Behind the Scenes of HackCville’s Application Process

Our approach to building an inclusive, entrepreneurial community

Applications for HackCville’s programs closed this past Tuesday at 11:59pm. By the time the night had concluded, the HackCville staff had received 379 applications for the seven programs accepting applications this semester. That’s compared to 180 applications this time last year. Our team was humbled and overwhelmed by the response.

It’s exciting to see so much interest and excitement for our programs, but these high numbers also present a significant challenge. With only approximately 120 spots available, we will have to say no to more than 200 applicants. HackCville doesn’t have applications for the sake of being exclusive. Yes, we want to have the most motivated, passionate people in our community, but we also know that there are far more people who apply than we can accept, at least right now.

As our application numbers have grown, we’ve created new systems to try to make this process as consistent and fair as possible. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look on how it’s worked:

1. We blind ourselves to all names, emails and demographic information before we begin reading. 

Almost all of our applications are read and judged by students, with the exception of Daniel and Chip, our two full-time staff members. Because so many of our applicants hear about HackCville through friends and existing members, it is inevitable that members of our team will be reading and judging applications of friends. This is why we blind ourselves of all names and emails before reading begins at all.

While our leadership and broader community is very diverse (50/50 male/female, with a very similar ethnicity-breakdown to UVa) we also are aware of the implicit biases that can arise during application processes such as our’s. So, we also go ethnicity- and gender-blind; the only thing we’re considering is their application.

We want to see if there is anything else we can do here. Our Analytics Team will be spending the next week reviewing our process internally to see if any implicit biases or other errors presented themselves during this process. They’ll be comparing the information of the people we accept to the overall breakdown of all who applied.

Thank you to the 320+ people who applied to HackCville! Our whole team is here tonight as long as it takes to review all of our applications. Let’s go!

A photo posted by HackCville (@hackcville) on

2. We use a standardized scoring system across all programs.

Three reviewers were required for every single application. We also judged all applications using the same scoring system detailed below:

After three reviewers read each application, the total scores were summed together. We then added on a few extra points based on two criteria:

At this point we sorted all scores highest to lowest and invited the top applicants to interview with us.

About two dozen members of our team worked from 6pm-12am the day after applications were due until all of the readings and scorings were completed. With three people reading each application, there was a resulting 1,137 “reads” in just six hours.

3. Every interview is held with two HackCville team members.

We then move onto our interview process. Every interview includes two HackCville team members who each score the interviewee. If there is a close relationship with a given student, we do what we can to find another staff member to take their place to make these interviews as unbiased as possible.

These scores are then compared to the application scores, giving the program teams enough data and feedback to work off of in order to make a final decision.

4. We’ve developed a new way for people to get involved in HackCville.

After a quiet beta test last semester, we’re excited to launch Hack Track, our new open-enrollment pre-program. Anyone who is (1) not accepted into a HackCville program or (2) finds out about HackCville after our applications are closed is welcome to participate. No application is required. Here’s what it includes, in brief:

We’ll let our charismatic Mike Verdicchio, the program lead for Hack Track, explain further:

We’re really excited about Hack Track as it gives us another opportunity to be as inclusive and open to the community as possible.

5. We’re using The Pioneer’s expert producers to make personal videos that welcome accepted students.

In addition to Mike’s video above, we have made short videos to welcome accepted students to their program. Here’s an example:


We’d like to give a big shout-out to all of the program teams who all worked 20, 30, or more hours this week to make all of this all happen. In 24 hours, the HackCville staff completed more than 1,110 reads and scores of applications, and in 54 hours we’ll complete more than 150 interviews. Our Pioneer Director, Catherine Cura, and House Manager, Madison Lewis, have also worked tirelessly to support the media and operational sides of this entire process. To us, it’s a testament to the commitment of our team to build an inclusive and impactful community here at HackCville. Thank you!

We’d also love to hear from you to get your feedback on this process and if there’s anything you think we can do to improve it. Please feel free to email us at hello@hackcville.com with any thoughts you have!

Cheers,

Andy Page & Daniel Willson
Managing Director & Director of Operations
HackCville

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