Holistic Application Review Process

By: Jake Horvath – 2nd Year – Behavioral Sciences & Health Education 

You read it on all the admissions websites and hear it from the recruiters that you speak with: “Our application review process is holistic nature and is not entirely dependent upon GPA and GRE scores.” As an applicants, this may seem unhelpful, but let’s take a step back and consider how you can leverage your strengths to use the holistic review process to your advantage.

Similar to students in a program, no two applicants are the same. This makes a holistic review process appealing to school that want to consider an applicant’s experiences, potential, and goals. Sure, your GPA and test scores certainly factor into your potential for success in a program, but they fully describe your experiences or define you as an applicant. Let’s say you didn’t do as well as you had hoped on the GRE. It was a busy time and you were studying for exams or busy working and didn’t have the time to study as much as you wanted. Fortunately, the holistic review process leaves you with many opportunities to highlight your potential and experiences and show schools why you’re a good fit for their program.

SOPHAS requires that all applicants submit a resume with their application. Your resume is your opportunity to highlight related work and volunteer experience as well as any awards and honors you have received. A resume may be easy to overlook during the application process when much of your attention is on the GRE and your personal statement, but it is not a part of your application to neglect. Take some time to organize your resume and keep in mind that proper formatting can go a long way. You don’t need to include ALL your experience, but definitely include any relevant experience. When it comes to length, a rule of thumb that I follow is one page per degree, but I will defer to the professionals there.

Next up, we have the personal statement. It can seem like the most daunting aspect of the application process, but there are several methods to guide your writing. This is your opportunity to tell the school all about you and your experiences (work and otherwise). Your personal statement should NOT be a restatement of the information in your resume, nor should it be a general response for all schools. Before starting, take some time to reflect. How have your experiences helped you realize that you want to earn a graduate degree? Why are you interested in the specific school? What experience do you bring with you and how can the school help you get to where you want to be? These are all important questions to consider and respond to in your personal statement. You have a lot of freedom when it comes to the personal statement so put your own touch on it.  When you’re all finished, make sure to proofread your personal statement for any grammatical errors or incorrect names. Nothing is worse than reading a personal statement that references a different school or program.

At the end of the day, the holistic review process is advantageous for applicants. It’s not to say that scores are unimportant, but don’t get hung up on them and think about where else you can strengthen your application. This is your time to shine! Good luck!