Studies Call for More Holistic Admissions

As colleges around the country notify high school seniors of their admission decisions, the College Board released a series of studies last week that call for a reassessment of ways that universities have traditionally predicted applicants’ future college performance.

The studies, which were presented at the conference of the American Educational Research Association last week, recommend that universities seriously consider other measurements of predictive performance outside of grade point average and standardized test scores.

For example, colleges could request that applicants complete a questionnaire presenting different scenarios that would reveal interpersonal skills and personal discipline, University of Minnesota professor Nathan R. Kuncel proposed in one of the studies.

Regarding many colleges’ practice of using interviews, letters of recommendation, and application essays to judge an applicant’s “fit,” College Board researcher Krista D. Mattern told the Chronicle of Education that “admissions committees should be wary of using such information in the admissions-decisions process.”

According to Harvard’s Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath ’70, the College attempts to develop “as complete a picture of each [applicant] as possible” and considers in the admissions process multiple factors such as perseverance, drive, humor, and integrity.

McGrath wrote in an e-mail that “‘fit’ is very much a two-way process,” adding that “there is no formula for measuring fit!”

Some Harvard students agree with the findings in the College Board studies that the college admissions process still has room for improvement when determining a student’s “fit.”

“I don’t think I fit in here,” said Jade R. Randle ’11, who added that she wished she had remained in Texas. “I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb.”