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I am Jon Burdick, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Rochester. AMA!

Aug 12th 2013 by UR_Jburdick • 41 Questions • 405 Points

I'll start answering questions at 1p EST but here's a little backrground information: I have 28 years of experience in admissions. My job has taken me to six continents (we’re always looking for qualified students from Antarctica, BTW) and over 51 countries. In my spare time I enjoy GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and spending time with my dogs, Tuck and Stella.

THANK YOU for all the questions. I'll be back soon because this was fun. You're welcome to redirect questions to my email meanwhile [email protected].

Jon

PROOF: Twitter: @URAdmissions www.rochester.edu https://www.facebook.com/URAdmissions

Q:

What does the University of Rochester's motto, Meliora, mean to you?

1. By: nwbenj
Thread | Permalink
A:

You can't trick me into giving away the best answers for our supplemental application.


Q:

I've got a few questions:

  1. Would you say that it is essentially a requirement for local students to interview in order to get in?

  2. How do you see the University expanding in the future? (e.g. internationally, becoming more selective, opening up more residence halls across the river, etc.)

  3. What the hell happened this past year? Were the expected yields miscalculated or something? (for reference, some nontraditional students are gonna have to live in upperclassmen housing because there aren't enough spots in freshman housing) Does the University plan to increase class sizes, and is there a plan to make the university more selective by slightly diminishing class sizes?

  4. (EDIT) Do you think less local students will apply in the future because tuition waivers no longer cover tuition fully (if a parent works as faculty at the University)?

A:

3) This year we had a surge in applications from very-well-qualified applicants. History would have told us that our yield was going to decrease a lot. It didn't. The phenomenon was particularly striking with international students, where average test scores were up more than 100 points for admitted. We believed they'd choose elsewhere (they tend to be more sensitive to rankings) but they're coming to Rochester. My apologies to upperclassmen who were displaced, although Rochester's percentage of upperclassmen housed on campus remains one of the highest you'll see at any university.


Q:

How will Rochester market itself over the next 10 years and how will this affect our global impact? Also, are there any plans (other than College Town of course) that will make UR more attractive for prospective students against our peers (Emory, UChicago, Northwestern, Brown, etc.)?

A:

Rochester has three things going for it that have contributed to 40% growth in enrollment over the last 7 years--1) commitment to growing new programs, facilities and faculty; 2) unique curricular philosophy; 3) that unusual combination of huge research with still-small undergraduate population, so most/best teaching is actually coaching. We're ahead of most peers. We stack up well against almost anybody and we've made inroads head-to-head against several peers per the numbers, including all four of the schools you're listing.


Q:

In your 28 years has any one application (or a few) stood out from the others?

A:

One of my favorite applicants of all time is now my regional director in New York City. He distinguished himself as an inventive leader on paper, including staging a protest walkout at his public school in Portland. When we met for his interview he talked about it with a sense of humor. Challenging the status quo and demonstrating humor both go a long way with me.


Q:

UR Class of 2002 alum here. Just wondering if anyone has actually been trapped inside Dean Burgett's fiery furnace?

A:

At last count 37 students were in there. In winter months people go searching for it.


Q:

Class of 2017 student here. Thanks for the acceptance!

A:

You're most welcome! See you in about 2 weeks!


Q:

what do you look for most in an applicant , when considering him/her for a merit scholarship ?

A:

I published a blog about this with a lot of detail that I intend to update. As it turns out all kinds of things mattered in scholarship decisions, since (like admission decisions) we make them one at a time. Biggest single impactful factor was communicating with the admissions and financial aid offices.


Q:

What makes you think you have what it takes at Reddit University?

A:

I'm new here but I'd say I have good grades and scores and a fantastic resume.


Q:

Hot dogs: white or red?

A:

I'm kind of a tofu guy (California roots).


Q:

What separates Rochester's engineering from other school's engineering?

A:

Research--direct, hands-on, side-by-side with faculty. Lots of it.


Q:

What are your requirements inside and outside of academics (such as charity work) for admissions?

A:

"Requirements" is kind of a dirty word at Rochester. Our aim is to support you in requiring a lot of yourself, whatever form that might take. Doesn't bother me at all to admit a student who thinks charity work is completely uninteresting, as long as s/he articulates well something s/he does instead.


Q:

Ever had anybody contact you directly to try to get admitted?

A:

LOL all the time. Doesn't work the way they think it does. It works if I learn things about them that are very appealing.


Q:

What do you really look for in application essays?

A:

Personal, authentic voice. Mechanics (spelling, sentence structure etc.) can't be so bad that they get in the way, but I'm trying to read an essay to see if it feels like I'm talking to and listening to a real person. The only way to get there is to give yourself time (as in weeks/months) to return to it several times and do multiple rewrites.


Q:

How does the university help aspiring undergraduates who want to do research ??

A:

The door is open to anyone who's willing to hustle and learn, and 90% of Rochester undergraduates do it. We give one grant program for some entering students, and another for students once they're here.


Q:

Can I send my SAT reasoning or subject test scores after November 1st , if I apply under ED ?

A:

Yes if they arrive any time before December 6th or so you're golden.


Q:

Are there any creative Youtube videos in the making from Rochester Admissions that we should keep our eyes peeled for?

PS: How did you choose your dogs' names?

A:

Our new videographer has just started. Look for good stuff from him soon.

"Stella!" is my Marlon Brando shout for a full-of-life, runaway dog. The whole neighborhood helps her come back to me. Tuck looks like Friar Tuck, sort of. Fat, with a cross on his face.


Q:

UR Class of 2012 graduate here. Living in New York City now. How feasible is it for younger graduates to get involved with doing interviews for the school or speaking at college fairs on behalf of the University?

A:

We are eager to put students like you to work, and we do a LOT of work in NYC. We will be hosting our 7th annual breakfast for NYC area counselors in cooperation with Emory, Carnegie-Mellon and...Brandeis? Tufts? (one of those) this fall, and I'd like to stack the tables with local impressive young alumni. Contact our office (Beth Luke) for more information on getting involved.


Q:

Do you always check reddit comments here? I mean, if I have some questons in the future how could I connect with you?


Q:

Is next year's admissions going to be EVEN more selective after you guys getting your two largest classes ever?

A:

It may have to be a lot more selective next year. The housing staff certainly hope so.


Q:

How does your process of selecting Early Admission applicants differ from that of Regular Decision applicants?

What do you think is the greatest benefit from U Rochester's "cluster" system?

Any other information for a prospective Physics major going into her junior year of high school? Thanks :)

A:

Because Early Decision is a commitment from students, parents, and counselors, these applicants are more likely to gain admission on average.

Work hard in your physics and related courses (math, chemistry) but cultivate some creative thinking too. The best success in physics requires some openness to new ideas and challenges to orthodoxy.


Q:

How easy is it to double major across schools?

A:

It's so easy that I think everyone should do it. For one thing every school except Eastman/music is under the same admissions program, and we're not limiting our admission based on your academic goals. For another we don't require any general education courses (years sometimes elsewhere) so fitting in that totally different second major is simpler here.


Q:

When deciding to accept or reject an applicant, do you tend to discriminate by their intended major?

Well, that's enough English majors for me today! Toss!

A:

We don't discriminate on intended major, except if we have to guess that a student wouldn't succeed (i.e. a potential engineering major with a noticeable deficit in math preparation and achievements).


Q:

1)Do you have any plans about going to China for interviewing? 2)Can I select both ED and GEAR at the same time? 3)Do I need to pay extra tuition fees for extra courses? 4)Where can I find stuffs about internship on the website, and could you give me some details about OPT and CPT in Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Science? 5)When can I join internship? Are there any limits for international students?

A:

I just got back from China. We'll be there again several times each year. 2) yes as long as you know your ED status doesn't guarantee a 'yes' for GEAR. 3) NO--a great feature of Rochester is you can overload to the limit of your ability with not extra charges 4) I'll have to refer you to the websites for now, but AMLater [email protected] if you want. 5) internships can start as soon as you're able to seek and find one you like. No limits for international.


Q:

Is it possible for an engineering student to switch to the business school after 1 year, in terms of catching up, being able to graduate in 4 years, having to apply to the business school separately?

A:

An engineering major can switch almost any time (it gets complicated in 3rd year only because it takes time to complete). Most engineering students could actually complete the full business second major if they want that, and if they plan well.


Q:

How competitive is the GEAR program and what kind of characteristics do you look for in applicants to the program?

A:

It got very competitive this past year with >200 applicants, and has grown each year. Academic success matters, but we also conduct interviews on campus, so personal qualities and ambitions can matter too.


Q:

Would like to know about the BS-MD program at ROchester - how hard is it to get in - rqmnts etc.

A:

Nearly 100 applicants for every space, so hugely competitive. At that ratio I think you do your best and hope for miracles.


Q:

Can I use SUPA credit towards a course? I know AP credit is accepted but I'm not sure about SUPA credit

A:

No we don't accept SUPA sorry.


Q:

In terms of students, do you scour the applicants to look for people who are especially outgoing and extroverts, or do you also look for individuals who are slightly more quiet and introverted (diversity)?

A:

We like both introverts and extraverts. The former probably do better in the written parts of the application, and the latter in the interview.


Q:

Hello thank you for doing this, I am entering my senior year of high school this year. I have taken many AP and honors classes and am heavily involved in student activities and sports. I am a white middle class male. How does someone like me appear diverse on an application?

A:

collegebound, it's all about how you think. I guarantee you that 17 years of lived experiences in your environment, and the effects those experiences have generated in your brain, have given you some perspectives no other white middle class male has. Find them and show them to us.


Q:

Any good stories of what people have written in their essays?

Funniest/most memorable essay?

Is it a good idea to talk about how you have in internship at the university, helped some of the clubs at the university at events, kind of joined one of the clubs at the university even though you don't go to the university, etc in your admissions essay? Would that help/hurt/no affect on the chances of getting in?

(Not applying to the University of Rochester because it's too far away)

I know this is only looking at academics and not any other part of the applicant but my school is on trimesters and I had to switch from calculus BC to calculus AB because I couldn't pass any of my tests. The grading system is 90% tests and 10% homework+other stuff for calculus. Almost all other classes are 80% tests and 20% homework and I have all A's other than 1-3 B's every year. In your opinion, how badly would that affect my chances of getting into one of the bigger public universities in my state (the universities that admit ~16k people every year from a pool of ~40k and has no interview process)?

A:

Your admissions essay is a slice of stuff we can't get any other way. Don't spend too much time in it writing about things that you can just as easily put on your activities list, like clubs and summer experiences.

Your other question is too complicated for here and my limited time. Ask me again at [email protected] if you like.


Q:

Hello! Thank you for doing this. So as a high school student who is looking at Rochester as a possible college and as one who has an interview scheduled there, could you explain briefly how an interview at Rochester might play out? And how much weight it has in the overall decision of acceptance, if any at all?

A:

Interview is the "third dimension." If your application is not strong without it, it's not going to make you suddenly great. If your application is very strong without it, you're only going to hurt yourself a bit with a bad interview. Most interviews are very good and I'd say 85% of them enhance an applicant's chances for admission.


Q:

How do admissions work for masters programs that are unrelated to an applicant's undergraduate major?

I'm curious about the computer science masters program at U of R, but my undergraduate degree is in biotechnology and my masters is in microbiology. I'd like to earn a degree in computer science so I'm better equipped to analyze large data sets that come from genomics studies.

I'm assuming I'll need to fulfill some required coursework before I can enter the program. Do I need to apply and be accepted into the undergraduate computer science program and then switch to the master's program if I'm accepted? How does taking the prerequisites for a graduate program work if I'd like to take them at University of Rochester?

A:

You should apply directly to the master's program. CS is looking for all kinds of people, including at least some in each class who come from different backgrounds...as long as they can rely on your basic competence through some undergraduate coursework.


Q:

How many 'recommendations letters' are ideal to sent ?

2 from teachers and 1 from a mentor will do ?

A:

3 usually works out well. 2 and 4 are typically ok. 1 is too few and 5+ generally is too many.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

Highly selective (1%) and so the 'requirements' are usually straights As or close to it, and high test scores--but those things alone aren't enough. Compassion and a clear vision about the medical profession are useful too.


Q:

When an individual is accepted to U of R, are they accepted to all of its schools and colleges?

A:

All same admission policy except Eastman performance (music) degree programs. There the audition is paramount.


Q:

what does a typical business student's 4 years look like? Do they begin taking business courses their freshman year?

A:

They certainly can. There are some pre-requisites in calculus and economics, and sometimes the preferred accounting, etc. class might be full of upperclassmen, but there's no deliberate prohibition and each year several freshmen will take business courses.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

I've enjoyed it but I'm running out of time. Resend me to [email protected] if you want.


Q:

As a current U of R student, I often feel that if I was current High School student applying to UR, I wouldn't even get in!

How much have the acceptance standards been raised over the past 5 or so years?

A:

More than doubled, in terms of selectivity.


Q:

Hi, nice to chat with you. I am a student from China. As we all know, there is an increasing tendency for Chinese students to study in America and the competition is really intense. many of Chinese students have SAT 2200+ and TOEFL 105+. I know grades don't mean anything. So I just wonder

1\what kind of attitudes and strategy do you hold towards international students and which kind of undergraduates are you looking for (I mean, what kind of personality or traits).

2\As for the schools, I would like to know what the spirits of U Rochester, what are the way or idea of teaching, why it is different from other universities, what the influences or traits do the college imparts to the students, what contributions and inspirations can we gain and make inside and outside the college.

3\and after all, why do you choose to work in U Rochester for so long, what does the college attracts you?

Thank you~~~

A:

I just returned from 10 cities/12 days in China. The rules aren't different. We look for individual personalities, interests, and goals. Every Chinese student is different here (too). 2) Rochester starts with this motto "Excellence requires freedom." Meaning if a student isn't motivated to learn, nothing else matters (it has a particular resonance vis-a-vis the Chinese national secondary curriculum). 3) I love the students who come here and the young alumni they turn into. They're smart, funny, and contrarian--all the things I admire in people.


Q:

What is one thing that really stands out to you on an undergraduate application?

A:

I'm looking for something individual, unique, one-of-a-kind. That can include being a genuine person who hasn't been corrupted by the college-admission-industrial-complex.


Q:

Is better for students to decide what to study before they come to university or undecided?

A:

Both are fine. We don't encourage students to 'lock' their major choice until sophomore year anyway.