Holistic review in graduate admissions refers to the systematic whole file review of applications to graduate programs. Holistic review is often associated with efforts to increase diversity.

The list below is not intended to be prescriptive, but rather is intended to provide information for graduate programs considering revision of departmental admissions policies and review practices. Graduate programs (or admissions committees) should:

  • Articulate the value of diversity to graduate programs and to UI
  • Carefully evaluate when GRE scores are considered in the admissions review process and whether they are being appropriately used and interpreted
  • Consider the process used in the initial review of files to ensure that certain students or groups of students are not being excluded from further consideration in early stages of review
  • Define the criteria by which each file will be reviewed
  • Use of a rubric may increase efficiency and equity by comparing all applicants using the same criteria.
  • Implement a rubric for evaluation of candidates
    • Improves transparency, equity and efficiency
    • Need to choose the categories for evaluation carefully

Suggested references and resources

  1. Council of Graduate Schools report on holistic review admissions processes: Kent, J.D. and McCarthy, M.T. (2016). Holistic Review in Graduate Admissions: A Report from the Council of Graduate Schools. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools
  2. Educational Testing Service (ETS): Guide to use of GRE scores; ETS GRE research; Proper use of GRE scores (1 page)
  3. Resources available from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
  4. Increasing Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce, July 2016, Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, Associate of Public and Land-Grant institutions, Association of American Medical Colleges
  5. Holistic review, University of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School
  6. Recent books and articles connecting admissions criteria and graduate student success:
  • Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity and Faculty Gatekeeping, Julie Posselt, 2016, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
  • Hall, JD, O‘Connell AB, Cook JG, Predictors of Student Productivity in Biomedical Graduate School Applications, PLoS ONE 12(1):e0169121; doi:101371/journal.pone.0169121.
  • Moneta-Koehler L, Brown AM, Petrie KA, Evans BJ, Chalkley R. The Limitations of the GRE in Predicting Success in Biomedical Graduate School, PLoS ONE 12(1):e0166742; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166742
  • A Test that Fails, Casey Miller and Keivan Stassun, Nature2014, 510.