Holistic Admissions

Expanding Beyond Traditional Admissions 

GPA and test scores are no longer the sole predictors of student success for today’s diverse student populations. As student demographics continue to evolve, a growing number of colleges and universities have decided to make standardized tests optional for their applicants. At the same time, institutions increasingly look for ways to identify the best possible matches for their educational programs. For these reasons and many more, colleges and universities are looking beyond the traditional admissions criteria. In the face of such substantial change, more admissions leaders are asking: How do we determine whether an applicant will thrive at my institution?

The answer is holistic admissions, with its broad-based emphasis on the whole student including life skills, experiences and non-academic attributes. With over 20 years of pioneering experience in the discipline, AACRAO Consulting brings specialized expertise in holistic admissions that looks beyond academic performance and preparation measures. Completed in close collaboration with your institutional leadership and admissions team, our Holistic Admissions Review is designed to:

  • Supplement your existing admissions process
  • Identify additional data points that can complement or replace standardized test scores
  • Diversify your student population and enroll more non-traditional learners
  • Improve student success and retention
  • Prepare for shifting student demographics now and well into the future

Identify, Develop, Train

AACRAO Consulting’s Holistic Admissions Review includes an intensive onsite interview and information-gathering process, offsite process development, and in-person training. Over the course of the Review, we’ll help you:

  • Identify the student populations you’d like to more effectively attract
  • Define non-academic attributes that more strongly predict student retention and success
  • Develop a supplemental admissions process incorporating research-based and legally vetted questions
  • Design a validated, objective scoring rubric to gauge applicants’ responses
  • Conduct personalized onsite training for your staff 
  • Increase awareness of and avoid potential biases 
  • Ensure alignment with your institutional mission and vision

At the conclusion of your Holistic Admissions Review, you’ll be prepared to expand your admissions process beyond conventional academic criteria. What’s more, your institution will reap the benefits from welcoming students who bring a broader and more diverse range of experiences, skills and abilities.

Contact AACRAO Consulting today to schedule your Holistic Admissions Review and learn how we can help you move past traditional admission processes.

Related Resources

University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC)

May 8, 2020, 12:58 PM
Location : Omaha, NE

Nebraska’s only public academic health sciences center, UNMC is focused on preparing a 21st century healthcare workforce to provide leading-edge medical care for the state and beyond. In 2016, UNMC realized it needed to attract a more diverse range of students to support the university’s mission. This required moving beyond the traditional academics-based admissions criteria the university had been relying on to date for student enrollment.

Nebraska’s only public academic health sciences center, UNMC is focused on preparing a 21st century healthcare workforce to provide leading-edge medical care for the state and beyond. In 2016, UNMC realized it needed to attract a more diverse range of students to support the university’s mission. This required moving beyond the traditional academics-based admissions criteria the university had been relying on to date for student enrollment.

In order to attract more diverse applicants, UNMC needed to define exactly what diversity meant to the university as well as its various academic departments. The university also realized it needed to take a more comprehensive, mission-based approach to admissions that extended beyond grade point averages and test scores. After hearing AACRAO Consulting subject-matter experts speak on the practice of Holistic Admissions, UNMC reached out for assistance in reaching the university’s enrollment goals that included reaching a broader pool of eligible and qualified applicants.

AACRAO Consulting collaborated closely with leadership and staff from UNMC’s Student Services as well as Academic and Students Affairs departments to help define diversity for the university’s 15 academic programs. With a more clearly articulated definition of diversity, AACRAO Consulting helped UNMC pinpoint three primary goals for expanding its pool of applicants: 1) Increase the number of first-generation college goers; 2) Encourage more applicants and admitted students from lower-income families; and 3) Improve student representation from rural and inner-city areas.

Once the specific goals were identified, AACRAO Consultants led on-campus workshops with faculty and staff to develop and implement the university’s new Fair Select tool, an application process that takes into account students’ extracurricular activities, community engagement and service, motivation, experiences and character as well as their academic performance.

AACRAO Consulting worked closely with UNMC to ensure departments and staff understood the Fair Select tool, how it worked, and how to leverage it to attract a more diverse range of eligible applicants. Along with helping to develop the rubric against which applications would be measured, AACRAO Consultants also trained application readers on how to use the tool, and review and score applications and essays.

UNMC’s Fair Select tool and mission-based admissions process have been in place for one admissions cycle, and the university has already seen marked results in the students they’ve accepted. With a Holistic Admissions approach in place, UNMC has interviewed more applicants who bring professional experience as well as academic qualifications. They’ve also seen fewer interview cancellations and an increase in yield among applicants choosing to enroll at UNMC. University admissions staff have noticed that with the new process in place, the applicants they attract are now more passionate and enthusiastic about attending UNMC.

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Testimonials

Our experience working with AACRAO Consulting was great. There was some doubt with faculty and staff that a more holistic approach to admissions would generate results, but after the first admissions cycle since implementation we’ve seen results that tell us it does work. Cognitive admissions is a fairly new area, and AACRAO Consulting is leading the charge in this field. They helped walk us through the process step by step. They’re credible, timely, responsive, and very cost-effective. And it’s obvious they’re in this for all the right reasons — not to sell a product, but because they genuinely want to make our institution better.

Maggie J. Winnicki, MPH, Director of Student Services & Academic & Student Affairs, University of Nebraska Medical Center