Holistic College Admissions during COVID-19

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.

COLLEGE ROADMAP

FRESHMAN

  • You’ve got time before applications are due, but it’s time to think about what interests you have outside academics and pick some extracurriculars.
  • Try anything that sounds interesting. Don’t try to think about what “will look good” on an application or what you think colleges will be looking for. Be yourself and explore your passions.

SOPHOMORE

  • Continue trying new things and delving deeper into extracurriculars you started last year.
  • As you move through high school, try to take on larger roles within clubs or groups and demonstrated increased leadership and responsibility.

JUNIOR

  • It’s not too late to try something new, but also continue to expand responsibilities in activities you’re already participating in.
  • COVID-19 has thrown many activities into disarray, so you may have to be creative in figuring out ways to continue.
  • You can also use this time to explore new interests, start a new online or socially distanced club, or teach yourself something new. We’re limited in many ways by COVID-19, but there are lots of opportunities out there!

SENIOR

  • It’s not too late to try something new, but also continue to expand responsibilities in activities you’re already participating in.
  • COVID-19 has thrown many activities into disarray, so you may have to be creative in figuring out ways to continue.
  • You can also use this time to explore new interests, start a new online or socially distanced club, or teach yourself something new. We’re limited in many ways by COVID-19, but there are lots of opportunities out there!