Accepting Holistic College Admissions Decisions

The day before the celebrity college admissions scandal story broke, Inside Higher Ed ran a story which contained the following statement:

More than three-fourths of [college] presidents (79 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that the public does not understand the concept of holistic admissions.
— Inside Higher Ed

This misunderstanding is the root cause of college admissions mania. People beholden to the notion that college decisions are based on grades and test scores have not been paying attention. Check out the website of any college and you will understand holistic admissions. Listen to the College Board and most admissions experts and you will not.

In the wake of the scandal, college counselors are separating themselves from the work of Rick Waters, the mastermind behind the perplexing criminal enterprise. Great organizations such as IECA, HECA, and NACAC are spreading the message that families retaining the services of their members will be safe from such corruption. We certainly hope so but this does not address the underlying issue.

Holistic admissions is not a mysterious concept. Colleges must consider factors other than grades and test scores when assessing their applicants. They need to understand a family’s ability to pay. They need to understand an applicant’s likelihood to enroll if accepted. They need to understand whether the student will thrive in their community. None of these factors can be gleaned solely from grades, test scores, and a short essay.

As long as families and advisors focus on grades and test scores as their guiding light, they will continue to miss the bigger picture.

RIck Singer is a despicable figure. The parents who utilized his services knowing the fraud that he was perpetuating are conspiring criminals. The coaches who abused their fiduciary duties and abused their power by accepting bribes are beyond pity.

Believing college admissions is based on meritocracy as defined by grades and test scores is the problem.

SInger’s website explained his services were aimed “to help teenagers develop a “personal brand,” helping them stand out from tens of thousands of others seeking admission to elite schools.” Ironically, this advice is timely and relevant. Unfortunately, the power of this statement will be thrown out with the tainted bath water.

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