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Archived Document

Description of University of Michigan Former Undergraduate Admissions Policy

(Excerpted from U-M 6th Circuit brief of June 5, 2001; citations omitted.)

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions ("OUA") reviews all 13,000 applications LSA receives each year. To promote consistency, OUA uses written guidelines, which are reviewed annually and altered periodically. These guidelines blend the consistency of a formula with the flexibility of a review that is ultimately a matter of human judgment. Recognizing that admissions is more art than science, the guidelines provide structure but give counselors discretion to make subjective judgments, based on their expertise, in evaluating applications.

Admission to LSA is selective because thousands more students apply each year than can be admitted. For example, in 1997, LSA enrolled only 3,958 freshmen from over 13,500 applications. As the plaintiffs conceded, LSA only admits fully qualified applicants. ("We're not here suggesting that the University accepts unqualified minority students over qualified non-minority students.") The University has made a judgment that "qualifications" are not limited to high school grade point average and standardized test scores, and that an applicant with somewhat higher grades and scores is not necessarily "more qualified" than another applicant. Many factors, academic and otherwise, help reveal a student's potential to contribute -- individually, and in conjunction with classmates -- to the educational environment at LSA. Admission is neither a reward nor an entitlement based on past performance in high school or on standardized tests.

While students with very low grades and test scores typically are denied admission, and students with very high grades and test scores typically are admitted, most applicants do not fall into either of these categories. For that large pool of qualified applicants in the middle range, many other factors -- including, but not limited to, race and ethnicity -- can make a difference in admissions decisions.

Each application is reviewed individually by one of OUA's approximately 20 professional admissions counselors. Each counselor reviews all applications from an assigned geographic territory. There is no separate review or assignment of under-represented minority applicants. All applications are evaluated based on the same set of factors. LSA does not employ quotas, numerical targets or goals for admission or enrollment of minority students.

Counselors evaluate applications aided by a "selection index" worksheet listing factors the University believes important in composing a class, and select a numerical value for each factor, up to a possible total of 150 points. Academic factors account for up to 110 points. Eighty points are available for academic GPA from tenth and eleventh grades, and 12 points are available for standardized test scores. Every applicant from the same school receives the same number of points -- up to ten -- for the academic strength of that school. In addition, counselors subtract up to four points for an applicant who chose a weaker curriculum when a stronger one was available, and add up to eight points for an applicant who selected more challenging courses.

Applicants receive up to 40 points for other factors that indicate an applicant's potential contribution to LSA. They may receive 20 points for one of the following: membership in an underrepresented minority group, socioeconomic disadvantage, attendance at a predominantly minority high school, athletics, or at the Provost's discretion. Reflecting the University's commitment both to state residents and to broader geographic diversity, counselors assign ten points for Michigan residency, six additional points for residency in underrepresented Michigan counties, and two points for residency in underrepresented states. Applicants receive one or four points for alumni relationships. The personal essay can earn up to three points. Based on an applicant's activities, work experience, and awards, counselors may assign up to five points for leadership and service, and five more points for personal achievement.

The counselor totals the points to calculate the selection index score, which is entered into OUA's database. That score is sometimes, but not always, the basis for the ultimate admissions decision.

The University recognizes that a selection index score may not always reflect an applicant's potential contribution to LSA. Therefore, OUA asks counselors to identify applications that would benefit from review by the Admissions Review Committee ("ARC"), which evaluates more complex cases through an informal discussion format. A counselor may, in his or her discretion, "flag" an application for ARC discussion if the applicant: (1) is academically prepared to do the work at LSA; (2) has a selection index score above a certain level; and (3) possesses at least one of a variety of qualities or characteristics important to the University's composition of its freshman class, such as underrepresented race, ethnicity, or geography; high class rank; socioeconomic disadvantage; unique life experiences, challenges, circumstances, interests or talents; connections to the University community; or athletics. For example, a counselor might flag an applicant whose outstanding essay described exceptional community leadership, but whose selection index was average.

LSA makes admissions decisions throughout the admissions season. Those decisions are generally executed in one of two ways. First, the Enrollment Working Group ("EWG"), which monitors enrollment during the admissions season, sets selection index score parameters that determine the admissions action -- admit, defer, or deny -- for all reviewed applications then pending in OUA's database. Decisions are made periodically, and EWG adjusts the parameters, when necessary, to pace admissions appropriately. Second, flagged applications not admitted based on the EWG parameters are forwarded to the ARC, which decides whether to admit, defer, or deny, after considering the applicant's file.

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