"Beyond our in-state to out-of-state ratio (2/3 of our students are Virginia residents), there are no restrictions, targets, or quotas regarding how many students we may take from a high school, town, county, or region."
I say this sentence during every information session, evening program, and high school visit. I've been at UVA for 11 years, so you can imagine how many times those words have come out of my mouth!
Rumors of regional quotas are pretty prevalent in my territory in Northern Virginia. My students in Fairfax, Arlington, and the continuous cities (cities are separate from counties in Virginia) are convinced that we have to balance out the class between the 95 counties and 38 independent cities in Virginia and that means it's easier to be admitted from the counties with smaller populations. Let's look at some of the most common things I hear and some data...
1. Only __ people are admitted from my high school each year.
Many conversations I see about admission quotas cite enrolled student numbers that have been confused with admission numbers. This is probably because many schools publish lists of college destinations for the graduating class and people count up the number of times a certain school is listed. What's missing is a discussion of yield. Yield is the percentage of admitted students who decide to matriculate at a school.
At UVA, we break down our admission and yield stats by residency. About 60% of the Virginians who get offers of admission wind up enrolling at UVA. When you see a certain number of seniors headed to Charlottesville, remember that there were probably some more who were offered the option, but turned it down to attend another school.
2. The students from my area are more qualified than students from other places.
The notion of "qualified" applicants is a little bit funny to me. Students have access to so much admission information between their counselors, data that we put out, and data that high schools collect that most of the people apply because they know they are qualified.
In a selective admission process, academically qualified students get denied because the vast majority of the applicant pool is qualified. Those students aren't denied to make room for students who can't do the work. The applicant pool is full of people who are prepared and ready for UVA.
3. UVA doesn't like my school because last year's seniors didn't attend in high numbers.
This is a relatively new rumor and I hear it in different iterations. One student told me that someone said that her brother turning down his offer from UVA and attending another school a few years ago was going to be held against her.
We don't hold grudges. Students say no to us every year. That's how this process works. Our feelings aren't hurt.
Okay, now let's look at some maps!
UVA Magazine published an awesome article about the Class of 2020 that includes a lot of admission data. My favorite part is the map area, where you can hover over a county (or state or country) and see how many students in the first-year class are from a particular area. If you hold the shift key and click on multiple areas, you can get a summary.
Above, we saw that 3,720 students are in the Class of 2020. If I add up the counties/cities in Northern Virginia, I can see that 1,130 students are from the area. So, four counties and four cities are pretty well-represented in the class. So 2,590 students are from the other 91 counties and 34 cities that make up the Commonwealth.
Side note: Back in the day, I'd set aside a day or two for Loudoun County visits. These days, one of my colleagues covers Loudoun while I cover Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria. The number of Loudoun high schools has increased as the area has been developed!
You can see how the numbers increased in our student body on the map:
Keep in mind that when you see charts with admission data on them, you are seeing the results of an elaborate review process plotted using just a couple variables. Things like scattergrams don't tell you how we make decisions.
As always, I'm happy to chat with you via the comments!