Many schools, particularly selective colleges and universities, use holistic admissions. But what does that really mean? In short, it means schools attempt to evaluate students as whole people, not just numbers and stats.
Admissions committees at these schools definitely consider grades and test scores — they’re still very important. But holistic admissions also considers who the student is outside numbers and how they will contribute to the campus. This is where extracurriculars, recommendation letters, course rigor, interviews, and demonstrated interest come into play.
Let’s consider two students. Student 1 has top grades and scores, they’re a member of a club or two, and they wrote a somewhat boring essay about a cliched topic. Student 2 has decent grades and average test scores. But they founded a new club at their high school, set a school record running track, and wrote a thought-provoking essay about guacamole. At a non-holistic school, Student 1 is more likely to be accepted based on their numbers. But at a holistic admissions school, Student 2 may be more likely to get that acceptance letter.
More and more, schools are looking for interesting, well-rounded students who can add value to the school’s community as well as perform well academically. Academics are still key — even with holistic admissions, students still need to be able to succeed academically — but additional factors can give students an extra edge.