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Posted at 11:15 PM ET, 05/20/2010

Demystifying Virginia college admissions

By editors

By Megan McLaughlin

As a former Georgetown University admissions officer, I can sympathize with Andy Pettis’s frustration regarding “Mysteries of admissions at Virginia’s public colleges” [Local Opinions, May 16]. Many unique factors, beyond academic and extracurricular achievements, influence the admissions process.

Although colleges do their best to provide academic profiles of their accepted students, GPA and SAT averages are simply that: averages. Additional factors that may become “tipping points” for those who get accepted from among a highly talented applicant pool can include: geographic and ethnic diversity, superior athletic or extracurricular talent, and alumni or development ties.

A student body that is rich in all areas of diversity will create a dynamic place of study. It also means that some more academically competitive students will be displaced. Given that Mr. Pettis cited these diversity factors, the admission process isn’t so much “mysterious” as it is difficult to quantify.

As a Virginia parent and taxpayer, I am more concerned about reducing the number of out-of-state students who take up in-state freshman seats and who pay out-of-state tuition that is below “market rate” compared with other state universities. Virginians need to lobby the General Assembly to address this problem. It’s unfair to students and to taxpayers.

By editors  | May 20, 2010; 11:15 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Virginia  
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The college admissions process only remains mysterious to those who don't understand what the euphamism "diversity" means.

Eight years ago, the NY Times ran a series of stories about the college admission process. One student who was followed in detail applied to Lafayette College. The young man was from a middle class backgroung, attended a private (Catholic) high school, took advanced placement courses, had very good grades, had an SAT score around 1050, and did not play on any of the school's athletic teams. He was accepted and given a complete four year scholarship.

Coincidentally, my son also applied to Lafayette College that year. He also was from a middle class background, attended a private (Catholic) high school, took advanced placement courses, and had grades only slightly higher than the Times student. He did differ from the Times student in that he had a much higher SAT score of 1390 and was captain of his varsity soccer team. However, he was not accepted by Lafayette College.

You might be surprised at these disparate results, as I certainly was.

However, I have failed to give you any information about "diversity". The Times student, who was given a four year scholarship, was black. My son was white.

Posted by: concernedcitizen3 | May 21, 2010 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Wow, you are just as ignorant as Andy Pettis. UVa is currently 2/3 instate to 1/3 out of state and international. If we were to even increase this to 70 or even 80% by including more students from VA, UVa would no longer be a school that has the "market value" that it currently does and you would no longer want to send you kid to that school. The state of Virginia's, truth be told, students do not have the academic rigor that out of state students who go there have. Out of stater's have higher SAT's, grades, and quality of extracurriculars and life experiences than in stater's. That is a fact. Just look at the numbers. This in turn raises UVa's reputation to be what is currently the #2 public school in the nation and #24 overall. If we let more in staters come, then this quality will in fact go down.

Another point you fail to recognize is that out of state students pay for the financial aid that in state students receive not only in terms of need based financial aid but also by keeping the tuition low for in state students because out of state students pay more than 1.5 times the real cost of tuition. The state of Virginia neglects its state schools so amazing schools like UVa has to turn to out of state students to maintain its reputation.

And if you don't understand why out of state tuition is lower than the market rate, you did not take Economics 101. Competitive pricing allows the very best out of state students to come here. To attract the best, you have to be the best.

Posted by: hghstakes | May 22, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

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