Friday, August 31, 2012

A note on essays

By Kelly M. Rawlings, Associate Director, Undergraduate Admissions, Virginia Tech

Kelly M. Rawlings, Associate Director,
Undergraduate Admissions, Virginia Tech
A note on essays:

…or, as we here in the Admissions office at Virginia Tech call them, "personal statements." Folks often wonder if a personal statement is the same thing as an essay. Not really. Or at least I hope not. 
I've read a lot of essays in my life. I used to teach AP English Literature in what feels like a former life. (Truth be told it was only 12 years ago.) As many of you are currently experiencing, AP English Literature tends to be writing intensive. And if you think it's difficult to write all of those essays, just think of your teacher who is lucky enough to actually grade and critique not just yours but those of all your classmates. Yeah, while you're hanging out with friends on a Friday night, he/she is probably at home with a red/green/insert-color-of-choice Sharpie in hand slaving away at trying to provide you with constructive criticism that will help you become a better writer. And this is important.  
Regardless of your future profession, I guarantee that you will need to possess a decent command of the English language and the ability to communicate effectively to advance in your career. So don't ever underestimate the importance of doing well in English. However, these are NOT the types of essays I hope to read on your college application. Been there, done that. 
What we want from you are not essays. We want personal statements. We don't have the luxury of personally interviewing our applicants. After all, we will receive about 21,000 freshman applications and there are only 12 of us who review them all. So these personal statements are your only chance to share your personality with us.  
My biggest and best tip: use your voice; your own, genuine, unique voice. Address the writing prompts as if you were sitting down and chatting with me over a cup of tea, or coffee, or Red Bull (except I don't drink that).  I'm a real person, really. I go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart (but only because we don’t have a Trader Joe's in Blacksburg), am addicted to Starbucks, admittedly can't wait for the season premiers of "Modern Family" and "Parenthood," tuck my boys into bed each night after reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See" more times than I'd like to admit, and will be one of the 66,000 fans jumping up and down to "Enter Sandman" as the Hokies enter  Lane Stadium for the opening game on Monday night. So please "talk" to me like I'm a real person. And in addition to using your own voice, make an attempt to employ these tips:
  • Don't introduce yourself in your essay. I'm holding your application that has, believe it or not, your name, high school, list of extra-curricular activities, etc. No need to review what I already know. 

  • Note the word limit.  There's a reason we prefer personal statements of 250 words or less. Reference above the size of the applicant pool. And each should answer at least one essay.  Many will choose to respond to the maximum of three. So let's say on average we get two from each applicant. That's 42,000 personal statements. That's a lot of reading; almost as much as your AP English teacher. So we appreciate brevity, clarity, individuality, and poignancy. And entertainment, but that brings me to my next point…

  • This is not the time or place to try to be funny if you're not naturally a funny person.  Enough said.

  • Similarly, this is not the place in which to demonstrate your extraordinarily colossal lexicon undeniably facilitated by the overemployment of the thesaurus option on your computer. Translation: don't use a thesaurus. Remember: we want your voice.

  • Lastly, proofread. This should go without saying. But every year I am reminded how apparently trivial this step is for many applicants. I'm often regaled with stories of how you "can't wait to walk the Lawn following in Jefferson's footsteps" or how you were "born to wear purple and gold."  Copying and pasting from another application is frowned upon. Really, that's just in poor taste. And it doesn't stop there. Please remember that THIS IS YOUR APPLICATION TO COLLEGE! Capital letters, spellcheck, the avoidance of acronyms, and punctuation are all, in fact, still greatly appreciated. 

  • In all seriousness, we do look forward to your personal statements. It is the highlight of my day when I come across a personal statement that makes me laugh out loud, shed a tear, or run down the office hall sharing that, "I just read the best personal statement. Listen to this!"  (And yes, we do that.) Personal statements are what make application review bearable; even enjoyable I daresay. So please, help me help you. Give some thoughtful reflection to your personal statements and make them just that, reflections of who you are as a person.

Application Dates & Deadlines
  • Early Decision Deadline: November 1
  • Early Decision Notification: December 15
  • Regular Decision Deadline: January 15
  • Regular Decision Notification: April 1
  • Deadline: February 15
  • Notification: June 1

Friday, March 16, 2012

Consider visiting us this spring

Spring has arrived in Blacksburg, Va. Hokies are eagerly finishing their spring semester. This time of year, you often see a lot of activity on campus, be it Hokies feeding ducks at the Duck Pond; biking, walking or jogging the Huckleberry Trail; or enjoying the many other recreational activities on campus or in the surrounding areas. You'll almost always find some sort of activity on the Drillfield – Hokies playing sports, the Marching Virginians practicing, a special event, or people simply studying while sunbathing.

For those of you who are contemplating whether to apply to Virginia Tech in the future, we hope you will consider visiting our campus. Many choose to visit during their high school spring break. Others decide to visit during one of our fall Open House programs (October 20 and 21 and November 10 and 11). However, we accept visitors most any time of the year. If you do decide to visit, please take a minute or two to register so you can be sure to reserve a space in one of our admission information sessions as well as one of our student-led campus tours.

(Note: For those of you who have applied for the fall of 2012, you are most likely waiting to learn of your admission decision. Those who applied will learn of their decision no later than April 1 – the national notification date.)

We hope you decided to check out our campus this spring. However it's really hard to pick a bad day or time of year because Blacksburg truly is a beautiful and welcoming place throughout the seasons.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

VT offers many study abroad opportunities

By Lauren, Admissions Advisor, class of 2011

No matter where I am on the eastern coast - New Jersey, New York, or even Richmond, Va., - there is one question I hear at almost every college fair:

"Does Virginia Tech offer education abroad?"

The answer is an enthusiastic YES!

If fact, education abroad at Virginia Tech has its home in the "Outreach and International Affairs Offices" building on Prices Fork Road., right across the street from campus.

With about 80 different countries to visit, and programs ranging from one week to one year, there is a program out there for everyone.

If you are studying biology, why not consider spending some time in Valdivia, Chile, to study coastal environments? Or if you are a geography major, why not check out the land and scenery in Galway, Ireland?

Maybe even take a trip to Alexandria or Cairo, Egypt, to enhance your knowledge on architecture.

There are even programs all over the world for engineering students, such as one in the Dominican Republic!

The list goes on and on.

Most students do their study abroad junior year, but it is never too early to get started with the process. Just contact the education abroad office to schedule an appointment, at least a year before you plan on studying abroad so you can have plenty of time to prepare for your exciting and educational adventure!

When it comes to costs, make sure you know what type of program will best suit your economic needs.

For most in-state students, Bilateral Exchange is the most cost effective path, since you are paying the Virginia Tech tuition wherever you go. However, out-of-state students might want to consider VT Direct, in which students directly enroll into the host universities.

No matter which path you choose, don't forget to check out scholarships and financial aid available for your particular program.

Happy travels.

Or should I say…

Bon voyage!

Monday, October 24, 2011

New digs, new wheels: gearing up for a great fall!

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions moved to new building in the summer; a few weeks ago, we got a new bus to transport visitors to and from campus; and we have a great admissions team who has been out on the road recruiting new Hokies.

If you haven't already, come check out our new digs! Our Fall Open House is a one-day program scheduled November 12 and 13. We hope you will choose
to join us by registering online today! If Open House doesn't suit your schedule, our office is open
weekdays and many Saturdays for tours and information sessions.

It's been a great fall and we are looking forward to receiving your applications! Don't forget the important dates and deadlines.

We wish you all the best in your college search!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Student's Story: Dabney discusses undergraduate research opportunities at VT

By Dabney, a junior majoring in Psychology

Video (below):
Michael, Hokie Ambassador
Michael is a fourth year student majoring in civil engineering. In this video, Michael discusses undergraduate research.

Virginia Tech, being a innovative research university, offers many research opportunities for undergraduate students. This is an excellent aspect of the many things Virginia Tech offers. Not only does undergraduate research expose you to hands-on experience of textbook concepts, but you also gain valuable resume builders for graduate school. As a psychology major, the Center for Applied Behavior Systems (or CABS, for short) was the perfect opportunity for me to become involved in undergraduate research. CABS is incredibly unique in that it gives both graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to research under current projects and be able to create a research project yourself.

Currently, CABS has several projects running but one of particular importance for me deals with a movement on campus called "Actively Caring." The movement is an attempt to create a more compassionate culture throughout our community by encouraging people to actively care with a green wristband. Essentially, the idea is to see an act of kindness, thank the person for actively caring and pass the wristband to them. It's analogous to the idea of "paying it forward." Through the "Actively Caring" website and research conducted on campus, CABS works towards creating a more empathetic and positive world. This and other CABS projects on things such as pedestrian safety, bullying, and gossip can help create prosocial behavior and change our world dynamic. The whole reason for research is to find new ways to make the world a better place. It's amazing that Virginia Tech undergraduate research actually gives students that opportunity. Being a part of the Actively Caring movement with CABS at Virginia Tech is one of the many ways students may become engaged in the awesome undergraduate research offered.

Michael, Hokie Ambassador
Michael is a fourth year student majoring in Civil Engineering. In this video, Michael discusses undergraduate research.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Traditions at Virginia Tech

By Leigh Ann, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences
Major: English

Video (below): Joe, Hokie Ambassador, talks about Hokie Spirit.
Joe is a Hospitality & Tourism Management major in Pamplin College of Business.

With everything from jumping when Enter Sandman plays before kick-off at each football game to hearing the bells tolling from Burruss Hall every afternoon, Virginia Tech is steeped in tradition. Hokies are very proud of our long, prestigious history and we take pride is preserving the history for those who walked across our campus decades before and for those who are Hokies-to-be. There are seemingly endless traditions, some that happen every day and some that happen only once a year, but they are all an equally important part of the culture at Virginia Tech.

Take just one step on campus and the beautiful setting of landscaping and architecture gives an aura of history and tradition in the sense that all the buildings are made of Hokie Stone. The cohesion in design and the use of the unique stone make our campus truly unique and gorgeous. Although there several older buildings hidden throughout campus that are not made out of Hokie Stone, today the limestone bricks dominate the design and are used in all recent and future construction.

Students today can expect many traditions revolving around our football games. We have been recognized for our football entrance by many sportswriters. As the Virginia Tech football team prepares to run out from the tunnel before each game, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blasts over the speakers and all 66,000 fans start jumping. Hokies standing in the bleachers of the North End Zone Stands need to hold on tight; they really shake. When the Hokies score there is a string of traditions that follow, and fans need to know the routine. First, the skipper of the Corps of Cadets sets off the canon. Then Hokie fans throughout the stands are lifted above the fans around them, one rep for each point the Hokies have scored. Small-framed Hokie fans need to be prepared to get tossed into the air if they find themselves between some large, male fans! Lastly, between the third and fourth quarter of every game, the Hokie cheerleaders and High-Techs lead the stadium in the Hokie Pokey.

Football is certainly not the only aspect of our campus that is rooted in tradition. Class rings are an important part of preparing for graduation from Virginia Tech. In the spring of each year, the junior class participates in a weekend-long celebration when they receive their class rings. Each year a ring is carefully and beautifully designed. The students of the current junior class attend a formal dance and are presented their class rings at the end of March each year. The event is a symbol of both the students’ progress and success so far and a celebration of their forthcoming senior year.

Traditions will continue to be added in the future as the community continues to grow, but there are certainly already traditions that are very important to Hokies. There is so much to be proud about this university and participating in such traditions pays tribute the history of the school.

Joe, Hokie Ambassador, talks about the Hokie Spirit.
Joe is a Hospitality & Tourism Management major in Pamplin College of Business.

Related Posts:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sara's story: themed housing at Virginia Tech

By Sara, a student in the College of Science
Major: Biology

Video (below): Michelle, Admission Advisor Michelle shares her experience with The WING, themed housing for incoming freshmen.

When I got accepted to Virginia Tech, I immediately began planning activities for my freshman year, as I was now officially a Hokie. I grabbed my computer and started to explore the Virginia Tech website, researching everything from intramural sports to where the best sandwich is made on campus. I stumbled across housing and residence life and noticed a tab called “themed housing.” I had never heard anything about “themed housing” from any of the ten colleges I applied to earlier that year so I decided to check it out. Hours later, I submitted my application to become a member of the Residential Leadership Community (RLC) and the rest is history.

My first class of freshman year was my leadership class in which my professor asked us, “What is a good leader?” We debated over the many answers to this seemingly simple question for the rest of the year. Not only did the RLC expand my problem solving skills and force me to debate with my peers, it brought the learning experience outside of the classroom. Virginia Tech Relay for Life, The Big Event, The International Street Fair, and Gobblerfest were only a few of the events on campus where the RLC as a whole was an active participant. Volunteering on Saturday mornings with the YMCA of Blacksburg with 200 other RLC members was one of the most rewarding experiences of my freshman year. This community provides the university and its students with endless possibilities. I am very fortunate to have been a member of the RLC and was given the opportunity to give back to the citizens of Blacksburg, Va.

Whether you join the RLC or one of the dozen other themed housing options, it will be a great way to expand your horizons while a student at VT. From the first day of my college career, students that shared similar values and interests about leadership surrounded me. Through the RLC, I was able to become involved in other organizations on campus and make the most of my four-year experience as a Hokie. The RLC provided me with the tools I needed to become a successful leader at Virginia Tech.

Michelle, Admission Advisor
Michelle shares her experience with The WING, themed housing for incoming freshmen.

More info:

College of Science