Giving the Students What They Want – How Holistic Review Can Solve the New Admissions Conundrum

How Holistic Review Can Solve the New Admissions Conundrum

A recent study by Adobe for Education, entitled “Making the case for a more holistic measure of success,” unpacks the disconnect between the perceived value of creative skills in college admissions versus the amount of weight and attention such skills receive when colleges select their matriculants each year. 

“Essential skills can be defined through the 5Cs,” the study begins. Those are defined as Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and Creative Problem-Solving. And they are important for a student’s future success.  

The main findings of the study — which was done to highlight important skills for job recruitment — are that all stakeholders in the college admissions process highly value the 5Cs, but that the typical admissions infrastructure is inadequate for effectively prioritizing them. This situation is exacerbated by COVID test-optional admissions policies that have challenged the higher-ed notion of how each next college class should be chosen. 

Perhaps most notable of all, the study findings reveal that students want the opportunity to show their future-critical “5Cs” skills holistically in their college applications but are being stymied in most instances.

The study’s stark statistics also reveal how little time is given to the assessment of each college applicant following their grade-school work and college preparation. On average, students invest 14,000 hours of their time attending kindergarten through 12th grade, log 26,000 hours on all forms of schoolwork (including homework and extracurriculars) and invest 29 hours preparing their college applications and essays. When they apply to college, their application receives just 11 minutes on average of an admission officer’s time.  

According to Stacy Cerda, Counselor at Poinciana High School in Kissimmee, Florida, who was interviewed for the study, “I feel like [colleges/universities] could be doing a better job at looking at the student holistically, especially now, with all of the changes happening. I feel like just looking at students’ transcripts with their backgrounds is not efficient anymore. They have to know the whole student.” 

Other findings in the study include the following: 

  1. Students are not demonstrating creative skills well on college applications because they do not know how or where to showcase them – and counselors also want more guidance.
  2. Admissions decision-makers say the college admissions process needs to evolve to better incorporate students’ creative skills into the evaluation process, and they want their institutions to implement solutions.
  3. COVID-19 has accelerated the trend of holistic college admissions with a loss of hard academic metrics.

With changing admissions criteria for many college applicants during the pandemic, numerous institutions are instinctively pushing for holistic review that considers the applicant’s overall skillsets and soft skills. 

Alison Herget, an admissions officer at Villanova University who was also interviewed, reports that “Over the last few years, we see more and more applicants who meet our academic qualifications. The challenge is, how do you distinguish between those applicants? It’s become more important to look at other factors in the admissions process to be able to distinguish between candidates.”  

For educational institutions that are ready to answer this demand from applicants and staff alike for holistic admissions review, SlideRoom can be a powerful ally. It provides the ideal platform for enabling applicants to share their “5Cs” skills as learning artifacts. The SlideRoom portal supports many file types for the uploading of applicants’ chosen media and makes remote collaboration for reviewers convenient and insightful.  

For more information on how SlideRoom evolves admissions practices as recommended by the Adobe for Education study, contact John Tierney. 

For the complete Adobe study findings, click here to download your complimentary copy. 

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