Admissions statistics illuminate trend

Class of 2011, first to undergo holistic review, has fewer students, slightly higher GPA

University officials have released final data on the fall 2007 class, shedding light on the first year UCLA has used its new holistic admissions process.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools released statistics last week on class size, students’ ethnic backgrounds, average GPA and SAT scores, as well as other information.

The figures were largely consistent with preliminary numbers released last May, when admitted students submitted their statements of intent to register. A handful of students who submitted SIRs decided over the summer not to attend UCLA, accounting for minor disparities between the preliminary numbers and the final data.

The fall 2007 freshman class is comprised of 4,564 students, nearly 300 fewer than the fall 2006 class. Janina Montero, vice chancellor for student affairs, said admissions officials opted to hold down the size of the freshman class because the university in general is slightly overenrolled.

The latest admissions information also showed steady levels of academic achievement – new students’ average GPA and SAT scores were relatively consistent with recent years. But the bulk of scrutiny has been focused on nonacademic factors. This was the first year UCLA used holistic admissions, a new process designed to give greater weight to students’ personal circumstances and achievements.

University officials adopted the new policy last year in response to criticism that UCLA’s old admissions process unfairly disadvantaged underrepresented minority students.

Montero said reactions to holistic admissions have been strongly positive, especially from application readers.

“There has been an overwhelming positive response to the quality of the selection process,” she said. “(Readers appreciate) the opportunity to really see a student’s experience really displayed in full.”

Some underrepresented groups saw increased enrollment for fall 2007 – the number of black and Latino freshman jumped from 241 in 2006 to 389 in 2007. But other groups, such as students from low-income families and first-generation college students, saw enrollment declines.

Montero cautioned against drawing conclusions about the efficacy of holistic admissions based on data from just one year. “It’s difficult to be making any definitive statements,” she said. “You can’t look at figures of any one year. ... You have to look at trends.”

She added that university officials are currently reviewing the data but have no immediate plans to change the holistic admissions process.

D’Artagnan Scorza, student regent-designate on the UC Board of Regents and a UCLA graduate student in education and information studies, said that though he agrees it is too early to judge holistic review, he believes it is a step in the right direction.

“Given the factor that we see a more diverse student population, it could be a sign for a more inclusive, more helpful process,” he said. “Students now have a better chance of getting into the university based on the context of their environment.”

He noted that the holistic review process itself may not be entirely responsible for the change in enrollment for some underrepresented groups. Rather, normal variance in the general applicant pool may account for some of the change, Scorza said.

Vu Tran, UCLA’s director of admissions, said he was happy with the fall 2007 results.

“Overall, our admissions goal is always to enroll a group of high achievers from diverse backgrounds,” he said. “Fall 2007 ... is very encouraging – to be able to increase diversity while academic achievement remains more or less the same.”

University officials were surprised by the consistent quality of academics, Montero said. UCLA modeled its version of holistic review after UC Berkeley’s, and the year after Berkeley implemented holistic admissions, academic achievement declined slightly.

But policy set by the regents mandates that academics be given more weight than any other section of the application, and readers are specifically trained to assess applications in light of that requirement, Montero said.

Readers go through several months of training, including many practice reads, Tran said. The training process for fall 2008 readers is already under way.