The Student News Site of Henry M. Gunn High School

Con: Colleges should get rid of holistic admissions

Colleges should not get rid of the holistic admissions system. A holistic review is a strategy used by universities and colleges to evaluate whether a prospective student is a good fit by evaluating both their academic prowess and non-academic characteristics. American colleges formerly used non-holistic admissions in the early 20th century, but that was changed to the current holistic system by recommendation from higher education professionals. These professionals found that while test scores and grades might be important, they don’t paint a full or accurate picture of the student. The fault with using a non-holistic admissions system is exactly that: The admissions system doesn’t assess a candidate’s experiences or passions and interests, only their grades and test scores. In exchange for obtaining elite academics-based students, the non-holistic system cripples students whose talents lie elsewhere.

Holistic college admissions utilize a more equitable procedure when evaluating potential students. The holistic approach is popular among American colleges today largely because it allows admissions officers to assemble a more diverse student body. In this context, diversity doesn’t only include race or ethnicity, but also socioeconomic status and life experiences. A common misconception about the holistic process is that colleges use soft factors—extracurricular activities, unique experiences and teacher recommendations—as the deciding factors for potential students. In reality, they are taken account of by the admissions officers, but are not the deciding factors.

In a nutshell, the holistic process was designed so institutions can assess an applicant based on a broad range of elements. The International Graduate Admissions report outlines the holistic system as a way to “look beyond just the objectives like test scores and GPA to really try to get to know the applicant as a student and as a person.” The U.S. Supreme Court describes the review process as a “highly individualized review of each applicant’s file, giving serious consideration to all the ways an applicant might contribute to a diverse educational environment.” All things considered, the holistic approach allows colleges to not only evaluate an applicant as a student but also as a human being. A holistic approach also balances opportunities for students who possess fewer educational privileges and those with learning disabilities. Aside from having to work through more costs and cultural differences than their more privileged peers, many of these students don’t even have the option of considering further education as a viable choice. For many students, a holistic review system is the difference between whether they can even attend college or not. Holistic college admissions are the way to bridge the gap between these students and their more privileged classmates.

A common concern with the holistic system is that the admissions officers may possess biases toward certain applicants based on factors such as ethnicity, age, religious beliefs and more. To combat this, multiple admissions officers are required to go over the same application to make better selections and minimize bias. They are also discouraged from letting personal bias affect their decisions, as severe legal action may be taken against them if biased decisions are discovered.

The holistic system creates a more equal procedure when assessing candidates, judging applicants as both students and human beings. On top of this, it balances opportunities for students that possess few educational privileges. Holistic admissions officers are able to evaluate students by their unique life experiences to see if they’d be a good fit for their school. Although there are drawbacks to this system, the pros far outweigh the cons, and, thus, U.S. colleges should continue using the holistic admissions process.

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