Tips from an Irvine Admissions Consultant: What Is A Holistic Admissions Process?

Many colleges and universities advertise a holistic admissions process, but most students are unfamiliar with the term. In a time when test scores and a 4.0+  GPA is emphasized left and right, it seems like there isn’t anything else that colleges look at. A holistic admissions process means that the college will look at the whole student. Students who have excellent test scores and a high GPA but have zero extracurricular activities may be at a disadvantage. However, students who are counting on those extracurriculars to help them get into college will do well to apply to at least a couple of holistic universities. So what exactly is the “whole” student?


1. Extracurricular and volunteer experience

One of the things colleges want to know about a potential student is what they did outside of school. Although it can seem like the hours between 7:30 and 3:00 just never end colleges want to know what happens from 3 p.m. on. They may see one student who filled all of their required community service hours but demonstrated through their application that they weren’t interested in any of their community activities, and they might see another student who focuses in on using one of their passions or skills to truly make a difference in other’s lives. Colleges will also look at a student’s hobbies or passions. If a student loves to draw universities will want to hear about or see that student’s art portfolio, if they were heavily involved in beach cleanup throughout high school, they’ll want to hear about the student’s passion for a clean ocean. Hobbies don’t have to be related to a student’s intended major, in fact varying interest makes for a well rounded individual (READ: “6 Ways to Ace that Job Search”).

2. Personal circumstances

Holistic universities will also look at a student’s individual circumstances. Perhaps a student had a passion for cleaning up the ocean but didn’t have time to participate in this activity because they worked 15 hours a week to help their family. Some students may have only had access to the Internet at school or the library and may not have had as much time to study as their peers. Students who spend their afternoons working are encouraged to mention that as earning money is an admirable way to spend free time.

3. A member of the community

Colleges with a holistic admissions process will also look at who will make a good member of their particular community. This is a tough one to explain because what a college is looking for in 2015 may be different than what they were looking for in 2010 or 2005. Students will often take it personally if they feel they have been rejected for this reason, however, each college will be looking for different students to add to their overall community. The same student might be a perfect fit for one college but not a fantastic fit for another. Why colleges choose one particular student over another is anyone’s guess (READ: “5 Things to do Before You Go Away to College”).

4. Individuality

Another thing universities will look for is the individuality of to their student body. Many students go to college so they can learn about new people and experience something different than high school. Other students will quickly specialize in a particular field that may attract similarly minded people. For the most part, colleges will look for some type of individuality or originality in order to provide a diverse campus for their students. This is one of the many reasons why a student’s personal statement should express such originality.

5. Test scores and GPA

Yes, a well-rounded student will also have to focus on test scores and GPA. A holistic admissions process doesn’t excuse students from achieving the recommended grades and test scores for a particular university; it simply means that these aren’t the only things the university looks at. In fact, many colleges look at test scores and grades first and foremost. It’s still paramount that students achieve the scores they need to at least meet the requirements of the ‘average’ student at the university they apply to if they want to have a high chance of admission.

Whether it’s a holistic admissions process or a traditional one, it’s never too early or late to book your private Irvine admissions consultant – our consultants have a 97% success rate. Call us today for more information.

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