Holistic Admissions Resources for Programs

Holistic review in graduate admissions is the process of reviewing an applicant as a whole individual, not merely select parts, such as GPA or test scores. Holistic review challenges the idea that quantitative measures alone are an accurate predictor of success in graduate school and offers admission committees with an alternative method for evaluating applicants. The University of Oregon Division of Graduate Studies encourages our graduate programs to conduct a holistic review of graduate applicants.

Across the country graduate admissions committees have historically often relied on a small set of factors to narrow down their applicant pool, typically focusing on undergraduate GPA, undergraduate institution, and GRE scores. Studies are beginning to show that these criteria alone do not accurately predict success in graduate studies and often serve as barriers to diverse and non-traditional student access to the division.

Due to a variety of factors, many graduate admission committees often rely on the status quo admission process without taking a deep look at their process and its outcomes.

The Division of Graduate Studies urges our programs to take a deeper look at their admissions application, process, and outcomes, by considering the following questions:

  • How do we measure “success” in our program?
  • What is our program’s ideal graduate student? Ideal cohort?
  • What criteria are we currently using to evaluate applicants?
  • Are our evaluation criteria and processes the same across faculty reviewers?
  • Who is involved in the review process?
  • What can we change about our application or application process to evaluate holistically? Are there criteria that are outdated? Are there criteria we could add?

The GRE testing agency, ETS, has prepared a detailed document with additional questions to consider about your admissions process. We highly recommend that each graduate program’s admissions committee use this document as a starting point for discussions around application review within their program. You can view this document here.

Holistic Review Factors 

The graduate admissions process across UO programs varies greatly among graduate programs. The information needed to adequately assess the academic promise of a Theater Arts applicant is understandably different than the information needed to assess the academic promise of a Human Physiology Student or even an MBA student. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for graduate admissions, so we encourage programs to consider which factors should be included in a holistic review of their applicant pool.

The University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School website breaks down holistic review categories as Academic Performance, Research Potential, and Persistence & Commitment. Their website is a great resource for diving deeper into those categories and mapping them to the graduate application. Read more here.


We recommend that faculty and staff involved in the evaluation of prospective graduate students to dive further into this subject by exploring the resource list we have compiled below.