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Advice From the Experts

From getting in to getting a job, tips and services for life’s big moments

College Admissions: Demystifying Early Action

Lee Morgan Politis, UVA associate dean of admission, offers advice for students and parents as they begin the college application process this fall.

Q: What is early action?

Early action is a nonbinding admission plan, with an application deadline of Nov. 1. We aim to release decisions by the end of January. Students admitted under early action have until May 1 to decide to attend UVA or not.

Q: Does early action increase your chances of getting in?

An early-action applicant will never hurt his or her chances of being admitted. When we’re initially evaluating early action, in a questionable case, we may be more conservative, so we might defer. The nice thing about an early applicant is if that person is deferred, they have an additional evaluation with the regular applicant pool.

Q: You can get denied rather than deferred, if you apply early action, correct?

You can get denied, but that’s only if we feel certain that that person ultimately would have been denied. So, what’s the advantage? You hear back from us early, early action is nonbinding, and if you’re deferred, you get another evaluation. When we’re done, we go back to check to make sure we were ultimately consistent.

Q: What does that mean exactly?

It means that we didn’t waitlist [during the regular-admission process] an early applicant who looks very, very similar to someone who was admitted through regular admission. Early applicants have nothing to lose. And here’s something that’s really nice: Many high schools appreciate getting their part of the paperwork done early so they have then less to do in what tends to be a big crunch time (around Jan. 1).

Q: Do you have different advice for in-state versus out-of-state applicants?

I have the same advice for any student, whether it’s UVA or any other school. If you attend to everything in the application, meaning you really seek recommendations from people who know you well and have important things to say about you, you ponder important ideas and express them in your authentic voice in your essays, and then, most importantly, if you choose challenging and inspiring classes and are fully engaged in the classroom, you will increase your chance of admission, and maybe a scholars program.

Q: Any final advice?

Even if all of the schools you apply to use the Common Application, they will still use it differently—they will have different supplements, different deadlines, different requirements and approaches, so you will want to do your research and see what each school requires.

For more admission advice, visit the Admission Liaison Program at

Acing the Interview

Emily Bardeen (Grad ’90), director of Alumni Career Services, provides advice on handling important job interviews.

Q: What tough questions should interviewees prepare for?

Probably the scariest question is the one that interviewers think is an ice breaker: “Tell me about yourself,” which really means, “Tell me why I should hire you.” Truly, every question is asking, “Why should I hire you?” so every answer should include a silent parenthetic dependent clause at the end: “so that’s why you should hire me.” But you never say that out loud!

Most questions employers ask people today are called behavioral questions. They want to know how you’ve behaved previously, so they might say, “Tell about your biggest failure.” Now, do they really want to know why failed? No. They really want to know what you learned from it.

Q: What are your top tips for preparing for an interview?

Prepare for your interview by knowing your resumé, but also by knowing about the company. Read more than the job description. Look up the company on the Web, read about their latest news, understand what they do, so when they ask you, “What do you know about our company?” you can say, “Well, I’ve done a little looking, and this is what I understand.” You’ll stand out from 80 percent of the other applicants, simply by knowing what they do.

Q: What’s one way Alumni Career Services helps alumni prepare for job interviews?

We have product for alumni called Interview Stream through HoosOnline. It’s like a Skype interview—a prerecorded interviewer will ask you questions and you answer them. You can watch the video of yourself afterward and see what you look like when you interview. It feels really scary, but research shows that simply by watching yourself, you can improve your responses dramatically. There’s a capability to count the number of times you say “um,” “you know” and “like.” Once you’ve done that once, you will never say them again.

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