David Graves      June 13th, 2017 in Blog

Our Admissions Office receives a number of calls each day, with questions that range from the traditional (“When does your transfer application open up this year?”) to the unconventional (“What are the tinted window laws in Athens, GA?”). Recently, one father called in to speak with one of our admissions counselors, and he asked “I am looking for a back door into UGA for my daughter. Can you help me?” Yes, that was the actual question. It was almost like he was envisioning an admissions-style Harry Potter Platform 9 and 3/4 train station wall where a few lucky people could enter while the rest remained oblivious to this secret passage.

While some people might see this situation as strange, parents and high school students are hearing from trusted sources such as their neighbors, second cousins and the friendly barista at the local coffee shop that there are back doors to get into X college. Rumors abound about applying for certain terms, playing a specific instrument, applying for a specific major, or overwhelming an admissions office with communications to let them know the college is #1 in the student’s mind. On a recent episode of the TV show American Housewife, teenage son Oliver starts taking ballet in order to have a better chance of admission to Harvard. I even know of a family who considered moving their kids to a small town in south Georgia because they are certain it will make it easier to be admitted as compared to being from Atlanta. I am sure the individuals who share these theories are well meaning and think they are being helpful, but they are, unfortunately, misguided.

Every college has their own policies and procedures about admissions, and they vary based on the institution, their mission, and what they look for in their admission review. In addition, each admissions office has to deal with the rumors that swirl around their decisions and juxtaposes these with the reality of their actual admission process. Just the simple fact that so many colleges talk about admissions urban legends should alert you to the fact that we recognize these myths and actively try to share the reality that there are no shortcuts. Here are two examples at UGA of supposed back doors about admissions as compared to reality.

  1. Summer term is easier for admission back door: When a student applies to UGA and selects their term, we have a pop-up message for anyone who selects summer indicating that decisions are no different for summer vs fall students. If a student is admitted for summer, they can contact us and ask to be changed to fall (or vice versa) and we will be happy to do it. At times a university (not UGA) might offer summer as a “trial” term for students to prove themselves, but this is a purposeful decision by the college to move the student to that term, and not a back door that students would select and sneak in.
  2. Choose a lesser known major back door: When a student applies to UGA, we need to have them select an intended major so if they enroll, they can meet with an advisor, plan out their courses, etc. But we also know that many students change their major, and we allow for this, as we want a student to study in the field they desire. As such, a student’s choice of major does not impact a decision. In fact, if a student is admitted to UGA and submits a deposit, they can access the UGA student system the next day and change their major. Some universities (not UGA) do have different review procedures for different majors, but most times a student would then be locked into that major/program, which is not always the best option for many students.
My suggestion? Focus on the “front door” by doing research on each college you are interested in, look at what each college lists as the important items for admission consideration, and then work on making these items your areas of strength. In addition, take the time you might spend searching for a back door and use it to try something new or different in your life. I am sorry to shatter any dreams, but there is no Platform 9 and 3/4 in admissions, and no owls will be delivering your acceptance letter (we’ve tried but they are too hard to train). 
Good luck, focus on the front door, and Go Dawgs!

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