The ‘holistic’ admissions lie

The Devil's Advocate

jason.web

Today, UC Berkeley’s application for fall 2013 admission will become available online. Nervous high school seniors around the world will finally be able to begin the rather unpleasant process of compiling grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities and essays and entering them into the university’s sleek, blue application portal.

Unfortunately, UC Berkeley’s admissions office — like those of many other colleges and universities — represents its applicant evaluation process to these students in a way that is both implausible and unhealthy by suggesting that it is qualified to determine not only an applicant’s academic promise, but whether he or she is a good person.

Consider the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ freshman selection criteria. They include a list of personal qualities, like “character,” “responsibility,” “insight,” “maturity” and “concern for others and for the community.”

Or watch the video put out by the undergraduate admissions office, which has more than 167,000 views on YouTube, called “Mythbusting the Application Process.” An admissions officer says Berkeley looks at the “whole person” when making admissions decisions. Students suggest that admissions decisions are based on “who you really are,” and one student claims that “what Berkeley was looking for was not necessarily what was in my GPA or in my test scores, per se, but … what I did for my community.”

Other universities also seem determined to portray their admissions processes as evaluations of applicants’ quality as people rather than assessments of their quality as students. A blog post on the MIT admissions website says “the application process is about people, about you, not about your numbers.” UCLA lists many of the same admissions criteria on its website as Berkeley does. Yale University claims to look for “applicants with a concern for something larger than themselves.” The University of Chicago’s admissions dean says his office undertakes “a truly holistic process, not just test scores and GPA. We are hoping to find out who you are, as a whole person.”

There are two serious problems with this portrayal of college admissions. The first is that it is dishonest — and arrogant in the extreme — for admissions offices to claim that they are entitled to pass judgment on the character of each of the tens of thousands of 17- and 18-year-olds whose applications they read each year. Berkeley’s admissions officers have at their disposal a transcript, test scores, a list of extracurricular activities and two short essays. On the basis of this information, colleges can make some inferences about an applicant’s academic ability. They cannot possibly rate the quality of applicants’ personalities.

Second, it is unhealthy for anxious high school students applying to college to be under the impression that they are facing a type of comprehensive judgment — not just of their academic and extracurricular performance but of their quality as human beings and their value to their communities. Students who are accepted are effectively told that they are not only academically superior, but morally superior, to the applicants who were rejected. And students who don’t get in may feel they were rejected because of some personal deficiency.

Why do admissions offices go to such great lengths to present their selection processes in this dishonest, harmful way? I think, unfortunately, that part of the answer has to do with the college rankings frenzy that has become so influential in the admissions process. Colleges are desperate to maximize the number of applications they receive so they can reduce their acceptance rates and boost their rankings. Admissions offices therefore encourage unqualified students to apply by suggesting that, even if their test scores and grades aren’t good enough, they might get in if only they can show that they are sufficiently mature, kind and responsible.

Another possibility is that admissions offices want to insulate themselves against charges that the admissions process for elite colleges has become utterly random. Some higher education experts have even suggested, rather compellingly, that it would be more honest and fair for colleges to merely identify all reasonably qualified applicants and perform a lottery to determine which ones get in. In the face of these types of radical proposals, admissions offices understandably want to defend their relevance and value, so they assert that they are there to ensure that admitted students are not only smart but also virtuous.

None of this is to say that colleges shouldn’t consider the context in which an applicant achieved. But admissions offices should acknowledge their limits — they do everyone a disservice when they pretend they have special powers to see into teenagers’ souls.

Contact Jason Willick at [email protected] or on Twitter: @jawillick.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

    It’s working. The effects of Prop. 209, Reaganomics and UC’s “holistic” admissions policies are finaly being realized. Good job, America!
    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2069/housing-bubble-subprime-mortgages-hispanics-blacks-household-wealth-disparity

    • Calipenguin

      The article you cited does not blame Prop 209, Reaganomics, or UC’s holistic admissions policies. It blames the fall in housing prices. Many low income house buyers lied about their salaries to buy more than they could afford, and racism or Reaganomics had nothing to do with their decision to lie.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

        No, these are long-term effects.

        And not everyone lied about their income getting mortgages. In fact, most people didn’t. Most people are just feeling the brunt end of the stick because of being swindled by corrupt mortgage brokers who convinced them to refinance for a lower payment on a variable rate loan, when they knew those people couldn’t afford it.

        Lots of crooks got rich off of ripping these people off, and they brought the U.S. economy down with it. Some were just more affected than others.

        These same crooks are the ones behind private student loans and payday loans, both of which impact blacks and Latinos is disproportion. Why? Because these are often the only forms a lending available to them due to red-lining and other evil practices.

        • I_h8_disqus

          So you can go back to the Reagan era to see effects, but you can’t see them in the Clinton and Bush eras? The current recession has much more to do with regulatory changes that happened long after Reagan was gone than with anything that happened during his time in office. Prop. 209 and UC’s holistic admissions policies were also not really an issue, because of the low numbers of under represented minorities that were affected.
          If you want someone to blame, then you have to blame the people who influenced black and Latinos to get to the levels of success they are at that leaves them so poor compared to Asians and whites. The UC’s low rate of admissions for under represented minorities really falls back to those groups themselves. They have not supported education or career development for their children like other groups. You reap what you sow. It is time to stop blaming others.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

            We can see them in the Clinton and Bush eras too. Not much has changed for the better. All of the gains African Americans made between 1967 and 1980 have been wiped out. Blacks have gone from having the half the net worth of whites to now having 1/20th. But, in the eyes of some (depending on their movitivation), that’s progress.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WRACM77JT2RXUR3LMGDPPUGUYY Tony M

            [All of the gains African Americans made between 1967 and 1980 have been wiped out.]

            Blacks did better in the 1980′s under Reagan than they did during the time period you mentioned above. Of course you will never admit that because your small mind has been pumped full of propaganda.

            [Some want to target blacks and Latinos for systematic elimination from the system.]

            The fact that you actually believe that makes it quite apparent that you’re a bona fide fruitcake. I would suggest that you’re merely emulating “Jay Tallahassee, Most Paranoid Black Man in America”, but I’m sure that Bay Area reference would go way over your head.

            [They encourage racial profiling and drug policy that has a disparage
            impact on minorities, like increasing the penalities (sic) on crack cocaine
            over powdered cocaine.]

            If you actually KNEW anything about how those stiffer penalties came about, they were result of pressure from leaders in those same minority communities that were affected by the problem. But apparently you didn’t hear that from the mouths of Louis Farrakhan or Cynthia McKinney or any of your other preferred sources, so it don’t even register in your small mind, does it?

          • I_h8_disqus

            We are going to disagree on the cause. Instead of looking at fringe groups like Stormfront who have little money or influence or by blaming drug policies, I suggest looking inward at the black community. The situation of blacks in the US is not because of non-blacks. The situation has been caused by blacks. While I am not Asian, I will use them as an example of what I expect to see from blacks if they want to succeed. Asians had been nothing but low paid laborers in this country, or they were living in countries that repressed them. Yet in the 60′s and going forward they recognized that success came from a good education and hard work. Today the number of Asians in college and working great careers is incredible compared to their population in the country. They haven’t lamented their situation or blamed anyone else. They just pulled themselves up and out of the bad situations they were in. Now instead of being thought of as the race of cheap labor, they are thought of as the race of success. Blacks need to do the same or 50 years from now your grown kids will still be giving the same excuses that you are giving for the lack of success of blacks in the US. No other race is going to do anything for you. You have to take responsibility if you want blacks to succeed.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WRACM77JT2RXUR3LMGDPPUGUYY Tony M

          Funny how you babble on and on as if you actually know what you’re talking about. In reality, you don’t have a freaking clue. People who refinanced their fixed-rate mortgages with ARMs were not swindled or coerced into doing it. They chose gamble on mortgage rates staying low. One of the things that never sinks into the small minds of professional crybabies such as yourself is that concept that individual freedom comes with personal responsibility. Don’t come here demanding that the freedoms of others to make their own choices be limited because irresponsible or incompetent people like you can’t fend for yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

    Why will happen to the future of many UC graduates? Here’s a preview:
    http://nymag.com/news/features/asian-americans-2011-5/

    • I_h8_disqus

      You know what I see at Cal? I am seeing many more Asians who are learning the social skills side that is required for success. As their parents have worked in the US, they are now socializing their children just like other successful US families. I am in an organization that has a large number of Asians. They are no longer the nerds with no social life. They are mixing intelligence, hard work, and interaction with people into one successful type of person who will not only graduate with a degree, but will become leaders. The key is that their culture is adapting so that they can succeed more than the previous generation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

    I chose not to apply to Cal specifically because its campus lacked diversity in spite of its “holistic” evaluation process, whatever that means. I simply felt my money could have been better spent elsewhere.

    • Calipenguin

      You know, I actually agree with you on this. Cal’s percentage of Blacks did not change much, and the percentage of Latinos went up, but there’s a sort of Balkenization on campus. About the only thing we all share in common is a love for Cheese Board pizza.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

        For undergrad, I ended up deciding on a local community college that was much more diverse (and cheaper) and then transferring to a historically black college in Atlanta. If I wanted to be somewhere that lacked diversity, at least it would have to be a place that affirmed my idenrity.

        The HBCU’s graduation rates, salaries and employment rates for black students were much higher than for black students who went to historically majority white schools. I think the presence of black faculty and a racially neutral atmosphere had a lot to do with it. I didn’t have to worry about subconscious stereotypes being present in the minds of my professors (half of whom weren’t black themselves, but all of whom were black-affirming) or institutionally racism among the college’s administration. I was judged strictly on my merits and talent. In fact, my classes were harder than some of the ones I encountered later in graduate study at majority white institutions.

        I see why so many Jewish students choose Yeshiva over Harvard and so many women choose Wellesley over Yale. It’s the same reason why so many Asians are now choosing Cal and UCLA. Still, there are drawbacks to homogenization. You get you deeply in touch with your own identity, but you learn nothing of other cultures. It was definitely wise for me to spend the first two years at a very diverse community college (which was majority Hispanic in a majority Asian and white neighborhood). I am more well-rounded because of that.

  • McCoy

    What this university needs is lesser number of NF GDI pussies and more fratstars.

    • Stan De San Diego

      Go away, idiot.

      • broseph

        You go away , you NF GDI faggot

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WRACM77JT2RXUR3LMGDPPUGUYY Tony M

          Given that you use the same silly language in your posts, Mister 14-year-old-obsessed-with-being-a-frat-boy-someday, changing your handle isn’t going to convince anyone that you have any semblance of support around here.

  • Stan De San Diego

    I am in agreement on some of Jason’s points, and in disagreement on others. However, I’ll give him credit for exercising the type of critical thinking that seems to escape most of the other PC regurgitators in the Opinion section of the Daily Cal. Good work.

  • I_h8_disqus

    I have always found it interesting how I came to Berkeley thinking this was going to be the top students who were all well rounded, because of the application requirements, but have been surrounded by students who obviously got in based on numbers. I am not complaining. I want a doctor, engineer, or scientist who is top because of their skills and not because of their volunteer activities.

    • Asdfasd

      Well rounded people are boring cogs ready made for large machines.

      • I_h8_disqus

        Wouldn’t a well rounded person be at least as free thinking as the person who only focused on getting good numbers?

    • Guest

      The issue is that the numbers should be based on high Sat Scores, high Sat Subject test scores, high class rank at competitive high schools with a bonus for having high class rank at a more competitive high school. Instead, the numbers are 1,2,3,4. Assigned totally subjectively with no set standards whatsoever as to what constitutes a 1,2,3,4. Aside from being used to admit extremely marginal students with top 9% class rank who cannot qualify for any UC due to below national average Sat scores, class rank is not used as an admission factor by UC’s and neither are letters of recommendation that allow a third party evaluation of the applicant, instead of it being solely based on the personal statement, whose primary objective is to learn the race and ethnicity of the applicant. An applicant in the top 9% of his high school with a 4.0 weighted Gpa and an Sat score(Cr + Math+ Writing) below 1420 does not qualify for any UC.
      http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman/california-residents/admissions-index/index.html
      If a 4.0 student cannot post a 1420 Sat, this is an indication that the Gpa is grossly inflated. Instead of using the Sat as it is meant to be used to eliminate such applicants, UC now rewards such applicants by granting them UC eligibility. If such an applicant happened to go to an API 1-4 high school, the Sat scores are given almost no weight in the selection process. The Gpa is then rewarded due to the API level of the high school and not downgraded at all due to the non competitive nature of the high school which has already been evidenced by the low Sat scores.
      So, lets examine how holistic admissions actually works.
      There are no quantitative standards applied when a reader reduces an applicants high school academic and extracurricular record to a number that determines chances of admission: 1,2,3,4,5; with the exception that those assigned a 5 do not meet UC minimum admission requirements. As pointed out in other comments, the number of 5′s due to Sat and Sat Subject exam scores for applicants from uncompetitive high schools has been greatly reduced by increasing Eligibility in the Local Context from 4% to 9% and eliminating the Sat Subject Exam requirement. At the same time, the number of UC applicants Eligible in the Statewide Context from highly competitive high schools with Gpa’s that are lower due to the level of competition has also been reduced by requiring significantly higher Sat scores for those who are not part of their high school’s top 9%.
      An applicant with a 3.7 Gpa at a highly competitive high school, not in the top 9%, now requires a 1650 Sat score to be eligible to attend any UC including Merced or Riverside. Class rank is not considered for those Eligible in the Statewide Context. Said applicant, who is more academically qualified than an applicant with a 4.0 and Sat scores below 1420 attending a low API school, can no longer be admitted to any UC, while the 4.0 and below national average Sat scores are routinely admitted to the most highly selective UC’s.
      Getting back to Holistic Scoring by the readers.
      1) The readers are given an analysis of the high school, its API and demographics, the self reported educational level and income of the applicant’s parents but not informed of the name or race/ethnicity of the applicant.
      2) From the Freshman Personal Statement Prompt, the readers can usually learn of the race or ethnicity of the applicant.
      http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/personal-statement/index.html
      3) With this background information, the readers can now place the applicant’s academic and extracurricular achievements in their proper context so as to assign a score: 1,2,3,4,5, with 1 being the top score. Recall that apart from a score of “5″ there are no objective standards at all to any of the other possible scores. The readers can and do make judgements that a 1450 Sat score and a 4.0 Gpa for an applicant from an API 2 school is equivalent to a 2250 Sat score and a 4.2 Gpa for an applicant from an API 9 or 10 school and assign each an identical score of 2, which at Berkeley probably means admission in L&S.
      http://statfinder.ucop.edu/reports/schoolreports/search_b.aspx
      4) The only check and balance is that if the reader’s score differ by 2 or more, a Senior reader, who is a full time employee of Admissions and Records, scores the application. If the difference is a 1, an enormous difference in and of itself, the scores are averaged, 1 + 2 = 1.5.
      5) Admission is then by tiers. For L&S, the freshman tiers are college wide. In COE, the tiers are by major. For example, the highest tiers would consists of applications scored a 1, then those averaged a 1.5, then 2, 2.5 etc The college or major has a set number of slots and admission is by tier until a tier is reached where there are not enough slots to admit all in the tier. Then, there is further subjective scoring within the tier and the class is filled.
      In conclusion, the Big Lie is not informing the applicant of how his application was scored, not requiring the readers to justify their scores and not providing the score and its rationale to the applicant. Allowing a difference of 1 in the scoring to be averaged is unacceptable, because that significant difference in and of itself indicates there are no standards. A difference of 1 in the scores is equivalent to a difference between an “A” application and a “B” application and the 0.5 difference can easily drop an applicant to a tier where he is not admitted. The Freshman applicant prompt makes obvious the purpose of the Personal Statement. That there are no recommendations required as at other highly selective universities that utilize such an admission process speaks volumes with regard to UC’s concern for attaining a truly holistic evaluation of the applicant. This is nothing more than a backdoor affirmative action admissions policy whose purpose is to circumvent the California Constitution.

    • Guest

      The primary motivation behind adopting comprehensive review was simply to circumvent the ban on affirmative action-backdoor affirmative action. If the concern is a truly holistic review, recommendations from third parties who are most familiar with the applicant would be required as they are at ivy league universities whose admissions model was copied but without a requirement for recommendations and with a freshman personal statement prompt that encourages the applicant to state his race/ethnicity. An even better model would be that used by the service academies where the recommendations are from a Guidance Counselor/Principal, and a High school English and Math teacher, basic subjects that are covered on the SAT, giving an evaluation by grade, standardized test and a third party in two basic subjects. The issue is that without standardized recommendations, this is not comprehensive or holistic review but merely assigning new less defined numbers to the Gpa and Sat scores. The actual numbers give a far better photo of the applicant than the numbers after being adjusted by readers. The numbers used should be the actual Sat Scores, actual Sat Subject test
      scores, actual class rank at competitive high schools with a bonus for
      having high class rank at a more competitive high school. Instead,
      the numbers are adjusted to 1,2,3,4. Assigned totally subjectively with no set
      standards whatsoever as to what constitutes a 1,2,3,4. Class rank, a more important evaluation than Gpa in ivy league admissions models is not considered aside from
      being used to admit extremely marginal students with top 9% class
      rank who cannot qualify for any UC due to below national average Sat
      scores. As already stated, letters of recommendation that allow a third party
      evaluation of the applicant, are not utilized. Instead, the emphasis ins on the
      reply to the freshman personal statement prompt, whose primary objective is to learn the race and
      ethnicity of the applicant. An applicant in the top 9% of his high
      school with a 4.0 weighted Gpa and an Sat score(Cr + Math+ Writing)
      below 1420 does not qualify for any UC under statewide eligibility standards.

      http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman/california-residents/admissions-index/index.html
      If
      a 4.0 student cannot post a 1420 Sat, this is an indication that the
      Gpa is grossly inflated. Instead of using the Sat as it is meant to
      be used to eliminate such applicants, UC now rewards such applicants
      by granting them UC eligibility. If such an applicant happened to go
      to an API 1-4 high school, the Sat scores are given almost no weight
      in the selection process. The Gpa is then rewarded due to the API
      level of the high school and not downgraded at all due to the non
      competitive nature of the high school which has already been
      evidenced by the low Sat scores.
      So, lets examine how
      holistic admissions actually works.
      There are no quantitative
      standards applied when a reader reduces an applicants high school
      academic and extracurricular record to a number that determines
      chances of admission: 1,2,3,4,5; with the exception that those
      assigned a 5 do not meet UC minimum admission requirements. As
      pointed out in other comments, the number of 5′s due to Sat and Sat
      Subject exam scores for applicants from uncompetitive high schools
      has been greatly reduced by increasing Eligibility in the Local
      Context from 4% to 9% and eliminating the Sat Subject Exam
      requirement. At the same time, the number of UC applicants
      Eligible in the Statewide Context from highly competitive high
      schools with Gpa’s that are lower due to the level of competition has
      also been reduced by requiring significantly higher Sat scores for
      those who are not part of their high school’s top 9%.
      An
      applicant with a 3.7 Gpa at a highly competitive high school, not in
      the top 9%, now requires a 1650 Sat score to be eligible to
      attend any UC including Merced or Riverside. Class rank is not
      considered for those Eligible in the Statewide Context. Said
      applicant, who is more academically qualified than an applicant
      with a 4.0 and Sat scores below 1420 attending a low API
      school, can no longer be admitted to any UC, while the
      4.0 and below national average Sat scores are routinely
      admitted to the most highly selective UC’s.
      Getting back to
      Holistic Scoring by the readers.
      1) The readers are given an
      analysis of the high school, its API and demographics, the self
      reported educational level and income of the applicant’s
      parents but not informed of the name or race/ethnicity of the
      applicant.
      2) From the Freshman Personal Statement Prompt,
      the readers can usually learn of the race or ethnicity of the
      applicant.

      http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/personal-statement/index.html
      3)
      With this background information, the readers can now place the
      applicant’s academic and extracurricular achievements in their proper
      context so as to assign a score: 1,2,3,4,5, with 1 being the top
      score. Recall that apart from a score of “5″ there are no
      objective standards at all to any of the other possible scores. The
      readers can and do make judgements that a 1450 Sat score and a 4.0
      Gpa for an applicant from an API 2 school is equivalent to a 2250 Sat
      score and a 4.2 Gpa for an applicant from an API 9 or 10 school
      and assign each an identical score of 2, which at Berkeley probably
      means admission in L&S.

      http://statfinder.ucop.edu/reports/schoolreports/search_b.aspx
      4)
      The only check and balance is that if the reader’s score differ by 2
      or more, a Senior reader, who is a full time employee of
      Admissions and Records, scores the application. If the difference is
      a 1, an enormous difference in and of itself, the scores are
      averaged, 1 + 2 = 1.5.
      5) Admission is then by tiers. For L&S,
      the freshman tiers are college wide. In COE, the tiers are by major.
      For example, the highest tiers would consists of applications scored
      a 1, then those averaged a 1.5, then 2, 2.5 etc The college or major
      has a set number of slots and admission is by tier until a tier is
      reached where there are not enough slots to admit all in the tier.
      Then, there is further subjective scoring within the tier and
      the class is filled.
      In conclusion, the Big Lie is not informing
      the applicant of how his application was scored, not requiring the
      readers to justify their scores and not providing the score and its
      rationale to the applicant. Allowing a difference of 1 in the scoring
      to be averaged is unacceptable, because that significant difference
      in and of itself indicates there are no standards. A difference of 1
      in the scores is equivalent to a difference between an “A”
      application and a “B” application and the averages 0.5 difference
      can easily drop an applicant to a tier where he is not admitted.
      The Freshman applicant prompt elucidates the purpose of the
      Personal Statement. Requiring no recommendations as at
      other highly selective universities that utilize such an
      admission process speaks volumes with regard to UC’s
      concern for attaining a truly holistic evaluation of the applicant. Comprehensive Review is nothing more than a backdoor affirmative action admissions
      policy whose purpose is to circumvent California’s
      Constitutional ban on race and ethnicity based affirmative action.

    • Guest

      [Note that under Jason Wilick's photo next to the title it indicates there are 36 comments, yet at the comment section it only indicates 34 comments. This is the 3rd time this comment has been posted. Apparently Jason or one of the editors does not believe in free speech and has deleted the comment twice; quite hypocritical given that this is the Daily Cal and this is Berkeley, the purported sanctuary of fee speech. This is a dead on accurate portrayal of the comprehensive review admissions process. ]

      The primary motivation behind adopting
      comprehensive review was simply to circumvent the ban on affirmative
      action-backdoor affirmative action. If the concern is a truly
      holistic review, recommendations from third parties who are most
      familiar with the applicant would be required as they are at
      ivy league universities whose admissions model was copied but without
      a requirement for recommendations and with a freshman personal
      statement prompt that encourages the applicant to state his
      race/ethnicity. An even better model would be that used by the
      service academies where the recommendations are from a Guidance
      Counselor/Principal, and a High school English and Math teacher,
      basic subjects that are covered on the SAT, giving an evaluation by
      grade, standardized test and a third party in two basic subjects.
      The issue is that without standardized recommendations,
      this is not comprehensive or holistic review but merely assigning new
      less defined numbers to the Gpa and Sat scores. The actual
      numbers give a far better photo of the applicant than the numbers
      after being adjusted by readers. The numbers used should be
      the actual Sat Scores, actual Sat Subject test scores,
      actual class rank at competitive high schools with a bonus for
      having high class rank at a more competitive high school. Instead,
      the numbers are adjusted to 1,2,3,4. Assigned totally subjectively
      with no set standards whatsoever as to what constitutes a 1,2,3,4.
      Class rank, a more important evaluation than Gpa in ivy league
      admissions models is not considered aside from being used to admit
      extremely marginal students with top 9% class rank who cannot qualify
      for any UC due to below national average Sat scores. As already
      stated, letters of recommendation that allow a third party
      evaluation of the applicant, are not utilized. Instead, the emphasis
      ins on the reply to the freshman personal statement prompt,
      whose primary objective is to learn the race and ethnicity of the
      applicant. An applicant in the top 9% of his high school with a 4.0
      weighted Gpa and an Sat score(Cr + Math+ Writing) below 1420 does not
      qualify for any UC under statewide eligibility standards.

      http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/freshman/california-residents/admissions-index/index.html
      If
      a 4.0 student cannot post a 1420 Sat, this is an indication that the
      Gpa is grossly inflated. Instead of using the Sat as it is meant to
      be used to eliminate such applicants, UC now rewards such applicants
      by granting them UC eligibility. If such an applicant happened to go
      to an API 1-4 high school, the Sat scores are given almost no weight
      in the selection process. The Gpa is then rewarded due to the API
      level of the high school and not downgraded at all due to the non
      competitive nature of the high school which has already been
      evidenced by the low Sat scores.
      So, lets examine how
      holistic admissions actually works.
      There are no quantitative
      standards applied when a reader reduces an applicants high school
      academic and extracurricular record to a number that determines
      chances of admission: 1,2,3,4,5; with the exception that those
      assigned a 5 do not meet UC minimum admission requirements. As
      pointed out in other comments, the number of 5′s due to Sat and Sat
      Subject exam scores for applicants from uncompetitive high schools
      has been greatly reduced by increasing Eligibility in the Local
      Context from 4% to 9% and eliminating the Sat Subject Exam
      requirement. At the same time, the number of UC applicants
      Eligible in the Statewide Context from highly competitive high
      schools with Gpa’s that are lower due to the level of competition has
      also been reduced by requiring significantly higher Sat scores for
      those who are not part of their high school’s top 9%.
      An
      applicant with a 3.7 Gpa at a highly competitive high school, not in
      the top 9%, now requires a 1650 Sat score to be eligible to
      attend any UC including Merced or Riverside. Class rank is not
      considered for those Eligible in the Statewide Context. Said
      applicant, who is more academically qualified than an applicant
      with a 4.0 and Sat scores below 1420 attending a low API
      school, can no longer be admitted to any UC, while the
      4.0 and below national average Sat scores are routinely
      admitted to the most highly selective UC’s.
      Getting back to
      Holistic Scoring by the readers.
      1) The readers are given an
      analysis of the high school, its API and demographics, the self
      reported educational level and income of the applicant’s
      parents but not informed of the name or race/ethnicity of the
      applicant.
      2) From the Freshman Personal Statement Prompt,
      the readers can usually learn of the race or ethnicity of the
      applicant.

      http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/personal-statement/index.html
      3)
      With this background information, the readers can now place the
      applicant’s academic and extracurricular achievements in their proper
      context so as to assign a score: 1,2,3,4,5, with 1 being the top
      score. Recall that apart from a score of “5″ there are no
      objective standards at all to any of the other possible scores. The
      readers can and do make judgements that a 1450 Sat score and a 4.0
      Gpa for an applicant from an API 2 school is equivalent to a 2250 Sat
      score and a 4.2 Gpa for an applicant from an API 9 or 10 school
      and assign each an identical score of 2, which at Berkeley probably
      means admission in L&S.

      http://statfinder.ucop.edu/reports/schoolreports/search_b.aspx
      4)
      The only check and balance is that if the reader’s scores differ by 2
      or more, a Senior reader, who is a full time employee of
      Admissions and Records, scores the application. If the difference is
      a 1, an enormous difference in and of itself, the scores are
      averaged, 1 + 2 = 1.5.
      5) Admission is then by tiers. For L&S,
      the freshman tiers are college wide. In COE, the tiers are by major.
      For example, the highest tiers would consists of applications scored
      a 1, then those averaged a 1.5, then 2, 2.5 etc The college or major
      has a set number of slots and admission is by tier until a tier is
      reached where there are not enough slots to admit all in the tier.
      Then, there is further subjective scoring within the tier and
      the class is filled.
      In conclusion, the Big Lie is not informing
      the applicant of how his application was scored, not requiring the
      readers to justify their scores and not providing the score and its
      rationale to the applicant. Allowing a difference of 1 in the scoring
      to be averaged is unacceptable, because that significant difference
      in and of itself indicates there are no standards. A difference of 1
      in the scores is equivalent to a difference between an “A”
      application and a “B” application and the averages 0.5
      difference can easily drop an applicant to a tier where he is not
      admitted. The Freshman applicant prompt elucidates the
      purpose of the Personal Statement. Requiring no recommendations as
      at other highly selective universities that utilize such
      an admission process speaks volumes with regard to UC’s
      concern for attaining a truly holistic evaluation of the applicant.
      Comprehensive Review is nothing more than a backdoor
      affirmative action admissions policy whose purpose is to
      circumvent California’s Constitutional ban on race and
      ethnicity based affirmative action.

  • Whatever

    Your opinions are true to a certain extent, I must point out that this characteristic of American, and to the large extent, Western universities, separates them from Chinese universities and the Indian IITs, where the ONLY thing they consider are numbers. To the kids from these countries, who have exceptional scores but were denied admission to their country’s top universities simply because they were 1 in 1,000,000, our “un-holistic” process is a dream come true. In the international scheme of things, it’s one way to encourage brain-pump in America and brain-drain in our competitors.

    And who says increasing applicants was a bad thing? Even if what you say is true, and they are just boosting their numbers, it’s still encouraging kids to apply. What is wrong with that exactly? It’s demeaning to them to receive a rejection letter when they knew they were applying as an outside chance? No, the holistic process seeks to distinguish between two students who have the same GPA and SAT scores but are at the cutoff for acceptance. How the hell else can you decide? Flip a coin maybe?

    In the end it will always be about politics and being politically correct, and writing an article pointing out the flaws is one way to start, but will it amount to anything?

    • Calipenguin

      “And who says increasing applicants was a bad thing?”

      UC is lowering application requirements (such as removing SAT II, reducing high school prerequisites, and boosting the number of high school students accepted even in low achievement schools) in a desperate campaign to enroll more Latino, Black, and Native American students by any means necessary. UC regents face a great deal of political pressure from Latino and liberal Democrat politicians. All ten UC chancellors have filed an amicus brief expressing their desire to consider race in UC applications. But UC can’t enroll minorities if they never apply, which is why the barrier to application has been lowered so drastically. Once the applications are in, UC can resort to a plethora of barely ethical numerical manipulations to boost minority holistic scores while capping upper income Asian and white scores. One of the only areas where minorities can compete with the upper income students is community service and … being a poor minority. It’s a myth that the top academic achievers in a greatly expanded applicant pool will still win. No, the admissions departments are free to pick from any of the applicants. Ironically, UC faculty oppose a “community service” requirement for themselves.

      To answer your question, increasing applicants is a bad thing when the barriers to entry are so low that UC loses its exclusivity among top research universities and becomes CSU.

      http://www.dailycal.org/2012/08/31/bill-would-place-added-burden-on-uc-faculty/

      • Whatever

        You’re right and you’re right, but your argument is moot.

        You say the Regents are being pressured to do what exactly? Since you brought up race, we can talk about race.

        Have you taken a look at California demographics since 1950? http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06000.html
        According to the US Census, Asians make up 13.6% in CA. What are Berkeley’s undergrad demographics? http://opa.berkeley.edu/statistics/enrollmentData.html
        I’m seeing around 42.3%. If anything it looks like the UC is becoming more exclusive than ever before. In fact, Berkeley, UCLA, Irvine, etc. are far more Asian than most if not all of the Ivy Leagues. How this trend is leading to a “loss of exclusivity” is beyond me.

        In fact, looking at Berkeley enrollment figures (link 2), Mexican and Black enrollments are fairly consistent. The major figure of growth is the International students, which goes back to my point about brain-drain/brain-pump, and also brings up a new point of lack of state funding causing a decline in in-state students, which is a dead, beaten horse in this arena. But since you seem so eager for a lynching, I suggest you blame international students (who again are mostly Asian) and not Mexicans and Blacks.

        • Stan De San Diego

          > Have you taken a look at California
          > demographics since 1950?

          So freaking what? If the majority of the predominant racial/ethnic group in the state (whatever it may be) isn’t prepared or qualified for college, they shouldn’t expect to be the majority in college. This idea that college attendance should be racially/ethnically proportional to the population at large is ludicrous. Individual achievement and ability should be the primary criteria for UC admissions, NOT membership in a particular group.

          • Whatever

            Nobody said anything about proportionality, but I am pointing out the (significant) disparity. Also if you continue reading, you see I point out that URM (under-represented minority) enrollment is actually fairly stagnant. Your grievances should be taken up with those who actually taking a slice of your pie, ie. international students, rather than URMs.

            Full disclosure: I am an out-of-state Chinese-American, paying OOS tuition, applying and getting in the hard way.

          • Calipenguin

            @028528b4272638b24b1d19fedee9fecb:disqus : International students are not demanding a lower admission standard while URMs always demand lower standards for their particular ethnic group. In fact, I don’t believe international students are admitted on the holistic system, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Stan De San Diego

            > Nobody said anything about proportionality,
            > but I am pointing out the (significant) disparity.

            And this “disparity” is necessary wrong? For what reason? The PC crowd accepts this as some type of axiom. Care to use some logic and reason instead?

        • Calipenguin

          When the students with the highest academic achievement RELATIVE TO EACH OTHER are admitted, regardless of race, there is no loss of exclusivity in academic rankings and research excellence. But when application requirements are lowered to increase certain ethnic groups then then overall excellence is sacrificed in return for ethnic diversity, which is a different topic of debate. The high percentage of Asians at UC’s top universities does not prove high exclusivity just as a high percentage of Blacks at historically Black universities does not prove low exclusivity. However, if Howard or Morehouse has to lower standards to admit more Asians then that would represent a loss of exclusivity. I hope I’m being clear.

          And I’m not eager for a lynching, as you put it. I just believe an article on the “holistic admission lie” should discuss the top reasons for switching to that system. Jason may have avoided talking about race because his point is that UC can’t possibly pretend to look into the souls of all applicants, and my point is UC wouldn’t have to go through that charade if it were not trying to circumvent the Prop 209 ban on considering race.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

            Actually, Morehouse does “lower standards” a bit to admit poorer students, especially those coming from very poor African countries and those coming from America’s worst ghettos. For one, we don’t place as much emphasis on the SAT, due to the test prep industry and its socio-economic bias towards rich kids. The minimum score is set at 1500 to allow for a wider variety of student, but the typical student scores north of 2100. This may lower our overall average score to the point where we are not listed skyhigh in the U.S. New rankings, but our campus is not so much concered with the rankings as we are with our college’s mission of giving talented young black men the chance to get an education. We also give strong consideration to economic background. Much more will be required of a rich black kid from Connecticut than a poor one from East Compton. And a middle-class white, Hispanic or Asian kid will probably be given an edge in admssion because of the diversity they add to the campus.

            We have seen through our own campus studies that the students we admit with the “lower standards” usually end up catching up to the higher-performing students due to peer effects in education. It is especially in these historically black colleges that we see stronger students pulling up weaker students. I myself tutored my peers in English Composition and Asian Philosophy. Some of those same students helped me out in Calculus and Spanish. There is still stiff academic competiton, but it is not quite as hard-nosed (I mean, we don’t have students like they do at Haas Business and Columbia Law who razor cut pages out of library books so that they can get an edge on the grade curve in their class.). It is much more holistic and loving, and if you fall, your Morehouse brother will be there to catch you. By graduation time, those who were admitted under “lower standards” can often compete head-to-head with those who were admitted due to their high-flying abilities.

          • Guest

            “The minimum score is set at 1500 to allow for a wider variety of student, but the typical student scores north of 2100.”
            A Morehouse student scoring on the Sat 75th percentile for Math, Cr and writing has a 1740 average.

            Morehouse
            Sat
            Math 25th percentile: 470
            Math 75th percentile: 580
            Cr 25th percentile: 460
            Cr 75th percentile: 590
            Wr 25th percentile: 450
            Wr 75th percentile: 570
            http://www.cappex.com/colleges/Morehouse-College/admissions#Tests

            Nationwide African Americans……
            Math 25th percentile: 360

            Math 75th percentile: 490

            Cr 25th percentile: 370
            Cr 75th percentile: 490

            Wr 25th percentile: 360

            Wr 75th percentile: 480

            Nationwide Whites……

            Math 25th percentile: 470

            Math 75th percentile: 620

            Cr 25th percentile: 460

            Cr 75th percentile: 605

            Wr 25th percentile: 440

            Wr 75th percentile: 590

            Nationwide Mexicans……

            Nationwide African Americans……

            Math 25th percentile: 410

            Math 75th percentile: 535

            Cr 25th percentile: 385

            Cr 75th percentile: 515

            Wr 25th percentile: 380

            Wr 75th percentile: 510

            Nationwide Asians……
            Nationwide African Americans……

            Math 25th percentile: 510

            Math 75th percentile: 690

            Cr 25th percentile: 430

            Cr 75th percentile: 615

            Wr 25th percentile: 480

            Wr 75th percentile: 625

            http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/SAT-Percentile-Ranks-by-Gender-Ethnicity-2011.pdf

          • Guest

            The next to last and last set of scores are for Mexicans and Asians, respectively, not African Americans.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

            Yes, that’s a mean. I already said that admitting students with lower lowers the overall mean. Would be nice if they bothered to collect data expressing the mode.

          • Guest

            If one assumes that 75% of Moreheouse students have 75th percentile scores, and obviously 74% have below 75th percentile scores and 24% of that 74% have below 25th percentile scores, and assume every other Morehouse student, all 25%, have perfect 2400 Sat scores, in other words a mode of 2400 which is impossible, the average would not be over 2100.
            .75(1740) + .25(2400) = 1305 +600=1905

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WRACM77JT2RXUR3LMGDPPUGUYY Tony M

            [We have seen through our own campus studies that the students we admit with the "lower standards" usually end up catching up to the higher-performing students due to peer effects in education.]

            Source and cites?

          • Calipenguin

            Thanks for informing us about Morehouse. I examined their application and found this interesting piece of information:

            “First-time freshmen also should submit an official high school transcript and SAT I or ACT scores. Morehouse College uses the SAT II Writing scores and the SAT II Mathematics IIc scores in order to place first year students into college classes. While these scores are not used to decide admission, all new students must submit these scores prior to enrollment at Morehouse College.”

            That just shows Morehouse requires more standardized tests than UC Berkeley. Morehouse requires two SAT II scores prior to admission. So why are you arguing that Cal removing SAT II standardized tests is a good thing? Even if Cal does not use SAT II scores to determine admission, at least they help in placement. But noooooo, Cal decided not to require those tests because it knew that too few underrepresented minorities would take those tests so Cal would have no opportunity to enroll those minorities using backdoor affirmative action techniques.

            http://www.morehouse.edu/admissions/home/pdf/Application_04.pdf (page 8)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

        I know, let’s not lower UC to the standards set by places like Harvard, Stanford and Yale. Oh, my…

        • Calipenguin

          Your own Morehouse requires two SAT II tests, while Cal dropped its standards to zero SAT II tests. Shouldn’t Cal be more like your beloved Morehouse?

  • Fucking Ridiculous

    “Why do admissions offices go to such great lengths to present their selection processes in this dishonest, harmful way?”

    Affirmative action for private universities.

    Backdoor affirmative action for UCs.

    Case in point: http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120818/A_NEWS/208180317/-1/A_NEWS07

    It was that fear of not being able to afford college that first got Gomez particularly interested in UC Berkeley. He said that UC Berkeley is known for giving out generous scholarships and

    financial aid to undocumented students.After he was not initially accepted by UC Berkeley, Gomez’s AP literature teacher at Edison High School, Justin Moeckli, told him he should write a letter and appeal the decision. “I just kept asking myself, ‘What am I going to do? Where am I going to go?’ ” Gomez said. He knew that affording any other college would be impossible.Come May, he received the information that UC Berkeley had reversed its decision and he would not only be able to go to his first-choice college but also afford it. He hopes that without fear of deportation for two years, he can continue to find helpful financial aid opportunities.

    Illegal alien Elioth Gomez was REJECTED. Why did the admissions officials accept him on appeal? Backdoor affirmative action. This illegal alien is leeching from Cal because of its “helpful financial aid opportunities”. Fucking ridiculous.

    Jason’s got it right on this one. The ‘holistic’ admissions promise is a pure lie. It helps UNQUALIFIED illegals get in through backdoor affirmative action and then wastes even more funds when the university hires a new counselor just to help these lawbreakers. http://www.dailycal.org/2012/09/20/campus-hires-new-counselor-for-undocumented-students/

    Fucking ridiculous.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

      “Backdoor” affirmative action? Oh, exactly how do scholarships for undocumented Mexican and Chinese students benefit black and Latino kids who are already legally here? I’m not getting you. Not “affirmative action” in any traditional sense of the word.

      I guess you have to renounce your citizenship and go live across the border to get into this “backdoor” of yours.

      • Guest

        An unqualified illegal alien shouldn’t even be attending a UC, much less getting a scholarship.

        • http://www.facebook.com/elioth.gomez Elioth Ariel Gomez

          How is he Unqualified? Because I am qualified, I am more then qualified. So the fact that the article did not show my resume or transcript makes me unqualified. Well, thats fine you can just think what you all want I am here and I am not leaving. Please educate yourselves and this is not the only scholarship we can receive we can get the achievement award and leadership one from the alumni association. And I was interested in CAL before I knew of the Scholarship.

  • 1776

    “Another possibility is that admissions offices want to insulate
    themselves against charges that the admissions process for elite
    colleges has become utterly random…”

    You lost me here. If you work hard and get good grades you will get into an elite university.

    • Current student

      not if you’re white or asian

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

        Which explains why there are so few whites and Asians on Cal’s campus. Blacks and Latinos are crowding them out in droves.

        Oh, wait. That argument has been dead since 1996, when California banned affirmative action…

        • Calipenguin

          The “Current student” poster was referring to the hard working straight-A white and Asian students who did NOT make it into Berkeley or other top research universities, because they need to master at least five college level courses (via AP test scores) to impress the admissions readers, or they need a “hook” such as Olympic medals or life science patents. However, underrepresented minorities are presumed to be hard workers if they have good grades because colleges assume all underrepresented minorities come from tough neighborhoods and battle drug dealers, muggers, and ICE officials every day while finishing their homework by flashlight on a wobbly milk crate.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

            Berkeley is not the only UC. There are 10 campuses and 234,464 slots.

            But why whine when you make up 4% of the U.S. population but 16% of Harvard? That’s still 4 times.18% of Yale? 17% of Princeton?

            In fact, a study was done on the admission to applicant ratio of Asians who applied to Brown and it was very close to 1. It was like 0.99, but someone whined and complained about that being “racist”. They won’t be satisfied until the Ivy League is 100% Asian.

            If there’s even ONE black or Latino kid in your class, you have a heart attack and scream “RACISM!”.

          • I_h8_disqus

            What it all comes down to is culture. We know that genetics have nothing to do with any of this. I applaud a culture that can get its children to excel like the numbers you list indicate.

          • Calipenguin

            @facebook-100003042475960:disqus : what you’re saying is that one should not “whine” once the ethnic representation on a particular campus surpasses the representation in the U.S. population. In that case Blacks have no reason to whine since Blacks make up a far higher percentage of historically Black universities than their representation in the U.S. population. If you can’t get into Cal, you can always go to Grambling State. Like you said, Berkeley is not the only UC so Blacks should be happy with UC Merced or UC Riverside. However, we all know that Blacks and Latinos will whine until every department of every university lowers standards to boost Black and Latino enrollment, even if more qualified young white and Asian scholars must be rejected.

    • Calipenguin

      That’s only true if the university requires more standardized tests and college level coursework prior to application, to separate the truly gifted from the average straight-A students. However, what’s the message when UC requires FEWER tests and prerequisites?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

        Maybe it has something to do with the fact that not every high school campus in the state offers the privilege of pre-engineering classes and higher-level math courses and that there are other ways to measure talent other than GPA, AP classes and test scores.

        • Calipenguin

          You would have a valid point if all hard working students learned an equal amount of math, science, literature, and other college level curriculum from available local resources. However, we know it’s true, life is not fair, and lack of high school resources should not be ameliorated with lower college admission standards, so proof of hard work cannot replace a good standardized test. If peer competition works for the NBA, NFL, and PGA then it should work for colleges.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003042475960 Greling Jackson

            Lower standards? Alright then, we should abolish “financial aid” and consideration of “extracurricular” stuff. Let’s base things strictly off of test scores, GPAs, and only take the top 0.001% of students that apply who can pay in-full upfront. Demographics and college athletics will certainly look interesting then…

          • Calipenguin

            @Greling Jackson: You’re resorting to hyperbole again. Remember, you’re the one who said “not every high school campus in the state offers the privilege of pre-engineering classes and higher-level math courses” so now you want “extracurricular stuff” to replace actual courses? Why can’t low income students attending a low API high school take the initiative to attend advanced math courses at their local community colleges? I could take the other extreme and say that students from rural areas who have to drive 30 miles to the nearest high school should not have to submit grades at all, and can apply to universities using only extracurricular achievements. You see, at some point universities have to stop making excuses for applicants’ lack of education and say “I’m sorry, I know you’re poor, you had no access to Algebra textbooks, your school was staffed by replacement NFL referees and your uncle abused you, but your academic achievements just don’t compare with our other applicants.”

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WRACM77JT2RXUR3LMGDPPUGUYY Tony M

            [You're resorting to hyperbole again.]

            Well, he certainly can’t win an argument any other way…