orientation sessions so Jump Start students can come to orientation and then stay on campus for Jump Start.  Answers to common questions and information about costs can be found on the Jump Start website. Students can sign up for Jump Start once they choose UVM and pay their acceptance fee.

In addition to UVM Jump Start, members of the Class of 2018 should consider participating in TREK, a pre-arrival program designed to bring new first-year students (and transfer students) together to participate in a week-long program. Three options exist – wilderness TREK, service TREK or transfer TREK. Approximately 10% of our class will choose to take part in one of these programs. These popular programs fill quickly in the months of May and June. Like Jump Start, once a student chooses UVM and pays their acceptance fee, then registration for TREK can take place online.

We can’t wait to welcome the Class of 2018 and hope that many of our new students will take advantage of these wonderful programs!

Financing a UVM education

Commentary and advice about college affordability is common place – rarely does a week pass when there isn’t some information about this topic. It is important becausean undergraduate education is an investment for a student and family. But unlike many consumer purchases, earning a college degree changes a person’s earning potential significantly over a lifetime.

My post today is less about how that investment pays dividends and more about how we work with students and families in making UVM affordable. We recognize that affordable is a relative term and means different things for families. It is true that we make a significant (and growing) investment in our financial aid toward students. In fact, more than $100 million of the university’s budget is devoted to grants and scholarships for our undergraduate students. In addition, the university has slowed the growth of tuition, room and board for students, with the increase projected for this year to be 3.4%, one of the lowest percentage increase in many years at UVM.

What happens next in the process at UVM? As of last week, merit scholarship awards should all be distributed. Notification of these awards comes by letter, with the last group was mailed March 21. (Many students have already heard about a merit award.) If you are unsure about that award, feel free to contact the Office of Admissions. Students who filed a FAFSA will begin receiving notifcaiton of their financial aid award as tomorrow, March 28. Students will receive an email indicating that their award is available and students can view it at the same place students view their application status.

Students may view their FA awards by clicking the 'Financial Aid Award' button.

Students may view their FA awards by clicking the ‘Financial Aid Award’ button.

 

Some students may be asked to submit additional information. Any outstanding requirements can also be viewed at the page listed above (click on Financial Aid Application Status button.) Finally students who submitted estimated financial information should go back and entered actual 2013 tax information in order to finalize the award.

We believe that this investment in financial aid makes UVM a great value. While students and families may choose other options, for many students, the scholarship and need-based support make it possible to choose UVM. We offer our best financial aid award in our financial aid offer which helps students and families have a  clear understanding of the cost.

We look forward to answering any questions as students receive financial aid and make decisions. We can’t wait for many of our Future Catamounts to accept our offer and say yes!

You are invited to visit UVM

UVM campus on a winter day

UVM campus on a winter day

Travel + Leisure magazine recently published a list of America’s best college towns and it  is not a surprise that Burlington was ranked #1. This ranking is only one reason that we extend the invitation to come visit UVM! Whether an admitted student or a junior just beginning the college search, we’ve got an option for most kinds of campus visits.

All of our admitted students are strongly encouraged to consider coming to one of our Admitted Student Visit Days (ASV). These day-long programs allow students and parents to get a close-up view of UVM. Students begin the day hearing an overview of UVM. Next students and parents spend about two hours learning more about the college/school to which the student is admitted. The balance of the day can be spent meeting with financial aid, touring a residence hall, visiting an academic department or eating lunch in the dining hall. It also is an opportunity for admitted students to meet one another. These visit days are offered eight times over the next three months. Be sure to make a reservation for the program as well as a hotel reservation – these programs do fill up!

Can’t make an ASV? We do offer a 2-hour visit (presentation and tour) with information specifically for admitted students, called an Admitted Student Information Session (ASIS). While these presentations don’t offer an academic component to the visit, the presenters (an admissions counselor and a student) share information helpful to students and parents about the next steps to enrolling at UVM. The presentation is followed by a student panel and a campus tour.

Just starting your college search? A Group Information Session (GIS) is the best visit for you! Students and parents will hear a great introduction to UVM, will hear from a panel of current students and then head out for a campus tour. We also offer a larger open house for sophomores and juniors, called UVM Preview. This visit day has all the elements of a GIS but also offers a faculty/student panel as well as information tables from various university offices. Reservations are encouraged for GIS programs as well as for the UVM Preview. Reservations can be made online. I recommend making a reservation early for a visit during a vacation week or on Saturdays.

We often get questions about two visit options – interviews and overnight visits, neither of which we offer. We don’t offer interviews because we don’t use them as part of our evaluation process. We do, however, offer the opportunity to meet with our admissions counselor on duty during a visit. We also have information conversations with our student AdvoCats. Reservations for these informal chats can be scheduled by calling the admissions office at 802-656-3370.

We are very excited to welcome you to our campus. We can’t wait to see you in Burlington!

What’s new at UVM?

This past weekend, our students returned from winter break. Almost as exciting as their return in August, students come back refreshed and excited for what the winter season in Vermont brings. While we haven’t been blanketed with the snowfall that many of the other parts of the country have experienced, students look forward to their first trip to the ski slopes of the semester or the beauty of winter evident on Church Street downtown.

Yesterday, President Sullivan welcomed the community back through a campus wide communication. I’d like to share an excerpt of his letter to highlight a few pieces of news about UVM:

Recently, UVM received national recognition for our leadership in service and for the vibrant culture of our hometown.  This fall The Atlantic praised our sense of community and volunteerism, and Travel and Leisure ranked Burlington the #1 college town in the United States, highlighting our abundant arts and food culture.  In December, the Peace Corps 2013 rankings showed that Vermont had the most volunteers per 100,000 residents; earlier rankings of volunteer-producing colleges and universities indicated that UVM continues to hold 5th place among some very prestigious schools in our cohort of 5,000-15,000 undergraduates. 

As you know, one of the foremost goals in our Strategic Action Plan for the University is to increase our four-year graduation rate and student retention from the first to the second year.  Later this week at the invitation of the White House, I will be in Washington, joining other invited college and university presidents from around the country, in a dialogue with President Barack Obama and other senior administration leaders to address issues surrounding access to success for college students.  More specifically, the goal of this summit hosted by the President is to find effective approaches to help more students graduate on time.  I am honored to be able to participate in this White House meeting on behalf of UVM.

These are examples of how UVM continues to seek enhancements for students, to be acknowledged for the great place in which we are located, and to make the difference in the lives of others.

At UVM Admissions, we are gearing up for our application deadline tomorrow. The next few days will be the final flurry of application submissions for our students applying as first year students in the fall. Last night, we surpassed 22,000 first-year applications. For students still working on their applications, there is still plenty of time to finish them up this evening or tomorrow and still meet the Jan. 15 deadline. As always, at UVM, our application deadlines are application submission deadlines. Transcripts, test scores and recommendations can be received after the application deadline. We continue to be involved in reading these applications as well as working with students who already have been admitted.

This week, we welcomed more than 150 new degree students as well as our first group of Global Gateway Program students – 40 international students from around the world here to strengthen their English before they earn their UVM undergraduate degree. The new degree students come to us midyear primarily for two reasons – many are transfers who tried another institution and have found that UVM is the place that is the best fit for them. In addition, we saw a number of students who decided to take a gap year and are enrolling at college for the first time. We are excited to bring all the new students into our UVM community.

I often find that I get the pulse of how students are feeling by watching what is trending on Twitter. While there is, like most college students, lament about being back in the grind of studying, it brings a smile to my face to see the number of tweets that students share about how much they missed Burlington and their friends while they were away on break and how excited they were to be back at UVM. Here are a few samples:Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 6.41.03 AMScreen Shot 2014-01-14 at 6.40.44 AM

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And the letters are gone…..

UVM Admissions Office

UVM Admissions Office

Yesterday, this yellow house was a busy place. Final admissions decisions were being made, phone calls from anxious students and parents were being answered and our amazing staff was busy carefully stuffing decision letters.

 

 

 

Decision letters waiting for pickup

Decision letters waiting for pickup

 

And then, around 3 p.m., it became quiet. That quiet quickly grew to celebration when the announcement came that the letters are gone! More than 13,500 students heard a decision from us yesterday. We were so excited to share good news with many of our applicants – what a great group of students who applied to UVM! We agonized over those who we had to defer or to whom we had to say no. These are never easy decisions.

 

 

What’s more rewarding in this process than our team completing this part of the decision process is to see the Tweets, the Facebook posts, the emails from excited students and parents. Even after 31 years of doing this and watching my two children to through the process, I always can remember the impact of the admissions decision. For those who hear good news, especially when it is a first college acceptance, it is a moment that students don’t forget.

What do the decisions mean? Here is a brief description of what students heard from us:

Admit – Congratulations! When we admit a student, we believe that the student is both qualified to do the academic work at UVM but also because their record was competitive in our applicant pool. This year, on average, admitted students have a A-/B+ average with grades that put them in the top third of their graduating class. Average SAT scores for this group admitted totaled 1860. Our admitted students have until May 1 to make a decision. But we had five students pay their acceptance fee last night after seeing that they were admitted!

Defer – When we defer a student, it means that we want to wait and consider the application in the regular admission pool. Often it means that a student’s application was not as competitive because of a downturn in grades, because a student has applied to a very competitive major (such as athletic training, exercise and movement science or nursing), or because a student is currently taking courses that are minimum requirements for a particular academic program and it is important to see performance in those courses. Last year we admitted 42% of students who were deferred so we do offer admission to a significant number of deferred students. If UVM remains among a student’s top choice, students are encouraged to send semester grades when available as well as let us know of their interest in UVM.

Deny – These decisions are so difficult. Being an group of counselors that always work hard to say yes, having to tell a student no is a decision that we don’t make without thorough review and discussion. We try to send the message that students can make UVM possible in the future. We often see students who are not competitive for admission explore enrolling in our Guaranteed Admissions Program where students can take courses at UVM, live on campus, and complete a contract of eighteen hours. If a student earns a 3.0 gpa in those 18 hours, a student can gain admission. We also see many students who take college courses for a year elsewhere, perform well, and then apply as a transfer student.

We celebrate today with the students who are admitted to UVM. We hope to welcome many students admitted yesterday and earlier this fall to campus in the Class of 2018!

We love to read!

One quality an admissions counselor possesses is that we love to read! It’s a good thing….right now we read very little other than high school student essays, letters of recommendations and high school transcripts. Our staff has spent many nights and weekends since mid-November reviewing the applications of more than 14,000 students who have applied as Early Action applicants. 

What does this process look like from our side? I often get that question from parents and school counselors mostly who are curious what happens after a student clicks submit on their Common Application. We receive applications everyday electronically from the Common Application. In addition, we receive copies of the supporting documents submitted through the Common Application or through Naviance. These documents in the form of a pdf are loaded into our student data base. Applications are matched with transcripts. In addition, we bring in test scores from the College Board and ACT several times a week as they are made available to us. One recommendation for a student who is a sophomore or junior and thinking about taking the SAT or ACT for the first time….be sure to register for these tests using the same name that you will use in the application process. Having these match identically minimize duplication and issues with matching test scores with other application materials.

Once materials are received and applications are matched with the supporting documents, the academic records are processed. This step means that our staff will review the grade point average in the context of the school to ensure that our records accurately reflect the student’s academic record. When all the information is checked and all the pieces are received, then it is passed along to the reader to review.

The application review consists of reading all parts of the application. I typically begin with the application itself – I review the background of the student, review the activities, and then read the essay and any additional information shared by the student. Next, I move to the transcript. On the transcript, I read to understand the nature of the school if it is one with which I am not familiar, I read the school counselor recommendation if provided, and then I review the transcript. On the transcript, I am interested in learning if the student has met or exceeded our minimum entrance requirements for the major to which the student is applying, I look at grade trends – what is the pattern of performance in the courses the student is taking. I consider the student’s cumulative grade point average and what that gpa means within their school. The calibre of the courses a student is taking is also a factor, including the strength of the senior year schedule. Has the student challenged him/herself in the context of the courses offered? Has the student completed honors/AP/IB courses if appropriate? To complete the review, I read the letters of recommendation provided which with either confirm what I’ve seen in the application, or they provide a new insight into the student.

One of the most challenging parts of the admissions process that is difficult to describe to others who have not seen our entire applicant pool is the idea of an applicant being competitive. We have many students who apply who are qualified – they meet a minimum level of performance that allows the student to be successful in college. However, when UVM and other selective universities make admissions decision, decision are made by selecting those students who are the most competitive – those who possess the collection of factors that appear to be the best fit for UVM and for the program to which they have applied. I often use the example of the most selective universities in the country – they say no to some of the best high school students in the country. They certainly are qualified, however, in the group of students that they choose to admit, they are not the most competitive. For UVM, we are saying yes to more than half of the students that apply for admission so we are able to identify a broad range of students who are competitive. 

In our review process, we have one reader make the decision on the applications that are the most clearly competitive. We use additional readers for applications that may be more borderline. Therefore, when we defer an early action application or not offer admission to an applicant, it is done after several reviews of the application.

We continue to roll out the decisions for the students we offered a rolling admissions decision. The majority of the decisions will be released on December 17. Students and parents are encouraged to check in with our admissions counselors if any questions exist about the admissions process at UVM.

Today I will spend the day reading applications, learning about some very accomplished and interesting young people who are have expressed interest in attending UVM by applying for admission. I’ll read lots of great letters from school counselors who are very enthusiastic and supportive of their students. It is uplifting and exciting to say yes to these students. And this is why we love to read!