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Holistic Review

Holistic Review

Holistic Review refers to mission-aligned admissions or selection processes that consider a broad range of factors—experiences, attributes, and academic metrics—when reviewing applications. Holistic review allows admissions committees to consider the “whole” applicant, rather than disproportionately focusing on any one factor.

Holistic admissions is mission-based, and therefore the selection criteria and outcomes will vary by institution. However, one shared goal is a diverse, inclusive student body who will be poised to address the many needs facing our healthcare workforce. Nearly all medical schools self-reported using at least some elements of holistic review in a 2013 survey administered as part of the Urban Universities for Health partnership.

Holistic Admissions Process

An integrated holistic admissions process incorporates four core principles at each stage of the admissions process: screening, interview, and selection. These four core principles emphasize the importance of giving individualized consideration to every applicant and provide operational guidance to ensure that admissions processes and criteria are both mission- and evidence-based, promote diversity, and use a balance of experiences, attributes, and academic metrics.

Core Principles


In a holistic admissions process, selection criteria are broad-based, clearly linked to school mission and goals, and promote diversity as an essential element to achieving institutional excellence.


A balance of experiences, attributes, and academic metrics (EAM) is

  • Used to assess applicants with the intent of creating a richly diverse interview and selection pool and student body;

  • Applied equitably across the entire candidate pool; and

  • Grounded in data that provide evidence supporting the use of selection criteria beyond grades and test scores.


Admission staff and committee members give individualized consideration to how each applicant may contribute to the medical school learning environment and practice of medicine, weighing and balancing the range of criteria needed in a class to achieve the outcomes desired by the school.


Race and ethnicity may be considered as factors when making admission-related decisions only when such consideration is narrowly tailored to achieve mission-related educational interests and goals associated with student diversity, and when considered as part of a broader mix of factors, which may include personal attributes, experiential factors, and demographics. Or other considerations.*

*Under federal law (and where permitted by state law)

Holistic Review Roadmap Series

Webinar Recording: Mapping Your Route:

This webinar translates core education and legal principles into operational and viable admissions and enrollment-related policies, practices and procedures.

Additional Resources: