It’s cliched, but it’s true: human beings cannot be captured by a single number, a short answer prompt, or an activities list.
And for this reason, application review is my favorite season as an admissions officer. I feel lucky every time I open an application and get the opportunity to share a student’s world, if only for a moment. Our mission is to see you as a whole human being, a part of your communities, and a future WashU Bear.
Our emphatic belief in going beyond the numbers underlies our use of holistic review in the admissions process at WashU. Holistic review is the practice of considering applications using all available information to understand the whole picture of the applicants’ lived experiences. It includes consideration of context and of unique personal circumstances, and it helps us live out our informal motto to know our community members by name and story.
At WashU, holistic review is grounded in our appreciation for students as complex, multifaceted members of our campus community. Our role as admissions officers is to admit scholars, but we are also tasked with admitting roommates, lab partners, club leaders, and entrepreneurs, to name a few. In order to understand the many sides of who you are, we access the full depth of information provided in a completed application.
Holistic review may sound good in theory, but it’s even better in practice. Application review is my favorite season as an admissions officer. I feel lucky every time I open an application and get the opportunity to share a student’s world, if only for a moment. When reviewing an application, I am searching for and seeking to understand your story in the context of the high school you attend, the educational opportunities available, and the specific life experiences you’ve had.
Together, the individual pieces of your application — essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, the high school profile, and more — complement each other to shape my understanding of your achievements, passions, challenges, and goals. To only look at one or two of these aspects of your application would be limiting my understanding of your experiences and a disservice to the WashU community.
The college application process will challenge you to distill your story down to the most impactful moments. With holistic review, we encourage you to share these significant aspects of yourself, but we also invite you to offer additional information to connect these snapshots of who you are. All information provided to us is valuable to our understanding of you. We encourage you to utilize the space in your application to help us in this endeavor. Opportunities like the activities list, additional information section, or optional 90-second video submission are great ways to give us further insight into your personality and values.
Because with every application, we need this full and complete picture. After all, we’re admitting whole students who will benefit from and contribute to our community in exciting and extraordinary ways.