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College Admissions and the Holistic Approach

Many college representatives have offered their perspective on what colleges look for during the admissions process. Of course, each school has its unique approach but there are be some important trends. Specifically, more and more schools are moving toward a holistic approach to student evaluation. What does this mean exactly? Previously, certain schools would assess a student’s numerical scores such as GPA, standardized test scores, and class rank to determine admissibility. But, school representatives are realizing that such a narrow view can lead to the rejection of many qualified students. Certain students distinguish themselves based on other, similarly important traits such as leadership skills, a specific talent, or how a student handled a unique circumstance. Looking at a student holistically – and evaluating all pieces of his/her application – allows college admissions to more effectively make decisions based on factors that will ultimately lead to a student’s academic success. A holistic application review process also helps colleges create the diverse and well-rounded student body necessary to enrich the campus environment.  

According to some college representatives, there are over thirty factors that are evaluated in an application review. Individual schools obviously prioritize some factors over others. Here is a list of some of the factors college representative consider:

  • High school transcript/GPA
  • Rigor of course work
  • Class rank
  • Standardized test scores
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Community service
  • Personal essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Work experience
  • Demographics (race, gender, geographic location)
  • Student demonstrated interest in that school
  • Alumni interview
  • Legacy
  • Extenuating circumstances


Most schools want to build a diverse student body composed of students with unique characteristics. It is, therefore, critical that a student’s application communicates how his or her strengths will impact the school. Ultimately, what will be your contribution?

Lynn BohnCollege Admissions and the Holistic Approach