The Power of Holistic Review in Graduate Education

Nov 15, 2023

Holistic review, a mission-aligned admissions process, is gaining significant traction in higher education—especially in graduate admissions. It stands as a pivotal approach for institutions seeking to identify and admit students who not only possess outstanding academic credentials but also exhibit a wide range of qualities and experiences that contribute to a rich and diverse learning environment.

So, what is the significance of holistic review in graduate education, and what are the benefits and best practices for higher education leaders?

What is holistic review?

Holistic review is a comprehensive and nuanced approach to admissions that goes beyond relying solely on standardized test scores and GPAs. Instead, it considers a variety of qualitative factors, including the applicant’s personal background, experiences, achievements, and potential contributions to the academic community. This approach helps to identify well-rounded individuals who can thrive in both their academic and social pursuits at a given institution.

What are the advantages of holistic evaluation in admissions?

A variety of benefits related to holistic admissions are being experienced on campuses around the country. Here are several key advantages of leveraging non-academic factors in this selection process as part of your team’s decision making.

Increase Diversity and Inclusion

By considering a wide range of factors, institutions can admit students from various backgrounds and experiences, enriching the learning environment for all.

Identify Potential

This comprehensive evaluation allows admissions committees to identify students who may not have the highest scores but exhibit great potential for success; it recognizes that excellence can exist in many forms.

Ensure Well-Rounded Graduates

Students selected as a result of this process often possess a broader skill set, including leadership, teamwork, and adaptability, making them well-prepared for their future careers.

These are just a few of the advantages of leveraging holistic review in admissions.

Holistic review best practices that higher education leaders should understand

Effective practices are essential to ensure that the application of holistic evaluation is leveled equitably in the graduate admissions process. Here are some things to consider.

Establish Clear Criteria

Develop transparent criteria that align with your institution’s mission and program objectives. This ensures consistency and fairness in the holistic admissions process.

Train Your Admissions Team(s)

Provide thorough training to admissions committees to help them understand the importance of holistic evaluation and how to assess non-academic factors effectively.

Leverage Technology

Invest in data management and evaluation tools, like responsible artificial intelligence (AI), to streamline the process, making it more efficient and manageable.

Prioritize Communication

Communicate the benefits of a holistic process to stakeholders, including faculty, staff, and prospective students, to build support for this approach.

Evaluate Continuously

Regularly assess and refine your process to ensure it aligns with your institution’s goals and evolves with changing admissions trends.

Holistic review on your campus

Holistic review in graduate education has emerged as a powerful tool for higher education leaders seeking to admit students who contribute not just academically but also socially and culturally to their institutions. The benefits of fostering diversity, identifying potential, and matriculating well-rounded graduates contribute to the overall enrichment of the educational environment and the success of both individual students and the institution as a whole.

But, it’s hard to do this alone. Having the right solutions in place could be the difference between an effective holistic strategy and one that flounders.

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.