A new national study, led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, finds that health professions schools report an overall positive impact from the use of holistic review—a university admissions process that assesses an applicant’s unique experiences alongside traditional measures of academic achievement such as grades and test scores.
The report, "Holistic Admissions in the Health Professions,” released today is the first large-scale study to examine the prevalence and effectiveness of holistic review across multiple health disciplines at universities nationwide.
The national survey coordinated by Urban Universities for HEALTH—a collaboration between the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)—finds the majority of schools report an increase in the diversity of their incoming classes and no change to measures of academic quality, student academic performance or student retention.
Half of schools surveyed reported that the average GPA of the incoming class remained unchanged, while 40 percent reported that it increased. (Read the full report.)
"Our study shows that holistic review is a very promising admissions practice that not only increased access for diverse students but also admitted students who excelled academically and have the right qualities to be successful in the workforce,” said Greer Glazer, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati, who led the study. Karen Bankston, PhD, associate dean of clinical practice, partnership and community engagement at the UC College of Nursing, served as co-principal investigator of the study.
Many colleges and universities use a holistic admission process to select students. The practice has become more popular in health fields such as medicine, because it enables schools to evaluate a broader range of criteria important for student success, and to select individuals with the background and skills needed to meet the demands of a transforming health care environment.
"Being a good health professional is about more than scientific knowledge. It also requires an understanding of people. Holistic review helps schools find students who have the attributes and abilities to become outstanding humanistic health professionals and leaders in their field,” said Darrell Kirch, MD, president and CEO of AAMC. "It is gratifying to see holistic review being used by so many institutions to recruit the kind of health providers you and I would want at our bedside. Furthermore, it’s heartening to see that these admission practices are showing signs of improving academic success, diversity, and other outcomes we want to encourage in the health professions.”
"What we found is that universities can expand access to higher education for disadvantaged students while maintaining or improving academic standards,” said Peter McPherson, president of APLU. "This is exciting news for us, because our universities are looking for ways to help students from all backgrounds succeed, and we hope that our health profession schools in particular will use this evidence to recruit and train a health workforce that meets community and employer needs.”
About the Study Method Data were collected through an electronic survey that was sent to the presidents of 163 universities. A total of 104 universities from 45 different states participated in the study with 228 individual health professions schools (nursing, medicine, dentistry, public health and pharmacy) providing their data on practices and outcomes. Survey respondents self-reported their use of holistic review, but they also reported their schools’ actual admissions practices. Actual practices were held up against a theoretical model for holistic admissions in order to objectively assess the extent to which schools have a holistic admission process.
About Urban Universities for HEALTH Urban Universities for HEALTH (Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership and Transformation of the Health Workforce) is a partnership effort of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU)/Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The project aims to improve evidence and the use of data that will help universities enhance and expand a culturally sensitive, diverse and prepared health workforce that will improve health and health equity in underserved urban communities.