Behind the Curtain — Utilizing the Holistic Review Process in Class Selection at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix

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Learn how one medical school utilizes the holistic review process in setting a strategy for an Admissions Committee.

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The Holistic Review Process is a method utilized by medical schools where balanced consideration is given to individual candidates based on metrics, experiences, and attributes. It can be applied throughout the admissions process, including the initial screening, the invitation to interview, the interview(s), and the final deliberation phase by an Admissions Committee.   

Prior to the start of each academic year, our medical school holds an orientation for our Admissions Committee. This includes diversity and unconscious bias training, a policy review, systems and procedures training, and a strategy session on how we wish to build the upcoming class. During this strategy session, we share how our committee can incorporate the holistic review process in the selection of students. 

While many admission processes are draped in secrecy, our medical school is transparent with our practice. We share our process at the end of each of our Applicant Visit Days. We believe this allows our candidates to fully understand who we are and where we wish to go as a medical community. Now, we will share it with you!

From a Metrics standpoint, we are a young medical school and have challenged ourselves to increase our profile while simultaneously building diverse classes. We feel we have accomplished this, as over the last four years we have moved our MCAT® score average from the 61st percentile (504) to the 88th percentile (513). Concurrently, we highly value building classes that are a representation of our community. To make this happen, we have defined various dimensions of diversity that tie directly into this mission. For us, this includes parents’ educational/occupational status (EO1 or EO2), socioeconomic status (self-identified disadvantaged, medical underserved, Pell Grant, etc.), geographic status (rural), or underrepresented minorities within our state. Our Admissions Committee has welcomed the challenge of building classes that are diverse and competitive in today’s marketplace, and we believe we have been quite successful.

From the Experiences review, we gained valuable insight from our learning specialists within Student Affairs. They shared research that students who know how to “balance it all” as undergraduates are most likely to be able to do so in medical school. With this perspective, our Admissions Committee seeks candidates who have shown a strong distribution among five core competencies through the Work/Activities section of the AMCAS® application: Clinical, Research/Lab, Leadership, Community Service/Volunteer, and Extracurricular Activity/Hobby.

From an Attributes perspective, this is our most important element of the holistic review process. We are steadfast in building a culture that is student-centric. With that, we have asked our Admissions Committee to focus on finding candidates who match our 16 attributes we have identified as uniquely important to us as a medical community. This year, we put an emphasis on candidates who are Servant Leaders (those who show strong personal humility and professional will) and Altruistic (selfless givers). Sharing specific characteristics to seek in candidates has allowed our Admissions Committee to focus on what makes our medical school truly special.   

In the end, each medical school is unique and has their own “secret sauce.” We hope sharing our process will give you a better idea on how at least one school shapes a class. 

We wish each of you great luck moving through your application process!

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