Quick Takes: Holistic Admissions Process

Holistic Review Causes Reader Bias

In Fall 2011, UCSD adopted a new holistic admissions process for incoming freshman that is being pushed by UC Regents. Already in place at UC Berkeley and UCLA, the new process evaluates each applicant comprehensively and takes more account of the opportunities and struggles presented to the student during their high school career. However, the system is based off scores given by at least two readers instead of a point-by-point mathematical breakdown that can lead to too much subjectivity in the process of choosing students.         

UCSD’s previous admissions process, known as the comprehensive review process, gave students a review score based on academic achievement and extracurriculars, and then compared this to an overall cut-off score to determine the decision to admit or deny. This process was transparent and easy to explain to non-admitted students if they were to question their rejection. 

The new holistic process scores each application from 1 (emphatically recommended for admission) to 5 (recommend deny) as a whole, but the total score is not an admission’s decision—some students can be admitted while others are not even if they’re in the same score group, with the process not being able to be explained clearly to them. The vast differences between these two admissions processes allows for the bias of the reader to be the ultimate determining factor in whether a student is admitted or not. 

The new holistic process simply does not have the clear-cut method that the previous system had. 

Chelsey Davis
Staff Writer

New Process Befits Increased Selectivity

This year, in selecting the class of 2015, the UCSD Office of Admissions replaced the point-based admissions criteria it had used for over a decade with a ‘holistic review’ process in which candidates’ accomplishments are assessed in the context of the challenges they have faced. Though its critics consider holistic review liable to bias, the fact is that similar admissions procedures have been in place at more selective institutions for years.

Use of holistic review in admissions is useful in making distinctions between highly qualified candidates, making it perfect for UCSD, which is rapidly becoming more selective. 

It is right for UCSD and UCI to use holistic review because their admissions rates have been decreasing steadily in the last five years. UCSD’s admissions rate has dropped from 43 percent to 2006 to 37 percent in 2011. In the same time span, UCI’s admissions rate declined from 61 percent to 44 percent. UC Berkeley and UCLA, which have used holistic review for all five years, have had stable admissions rates over the half-decade, each hovering near 25 percent.  Highly selective private schools like Harvard and Yale have always used holistic review. The trend is clear: more selective schools need holistic review to choose their students.   

The point-based system works serviceably when nearly half of the applicant pool is accepted, but is less useful when it comes to making distinctions between higher-scored candidates. The UCSD Office of Admissions is right to adopt a procedure for selecting the freshman class that is befitting of the school’s increased selectivity.

Ayan Kusari
Staff Writer

Procedure Ignores Social Environments

UCSD’s newly adapted holistic admissions process has continued to bring in some of the most academically qualified students, but ultimately, it ignores social environments and leaves socioeconomically disadvantaged minority students at a greater disadvantage.

The prior point system for admission, which ranked students based on a sum total of GPA and extracurricular activities, allotted additional points to students coming from socioeconomically disadvantaged households to account for the fact that not all students come from nurturing environments. The subjective holistic review process does do this. Instead, individual readers determine a score from 1-5 to give to an applicant as a whole. 

This lack of minority students after adoption of the holistic review process is especially visible in departments such as the Jacobs School of Engineering where there is already little diversity. According to data recently published regarding the 2012 admitted class, minority applicants are at an all-time high but very few are being admitted. Only 25 percent of all Chicano/Latino applicants were accepted into the school of engineering compared to 32 percent in 2011. Similarly, the percent of African American acceptances decreased from 25 percent to 18 percent in 2012. Overall, this has left the incoming class in the Jacobs School of Engineering more homogenous than ever. 

The adoption of the holistic review process has not helped increase diversity on campus, and it fails to recognize the importance of forming a well-rounded class that stems from different backgrounds.

Revathy Sampath-Kumar
Staff Writer