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Holistic Review

Holistic Review

Holistic Review

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. 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 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.

An 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.

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)

Advisory Committee on Advancing Holistic Review

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
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
Lewis Keith, J.D., Partner, EducationCounsel, LLC

Holistic Review Roadmap Series:

Roadmap to Diversity and Educational Excellence: Key Legal and Educational Policy Foundations for Medical Schools, Second Edition (2014)
Roadmap to Excellence: Key Concepts for Evaluating the Impact of Medical School Holistic Admissions (2013)
Roadmap to Diversity: Integrating Holistic Review Principles into Medical School Admission Processes (2010)

Additional Resources:

Bridging the Gap 
Holistic Review Project Handout 
Advancing Holistic Review Initiative 

Resources for Admissions Staff

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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.