Portfolio review in action

The examples below demonstrate how some programs at Wayne State have implemented portfolio review processes. Note that this is just a sampling of processes in use at WSU.

Ph.D. in History

The History Ph.D. program reviews the entire application including GRE scores, GPA from previous institutions, letter of interest, writing sample, and letters of recommendation. Admissions decisions are not based solely on scores but from a review of the entire application package. Admissions committee members actively seek information in the application package (e.g., interest in graduate studies in the discipline, persistence, scholarly activity) to put the applicant's application package into context.

Ph.D. in Nursing

This program no longer requires the GRE to be considered for admission because their review of admissions procedures demonstrated that the GRE did not add predictive value to other information. Admissions decisions are made upon review of the undergraduate (and if available, graduate) GPA, scholarly work, reference letters, and the goal or personal statement. The program has provided more direct requests for specific information such as research interests to ensure that admissions decisions are based on relevant information. Furthermore, the program asks standard questions during the interview process including questions about leadership potential and persistence for graduate studies.

Ph.D. in Sociology

This program, like many programs at WSU, requires the GRE; however, the department includes language on the website that explains the relevance of the GRE score in the entire application package: "GRE scores will be considered, but will not be a binding criterion for admission. The Department realizes that scores on standardized tests are greatly influenced by social and cultural factors, and may not be accurate indicators of performance ability. A combined assessment of students' GPA, GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, writing sample, and statements of interest will be used to make admission decisions." Most students that are accepted into the MA program have an overall GRE score in at least the 50th percentile. In the event that a student's GRE score falls considerably short of the 50th percentile the graduate committee looks for evidence of excellence in the other criteria (e.g., GPA, letters of recommendation, writing sample) used to make their admission decisions. Students with GRE scores below the 50th percentile are encouraged to explain the reasons for lower scores in their statement of interest.

Ph.D. in English

In 2016, the departmental Graduate Committee began the process of planning a more fully articulated method of reviewing admissions documents for the Ph.D. program. Through a series of meetings throughout the Fall semester, faculty members adapted rubric templates developed by the Graduate School's Portfolio Review Committee. The adaptations consisted of developing rubrics for the evaluation of all materials in the file and a separate rubric that followed our published hiring criteria for evaluating funding decisions. The admissions rubric now emphasized categories such as the student's academic background (coursework, research experiences), GPA, GRE scores, the sense of professional purpose demonstrated in the written statement, the analytic ability demonstrated in the writing sample, the evidence of the student's readiness to begin a Ph.D. program as exhibited in the letters of recommendation, evidence of the student's persistence and motivation, evidence of the student's perspective relevant to pursuing a Ph.D. in English, and whether the student's interests could be supported by current staff. The Graduate Committee conducted a norming exercise, and the evaluation of a selection of past applicants through this method demonstrated that with the consistent application of the criteria, the program would have had different outcomes in some circumstances resulting in more offers of admission and a more diverse cohort. The department plans to further revise the admissions rubric, in particular examining whether having the current categories of equal weight is ideal, or if weighting different parts of the application with more emphasis would be useful.