What We Look For In An Undergraduate Application

We get this question every fall: “OK, but what are you really looking for in a successful applicant?” The short, largely unsatisfying answer is that it really depends! We’ll tell you what we mean by this, but first, let’s get a few common misconceptions out of the way…

There is no “typical” applicant

Batten students have wide and varied interests reflecting their backgrounds, aspirations, and the world around them. Whether you are interested in national security and defense, international development, public service, climate, social justice, education, poverty—or you just don’t know yet!—Batten’s charge is to help you refine those interests, build strengths, and work towards your professional goals, whatever they may be. The single thing that unites all Batten students is their commitment to becoming purpose-driven, effective leaders poised to create meaningful change.

There are no GPA cutoffs

The range for the incoming BA class this year was 3.0 to 3.9, a bit higher than usual due to several semesters of CR/NC grading. Typically, the GPA range is 2.8 to 4.0 with an average of 3.6, but these numbers are just one data point in our holistic review of your application. We understand that there are peaks and valleys in your academic journey, and we’ll look at your transcript to see growth over time, full course loads, and performance in prerequisite and related courses. 

Speaking of prerequisites, there is no penalty associated with having taken CR/NC while that was offered as a grading option due to the pandemic (as long as you received CR you met the requirement). Just be sure to contextualize that decision in the optional addendum in your application.  

And another thing about prerequisites…

There are no must-take classes—except for the pre-reqs—and no prescribed activities

We want to get to know you through the things that you choose to engage in, whatever they may be. Aside from taking prerequisite courses to build foundational knowledge and prepare for success in the curriculum, we want you to make the most of your time at UVA and take classes that seem interesting. Your first two years are your time to explore, so try something new!

Similarly, you should participate in activities that interest you—they don’t have to be policy related. Extracurriculars, research, internships, and employment are your chance to engage meaningfully in your community, develop your authentic voice, and build leadership skills, all necessary and critical steps towards personal and professional development.

So, what are you looking for in an applicant?

Our goal is to build diverse cohorts of impact-driven, service-minded, ethical problem solvers. We will look across the different elements of your application for evidence of the following:

  • Leadership - think about leadership broadly, to assess the formal and informal ways that you are a leader. How do you lead in your daily life? What leadership skills do you possess, and how do you practice them?
  • Professional vision and motivation to study policy – tell us why you want to join Batten and what you hope to go on to do next. Your motivation should be very clear even if you do not yet have perfectly articulated policy interests or professional clarity—don’t worry, you will by the end of your time at Batten!
  • Work experience and community engagement – this can include paid and unpaid roles, internships, jobs, research, extracurriculars, athletics, community service… you name it. We know this has been hard to come by during the pandemic, so take advantage of every opportunity to get involved! Generally, as you move through your time at UVA, depth is more important than breadth—think about focusing your effort through sustained participation in the things that you are most passionate about.
  • Overall academic performance – we want to see evidence of you challenging and pushing yourself, even if there are missteps along the way. (And have no fear—if there are missteps, you’ll be able to provide that extra context in the application!)

Finally, we recognize everyone has unique backgrounds, experiences, and strengths, and we really want to get to know what those are through the application process. A balance of factors will ultimately determine your admissions decision, so be confident about what you’re bringing to the table!