Yudof Proposes Systemwide Adoption of Holistic Admissions Process

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Analysis: Holistic Review

Javier Panzar and Jordan Bach-Lombardo discuss the holistic review process and UC President Mark Yudof's call to switch to this process.

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Proposed changes to the UC admissions process may allow more applicants who otherwise would have been rejected by the strict point-based formula currently employed at most campuses to attend the university.

Though the holistic review process UC President Mark Yudof proposed at the March meeting of the UC Board of Regents has received widespread approval from both administrators and faculty across the UC system, some campuses want to retain the admissions practices they have developed.

Yudof said at the meeting he wants all campuses that employ a points-based comprehensive review-where the majority or all of an application is reviewed by a computer formula-to switch to holistic review, as adopted by UC Berkeley in 2002 and UCLA in 2007, where each application is read in its entirety and scored by a reader.

To implement this change, each individual campus would have to approve the switch. Although the board sets broad admissions criteria for the whole UC system, each campus has the ability to apply the guidelines to their application review process, according to Daniel Simmons, vice chair of the Academic Senate.

"The president can recommend whatever he wants and admissions policies are within the purview of the regents," he said. "But I think it is very important to respect the role of faculty on each campus to structure their own admission policy within the policy of the regents."

According to Susan Wilbur, UC director of undergraduate admissions, by adopting holistic review, campuses would better identify talented students rather than defining merit on grades and test scores.

"Admissions practices are regularly monitored and undergo careful study with an eye toward process improvements particularly through the adoption of best practices," she said in an e-mail. "Holistic review is considered a best practice."

Calvin Moore, a UC Berkeley professor of mathematics who chaired the Academic Senate Committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Preparatory Education when UC Berkeley switched to holistic review, said it ensures that the entire application is read by a human reader, instead of reducing a student to a formula in a computer.

"If a student has one 'F' on an otherwise stellar record, that student shouldn't be kept out," said UC Berkeley professor of physics Bob Jacobsen, former chair of the committee and former campus representative on the admissions board. "You are more than your test scores, more than your GPA."

UC Riverside is already switching to holistic review, said Professor Vivian-Lee Nyitray, chair of the Undergraduate Admissions Committee of the UC Riverside Academic Senate.

"For us the issue is selectivity," she said. "We're trying to ... be more selective and maintain the diversity we want. One way to do that is (to give) individual reads and not let the applicants just be numbers in a computer."

But the switch would also require the campus to fund the hiring of additional application readers, she added. She said the campus is currently doing a cost analysis.

UCSB Director of Admissions Christine Van Gieson said UC Santa Barbara faculty are satisfied with the campus's admissions process-a hybrid model which combines elements of points-based and holistic review-and do not intend to switch to a completely holistic application review. UCSB's current admissions process has allowed the campus to meet its goals of increasing both the geographic and ethnic diversity and the quality of its incoming freshman class, she said.

However, according to David Stern, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus who chaired the Academic Senate Committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Preparatory Education committee after the campus shifted to holistic review, the admissions approach is not the sole determinant of the make-up of a student body. Factors such as fee increases also influence the admissions process, he said.

"Stories are unique, students are unique," he said. "We try to honor that."

Javier Panzar of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Contact Jordan Bach-Lombardo at [email protected]

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