GRADE: Machine Learning Support for Graduate Admissions

Austin Waters, Risto Miikkulainen


This article describes GRADE, a statistical machine learning system developed to support the work of the graduate admissions committee at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Computer Science (UTCS). In recent years, the number of applications to the UTCS PhD program has become too large to manage with a traditional review process. GRADE uses historical admissions data to predict how likely the committee is to admit each new applicant. It reports each prediction as a score similar to those used by human reviewers, and accompanies each by an explanation of what applicant features most influenced its prediction. GRADE makes the review process more efficient by enabling reviewers to spend most of their time on applicants near the decision boundary and by focusing their attention on parts of each applicant’s file that matter the most. An evaluation over two seasons of PhD admissions indicates that the system leads to dramatic time savings, reducing the total time spent on reviews by at least 74 percent.

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