UVA, admissions, marketing, and arrogance?

<p>I read the thread on UVA's going private, and one of the side issues was UVA's marketing. Since I've had some experience with this, and since someone from the school (Dean J?) said he/she welcomed feedback, I thought I'd provide some.</p>

<p>First off, I'm an undergrad alum 'lo these many years ago. So, I care about the place while recognizing that it is not the right place for everyone. No place is. Over the years, I've suggested UVA to a number of my kids' friends and some have applied and a few have matriculated. I"m aware that the factors affecting whether or not someone will apply are often outside UVA's (or any other school's) control. For instance, I once recommended to three young ladies that they apply there. They demured because their perception was that "The South is kinda backward."</p>

<p>Nothing UVA can do about that.</p>

<p>Having said that, here is a link to the reasons admits turn UVA down: <a href="http://www.web.virginia.edu/IAAS/data_catalog/assessment/survey/under/2004-05/turndowns05summarytables.pdf#search=%22turndowns%22%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.web.virginia.edu/IAAS/data_catalog/assessment/survey/under/2004-05/turndowns05summarytables.pdf#search=%22turndowns%22&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>You will note, if you scroll down, that the #3 reason (and it's close to being #2) is "Felt UVA did not want me as much as the school I chose." Please note that the top two reasons are, to some degree, difficult to control. #1 is that the chosen school had a better academic reputation. #2 is lack of merit scholarships. Changing either of those two requires substantial resources UVA may or may not have. Changing #3 also requires resources, but far fewer.</p>

<p>Making people feel wanted is the most significant factor that UVA can change without devoting overwhelming resources. The question is, does UVA want to change this? Is there something in UVA's culture that gets in the way?</p>

<p>I would submit that the answer to those questions may well be "yes." Here is an anecdote to illustrate my point.</p>

<p>Being the father of many children (oh God!), I have come to know the local school system, administrators, guidance counselors and the like very well. I've also come to know the college recruiting scene better than I would like to. Since this is a very high performing school district, it attracts a number of top colleges for information sessions. Some come to college fairs. Many, many others visit individual high schools. By my reckoning, last year, the district was visited by every Ivy, every ACC school (other than UVA), 48 of the top 50 LACS, 45 of the top 50 nationals. We got visits from William and Mary, Richmond, W&L, Hollins, Sweet Briar, and many, many other Virginia schools.</p>

<p>But no UVA.</p>

<p>So, I talked to the guidance counselors at our two top high schools, which regularly send many kids to the nation's most selective schools every year, and they said they would be delighted to welcome UVA to their schools. Moreover, they promised to "talk UVA up" to prospects, and even contact counselors at other high-performing schools and districts within a 50-mile radius to help market UVA.</p>

<p>I sent an e-mail to UVA admissions informing them of the opportunity. I got no reply. So, I sent another e-mail expressing regret over receiving no reply. I still got no reply. I gave up.</p>

<p>I'm not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but I figure my donations to UVA over the years have amounted to something in five figures. That's not a lot of money, but one might think it deserves at least a reply to an e-mail. The reply might have simply said that my area doesn't fit into UVA's marketing plans, for instance. Or it might have been more specific about resources available and historic yield from this area. Who knows? All I know is that we send many kids to Berkeley and Michigan every year, but precious few to UVA, and it would appear that UVA is not interested in atracting these kids.</p>

<p>Now, to the next anecdote. A relative of mine attended a session hosted by the UVA medical school. In it, physicians lectured attendees on "how it's done at UVA." My relative, a UVA grad, was incensed. Her comment was something to the effect that "working at UVA does not make you God."</p>

<p>I have to wonder, based on my own matriculation at the school and these anecdotes (and there are others, as well), if there isn't a touch of arrogance embedded in UVA's culture that tends to make it a poor marketer. If you look at applications, UVA's are up, but don't appear to be keeping pace with increases at other highly ranked schools. This is just a guess, but perhaps there's a touch of "We're so good we don't need to market" in the admissions department?</p>

I posted on the other thread regarding the information session my daugher attended. We agree with you that my daughter definitely felt more wanted at all other schools . We have visited: Uva, BU, Harvard, Princeton, Standford, Berkeley, Brown, BC, Wellesley, GT, GWU, Duke, UNC, Penn State, UPenn, Columbia and Rutgers.</p>

<p>Dean J:</p>

<p>Does UVA even track interest? During the visit a couple years ago I remember that D filled out a postcard, but that was it. Did UVA know she was there for the tour and info session that day?</p>

<p>changed my mind</p>

<p>I don't understand why so many parents post on these forums. It creeps me out.</p>

<p>Because most HS students are fountains of misinformation and lack perspective.</p>

<p>Regarding the turndown survey, we analyze and tweak our practices every year with them in mind. The responses do not go unnoticed.</p>

<p>Travel is a difficult thing for a relatively small staff at a state institution. We can't compete with the schools that have regional reps and an army of young counselors. We try to visit major regions and last year, we visited almost every public high school in the state of Virginia...all before Halloween, when we had to be back in Charlottesville to read applications.</p>

<p>As for that tone of superiority...I guess that will always be here due to our selectivity. I also think the fact that students here have a lot more responsibility than those at other schools might make them proud of and confident in themselves, which might look like arrogance to others. </p>

<p>As for tracking contact, we do keep track of who attends sessions on grounds (if they fill out that postcard), who attends evening programs and who visits us when we do high school visits. We also keep any letters or emails that come in from a student and add them to their files.</p>

<p>Now, let me revisit the turndown survey and ask a question of the students: What do schools do to make you feel wanted? Examples (including school names) would be very helpful. We have our own list of things we want to do, but I'm wondering what has gotten your attention.</p>

<p>they send you t-shirts, course guides, letters, financial aid information. uva was my first choice, and i eventually got waitlisted (OOS). now i expressed tremendous interest to uva. emails, extra essays, letters, dvds on music, recommendations, the whole lot. im indian, so no minority status for me. at uva, you have a SIGNIFICANT advantage if your african american or hispanic. i might transfer to uva after 1 year of college so we'll see. and yea, to the OP, UVA gets the best of the best applications, so they dont really need to market as much i guess. kids in VA know uva's potential.</p>

<p>UVA knows they don't need to market, in my opinion. They are going to get many thousands of applicants who are all very strong, and so they don't really have any incentive to market themselves.</p>

<p>We live in Virginia, and my son could probably get into UVA or W&M, but is not being courted by either. On the other hand U of South Carolina has actively recruited my son for its Honors College. They even as much as admitted that they don't have the reputation, so they try harder. The admissions recruitment officer at USC set up several appointments for my son when we visited: math dept head, French dept head, HC dean, etc. The recruiter also told my son he would more than likely get a $4,000 per year scholarship, and along with that scholarship, automatic in-state tuition rates. The HC kids at South Carolina have stats very comparable to UVA and W&M, so my S will probably end up there, since it will be less expensive than staying in-state.</p>

<p>Yeah, I know several people who followed something like that who are down in SC right now rather than UVA.</p>

UVA knows they don't need to market, in my opinion.

I think we know that we would still get plenty of applications if we didn't do any marketing. However, we have a number of goals that don't allow us to sit back and wait for the applications to come in.</p>

<p>I wish we had a slew of merit money because I suspect that money is what makes many students feel "wanted" (the USC story is a good example).</p>

<p>UVa needs to start giving out merit money - and not just those alumni funded jefferson scholarships.</p>

<p>For example, look at UVA and WashU. Now, while I think UVa offers just as good a education as the "higher ranked" washu, notice how washu gets more applications per slot, has higher incoming SAT scores, admits a way lower %, and is ranked about 10 spots higher than UVa. Washu gives out TONS of merit money (i think about 1/4 of washu student body receives some sort of merit aid). Now of course washu also sends tons of mailings, which i'm not suggesting UVa does, however if UVa would offer merit money, it would draw away people who pick say a Cornell or a Penn over UVa - and it would entice more people to apply who otherwise wouldn't think about it.</p>

<p>I just somehow find it hard to believe that a school with a $2 billion operating budget can't find around $5 million to put towards merit scholarships - yet can throw money at athletes to play on crappy basketball and football teams.</p>

<p>UVa's advantage is that it does cost less than comparable privates - so it wouldn't have to give out as big awards as privates to keep the prices comparable (UVa could give out a $5000 scholarship, and still cost the same as a say Hopkins which would have to give you a $12000 to cost the same). They should capatilize on this - not just hope that the initial cheaper pricetag is enough.</p>

<p>I agree, Dean J. I wish our state would fund our universities better. Just think of how much better they could be (and they are already among the best state schools in the country). I have wondered how the South Carolina legislature can allow OOS students to get in-state tuition rates. That would never happen in Virginia, I don't think.</p>

<p>Dean J, I also thought I'd give you a little more details on how USC went about this particular marketing campaign:</p>

<p>The school sent a mailing to our area inviting juniors to an information session on the Honors College, and the merit aid available at USC. I think they got the mailing list from the College Board based on high PSAT scores. When we heard about the money, the USC HC's very high academic standards, and the fact that the HC would also let my son design his own major, our interest was heightened enough that we scheduled a visit.</p>

<p>The recruiter personally set up several visits with faculty, and contacted us by email several times over the summer to see how things were going. When we arrived, he took us on a personal tour of campus himself. He also told us to notify him when we mailed the HC application, because he wanted to get it and personally walk it through the system himself. My S and I both fell in love with the campus, and all the staff we met with were so friendly and accessible. Like I said in my previous post, it's almost like they know that they are not near the top of the list of colleges for many OOS high achieving students, so they really try hard to sell themselves.</p>

<p>I also just came up with a thought. Now I know this would never happen, but I wonder what the consequences would be of just raising tuition across the board, and then offering financial aid and scholarships to lower it back down. While in theory it would cost the same to come, there might be some sort of psychological effect of receiving a merit scholarship that would entice one to come.</p>

<p>I'd get rid of need-based aid and replace it entirely with merit. Need-based aid discourages savings.</p>

<p>It would be hard for UVA to give merit aid since all the students are so academically deserving of it, whereas USC needs to do it to attract the higher level kids.</p>

<p>I do think UVA could do a better job in the Hampton Roads area in recruiting, both academically and athletically. VT had 32 from my older son's HS class, UVA only 7 (my older S among them). And I don't think it was necessarily because VT is easier to get into. Most kids were scared to even apply to UVA because they felt like they had no chance to get in. I really don't know whether UVA's in-state stats are that incredibly high (particularly for boys). Dean J would have to address that, but there is so much hyperbole. For example: "A friend of my mom's aunt said she knows someone in-state who had a 1500 SAT, a 4.0 and was the captain of the Soccer team...and they didn't get accepted at UVA."</p>

I also just came up with a thought. Now I know this would never happen, but I wonder what the consequences would be of just raising tuition across the board, and then offering financial aid and scholarships to lower it back down. While in theory it would cost the same to come, there might be some sort of psychological effect of receiving a merit scholarship that would entice one to come.

I sat on a panel once with a Dean from a small, private school with a hefty price tag. After she quoted the price (and heard the collective gasp), she followed up with the percentage of students on aid, which sounded very high to me. Interesting strategy, but I can't see the state gov't going for it.
"A friend of my mom's aunt said she knows someone in-state who had a 1500 SAT, a 4.0 and was the captain of the Soccer team...and they didn't get accepted at UVA."

The rumors I hear on the road shock me every year. No matter how many times we talk about the lack of regional quotas and cut offs, people still try to tell friends/colleagues/strangers on the street that we have them. Who are these people?!? I want to find one and say "shame on you" for scaring kids! :) </p>

<p>Last year, a colleague and I each spent a week in Hampton, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake, etc. We had great crowds at our visits, but maybe those rumors scare people away. </p>

<p>I'm not quite sure where the idea that stats differ by gender came from. Our male:female ratio lines up almost exactly with the country's college student population, so we're not overly concerned with that stat.</p>

<p>DeanJ, UVA does have a problem competing on the money front in many cases but that doesn't tell the whole story, especially with another state school with budget problems like USC. My oldest had UVA as her No.1 choice since an unplanned visit in 8th grade. We were driving by, she said stop, I want to go to school there. We spent the night and did the tour the next day. Car carried UVA stickers through April of graduation year. We followed the academic and sports news from UVA. We are out of state but visitied two more times including the summer before senior year. She had contact with staff and professors at UVA prior to admissions. Being out of state, we talked about how hard it would be to get in and the additional financial burden an OOS would create. Still she wanted to try.</p>

<p>Well, she did get in but not admitted to Echols which was important to her. However, when she looked at the higher ranked and similarly ranked schools she was accepted to with "honors" privileges (even if there was no honors program) with a lower cost of attendance after good scholarships, UVA fell from No. 1 to No. 5 or 6. In the end, however, I think the thing that contributed most to her decision to drop UVA so low in her choices was the admissions office and tour guides enthusiasm for UVA but not for the people who were interested in attending there. Tours and contacts with admission were all about how great UVA is but little about the prospective students being part of what makes UVA great. People in admissions were polite and even on occassion somewhat friendly but rarely welcoming. They acted like they were extending a privilege to even deign to talk with you. The southern aristocratic arrogance and politeness was evident but the warm southern welcoming was not. UVA basically sent a congratulations you are in and oh yeah by the way here is the need based money we can offer you. Come or don't come, we don't care. The other schools actually made contact with her and made her feel more like they wanted her to attend. She cried turning some of those down but never gave a second thought to UVA. </p>

<p>This summer, my other child and I visited University of South Carolina. From the guard at the entrance who gave us directions and told us where to park, to the two clerks at the front desk, to the super enthusiastic admissions counselor, everyone acted like they were delighted to see us there. They exuded warmth, friendliness, a helpful attitude and a genuine desire to answer our questions and those of the other attendees. This was all before they knew anything about the students IS/OOS status, SAT/GPA, Honors potential, etc. They gave honest answers and didn't pretend everyone was going to get in but they did act like they were genunially pleased to have the oppurtunity to introduce more people to their school. Needless to say, this kid, with stats equal to sister, wouldn't even consent to visit UVA for a tour. </p>

<p>As an aside, the one area of UVA that did a really good job of acting like answering our questions really was part of their job and making our daughter feel like it was worth our money and her effort to apply was the Office of Diversity and the URM tour guides (no we are not URM but that didn't seem to matter to them). </p>

<p>The sad part of all this is that my daughter is exactly the kind of OOS that benefits the taxpayers of another state. She loved Virginia, will probably never return to her home state and will ultimately become a fine upstanding taxpaying citizen of the state where she chose to go to school. If UVA hopes to add to their ethnic/socioeconomic/geographic diversity (not even other states but NoVa versus southern Va and slightly more rural areas), getting plenty of applications from top ranking students isn't going to be enough. To fulfill a mission of being a great university for a wide crossection of people, they are going to have to do a better job of making the University feel accessible and making those people feel welcome from their first contact.</p>

<p>My daughter will be appplying to several schools including UVA (OOS). I think Tarhunt makes many good points and I found his post quite thoughtful. Interstingly Dean J's response makes his/her (Tarhunt's) point. This is not to be critical, as I have said before that Dean J's presence here adds greatly to the forum. I understand the small staff at a large state institution is a limitation. However the tone of superiority does come across, although it is subtle. The comment of the tone of superiority is due to their selectivity: all the schools we are looking are very selective-that comment exudes a tone of superiority in itself. The additional comment of the "fact" that students have a lot more responsibility than at other schools also smacks of a subtle superiority. Why would one (a prospective applicant) assume that they would have less responsibility at Williams, Georgetown, Wash U or Duke than they would have at UVA? They certainly may note the suggestion that people at UVA think less of the other institutions. Please note that I don't think these comments are offensive, but they do give some insight as to a culture of superiority that could probably be fairly easily changed if people were introspective enough to notice it. (Or if someone-Tarhunt-points it out to them.) I agree with Tarhunt.</p>

<p>From my perspective-I am used to the sublte superiority attitude as it is not hard to find and could also be interpreted as confidence rather than superiority. The difference is subtle.</p>

<p>My only suggestion to UVA's marketing is not unique to UVA. My dtr is hispanic, OOS and very artistic (painting), but I cannot seem to get anyone to tell me the statistics about those three attributes as to whether this increases her chances of admission a little, a lot or none at all. UVA is not alone in that regard.</p>

<p>Sorry for the long post. I hope it is helpful.</p>

<p>Instead of basing your decision on where to enroll on THE CONGENIALITY OF THE TOUR GUIDE, you should have talked to real UVA students. Ask them, "is this a school of arrogant jerks?" I asked that question before I enrolled here. A dozen people told me no. They were right -- the people here are a great lot.</p>

<p>I still think all the parents on this forum have major issues. I'd be willing to wager a hefty amount of money that these are the same insecure parents that have a "University of XXX" sticker on the back of their SUV to show off what college their children went to. Was all that money spent paying for SAT prep courses and time spent screaming at your kid to study worth it? In the long run they'll fail anyway because they didn't gain any independence.</p>