AACRAO submits amicus brief in support of holistic admissions processes

Melanie Gottlieb |
August 4, 2022
  • AACRAO News
  • act
  • advocacy
  • College Board
  • Diversity
  • Holistic admissions
  • race-conscious
  • supreme court

On August 1, the nation’s leading higher education admissions and college entrance exam providers joined together to submit an amicus brief on race-conscious admissions. ACT, the College Board, and National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) partnered with AACRAO to stress to the U.S. Supreme Court the importance of upholding decades of research and legislation that supports individualized holistic review of individual students’ applications, including when race has affected their self-identity and experience. The organizations also issued a joint statement to alert the higher education community to the critical importance of the issues addressed in the SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. UNC cases. 

“Our four organizations have come together in this unprecedented way in order to support the practice of holistic admissions in post-secondary admissions. We wanted to provide the court with the guiding principles that define the field.” said AACRAO Executive Director, Melanie Gottlieb. “The professionals engaged in college and university admissions in the U.S. are well supported by decades of active and evolving research-informed practice that follows legal guidelines and has made a significant difference in access and equity to higher education.”  

The brief, available in its entirety here, offers an evidence-based understanding of the admission process, use of tests in that context, and the precedent associated with the consideration of race in admissions. Current holistic admissions practices adhere to a legal framework that has grounded diversity efforts for decades. AACRAO believes these practices are instrumental in helping institutions to identify students who are likely to thrive in their educational programs.

AACRAO Associate Executive Director of Consulting & SEM, Michele Sandlin, is an industry leading holistic admissions expert and was a key player in the drafting of the brief. Her work on the development and use of holistic admissions was heavily cited. Sandlin’s extensive research over the last forty years proves that the use of nonacademic factors coupled with academic measures is a strong predictor of student success. 

As cited in the brief, there is a long history of case law that supports the use of holistic assessment’s focus on diversity and confirms that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in ensuring student body diversity. As student demographics undergo rapid change, more colleges and universities are looking beyond traditional measures to admit future students. To remove the consideration of non-academic factors is unfair to applicants for whom this is a critical part of their life and would deprive applicants of full and due consideration of their lived experiences.

For inquiries related to AACRAO’s participation in the amicus brief please reach out to communications@aacrao.org