Survey finds differentiation in "holistic" admissions policies at US elite institutions

April 10, 2012

Most elite PSE institutions in the US describe their admissions policies as "holistic," suggesting they evaluate the totality of an applicant, but a new survey of admissions officials at the 75 most competitive institutions observes that there are distinct patterns that differentiate some holistic institutions from others. Most schools focus solely on academic qualifications first, and then consider other factors. The research found that 21% of elite colleges begin with measures of "institutional fit." These schools do the initial cut based on student essays, recommendations, and specific questions of whether particular students will thrive at and contribute to the institution in various ways. This approach results in a focus on applicants' non-academic qualities, and tends to favour applicants who are members of minority groups underrepresented on campus, as well as those who can afford to pay all costs of attending. Inside Higher Ed