New Guide Seeks to Promote Greater Legal, Public Understanding of Holistic Admission


What exactly is holistic review? Admission professionals hear this common refrain each year.

A new guide, Understanding Holistic Review in Higher Education Admissions, Guiding Principles and Model Illustration, explains key features and elements of the practice and addresses how institutions can effectively incorporate holistic review goals on their campuses.

Written by Art Coleman and Jamie Lewis Keith, the guide “provides insights into the values, logic, and rigor behind effective holistic review in higher education admissions,” the College Board said.

According to the guide, individualized holistic review optimally reflects three common characteristics: mission alignment, a two-part inquiry regarding applicants, and consideration of multiple factors that reflect their accomplishments or potential contributions to the institution.

The guide also calls on the higher education community to think differently about transparency and communications associated with holistic review in admission.

“In sum, the public would be better positioned to support higher education’s judgment on admissions criteria and processes (and funding for higher education, for that matter) if the public had a clearer understanding of the basic objectives of the admissions process, what criteria and processes are used, and why the criteria and process are both fair and serve critical national and societal interests, as well as the interests of all students,” the guide concluded.

“The value of transparency and an effective communications strategy, focused on resonating with the campus community, the general public, and federal and state legislatures; and carried out in an ongoing collaboration among higher education, industry, and military sectors, cannot be understated.”

Read the full guide here.

Shanda Ivory is NACAC’s director of communications. You can reach her at