Crafting Your Distinct Application: Navigating Admissions Changes at VA Tech and UVA


If you’ve been following recent developments in higher education, you’ve likely come across some significant changes at Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia (UVA), and colleges across the US in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s mandate to remove direct questions about race from college applications.

Legacy admissions and Early Decision practices are changing at some universities, and supplemental questions have an added importance. This might add to the already confusing application process, but rest assured; these changes signal a pivotal moment for constructing a solid application strategy and your child’s opportunity to showcase their individuality.

In this blog, you’ll learn what’s changing at Virginia’s top colleges for the 2023-2024 application cycle, what’s staying the same, and how your student can best navigate the complexity of the ever-changing college application process.

Legacy and Early Decision changes at VA Tech

Virginia Tech announced it’s bidding farewell to the longstanding practice of legacy admissions, which favored applicants with familial ties to the institution.
Furthermore, Early Decision applications are now a thing of the past at Virginia Tech. Students can apply for the now earlier Early Action deadline, November 15th. This change acknowledges that financial considerations play a role in college decisions. Many students accepted through Early Decision must commit to the university before they know how much financial aid they’ll receive.

These changes reflect Virginia Tech’s commitment “to remove barriers in the application process and improve access for all students,” according to this VA Tech press release.

UVA’s transformation of legacy connections and race

Meanwhile, UVA won’t entirely discard legacy preferences. Instead, the university is creating a new approach. Rather than simply checking a box to indicate legacy status, UVA applicants are now invited to share their “personal or historic ties to the institution” through a supplementary question.

This shift encourages applicants to “delve deeper and reflect on the unique stories that link them to UVA, regardless of the nature of the connection,” according to a statement from UVA.

What do these changes signify for your current and future college applicants?

Kristin Landis, J.D.
Kristin Landis, J.D., College Consultant

“I don’t think the process has changed. The only difference now is how it’s presented and how universities will glean information from students,” explained Kristin Landis, J.D., College Consultant at Educational Connections.

Landis knows the inner workings of college admissions offices and what makes an applicant stand out, having served for over a decade as an Admissions Evaluator at UVA.

“Colleges have and will continue to put an emphasis on attracting talented applicants from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups. It’s always forefront in filling a class, it’s what makes for an exciting college environment and learning experience,” she explained. “This takes lots of different forms- it’s a diversity of ideas, challenges, involvement, learning differences, and perspectives which are formed from each student’s own experiences and background.”

Elevating an applicant’s uniqueness

Landis says recent application changes might add to the confusion of the admissions process, but they underline the significance of constructing a compelling narrative that truly sets an applicant apart. 

Elevating an applicant’s uniqueness

“Having someone to help navigate the complexity of these changes is helpful,” she said.

Today’s college applications involve more than just checking off boxes and listing achievements and grades. 

“When my students work on their applications and essays, I help them uncover and elevate what is their unique voice and answer the question, “What valuable contribution will you make to a college environment-both in and out of the classroom? That is what colleges want to know in making their decisions. The answer to that is found in the student’s narrative. What’s your unique perspective? What are you interested in and passionate about? “What are the things that make you you?” Landis explained.

The importance of creating a solid application strategy

A well-crafted application strategy and narrative become an applicant’s secret weapon in this ever-evolving and competitive process. Today’s stand-out college applicants must show how they’ve triumphed over obstacles, showcased leadership, pursued their passions, or engaged within their community. These elements form the foundation of a distinctive narrative.

Students should work to compose compelling essays and supplementals that illuminate their journey and aspirations and ensure their letters of recommendation align with their chosen narrative.

Landis provided the following four new supplemental prompts, illustrating a common theme- “an emphasis on a diversity of experiences and perspectives to make up a vibrant educational community.”

What about your individual background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you or those around you at UVA? Feel free to write about any past experience or part of your background that has shaped your perspective and will be a source of strength, including but not limited to those related to your community, upbringing, educational environment, race, gender, or other aspects of your background that are important to you.

University of Virginia

Because we know that diversity benefits the educational experience of all students, the University of Maryland values diversity in all of its many forms. This includes (but is not limited to) racial, socio-economic, gender, geographical, and sexual orientation. We are interested in hearing about your own individual life experiences. In a few sentences, will you please describe how you have learned, grown, been inspired or developed skills through one or more components of diversity?

University of Maryland

We are a community that fosters deep human connection. We reflect on the lessons of history to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. We engage diverse perspectives and seek wisdom in bridging differences. Together, we are unceasing in our efforts to make a meaningful difference in our communities, the state, the nation, and the world. Pick 2- 

1. Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? 

2. Are there any particular communities that are important to you, and how do you see yourself being a part of our community?

3. How has your family, culture and/or background shaped your lived experience?

4. Share more about a personal academic interest or career goal.

5. Tell us about a challenge or adversity you’ve experienced and how that has impacted you as an individual. 

6. If we visited your town, what would you want to show us?

William & Mary

We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making Duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. Feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community.


Your child’s story is their strength— and our college experts are here to help them tell it effectively

Your child’s story is their strength— and our college experts are here to help them tell it effectively

Parents, we understand that navigating recent changes can add to the overwhelm of the application process for both you and your student. That’s why Kristin Landis, and our team of college consultants, are here to provide one-to-one support each step of the way.

They’ll work closely with your student to help them discover and elevate their narrative to create applications that reflect their uniqueness and maximize their chances of admission. We invite you to reach out today to learn more about how we’ll assist your student in this exciting chapter of their academic journey.