Holistic Admissions


Courtesy of columbia.edu

On the Columbia undergraduate admissions website, students can see the criteria the university has for its “holistic” admissions.

Sarah Markiewicz, Asst. Opinion Editor

When students apply for most universities, they normally don’t need to have interesting personalities or recount as many life-changing experiences as possible, all in the name of being accepted. Meanwhile, college admissions officers of many high profile schools aim to look at the applicant as a whole in order to consider them fairly–an approach known as holistic admissions. Taking account of other non-academic factors is generally well and good, but it shouldn’t give them the right to make unfairly biased decisions as they have been doing since this system began.

Most colleges have a hierarchy of things to consider during the admissions process, and in every list, GPAs and standardized tests come first, unsurprisingly. While these don’t measure how students will fare in the real world, the student’s ability to study and do well with grades should always be the central priority. After all, college is primarily about academics.

The idea of holistic admissions goes too far when officers claim that the personality of the student should be taken into account. Applying to a college is stressful enough, and for a student to feel disadvantaged because he or she does not have an outgoing personality or comes across as strange to an admissions officer is out of the question.

Colleges often claim that they want students to fit into campus life, but this contradicts the idea that they also want to accept a wider variety of students. It should be up to students to decide what type of campus population appeals to them, instead of having the campus dictate what personality it wants the student body to have.

Holistic admissions committees are essentially cherry-picking for certain demographics of students and somewhat resembles affirmative action, another admissions system that unfairly uses the school’s biased preferences in accepting applicants who may not have been as academically qualified as those who were rejected.

Holistic admission practices have come under fire because they supposedly put Asian Americans at a disadvantage, because they do not utilize impressive connections or donations to the school as much as white families might. While officers using the holistic system should look at the deeds that applicants have accomplished, oftentimes the system opens doors for corruption, like donations to the school or connections, within admissions to continue.

Asian Americans most likely aren’t the only minority group put at a disadvantage because of a lack of connections in the elite culture, but the way in which this system is set up only serves to perpetuate affirmative action.

It isn’t fair for the rich, connected applicant or the student of a particular nature, to make it in at the expense of truly hard-working applicants. As long as the SAT, ACT, and GPA systems exist, colleges should not do their applicants a disservice by claiming to look at their “personalities.”

At the same time that holistic admissions are praised by elite institutions for upholding the individual student, its true goal is to suit the purposes of the school rather than to help individual applicants. College is a time where students can find out more about themselves, after the admissions progress rather than before it.