Use the following best practices as part of your admissions holistic review strategy.
Engagement and exposure to inclusive excellence training
Faculty and staff engagement in the applicant review process is essential to the success and sustainability of a holistic review process and is primarily accomplished through the implementation of an admissions committee. The committee should be exposed to all elements of the holistic review model and receive training on topics including (but not limited to) inter-rater reliability, unconscious bias, and rubric review.
Mentoring and funding
In some programs, final acceptance of an applicant depends on finding a faculty member who agrees to mentor and often fund the applicant as a student. In these programs, it is often the individual faculty members reviewing subsets of applicants interested in their research who decide admissions rather than a committee. Holistic review can still be implemented by:
- Working together as a group to develop consistent criteria that all faculty agree to apply to their individual review of applications.
- Using a rubric filled out by individual faculty and collected across the program. This allows for a programmatic picture of the admissions process and provides data to address fairness, inclusiveness, and equitability.
- Using a standard set of multiple mini interview (MMI) questions.
- Developing a pool of applicants who are qualified and not already matched with a faculty member for mentorship and circulating it broadly among faculty. Sometimes faculty have a late developing opportunity, their recruiting efforts have fallen through, or another faculty ended up not taking an applicant of interest. Use of a pool is a best practice for increasing offers to applicants from under-represented groups. This hybrid model allows faculty a second look at applicants and often increases the number of offers made by a program.
Bring specifics to discussions from the application/interview in describing what an applicant is like and how admissible you find them. Notice whether you or your colleagues are prone to unsubstantiated use of adjectives (excellent, solid, underprepared, etc.).
Disagreement during discussion is not a problem, but manage disagreement with care for both the question at hand and the people involved.
Use predefined criteria
Avoid the “Admission Death March” and focus on building the case for applicants relative to specific, predefined criteria (i.e. a rubric) instead of comparatively evaluating applicants against each other. The latter leads to privileging qualities to which there is unequal access.
Use of indicators
Ensure that the full range of available indicators are considered and used appropriately in the decision-making process.
Individualize consideration about how an applicant will contribute value to the learning environment/mission/outcomes of a program is preferred.
No matter what your policy context, you CAN talk about identities associated with the distribution of test scores, grades, access to elite colleges or perspectives a student brings to the program, such as race and ethnicity.
Do not use GPA/GRE/GMAT as a first cut of applications because this discounts other important criteria, and do not include GPA/GRE/GMAT in discussions after the interview process!
Race, ethnicity and gender can be considered IF directly tied to mission related goals AND as one of a broad mix of factors.
Consider diversity early
Do not wait until you are done to assess the diversity of your selected students. If diversity is a programmatic value/mission, be sure to embed it into the conversation, evaluation, and your decisions.