As the University of Virginia states in its admissions blog,
“Compare your application to a puzzle… In a holistic review, you look at all pieces of the applicant’s puzzle together before you make your decision.
The largest, most central piece of your puzzle is your transcript. This shouldn’t be a surprise since your transcript represents four years of academic development…..The other components fall in around the four years of academic work you’ve been doing. I’m sure you can imagine the bigger pieces: recommendation letters bring the academic data to life, and essays are where we get to hear your voice.
As we read, the puzzle comes together. All of the pieces are important, but they vary in size. The testing piece is a four-hour piece of your puzzle. It’s obviously important because it contributes to the overall pictures, but it is one component among many, and there are other parts of the puzzle that are larger and take considerably longer to evaluate.”
UVA goes on to say, “All components of the application will be considered when rendering a decision.”
We believe that this is an accurate way to think about how admissions committees work. What is not addressed is how they shape a class at each college. This means that a person can be qualified to attend but is denied admission because of institutional considerations.