Holistic review, also known as whole-file or comprehensive review, refers to admissions processes that consider a broad range of characteristics, including noncognitive and personal attributes, when reviewing applications. Many graduate schools and programs advertise on their websites that they practice a holistic approach to graduate admissions, and consider it a key strategy for achieving diverse cohorts of students with varied experience, backgrounds, and expertise.

But just how widespread are holistic admissions practices, and when in the graduate admissions process do they occur? What are the benefits and drawbacks of holistic admissions at the master’s and doctoral levels, and which criteria are the most important to consider?

In 2015, with support from Hobsons, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) embarked on a year-long study to answer these and other questions related to the current state of graduate admissions.

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