Friday, February 24, 2012

Meet Helen Suitt-Carter, Communications Specialist!

Hi. My name is Helen Suitt-Carter and I've been with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions for 15 wonderful years. I have really enjoyed helping prospective and enrolling students make their way to Carolina. As a true Chapel Hill native (born and bred here!), the University has always been a part of my life. When I'm not working, I enjoy spending time with my beloved family, reading the latest suspense novel, and cheering ALL ACC teams to victory.

If you have ever called or emailed our office, there is a good chance that some of your questions have been answered by me. In between communicating with students, I'm also learning a new database system that will improve communications with all of you. For example, I'm currently in charge of pulling in the names of students we meet during college fairs and making sure that our thank-you emails are sent promptly. And on that subject, this year I had the pleasure of attending a local college fair where I had the chance to meet many of you personally. I really enjoyed seeing the excitement in your faces as you talked about the adventure of college!

Questions of the Day!

I attended Scholarship Day for first-year students earlier this month. When will I hear back? Award letters were mailed by the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid at the end of last week.

I am applying for readmission. Why does my To-do list show that my transcripts are missing? We apologize for the inconvenience. Please note that it is not necessary to send in those transcripts. This checklist is generated automatically and those items will be removed very soon from your checklist by us.

I submitted my financial aid forms and they are still showing on my To-Do List; how is this possible? The Office of Scholarships and Student Aid handles the thousands of documents that are submitted every year for financial aid. It is possible that your documents have been submitted but not yet recorded in the system. If you have sent them just recently, please allow some time for processing. In the interim, please note that the office will process preliminary financial aid awards that will provide you with an estimate of eligibility. In most cases, those preliminary awards will match very closely, if not exactly, the final award. The preliminary awards, though, will be based solely upon the information you’ve provided on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and College Board PROFILE forms. Notification of financial aid eligibility to students will begin in early March. For more questions about aid, please contact the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid directly at (919) 962-8396 or by email.

I am applying to the School of Education has a junior transfer. Why does my To-do list show a requirement for three letters? The School of Education requires two letters of recommendation. If your Admissions To-do list lists a third, please contact the ITS help desk at 919-962-HELP (919-962-4357)to have the item removed.

Do I have to submit my TOEFL or IELTS scores? Yes. We require all international applicants for whom English is not their first language to submit the TOEFL.

Do you offer a waiver for TOEFL scores? If you have been studying in the United States or another English-speaking country for 3 years or more, you may request to have your TOEFL score waived. After you submit your completed application, please write Ms. Andrea Felder at and request we waive the TOEFL. In the email, please provide a short description of your education in English. Please note that sending this email will not guarantee that we will waive this requirement but we promise to give your request our fullest consideration.

Can I submit any other scores such as ACT in place of my TOEFL/IELTS?
No. We apologize but we cannot accept other test scores in place of the TOEFL/IELTS.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Importance of Access

Last time, we talked about failure and how it can actually lead us to success; this week, we’re going to talk about one of the obstacles that often gets in our way: access.

I wrote that sentence, then stared at it for what felt like hours, trying to get from there to a cohesive and coherent summary of the bullet points I’d scribbled down when I conceived this entry in my head.

Apropos of my previous post, I failed miserably with this approach. I couldn’t access that sweet spot of my creativity that would translate the jumbled mass of thoughts in my head into something any human being – including me – could possibly comprehend. And then it dawned on me.

Creativity isn’t linear.

 Innovation, actions, progress, and success aren’t always linear either.

The theme of access at TEDxUNC followed a similar non-linear approach, but kept coming back to three main areas: logistics, opportunity, and information.

Our first speaker, Victoria Hale, talked about the evolution of non-profit pharmaceuticals. What struck me the most about her talk was the idea that often we find ourselves so wrapped up in discovering or inventing The Next Big Thing That Will Solve All the Problems Ever. This is not to say that vaccine trials in Malawi or breakthroughs in HIV prevention don’t deserve time and attention; they absolutely do. But, as Dr. Hale shared, sometimes it’s about other things that, on the surface, seem so simple, such as getting aspirin to remote villages. This mass-produced analgesic that we take for granted in our part of the world is a treasured and desired commodities in others.

This idea about the things we take for granted reached new heights when we heard from Shamila Kohestani. As a young girl in Afghanistan under the Taliban, she was beaten, house-bound, and denied access to education – even reading a book in her own home was considered punishable under the regime. After the fall of the Taliban, she began playing soccer, which became her and other women’s conduit of access to the wider world and to their own empowerment.

This very process of accessing the world has been fundamentally changed by the advent of the smartphone. Alan Murray talked to us about the idea of “Television 3.0” – with the explosion of smartphone technology, most anyone can become both a consumer and a reporter of news. Poetic Portraits of a Revolution was born of four individuals who ventured into the heart of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt to tell the stories of the people at its center.

Throughout the conference, the unifying thread weaving through these discussions of access was the enduring presence of hope. There is hope that we will be able to solve the logistical conundrums of funding and delivery of life-saving medicines to communities that need them. There is hope that those who are silenced, repressed, and voiceless will one day be able to speak their minds and determine their own destinies. There is hope that the access to information from around the globe will lead us to think more critically about the world around us and to ask the uncomfortable questions of “What if” and “If only” and “Why.”

With this hope, we are presented with a choice: what do we do? One of many quotable moments of the day came from Dr. Hale: “Humans cannot stand by when a loved one or even a stranger needs help. We act.”

That’s what we do.

Here at Carolina, we take our position as the nation’s first public university to heart in many ways. This legacy is the undercurrent of so much that we do here: public service, striving to be a part of the greater good, and providing a world-class education that is accessible, attainable, and affordable for as many students as possible. Through initiatives such as the Carolina Covenant and programs like the National College Advising Corps and C-STEP, we can take the concept of access and turn it into something tangible for thousands of students.

And so, I invite you to think about how you can act to empower yourself or empower others with this hope. Think about the resources and the partnerships that you can call upon to take action to make good things happen for yourselves and your communities. Whether you do this here at Carolina or anywhere else, harness your hope – you never know where it will lead you.

Melissa Kotačka
Assistant Director of Admissions
Follow and/or tweet at me: @makunc

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Admissions Office Welcomes High School Teachers!

Today 35 high school science teachers from across the state came together for our second Teacher Workshop this week. The focus today is Biology and Chemistry.

Teachers Ingrid Blank from Broughton High School in Raleigh and Thomas Taylor from Oakwood High School in Greenville learn from Dr. Jean DeSaix (pictured, Senior Biology Lecturer and winner of a national teaching award for undergraduate college biology) and Dr. Kelly Hogan, Senior Lecturer and Academic Advisor in Biology.

In this session, "Biology 101 and the Convergence of Curriculum Recommendations," teachers and faculty discuss ways to better prepare students for college biology by incorporating active learning and scientific modeling in the classroom.

Later today teachers will take workshops on how to write effective letters of recommendation, microscopic "water bears," and the chemistry of flames. In March, we'll host workshops on Spanish and French and U.S. and World History.

We've enjoyed getting to meet the teachers who joined us today and those who came yesterday for the English workshop. Thank you for being here. We also appreciate the Carolina faculty members who graciously agreed to lead these sessions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Meet Arbra Cates, Communications Specialist and Ask Admissions Expert!

Hi. My name is Arbra Cates and along with Yolanda, I’m one of the Communication Specialists who assist students who call or email our office. When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling, shopping, reading and learning about different cultures.

I'm also proud to be a recent Carolina graduate (December 2011) so I know firsthand what it’s like to be a student. Because of this experience, I understand what our applicants and enrolling students go through as they apply to Carolina, apply for financial aid, and later, register for classes. This includes everything in between. Let me help you!

We know that this is a particularly stressful time for all of our applicants – first-year and transfer. If you’ve waited for us to take your call or answer your email, we apologize for any delay you may have experienced. Please know that we are committed to doing our best to serve you.

I’m also in charge of Ask Admissions, which is a virtual answer system located on our website. The great thing about Ask Admissions is that by entering a simple keyword, you can get an immediate answer to most of your questions. We’re actually in the midst of updating this tool so that we can improve the information we provide to you. If you haven’t tried it before, I encourage you to try Ask Admissions today.

If you have any suggestions for improvements, new questions or better answers, I welcome them and encourage you to suggest them on this blog.

Questions of the Day:

My school sent you a copy of my transcript with my midyear grades. Why does my To-Do list still show my midyear grades?

We apologize for the inconvenience, but we cannot accept an electronic copy of your transcript in the place of your actual grades. Please follow the steps below and submit your grades online. As a reminder, we require mid-year grades from admitted or deferred first-deadline applicants and all second-deadline applicants. The deadline for submitting your grades is tomorrow, February 21.

To submit your grades, please follow these steps:

1. Log into MyUNC.
2. Click on your "Connect Carolina Student Center"
3. Look for your To-do List and click on "Admissions Items"
4. Click on the “Midyear grades” link in your To-do List, and follow the online instructions.

Once you submit your grades, the “Midyear grades” link will be removed from your To-do List.

For more, read our FAQs for Midyear Grades.

I applied for first-year admission for the second deadline and just received my official test scores for the January test. Will I still be able to submit my scores?

You are welcome to submit your test scores but we regret that we will not be able to consider them for our March notification. We will be able to consider them for waiting list candidates, however.

Have you received my transcript, test scores, etc? My To-do List is not updated.

If you are a first-year applicant and you believe that we should have received your transcript by now, please contact your counselor and make sure that it has been sent. If your counselor has already sent this to us, please ask them to call or email us and we will work to try to resolve this.

If you are a transfer applicant and your To-do list still shows your transcripts as being outstanding, please know that our records management staff is just beginning to go through our mail. It will take us about 3-4 weeks to complete our work to link your transcripts to your application. Please continue to check your MyUNC account for the latest information on your application materials.

For first-year and sophomore transfer applicants, if you’ve sent your test scores electronically, and your To-do still shows these items as outstanding, please call or email us and we will research this. If you are a junior transfer applicant, for whom test scores are not required, and your To-do list shows test scores as outstanding, please call or email us and we will remove the item from your To-do list.

Are you an admitted first-year student planning on enrolling? We certainly hope so, and if so, we encourage you to enroll online. But if you plan on mailing the enrollment reply form that was included in your admit pack, please use the address below. The Cashier's Office informed us on Friday that the address must include the street name to be recognized by the U.S. Post Office.

University Cashier
450 Ridge Road
Suite 2215, SASB North
Campus Box 1400
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-1400

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meet Yolanda Arroyo, Communications Specialist

My name is Yolanda Arroyo and I’m a member of the communications team at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. I’m one of the communication specialists who help answer the phone calls and emails that our office receives every day. It is my pleasure to help our applicants in any way I can.

One of the best parts of my job is talking to students from all over the world. While I always enjoy meeting someone from a place I’ve never been, I will admit to getting a little extra excited when someone from my hometown of Queens, N.Y. calls! I also enjoy nurturing plants like the miniature rose bush you see behind me – which just two weeks ago was on its last leg.

If you’ve been on hold for one of us to take your call recently, we’re sorry for the extra wait but we do appreciate your patience. We thought we’d help by regularly posting FAQs like the ones below.

Questions of the Day

How do I get to my To-Do List in MyUNC? 
From the main MyUNC page, click "Connect Carolina Student Center" under the Applicants section. After you log in with your UNC Guest ID (or Onyen, if you're an admitted student and have created an Onyen), look in the right-hand column for your To-Do List. 

If you're a first-year applicant wanting to self-report your midyear grades, click on "Admissions Items" and you will see your Mid-Year Grades link to report your grades.  If you have any trouble, please contact us at 919-966-3621 and we will assist you. You may also email us at

I am applying as a transfer student through the Common Application but the application is prompting me for the supplemental forms.
 We do not require any additional Common Application forms, such as the Secondary School report or College Official Report. Letters of recommendation are not required for transfer applicants. 
If you are applying through the Common Application, your application is complete once we have received your Common Application, your $80 application fee, the UNC-Chapel Hill Transfer Supplement form, and official transcripts from your secondary school and all colleges and universities attended. Sophomore applicants should also submit an SAT or ACT score. We do not require these scores for junior applicants, though they may be submitted as supplemental information.

Learn more about transfer admission

I entered all my midyear grades online, but it's still appearing on my To-Do List. Why?
At the bottom of the midyear grades form, there is a little box you have to check next to a statement that says, "I certify that the information provided herein is complete..." Once you enter all of your midyear grades, you must check this box, then click "Save." A submit button will then appear and you can click that to submit your grades. Once you've submitted the form, the midyear grades item should be removed from your checklist. If it's still appearing, send us an email at and we'll look into it.

What other questions do you have?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Necessity of Failure

Welcome back to part two of my series on TEDxUNC! If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

Only a few short minutes after we all settled into our seats for an afternoon of inspiration, we were caught by surprise. You wouldn’t think a conference about innovation & the future would start with a discussion of failure, but that’s exactly what we did.

Let me explain.

Our emcee, Dennis Whittle, framed the day with a story about the birth of Angry Birds. Before we all knew the sound of birds crashing into pigs, the designers at Rovio experienced 52 failed attempts to create a compelling product. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one other person who’s failed that many (or more) times at the same thing and he ultimately came up with 1,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.

“The name of the game is experimentation,” said Whittle. “Reflecting on failure is one of the things that distinguishes successful people, companies, and countries.” Experimentation, risk, chance, luck: these are all things that are a critical part of innovation…and of being human.

This year, one of our supplemental essay prompts asked our applicants to tell us about a time they failed. We’ve read and are still reading lots of stories about lots of different experiences, but you’ve all come to a common conclusion:

It’s okay to fail.

As humans, it’s good for us to experience disappointment. In the second half of the program, Dan Ariely talked about the things that both hinder and enhance our capacity for creativity. One of those hindrances is the human tendency to seek instant gratification and instant success. But when we take the time to develop a skill or to work at something over and over and over – whether it be learning to play the viola or wrestling with differential equations – we tap into our inherent resources of perseverance, determination, and our capacity for struggle. The results can be downright astounding.

The other day, I saw a picture that I think really illustrates this concept:

 Creativity and innovation happen when our fear of failure is overridden by our capacity to ask “What if?” and to wonder “If only.” John McGowan encouraged us to “say yes more than no” – it is in the experimentation, the risk, and the taking of chances that we find relationships between ideas and between ourselves and the world. It is where we find true connection; by opening ourselves to the possibility of failure, we open ourselves to the possibility of transformative progress.

A few years ago, Winston Crisp, our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, came to speak to our staff as part of our reader training. At the time, he was with our Office of the Dean of Students and the topic was the University Honor Code and how we handle cases where students disclose infractions – both minor and major – on their application for admission. His perspective then applies to those shared at TEDxUNC: it’s not necessarily whether or not we screw up – it’s utterly human to do so – but the true test of our character is how we deal with it.

When you trip and fall, do you sit on the ground and cry? Or do you get up, dust yourself off, and keep walking?

So keep on walking. And enjoy the journey: it’s just as important – if not more so – than the destination.

Addendum: I originally drafted this post before this week’s games vs. Duke. The morning after Wednesday’s last second 3pt shot, my work-study Tasia and I took a few minutes to talk about her first UNC-Duke basketball game on campus. When I shared with her this post and questions above, she said, “This isn’t a time to walk. This is a time to RUN.” 

Get your shoes on. 

Melissa Kotačka
Assistant Director of Admissions
Follow and/or tweet at me: @makunc

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Carolina Named #1 Best Value by Princeton Review

Carolina was just named first among the nation’s public universities in The Princeton Review in its list of the 2012 “Best Value Colleges.”

The ranking was based on institutional data and student opinion surveys collected from fall 2010 through fall 2011, according to The Princeton Review. “Broadly speaking, the factors we weighed covered undergraduate academics, costs and financial aid,” said The Princeton Review website. “Additionally, we considered the percentage of graduating seniors who borrowed from any loan program and the average dollar amount of debt those students had at graduation.”

Read more.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Questions of the Day!

After speaking with our communications specialists, we’ve learned that our phones are very busy today! We also received hundreds of emails over the weekend. We do appreciate hearing from you, and if we haven’t answered your questions yet, we thought we’d help by trying to answer a few of today’s FAQs on our blog.

Do I need to report my mid-year grades?
We require mid-year grades from admitted or deferred first-deadline applicants and all second-deadline applicants. If we require them from you, we will notify you on your To Do List on your MyUNC account. Please continue to visit your MyUNC page and follow the instructions provided. We regret that we cannot accept these grades by email, and please do not ask your guidance counselor to report your midyear grades on your behalf.

Midyear grades are on my To Do List but what if I’ve graduated or plan to take a gap year?
If you have graduated or are taking a gap year, in the course description, please simply enter a new course called "Gap year" or "Graduated" and for the grade, please enter "pass." It would also be helpful, if it's not too much trouble, for you to enter a short line in the description box that says something such as: "I have already graduated" or "I am taking a gap year."

Please also note that admitted students who plan to take a gap year must also request permission in writing from our office by July 1. For more information, please see Deferring My Enrollment.

What of my grades are not reported as letter grades (A, B, C, etc)?
Please do your best to convert your grades to a letter equivalent. For example, for a numeric grade of 91, the letter grade equivalent is a B+. Please select B+ in the grade box and type “91” in the explanation box.

If you are unable to identify an equivalent, please ask your counselor or teacher for assistance. You are also welcome to provide a short note in the comment box with more information for us.

For more information on reporting your midyear grades, please see Instructions for Reporting Midyear Grades.

What is the difference between my Guest ID and ONYEN?
Your Guest ID is the temporary account that you created as an applicant that gives you access to your MyUNC account. If your Guest ID is inactive for 12 months, it will expire. To reactivate an expired Guest ID, please call 919-962-HELP.

Your ONYEN is shorthand for “The Only Name You’ll Ever Need.” Admitted and enrolling students are required to create an ONYEN to view their financial aid and, when the time comes, register for courses. Note that you are not required to enroll to create your ONYEN. For more information, please see Creating Your ONYEN.

Thank you for your patience. If you have other questions, please feel free to post them here.

--Ashley, Admissions Office

Friday, February 3, 2012

More than a Rivalry

We might be rivals on the basketball court, but students and faculty at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill also collaborate to address some of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Check out the latest Spotlight story which describes how our two schools are working together on alternative energy, food sustainability, and more.