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The Ultimate Guide to Applying to University of Virginia

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The Ultimate Guide to Applying to UVA


The University of Virginia, originally founded in 1819, is a large public research university with deep historical roots. Nicknamed “Mr. Jefferson’s University,” the university continues to pay tribute to its founding father, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s legacy is visible everywhere, from the layout of the campus buildings to the close relationships the university fosters between students and faculty.


This venerable institution, which will soon celebrate its 200th birthday, also offers a highly competitive and well-regarded undergraduate education that’s in tune with the modern era; for example, the popular website Reddit was introduced by two UVA alums. If you’re a resident of Virginia, UVA even sweetens the deal with greatly reduced in-state tuition.


Interested in UVA? Read on to learn more about this exceptional public university, the opportunities it offers its students, and how to navigate its application procedures.


Introducing UVA


The University of Virginia is the flagship university of Virginia’s state college system and is generally considered a public university, though its law and business schools are now private institutions. One of the university’s greatest claims to fame is its strong ties to key figures in the history of the United States. Former U.S. President and writer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson not only founded the university, but also had a hand in designing its curriculum. Two other former U.S. Presidents, James Madison and James Monroe, were also involved with the governance of the university in its early years.


Academically, the popular U.S. News and World Report rankings place UVA at number 24 in the National Universities category, and in a tie for number 2 among public schools in the U.S. UVA is frequently referred to as one of the “Public Ivies” for the high regard in which it’s held among public universities in the United States, similar to the Ivy League among private universities.


UVA’s 1,682-acre campus, located in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, is frequently referred to as “The Grounds.” It’s been widely praised for its design and architecture, and in 1987, was even named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the way it illustrates Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the school. In total, 23,883 students called that campus home during the 2015-2016 school year, 16,673 of whom were undergraduates. Sixty-eight percent of UVA students come from Virginia, and 32% come from elsewhere in the country or in the world.


Students at UVA are enrolled across a total of eleven different schools, seven of which offer programs for undergraduates. There are 121 different choices of majors available for undergraduates, the most popular of which are economics, business, biological sciences, international affairs, and psychology.


Given UVA’s age and historical significance, it’s no surprise that many beloved traditions have developed on campus. One such tradition is that professors at UVA are generally referred to with the less formal titles of “Mr.” or “Ms.” instead of “Dr.” because of Thomas Jefferson’s original desire for intellectual equality. The university is committed to a community model that is less stratified than at many colleges and encourages students and faculty to mix and interact outside the classroom.


Another well-known UVA tradition is the Honor System. Entering students sign a pledge not to lie, cheat, or steal both in their academic and personal activities, and alleged violators are judged by a system entirely composed of other students. According to the “single sanction” policy in place, a student convicted of an Honor System violation is expelled from the university, or if they have already graduated, has their degree revoked.


While some applicants are surprised by the strictness of this system, the Honor System is a “cherished institution” at UVA in which the community takes great pride, and various attempts over the years to remove the system have not met with support from students. In 2013, however, the student body voted to soften the rules slightly, allowing students who officially admit their wrongdoing and make amends to take a one-year leave of absence instead of leaving the university entirely.


Students at UVA enjoy a wide range of activities. The university has a total of 25 athletic programs, 12 for men and 13 for women, as well as a host of recreational athletic facilities that are especially popular with students. Almost a thousand student groups and organizations are officially recognized on campus, covering nearly every conceivable interest and affinity. If you’d like to give back to the community, you can join the other UVA students who put in a total of over 100,000 hours of service each year.


UVA Admissions Information


UVA received a total of 32,426 applications for the class of 2020, of which 9,358 applicants were accepted, making the overall acceptance rate 28.9%. Since UVA is a state school, in-state applicants have a higher acceptance rate of 41.3%, while out-of-state applicants have a lower acceptance rate of 23.7%. Enrollment data for the 2016-2017 school year hasn’t been released yet, but for the 2015-2016 school year, 3,674 students enrolled as first-years.


When you apply to UVA, your application will be reviewed on the basis of a number of important factors. First of all, UVA wants to see that you have a strong academic background, with evidence that you’ve taken the most challenging and highest-level courses available at your particular school. Your recommendations and test scores also play a substantial role. Finally, UVA is looking for applicants who will not only take the best advantage of the resources available to them at UVA, but who will also add something special to the campus experience themselves.


All undergraduate applicants to UVA apply through the same basic process, regardless of intended school or major. While the major you indicate on your application at some other schools merely serves to indicate your area(s) of interest, at UVA, your selection is binding.


It’s often possible to change your major after you start at UVA, but changing the school in which you’re enrolled is much more complicated and is known as “transferring.” Each school has its own intra-university transfer application process. For an example, you can look at the process for transferring into the College of Arts and Sciences here.


Speaking of transferring, UVA also accepts applications from students who would like to transfer to UVA from other colleges or universities. In a typical year, UVA will accept over 500 transfer students, most of whom will enroll in the fall semester and a few of whom will enroll in the spring semester.


Paying for UVA


Since UVA is a state university, students who are residents of Virginia enjoy a significantly lower tuition than students from outside the state—$13,060 for the 2016-2017 school year at the College of Arts and Sciences, versus $41,722 for students not from Virginia. This makes the total cost of attendance for the 2016-2017 school year roughly $30,572 in-state or roughly $60,062 out-of-state. Costs vary for the different undergraduate programs at UVA; specific figures for each program are available on the UVA website.


Admission to UVA is need-blind, meaning that your ability to pay for college will not be taken into account in the process of making your admissions decision. Financial assistance available at UVA is primarily need-based, and UVA guarantees to meet 100% of each domestic student’s demonstrated financial need, both for in-state students and out-of-state students. This is true for transfer students as well as first-year students. The university is one of only two public universities in the U.S. that commits to this level of need-based financial support for its students.


Need-based financial aid packages consist of grant aid, work-study employment, and/or student loans, though according to their website, “UVA is committed to limiting need-based loans for students with financial need” so that these students accumulate less debt.


In order to apply for need-based financial aid from UVA as a student from the United States, you’ll need to submit the CSS Profile and the FAFSA by March 1st. Your family’s supporting documents, such as tax returns, should also be submitted by March 1st to guarantee that you’ll receive your preliminary award letter before May 1st.


In addition to UVA’s need-based financial aid, a limited amount of merit-based aid is available in the form of scholarships. There is no separate application process for these scholarships; instead, they’re awarded based on the information that’s already present in your admission application, and all applicants to UVA are automatically considered.


Unfortunately, there is no need-based financial aid available at UVA for international students. However, international applicants may be eligible for merit-based scholarships.


The UVA Application


All applicants to UVA apply using the Common Application and are required to fill out UVA’s supplemental questions, which we’ll go over in detail below. Applicants have a choice between two admissions timelines: the Early Action (EA) timeline and the Regular Decision (RD) timeline.


The EA application timeline allows you to submit your application to UVA and receive your admissions decision according to an earlier set of dates. Unlike Early Decision (ED) programs, the EA program is nonbinding, meaning that if you’re accepted EA, you’re not contractually obligated to attend. For more information about applying according to the EA plan, check out our CollegeVine blog post on the differences between ED and EA.


If you choose the EA timeline at UVA, your application will be due by November 1st, and you can expect to hear back about your admissions decision by the end of January. If you choose the RD timeline, your application will be due by January 1st, and you should hear back from UVA by the end of March.


While all UVA applicants use the same application, when you fill out your application, you’ll be asked to specify the school to which you’re applying, as well as for your first and second choices for intended majors. Remember, UVA takes your response to this section seriously; while you’re allowed to change your major later on, transferring to a different college within UVA is a lengthy process, and acceptance is not guaranteed.



Most application requirements are the same for the different undergraduate schools at UVA, but as we’ll describe below, you’ll encounter some different questions on the application depending on which school you select.


If you intend to pursue a major within the McIntire School of Commerce, the Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, or the School of Education (excluding Kinesiology), you’ll initially apply to the College of Arts and Sciences, and will apply to your chosen school after you enroll at UVA.


If you’re applying as a fall transfer, your application will be due by March 1st. Spring transfer applications are due by October 1st, but potential transfer applicants should be aware that not all of the undergraduate programs accept spring transfers. For more information about transfer applications to UVA, check out the school’s transfer admissions website.


Common Application Supplemental Questions


The Common Application is a online application system that allows you to enter all your basic information only once and send that information to any of the almost 700 schools that participate. For a primer on the Common App, check out CollegeVine User’s Guide to the Common App, as well as our posts focusing on questions about your demographics, citizenship, academics, activities, awards, and more.


Once you’ve filled out the main body of the Common App, you’ll need to answer the school-specific questions within UVA’s Common App supplement. To access these questions, first add UVA to your My Colleges list within your Common App account. Once you’ve done this, navigate to your My Colleges page and click on UVA. You’ll see the following:




On the left, under the UVA tab and the heading that says Application, click on the word Questions. You’ll see the following:




The questions you’ll need to answer fall into six sections: General, Academics, Contacts, Family, Residency, and Honor Affirmation. Click on the section headers to access the questions in each section, or click Continue to move on to the next section.


For the General section, you’ll answer the following questions:




  • Preferred start term: Select Fall 2017 from the drop-down menu.
  • Preferred admission plan: Select Early Action or Regular Decision from the drop-down menu.
  • Do you intend to pursue need-based financial aid?: Select Yes or No.
  • Students who exhibit truly exceptional talent in architecture, art, drama, dance or music and who wish to contribute to the arts community at U.Va. may submit a portfolio. All supplements that are received on time and adhere to the guidelines will be reviewed by our arts or architecture faculty and considered as part of the admission process. Do you wish to submit a portfolio?: The key term here is “truly exceptional talent.” As we discuss in our CollegeVine blog post about whether you should submit an arts supplement, doing so isn’t the right choice for everyone. If you believe a portfolio will enhance your application, select Yes from the drop-down menu; if not, select No. If you select Yes, a “Portfolio” option will appear for you on the left-hand side in the UVA tab, and you’ll use that option to submit your portfolio for consideration.
  • Are you a QuestBridge finalist?: Select Yes if you’ve already applied to the QuestBridge National College Match Program and been named a Finalist; otherwise, select No.


For the Academics section, you’ll answer the following questions:




  • To what school or program are you applying?: Select the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School or Architecture, the School of Nursing, or the Kinesiology Program (which falls within the Curry School of Education) from the drop-down menu. The UVA website states, “If you are interested in the McIntire School of Commerce, the Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, or programs in the School of Education other than Kinesiology, apply to the College of Arts and Sciences.” You’ll be able to apply to these specific programs later in your time at UVA. Since your intended program is taken into account when making admissions decisions, you’ll need to thoroughly research your options before you answer this question.
  • Indicate an area of academic interest: Choose your area of academic interest from the drop-down menu. The options you see will vary depending upon how you answered the previous question.
  • Indicate a second area of academic interest: Choose another area of academic interest from the drop-down menu. Again, the options you see will vary. Note that your second area of academic interest must be within the same school at UVA as your first.
  • We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer this question, which corresponds to the school/program you selected above, in a half page or roughly 250 words.: The specific prompt you see here will depend upon which school or program you’re applying to. Check out our CollegeVine blog post on How to Write the University of Virginia Application Essays 2016-2017 for a detailed breakdown of the different prompts and how to respond to them.
  • Required of ALL applicants, regardless of school or program. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words (Please select the prompt you are responding to): In the drop-down menu, you’ll find the following prompts:


    • What’s your favorite word and why?
    • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
    • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
    • U.Va. students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?


Select the prompt you’re using from the list, then enter your essay. Again, for a detailed breakdown, see our CollegeVine blog post that covers all the options.


For the Contacts section, you’ll answer the following questions:




  • Have you previously applied to University of Virginia?: Select Yes or No. If you select Yes, you’ll be prompted to provide the month and year you previously applied to UVA.
  • If you wish to be contacted via mobile phone, please provide your phone number. Contact methods may include phone calls generated from an automated telephone dialing system or text messaging: If you’re comfortable providing UVA with your phone number and you wish to be contacted this way, you’re welcome to provide your phone number here. Answering this question is not required.


For the Family section, you’ll answer the following questions:




  • Are any siblings also applying for undergraduate admission to University of Virginia this year?: Select yes if you have one or more siblings who are applying to UVA this year; otherwise, select no. If you select yes, you’ll be prompted to provide their names and relationships to you.
  • Have any relatives ever attended University of Virginia?: Select yes if you have any relatives who have attended UVA; otherwise, select no. If you answer yes for this question, you’ll be prompted to enter additional information.
  • Have any relatives ever worked for the University of Virginia?: Select yes if you have any relatives who have been employed by UVA; otherwise, select no. If you answer yes, you will be prompted to enter additional information.


For the Residency section, you’ll first answer the following question:




  • Do you believe you may qualify for in-state tuition?: Select Yes if you think you may qualify as a Virginia resident for in-state tuition at UVA, or No if you know you don’t qualify.


If you answer No to this question, you’re done with this section. If you answer Yes, you’ll need to answer some additional questions:




  • Do you have a driver’s license or state identification card?
  • Are you employed?
  • Did you file a state tax return last year?
  • Will you file a state tax return this year?
  • Do you own a car?
  • Do you own real estate?
  • Are you registered to vote?


This section may look a little overwhelming, but just start at the top and select Yes or No to each question with which you’re presented. Depending on how you answer each question, additional questions or fields to fill out may appear. Remember to answer these questions as they pertain to you individually, not to your parent or guardian.


Depending on your answers in this section, you may find that another entire section of questions has appeared for you labeled Parent/Legal Guardian Residency. Again, in that section, you’ll just start from the top and answer each question as it’s presented. The first question will ask you to select Parent 1, Parent 2, or Guardian as the person about whom you’ll fill out this section; you can look back at the Family section of the Common App to remind yourself of which family member you’ve designated for which title.


Basically, what’s happening here is that the Common App is walking you through the process of determining your eligibility for in-state tuition at UVA. Clearly, if you’re claiming in-state tuition eligibility, filling out these sections will involve some research and a lot of data entry. Make sure you set aside enough time to complete this section, and ask your parent or guardian for the documents you’ll need in advance.


Finally, for the Honor Affirmation section, you’ll respond to the following prompt:




  • I have read the explanation of the Honor System. I understand that as a student at the University of Virginia, I will be participating in this system. I agree to support and abide by the Honor System, which prohibits lying, cheating, and stealing. I understand and accept that the Honor System is administered entirely by student representatives, including investigations, adjudications, and appeal review, and that violations may result in permanent expulsion and revocation of any University degree.: As we mentioned earlier in this post, the UVA Honor System is a big part of life on campus and is taken quite seriously, even to the point of dismissal from the university upon conviction. Make sure that you read the linked explanation of the Honor System and understand what you’re agreeing to uphold. Once you’ve done so, select Yes in order to continue with your application.


Additional UVA Application Requirements


Along with the Common App with UVA-specific questions, all applicants to UVA must submit the following:



Students who are applying for “in-state privileges,” including reduced tuition, may need to submit additional supporting documents. You’ll be directly contacted if the school needs to request more documentation from you.


Visiting UVA


Interviews, either on- or off-campus, are not part of the admissions process at UVA. However, the university welcomes potential applicants to visit the campus, where you may be able to speak to admissions staff and participate in other activities that will let you get to know UVA on a more personal level.


If you’re able to visit UVA, you can attend information sessions led by deans in the Office of Admissions, as well as tours, either of the university as a whole or of specific schools or departments. Other options include attending class sessions or even staying in a UVA dorm overnight. To learn more about your visiting options and to register for your visit, visit the UVA admissions website.


If you’re not able to visit UVA’s campus, you may be able to attend one of the informational programs that UVA holds in cities throughout the country during the fall admissions season. These programs include presentations about UVA as well as time for you to ask questions. For a list of this year’s programs and to register to attend a program, take a look at this page on the UVA admissions website.


Hearing Back from UVA


If you apply to UVA through the EA timeline, you’ll be informed of your admissions decision by the end of January. At this point, you may either be accepted, rejected, or deferred. Since UVA’s EA program is non-binding, you are not contractually obligated to attend UVA if you’re accepted in this round. You’ll have until May 1st to compare offers, make your decision, and inform UVA of whether you’re going to attend.


If you’re rejected by UVA in the EA round, your application will not be reconsidered within the same application cycle, though you may be able to apply again as a transfer after completing at least a year of college somewhere else. If you’re deferred, however, your application will be reconsidered with the pool of RD applicants. We’ll go over more about what deferral means for you later in this post.


RD applicants, as well as deferred EA applicants, will receive their admissions decisions by the end of March. If you’re accepted, you’ll have until May 1st to make a decision. If you’re rejected at this point, unfortunately, you’ll need to move on to one of your other college choices.


However, you may also be waitlisted when RD decisions are released, which means that your application may be reconsidered if space becomes available. Again, we’ll go over more about what this means for you below.


All students who are accepted to UVA, whether through the EA process or through the RD process, will need to inform UVA by May 1st regarding whether you’ll be attending in the fall. You’ll also need to submit a $400 deposit to secure your place in the matriculating class.


Deferral and the Waitlist


As we mentioned above, some EA applicants to UVA will be deferred. Deferred applicants are neither accepted nor rejected in January, but instead will have their applications reconsidered with the RD applicant pool later in the spring, and will receive their final admissions decisions by the end of March.


If you’re deferred, there are things you can do to bolster your application. UVA’s admissions office will want to continue hearing about how you’re doing in school, so you should send them information about your grades and any additional test scores you’ve accumulated, especially if they improve your application.


However, UVA specifically requests that you do not send any other supplementary information to update your application, including additional recommendations. The admissions office also cautions students that visiting UVA after being deferred will not improve your chances of acceptance, as interest in the school is not one of the metrics by which applications are judged.


When RD decisions are released, you may find that you’ve been placed on UVA’s waitlist. Applicants on the waitlist may be considered for the first-year class if spaces open up after the May 1st response deadline, and will be informed of their status between mid-May and the end of June.


If you are placed on the waitlist and choose to stay on the waitlist, you’ll need to be realistic about your chances of admission. In 2016, UVA placed 4,547 applicants on the waitlist, of whom 2,081 elected to remain on the waitlist. 402 of these waitlisted students were admitted to UVA. However, the number of students who are admitted off the waitlist varies from year to year; in 2014, for example, only 42 applicants were admitted off the waitlist.


If you do choose to remain on the waitlist, you should also go forward with plans to attend another college. Still, it doesn’t hurt to make sure that your waitlisted application to UVA is the best it can be. If you have won any new awards or honors since you initially applied to UVA, you can email the admissions office to have that information added to your file. Your school should also submit your Final Report to update your file with your most recent grades. However, UVA asks that you do not personally contact its admissions officers.


Does “Mr. Jefferson’s University” seem like a good fit for your next four years? Check out UVA’s website for more information about the university’s academic strengths, life on campus, and more. Remember, you’ll need to specifically apply to one of the undergraduate colleges, so you’ll have some research to do before you fill out your application.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Monikah Schuschu
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.