The pathway to becoming a scientist leads through graduate school, and graduate admissions committees are the gatekeepers. How do they determine who will be successful in a research career and who will not? Admission processes vary widely by discipline and are often opaque, but we do know that the top two strongest predictors of admission to graduate school in general are GRE scores and the selectivity of the student’s undergraduate institution.
Though these factors may determine admission, do they really predict success in graduate school and beyond? The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which produces the GRE, cautions departments against relying too heavily on GRE scores alone, stating that the test “does not and cannot measure all the qualities that are important in predicting success in graduate study,” such as motivation, grit, and a sense of curiosity that can drive scientific discovery. Furthermore, GRE scores correlate strongly with race, ethnicity and gender, placing underrepresented students at a disadvantage in the process and potentially shutting out those with potential to excel.
An emerging solution is holistic review, a university admissions strategy that assesses an applicant’s unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores. Evidence supports the use of holistic review in undergraduate admissions and in the health professions, but the extent to which graduate programs are using the practice (and using it right) is less well-known. Universities and research funders like the NIH and NSF have become increasingly aware of the role of admissions in shaping the future scientific workforce, making this topic ripe for further inquiry and discussion.
On November 3, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. Eastern Time USU, APLU and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) will host a webinar on holistic review in graduate admissions to explore what we know and what we don’t know about the practice, and how we can fill critical gaps in evidence. Because of the urgent need for diversity in science fields, we will highlight some of the things schools might look for during the admissions process that predict achievement in these disciplines. We’ll also talk about a proposed pilot of holistic review in the graduate school context. If you’re interested in admissions, diversity in STEM, or graduate student success generally, this webinar is for you.
We hope you can join us on November 3 for an engaging conversation on the opportunities and challenges of using holistic review to strengthen diversity in the scientific research workforce. Click here to register