Holistic admissions

Dear Harvard, this is how you could run an admissions lottery

Dear Harvard, this is how you could run an admissions lottery

Dear Harvard College Admissions,

As you’re quite aware, there have been increasing calls for you to try out an admissions lottery system. Calls like the one here, for example, and here and here and here and here. A lot of people think the most fair way to handle admissions for a program that is worth a whole lot but only has an acceptance rate under 5% is to literally leave it up to chance. No legacy admissions, no diversity goals, no athletic recruitment, no committee votes. This, they say, would guarantee true diversity by taking away all biases and loopholes.

I completely understand your reluctance to go in this direction.

The Glossary: holistic admissions

The Glossary: holistic admissions

Most American universities use some form of holistic admissions to determine who they will invite to enroll at their school. "Holistic" means that they look at the whole applicant and the whole application, and it usually means they look at the whole application together. There are no cut-off test scores; there is no formula for how to score and weight each portion of the application; there is no "magic bullet" that will earn you admission or get you rejected. This means that you can't necessarily make sense of the results by only looking at a part, because they take the whole into consideration. So a person may get accepted while someone with lower test scores does not. A person who writes a really crappy essay may still get accepted if the other parts of the application look great.