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How good is good enough in admission?

Aurora Brief Reviews No. 01 January 8 2019

January 2019

The American Council of Graduate Schools has published a report on “Master’s Admissions, Transparency, Guidance and Training” as the result of a year’s process with regional focus groups, surveys among graduate schools and Master’s programmes, and a capstone colloquium last October.
Key objective of the exercise was to create a stronger and more widely shared evidence base about:
– What is success in Master’s programmes
– Which elements are used in selection for Master’s programmes, and
– How good are these in practice

The report shows that critical and analytical thinking (two of the VALUE Rubrics) are most generally seen as key and that recommendation letters (in spite of well-known problems) are still widely used to assess a wide range of cognitive and non-cognitive competencies.

The report recommends greater transparency in the admission process, better support for both academics and administrators to do their job in admissions as well as possible, build better tools to evaluate non-cognitive competencies, and increase research into promising or best practices in Master’s admission in the US.

The report offers good insight in the distinction between (all) what students have to be good at for admission and which tools can be used to find out if (individual) students are. It does not really address the issue of “how good students have to”. Using progressive performance descriptors with a boundary between ‘good enough’ and ‘not good enough’ performance would have been a powerful addition to the report.

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