Getting Started in Graduate Holistic Admissions

Department chairs, vice chairs for graduate study, and admissions chairs are best poised catalyze and guide change in their programs, but we hope all faculty can feel empowered to begin and participate in conversations around holistic graduate admissions. As a first step, departments can reflect together on the qualities that ensure graduate student success and where, in an application file, those qualities might be found.

The Department of English at UCLA, for example, began such a conversation in fall 2019 with a discussion first in their English Graduate Committee followed by a broader discussion during a departmental meeting. Department leadership followed this up with a faculty survey, the results of which the Graduate Committee used to develop an evaluation rubric (more on rubrics in Engaging Best Practices link on the right).

English decided, as a department, what qualities ensured graduate student success in their field and what elements of an applicant’s file gave them the most useful information about those qualities. They then developed a clear and consistent mode for evaluating those elements of the file, and at the end of the admission cycle reflected on how well their process worked and what aspects of it they might like to adjust in the coming year. Departments that wish to do something similar will find useful resources here and in AMIGA’s Holistic Review Toolkit.