Holistic Admissions Linked to Diversity in Health Fields

September 30, 2014

Holistic admissions policies -- in which colleges consider a candidate as an individual, and base decisions on more than a formula of grades and test scores -- have long been common among undergraduate institutions, but have also gained ground in health professions admissions, according to a report released today. The report found that more than 90 percent of medical schools and nearly half of nursing bachelor's programs are using holistic admissions. Because holistic admissions can consider such factors as a candidate's background and disadvantaged status, these policies have generally been associated with increased diversity, and the new report finds that to be the case in health fields. Among institutions with many attributes of holistic admissions, more than 80 percent report that moving in that direction led to increased diversity in the student.

At the same time, the report did not find evidence that holistic admissions -- as its critics sometimes suggest -- has led to a decline in academic admissions standards. Over the last decade, as many of these institutions expanded holistic reviews, 90 percent of the health professions programs using holistic review reported that the average grade-point average of the incoming class remained unchanged or increased, while 10 percent reported a decrease. And 89 percent reported that average standardized test scores for incoming classes remained unchanged or increased, while 11 percent reported a decrease

The report was done by the Urban Universities for HEALTH – a collaboration between the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and the Association of American Medical Colleges, with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

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