Undergraduate Admission
Rice: Unconventional Wisdom

Philosophy and Evaluation

Dating back to the founding of Rice University, our first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, mandated that we aspire to be a world-class university of the highest standing. Dr. Lovett challenged us "to assign no upper limit to our educational endeavor." He envisioned students and faculty as a community of scholars, their minds exercised by spirited discourse. Therefore, as an integral part of the university's mission, we seek a broadly diverse student body where educational diversity increases the intellectual vitality of education, scholarship, service and communal life at Rice. We seek students, both undergraduate and graduate, of keen intellect and diverse backgrounds who not only show potential for success at Rice, but who will contribute to the educational environment of those around them. Rice determines which group of applicants, considered individually and collectively, will take fullest advantage of what we have to offer, contribute most to the educational process at Rice, and be most successful in their chosen fields and in society in general. Our evaluation process employs many different means to identify these qualities in applicants. History shows that no single gauge can adequately predict a student's preparedness for a successful career at Rice. For example, we are cautious in the use of standardized test scores to assess student preparedness and potential. An applicant's entire file is considered and each applicant is considered in competition with all other applicants. In making a decision to admit or award financial aid, we are careful not to ascribe too much value to any single metric, such as rank in class, grade-point average, the SAT/ACT or Graduate Record Exam.

We use a broader perspective that includes such qualitative factors as the overall strength and competitive ranking of a student's prior institution, the rigor of his or her particular course of study, letters of recommendation, essays, responses to application questions, and (where required) auditions and portfolios. Taken together with a student's academic record and test scores, these additional factors provide a sound basis to begin assessing the applicant's potential on all levels.

Beyond indicators of academic competence, we look for other qualities among applicants such as creativity, motivations, artistic talent and leadership potential. We believe that students who possess these attributes in combination with strong academic potential will contribute to, and benefit from, a more vibrant, diverse educational atmosphere. Through their contributions and interactions with others, students will enrich the educational experience of the entire campus community. These qualities are not revealed in numerical measurements but are manifest in the breadth of interests and the balance of activities in their lives.

Rice University strives to create on its campus a rich learning environment in which all students will meet individuals whose interests, talents, life experiences, beliefs and worldviews differ significantly from their own. We believe that an educated person is one who is at home in many different environments, at ease among people from many different cultures and willing to test his or her views against those of others. Moreover, we recognize that in this, or any university, learning about the world we live in is not by any means limited to the structured interaction between faculty and students in the classroom, but also occurs through informal dialogue between students outside of the classroom.

To encourage our students' fullest possible exposure to the widest possible set of experiences, Rice seeks, through its admissions policies, to bring bright and promising students to the university from a range of socioeconomic, cultural, geographic and other backgrounds. We consider an applicant's race or ethnicity as a factor in the admission process and believe that racial and ethnic diversity is an important element of overall educational diversity. Though race or ethnicity is never the defining factor in an application or admissions decision, we do seek to enroll students from underrepresented groups in sufficient and meaningful numbers to prevent their isolation and allow their diverse voices to be heard. We also seek students whose parents did not attend college, as well as students from families with a well-established history of college-level education. Rice places a premium on recruitment of students, regardless of their races or ethnicities, who have distinguished themselves through initiatives that build bridges between different cultural, racial and ethnic groups. In so doing, we endeavor to craft a residential community that fosters creative, intercultural interactions among students, a place where prejudices of all sorts are confronted squarely and dispelled.

In assessing how well an applicant can contribute to enlivening the learning environment at Rice, we also try to determine the relative challenges that he or she may have faced. For economically disadvantaged students, this may mean achieving a high level of scholastic distinction while holding down a job in high school. For a first-generation student, it might mean achieving high standards for academic success within an environment relatively indifferent to intellectual attainment. Or it might mean overcoming a disability to excel in sports, music or forensics. For students who do not have particular disadvantages, we also look at whether they chose a more challenging road than the normal path through high school. This might mean an especially strenuous course of study, a prolonged, in-depth engagement in a school project or a particularly creative and wide-ranging set of extracurricular activities.

Rice does not view offers of admission as entitlements based on grades and test scores. Our admission process combines an examination of academic ability with a flexible assessment of an applicant's talents, experiences and potential, including potential diversity contributions; it precludes any quick formula for admitting a given applicant or for giving preference to one particular set of qualifications without reference to the class as a whole. Rice is a highly selective institution, and receives many more applications from viable candidates than it has available spaces. An inevitable consequence of Rice's approach is that some highly accomplished students will not be admitted. However, by selecting a wide range of matriculants of all types, the admissions process seeks to enrich the learning environment at Rice and thus improve the quality of a Rice education for all students.