Three colleges innovating with holistic admissions

Videos and portfolios supplant transcripts at some schools

Caroline Duda, writing for U.S. News & World Report, highlights three colleges breaking the mold with innovative holistic admissions policies.

So-called holistic admissions have gained popularity in recent years, as applicants and enrollment managers alike have grown frustrated with the limitations of standardized testing. Holistic admissions emphasize evaluating an applicant as a complete person—including intangibles such as their mentality—rather than solely looking at test scores and transcripts.

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Duda identified three schools that have implemented innovative holistic admissions policies.

Bard College rethinks the college essay

At Bard College, applicants write four 2,500-word essays each. However, prospective students can choose among 21 different questions, so they can showcase their areas of interest and expertise. To build a complete picture, Bard requires that applicants choose at least one essay from five categories: arts and literature; science and mathematics; social science; history; and philosophy.

The college also requests a letter of recommendation and a high school transcript.

Bennington College throws out the rulebook

Bennington College has a radically non-traditional admissions option. Students can choose to submit a Dimensional Application, which has no required documents.

Instead, dimensional applicants submit a curated portfolio of their work. The flexibility of the application allows students to draw interesting connections between academics and extracurricular activities, showcase their artistic pursuits, or surprise the admissions committee with something unconventional.

Goucher College invites multimedia into the process

At Goucher College, applicants may submit a two-minute video in lieu of traditional materials, such as transcripts and test scores. Those who submit a video are asked to share how and why they would thrive at Goucher.

Applicants must also submit two examples of academic work from high school, one being a graded writing assignment. However, the video is a great opportunity for students to showcase their drive and creativity—especially if they feel traditional methods of evaluation fail to capture what they would bring to the campus community (Duda, U.S. News & World Report, 1/5).


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