Campus News

Seminar examines ways to improve the doctoral admissions process

Graduate School Dean Maureen Grasso answers questions at the seminar

Examining an applicant’s complete portfolio, and not just the Graduate Record Exam score or undergraduate grade point average, is essential when selecting the best students for admission to doctoral programs, according to a faculty panel at a recent seminar sponsored by the Graduate School.

The seminar, “Beyond GREs: Innovative Ways to Improve the Doctoral Admissions Process,” was held Oct. 14 at the Tate Student Center. It provided insights into the admissions process for doctoral students, including application requirements, the process of screening and selecting applicants and other admissions procedures. Led by four UGA faculty members who participate in their department’s doctoral admissions process, the seminar was the second in the four-part best practices series of the Graduate School’s initiative to optimize doctoral completion.

“A well-designed admissions process allows faculty to use a variety of evidence to decide whether to admit a prospective student,” said Maureen Grasso, dean of the Graduate School. “It’s an imperfect process, but by using a number of criteria, we are able to make the best decisions possible.”

The seminar panel included Kristin Boudreau, professor of English; Talmadge Guy, associate professor of adult education; Billy Hammond, professor of psychology; and Walter Schmidt, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. Each panelist addressed a particular aspect of the graduate-level admissions process, such as writing samples, GRE scores and underrepresented populations, research interests and experience, and student interviews and campus visits.

Departments may place more or less emphasis on criteria such as standardized test scores, GPAs, statements of intent, research interests and recommendation letters, but the panelists agreed a variety of measures is needed to gain a complete portrait of an applicant. According to Hammond, psychology faculty use the GRE scores and GPAs as merely a starting point, after which other criteria such as research interests of students and faculty come into play.

Looking at the total picture helps to ensure a right fit not only from the applicant’s perspective, but also from the standpoint of the faculty and culture within the department.

Another common thread for graduate faculty who make their program’s admissions decisions involves how well an applicant demonstrates research and knowledge of that particular department.

Ensuring that the right students are admitted to the right doctoral programs is one way UGA can ensure doctoral completion rates and continue to build a world-class institution.