What's with this so-called "holistic" admissions process that colleges brag about? First of all, what the heck does holistic mean? Well, let's look for a dictionary explanation: The Free Dictionary (my go-to Web word-definition resource) describes holistic as "Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts. As in holistic medicine and holistic ecology." Okay. Well then, how does this apply to college applications and the admissions process in general?
The key to understanding holistic evaluation of college applicants is to first ditch the concept that test scores are the Holy Grail of getting in. How often have you heard a high schooler say something along the lines of, "Oh, I could never get into X University because my SATs suck"? That kind of statement betrays a non-holistic understanding of what is becoming a more and more prominent trend in college admissions today: looking at the overall applicant, not just one leading aspect of his or her profile. To that, I say, "It's about time!"