An independent report examining UCLA's implementation of holistic review — the method used to evaluate applicants for freshman admission to the campus — finds the policy is working as it was intended by the faculty.
Holistic review consists of an individualized review of each application, taking into consideration a wide range of academic and non-academic achievements in the context of the opportunities available to each applicant. It was adopted by UCLA's faculty in 2006 as the campus's admissions review process, based on its thoroughness and fairness.
The study, conducted by UCLA sociology professor Robert Mare, confirms that, consistent with faculty guidelines, UCLA's admissions process continues to give the highest weight to the academic merit of applicants while simultaneously considering the full array of their personal challenges and achievements.
Mare's report examines the workings of holistic review during its first two years of implementation at UCLA, in 2007 and 2008. The study was both rigorous and detailed, despite being limited to only two years of data, said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA's associate vice chancellor for enrollment management.
"Mare's study gives us a remarkably clear and detailed picture of how freshmen were admitted to UCLA in fall 2007 and 2008," Copeland-Morgan said. "I am also very pleased with the conclusions of the report. They clearly show that our admissions process is both fair and transparent."
Future plans call for the study, originally commissioned by UCLA's Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations With Schools (CUARS), to be expanded to include more recent data from the freshman admission cycles in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
"The faculty and I agree with Professor Mare's recommendation that more data sets should be added to the study," said Andrew Leuchter, chair of UCLA's Academic Senate. "An updated and expanded version of the study will allow us to continue to monitor the holistic review admissions process, looking at areas that might need improvements or refinements."
While Mare's report found no evidence of bias in UCLA's admissions process, it reported minor differences in the admissions outcomes for different ethnic and racial groups, arising almost exclusively in supplemental review, a step in the review process that is intended to give additional attention to atypical applicants.
Copeland-Morgan said those minor differences can be explained by the nuances and context of the applicant's experience, which human evaluators are much better at capturing than mathematical models.
"What an application reader sees on a page can't be perfectly reduced to numbers in a statistical model," Copeland-Morgan said. "Overall, Mare's study shows that UCLA applicants are reviewed with remarkable consistency and reliability, given the very small differences found in his statistical model."
The full report, "Holistic Review in Freshman Admissions at UCLA," and a statement by CUARS on the report are available at http://ucla.in/Kjqn8n.