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Holistic Review

Holistic Review

Holistic Review in Admissions

Holistic Review is a flexible, individualized way for schools to consider an applicant’s capabilities, providing balanced consideration to experiences, attributes, and academic metrics. These factors are considered in combination with how the individual might contribute value not only as a medical student, but as a physician, as well. The use of holistic review by schools has increased in recent years, and 91% of schools self-reported using holistic review in a 2013 survey administered as part of the Urban Universities for Health partnership.

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.

Our Mission and Approach

The Advancing Holistic Review Initiative endeavors to enable the implementation of holistic review in member institutions, and to illustrate the connection of holistic admissions to larger diversity and inclusion efforts.

To do this, the Initiative is offering an integrated suite of flexible, customized tools and resources that link the holistic admissions process to diversity and inclusion efforts across the medical education continuum.

New Resources

Linking Medical School Mission and Holistic Review: Illustrations from Schools 

A well-developed, mission-driven diversity statement is an important starting point where diversity and inclusion reflect institutional priorities. This document highlights the various approaches taken by a range of medical schools to formalize its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Holistic Admissions

A core element of holistic admissions involves widening the lens through which we view applicants, recognizing and valuing different dimensions that shape each individual. The initiative’s Experiences-Attributes-Academic Metrics (E-A-M) model translates that concept into a useful tool and provides admissions staff and committee members with a shared framework for thinking broadly about diversity, identifying mission-based criteria that take into account the whole applicant, and spark thinking about applicants as future physicians, rather than merely as prospective students.

An integrated holistic admissions process incorporates four core principles at each stage: 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.


Holistic review is a flexible, individualized way of assessing an applicant’s capabilities by which balanced consideration is given to experiences, attributes, and academic metrics and, when considered in combination, how the individual might contribute value as a medical student and physician.

Four 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)

Unpacking Fisher II Webinar

The Supreme Court upheld race-conscious admissions in its second Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin decision issued in June 2016. Art Coleman and Terri Taylor from Education Counsel discussed what the decision means for medical schools in the Unpacking Fisher II: Furthering the Case for Holistic Review webinar.

Unpacking Fisher II webinar

Advisory Committee on Advancing Holistic Review

David Acosta, M.D., Associate Vice Chancellor, Diversity and Inclusion, University of California, Davis Health System
Bruce Blumberg, M.D., Institutional Director of Graduate Medical Education, Kaiser Permanente Northern California
Dwight Davis, M.D., Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs, Pennsylvania State College of Medicine
J. Manuel de la Rosa, M.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso
Donna Elliott, M.D., Ed.D., Senior Associate Dean for Student and Educational Affairs
Professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
Anne C. Gill, Dr.P.H., M.S., Associate Professor Pediatrics and Medical Ethics, Baylor College of Medicine
Jorge A. Girotti, Ph.D., M.A., Associate Dean and Director, Admissions, Special Curricular Programs, University of Illinois College of Medicine
O'Rese J. Knight, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
John F. McGeehan, M.D., F.A.C.P., Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Admissions, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
Jeffrey F. Milem, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, Gevitz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
Alicia D. H. Monroe, M.D., (Chair, Advisory Committee on Advancing Holistic Review), Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Faculty Affairs, Baylor College of Medicine
Sunny Nakae, MSW, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Admissions, Recruitment & Student Life, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Erik Porfeli, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Admissions, Northeast Ohio Medical University
Will Ray Ross, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean for Diversity, Washington University School of Medicine
Clare Brady, Medical Student, St. Louis University School of Medicine

Advisory Committee Consultants –

Arthur L. Coleman, J.D., Managing Partner, EducationCounsel LLC
Teresa “Terri” Taylor, J.D., Senior Policy and Legal Advisor, EducationCounsel LLC


Additional Resources:

Resources for Admissions Staff

admissions hub promo 200x80

Admissions officers are at the forefront of changing the way medical schools select and train students, cultivating physicians of the future. The AAMC offers a variety of tools and resources to help you along the way.

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.