Regents approve comprehensive review admissions process
New policy will broaden criteria; goal is to identify students most likely to succeed at UC

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

29 November 2001 | The UC Board of Regents has approved a proposal to admit undergraduates through a comprehensive review process, beginning with those applying for admission now for the fall of 2002.

The regents, meeting in San Francisco Nov. 15, voted 15-4 to endorse the comprehensive review policy, which was proposed by the Academic Council, the executive body of the UC faculty. The comprehensive review process, similar to that used by many of the nation’s most selective public and private universities, will be introduced and customized by each campus.

“Academic performance is at the heart of the admissions process, and that fact will not change,” said Chand Viswanathan, a UCLA professor and chair of the cademic Council. “…We believe that a full review of the qualifications an applicant presents is truly our best means of admitting a high-achieving, highly motivated freshman class each year.”

The comprehensive review process will broaden the evaluation criteria for all undergraduate applicants to include both students’ scholastic and extracurricular accomplishments.

UCSF Professor Dorothy Perry, chair of Academic Senate committee charged with formulating admissions policy, said the goal in admissions is to identify those students who are the most likely to succeed at UC. “An important additional ingredient to academic scores is the promise, drive, motivation and personal initiative that is demonstrated by each student,” she said.

For many years, each UC campus has admitted a portion of its undergraduate applicants solely based on academic criteria — such as grades, standardized test scores and classes taken. The remaining applications receive a “comprehensive review,” which takes into account factors such as a student’s community service, special talents and socio-economic background, in addition to scholastic achievement.

At Berkeley, every freshman application file is currently read cover to cover and given both an academic score and a comprehensive score by two independent readers. Fifty percent of the undergraduates are admitted on their academic scores alone. Under comprehensive review, this tiered system will disappear and all applicants will be judged on the same, more comprehensive criteria.

Berkeley’s process is considered by many to be the model of comprehensive admissions processes within the university. In discussion leading up the vote, some regents revisited concerns about the new policy. Opponents of comprehensive review argued that academic quality would suffer and that the new plan would circumvent Proposition 209.

Regent Ward Connerly underscored the necessity of a stringent system of accountability to ensure that “racial preferences aren’t injected through the back door.”

Berkeley professor Calvin Moore, chair of the Berkeley Academic Senate committee that sets the campus’s admissions policy, reported on a recently completed simulation of the new comprehensive review policy. In the simulation, admissions officers read the files of about 1,000 students who originally applied for the fall 2001 freshman class, applying the new criteria. The academic characteristics of the group admitted under the simulated new process were compared to those actually admitted in fall 2001.

“The unitary process produced a somewhat better class, measured on the traditional academic criteria, test scores and GPA,” said Moore.

The regents endorsed comprehensive review with the understanding that it “shall be used fairly, shall not use racial preferences of any kind, and shall comply with Proposition 209.” A plan is in place for a central faculty role in designing, monitoring and overseeing the process.

The state has earmarked $750,000 in its current budget for implementing the new process at the six campuses that receive more UC-eligible applicants than they have places for. Individual campus resources will cover additional costs. All campuses are prepared to begin implementation for the application review cycle that begins Dec. 1.

Details are available online from UC Office of the President at and from the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate at


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