Sample criteria to use in a Holistic Review Rubric
When interviewing applicants for admission in the holistic admissions model consider the following best practices.
These criteria should be discussed and modified by an appropriate program committee as part of the holistic admission strategy for a graduate admissions committee.
These same criteria are also implemented within a corresponding sample template rubric available here to download. Within the template rubric, the High/Medium/Low/Not measurable (or, 3/2/1/0, respectively) scale is considered best practice and therefore, the Graduate School does not recommend this scale be modified. It is also possible to weight specific criteria more heavily than others. This generally is not recommended so that determining the weighting scheme does not become subjective and the goal of using broad criteria within holistic review is maintained.
The sections on the page consider some example review criteria and how they could be evaluated.
This criterion intends to evaluate all information on this topic that the available evidence (personal statement, transcripts, letters, supplements, etc.) might provide. While strong academic preparation is often evaluated in a straightforward way, there may be extenuating circumstances that cloud the record of academic preparation and alternative evaluation of application materials can help clarify the academic record. For example, a student who had difficulty adjusting to college, had medical challenges, or took on caretaking responsibility might have low grades during a time period of high stress and high grades during the rest of their academic record. Indeed, the capacity for personal and professional growth may be represented by a higher GPA during the last two years of undergraduate studies compared to those in the first two. It may be worthwhile to consider alternative GPA calculations such as in courses relevant to the program or during the last 60 credits in order to incorporate a relevant view of academic preparation. Applicants may also have further challenged themselves through an academic challenge such as a double major that could be accounted for in a “Difficulty of courses/ credit load” category. A “Major independent, non-research/creative artistry contribution to undergraduate program” might be, for example, serving as a teaching assistant or discussion group leader for a course. Additional attributes to consider (and reward by additional points if using a rubric) under this criterion might include problem solving, creativity, critical reasoning, written communication, etc.
Across the available documents/evidence, this criterion intends to identify and rank all past creative artistry/research activities with respect to how they might increase the potential of the applicant for successful completion of the graduate program. Additional attributes to consider under this point might include initiative, compassion, teamwork, motivation, etc. as they relate to scholarly activities. However, these could also be considered under “Other personal qualities.”
Alignment with the program
This criterion intends to address “Alignment” and “Personal interest” as well as “Recruitability” of the candidates. The criterion is expected to be extensively discussed among the admission committee members in a program specific manner prior to the review. The admissions committee might choose to include research/creative artistry and scholarly alignment as well as alignment with stated values of the program such as community-based research, performance, a diverse group of people within the program, extension work, etc. Examples of additional criteria to consider under this point might include ethnicity, race, international status, area of expertise, etc. if a value or goal of the program is having a diverse group of people within the program.
This criterion intends to address “Curiosity”, both intellectual and practical as well as providing information about how the applicant spends time outside the classroom. Examples of evidence include, but are not limited to, playing an instrument, emergency medical technician certification, rock climbing guide, etc.
Preference for long-term goals
This criterion intends to evaluate the applicant’s perspectives by addressing preference for either short- or long-term goals. Examples for short-term goals include, but are not limited to, completing a specific course or acquiring a skill/method/technology. However, short-term goals might fit into a long-term plan, for example if the applicant can clearly explain how mastering a certain skill serves the accomplishment of long-term career plans.
While this criterion intends to evaluate perseverance as an important personal trait, it also encompasses valuation of the applicant’s dedication towards graduate education across socio-economic barriers, personal obstacles, and other challenges via specific scenarios. Again, the criterion is expected to be extensively discussed among the admission committee members and altered if needed in a program specific manner to widen the scope of holistic evaluation that promotes diversity and inclusion. Alternative/additional criteria to consider here might include motivation, adaptability, life experiences, etc.
Self-efficacy relates to the applicants belief that they can be successful in carrying out tasks and meeting goals and understanding how their own actions determine the completion of short term tasks, long term goals, and their impact. Research suggests that self-efficacy is an important component in graduate student success.
Other personal qualities
Across the available documents/evidence, this criterion intends to identify and rank personal qualities with respect to how they might increase or decrease the potential of the applicant for successfully completing the given graduate program apart from the competencies/attributes evaluated separately. Since most of this information will most likely be extracted from the personal statement and letters of reference, a rubric might assign extra points related to quality of letters. Examples of qualities to consider under this point might include cultural competency, reliability/dependability, maturity, integrity, ethics, values, and personal traits like being detail oriented, visionary, (un)focused, etc. The importance of any personal attributes should be determined prior to the review, and if deemed critical for the mission of the program, should be included and emphasized more by evaluating as a separate criterion.