Holistic Review in Admissions: Demonstrating A Computerized Tool
On 16 May 2006, AAAS’s Center for Advancing Science & Engineering Capacity hosted a seminar about a new diversity-supporting software tool. The program, “Applications Quest,” was demonstrated by its creator, Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, associate professor of computer science and software engineering at Auburn University. "Applications Quest" is a tool designed to aid college admissions officers in maintaining diversity while avoiding quotas or point systems that have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. It groups applicants into numerous clusters, each containing students with similar backgrounds and qualifications. By selecting the top candidates in each cluster, users can build a diverse pool of candidates for admission.
Read the full story.
Find exerpts of the Q&A Session.
View Dr. Gilbert’s presentation with audio here.
Admissions by Software, Inside Higher Ed. April 17, 2008
Dr. Gilbert visited Virginia Tech on April 22, 2008, to demonstrate how “Applications Quest” works and lead a dicussion on holistic approaches to achieving diversity in education. For more information, see the full announcement here.
How would you define “Holistic?”
Holistic is multi-variate and simultaneous.
Are the clusters different every year? Do they have a label?
Clusters are self-determined, they don’t have a label
How would you define “Diverse Applicant Pools?”
Diverse means holistic, where race is one of the attributes. Remember, the term diverse here is a holistic sense of diversity, meaning it covers all attributes. We have some diversity because the hot button issues are race, ethnicity, and gender.
Each cluster is diverse?
The traditional way of doing this would be to focus on a couple of attributes, looking only at, say, GPA or SAT score.
Right, this is different because I’m collecting everything [that is, all factors weighed in the review process]
If an institution, having seen what Michigan is investing in order to do it this way, says we can’t afford to do it, then it is simply knocked out of embracing holistic review. It is not unlike the cost to Michigan to take these suits all the way to the Supreme Court. What’s important here is that this may be one of the reasons why all these institutions, once threatened with a suit, start backing out, because they know the cost is going to be excessive and the easiest thing to do is to give up.
And that’s exactly what they do. That’s the bottom line – money. If they want to do it holistically, it costs a million
dollars a year. Not too many institutions want to invest that much in admissions. They could just drop it into a point system and they’re good.
Have you been contacted by law schools or medical schools?
No law schools, no medical schools, just business schools
In your discussion with admissions officers, is there anything they do in their process that Applications Quest cannot
Not a single thing. I have not seen a single incident that it can’t handle. I will even give you a better scenario for Applications Quest – NSF. NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the ideal place for Applications Quest because you have so many people who are so good on different levels. Right now the process of review uses a formula that comes out with this number that represents goodness, for lack of a better description, and then they have a group that’s automatically going to get offers, and then there’s the middle tier, which the program managers go in and select from. Applications Quest would fit perfectly for that program.
Have you made a presentation there [NSF]?
I have not made a presentation there. I have told them about it, but they didn’t get back to me.
So you could do this to constitute an incoming freshman class; you could do it to select graduate students in a department; you could apply this to faculty.
That’s what we’re working on right now, in light of the discussion we had earlier about Computer Science faculty.
You prototyped this on graduate applications, not undergraduate applications. Why? Is it a privacy issue?
At the time I did this, Auburn was under a legal consent clause, I can’t touch the undergraduate application because of some things they have issues with. Auburn is legally bound [as well as Louisiana and Mississippi]. All these are up for consideration this summer. So I don’t know what is going to happen. If they drop it, then they’ll pick this [Applications Quest] up.