Most competitive schools utilize holistic review processes, which means grades and test scores are no longer the biggest determining factor in admissions. With holistic review, the influence of gr
ades and test scores has a limited impact, instead a student’s overall fit and potential are the main focus for admissions decisions.
With holistic review and a steady increase in application numbers year-over-year, essays, short answers, and activity descriptions are more important than ever before and can be the determining factor in your application.
MIT outlines 9 key components of their holistic review process, which focuses on identifying the student’s match with the university. These components, which are applicable to most colleges/universities, are as follows:
1. Alignment with MIT’s mission to make the world a better place. Replace MIT with any institution name and institution’s corresponding mission. Showcase your contributions and potential.
2. Collaborative & cooperative spirit. Applies to any college/university. After all, you are choosing to go to college, not get home-schooled!
3. Initiative. As MIT says, ” Opportunities abound, but they must be seized.”
4. Hands-on creativity. Real-world, action-based learning and creativity application are becoming a core compenent of education at many colleges and universities. Learning is about more than sitting in a classroom!
5. Intensity, curiosity, and excitement. As MIT says, “(We used to summarize this as simply “passion” before various components of the college admissions machine turned it into a buzz-word and stripped it of its meaning.)
In a nutshell: you should be invested in the things that really mean something to you (we’re not particularly picky as to what). Explore! Choose quality over quantity—you don’t have to do a million things to get into college. Put your heart into a few things that you truly care about and that will be enough.”
6. The character of the MIT community. Does your character align with the college’s/university’s? In the words of MIT, “We’re looking to admit people who by nature will sustain the qualities of this community.”
7. The ability to prioritize balance. Are you a well-rounded person (not just a student)?
8. Last but not least, remember that no one profile—no matter how impressive—represents “the perfect match.” No, schools are not looking for robots. Colleges/Universities are looking to develop a well-rounded class profile.In the words of MIT, “When we admit a class of students to MIT, it’s as if we’re choosing a 1,100-person team to climb a very interesting, fairly rugged mountain—together. We obviously want people who have the training, stamina, and passion for the climb. At the same time, we want each to add something useful or intriguing to the team, from a wonderful temperament or sense of humor to compelling personal experiences, to a wide range of individual gifts, talents, interests and achievements. We are emphatically not looking for a batch of identical perfect climbers; we are looking for a richly varied team of capable people who will support, surprise and inspire each other.”