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. The process includes screening, interview, and selection. These 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.
Guide to Holistic Review
- Applicant selection criteria are broad, clearly linked to school mission and goals, and promote numerous aspects of diversity as essential to excellence.
- Selection criteria include experiences and attributes as well as academic performance. These criteria are:
- Used to assess applicants in light of their unique backgrounds and with the intent of creating a richly diverse interview and selection pool and student body,
- Applied equitably across the entire candidate pool, and
- Supported by student performance data that show that certain experiences or characteristics are linked to that individual’s likelihood of success as a student and/or physician.
- Schools consider each applicant’s potential contribution to both the school and the field of medicine, allowing them the flexibility to weigh and balance the range of criteria needed in a class to achieve their institutional mission and goals.
- Race and ethnicity may be considered as factors when making admission-related decisions only when aligned with mission-related educational interests and goals associated with student diversity; and when considered as a broader mix of factors, which may include personal attributes, experiential factors, demographics, or other considerations.*
*Under federal law (and permitted by state law)
Advisory Committee on Advancing Holistic Review
- Bruce Blumberg, M.D., Professor of Clinical Science, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
- Dwight Davis, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs, Professor of Medicine, Heart Failure Service Director, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Wellness Program Heart and Vascular Institute, Penn State College of Medicine
Jose Manuel de la Rosa, MD, MSc, Vice President of Outreach and Community Engagement, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso
- Donna Elliott, M.D., Ed.D., Vice Dean for Medical Education and Chair, Department of Medical Education; Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Medical Education, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
Anne C Gill, Dr.P.H., M.S., R.N., Assistant Dean for Interprofessional Education, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
- Jorge A. Girotti, Ph.D., M.A., Research Assistant Professor and Director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence, Department of Medical Education, University of Illinois College of Medicine (Retired)
- Toi Blakley Harris, M.D., Associate Provost of Institutional Diversity, Inclusion & Equity, and Student and Trainee Services, Professor, Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Family and Community Medicine, Baylor 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., Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Health Sciences Clinical Associate Professor, University of California Riverside School of Medicine
- Erik Porfeli, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Human Sciences, Human Sciences Administration, The Ohio State University
- Will Ray Ross, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean for Diversity, Washington University School of Medicine
- Clare Brady, Family Medicine Resident, Northwestern Medicine
Advisory Committee Consultants
Arthur L. Coleman, J.D., Managing Partner, EducationCounsel, LLC
Lewis Keith, J.D., Partner, EducationCounsel, LLC
Roadmap to Diversity 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)
Resources and Tools for Program Directors
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic and disruptive changes to all aspects of medical education. AAMC’s Holistic Review team has curated resources and tools to help program directors navigate resident selection during this challenging time.
Tools and Resource links:
This 8-minute video will introduce you to the conceptual underpinnings of holistic review as applied to graduate medical education.
This activity will help you to “widen the lens” through which you assess residents by identifying and ranking the mission-driven Experiences, Attributes, Competencies, and Metrics (EACMs) that would add value to your program (Word document).
This 4-minute video will help you to think through the elements of the resident selection process you can control and those you can influence and how Holistic Review can be applied to resident selection.
This activity will help you define your high-priority criteria and assess if your recruitment materials and selection processes reflect your priorities (Word document).
This resource is a compilation of all the above if you would prefer to read the content rather than watch the videos (PDF).
We will continue to update this page as more resources become available.
Resources and Tools for Admissions Officers
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic and disruptive changes to all aspects of medical education. AAMC’s Holistic Review team has curated resources and tools to help admissions officers navigate the admissions process during this challenging time.
Holistic Review Primer
These tools and resources provide a review of holistic review in admissions. It is designed to quickly help you 1) review the criteria you are prioritizing and 2) define and assess if your materials and processes reflect your priorities.
This 8-minute video will introduce you to the conceptual underpinnings of holistic review as applied to medical school admissions.
This activity will help you to “widen the lens” through which you assess applicants by identifying and ranking the mission-driven EAMs that would add value to your institution.
This 4-minute video will help you to think through the elements of the medical school admissions process you can control and those you can influence and how Holistic Review can be applied to your admissions process.
This activity will help you define your high-priority criteria and assess if your materials and processes reflect your priorities.
This resource is a compilation of all the above if you would prefer to read the content rather than watch the videos.
Holistic Review Considerations in Light of COVID-19
These tools and resources to encourage admissions officers to consider and have discussions about changes to students’ life and academic circumstances in order to promote consistency, equity, and fairness for all applicants.
This 9-minute video will outline some of the important ways that applicants’ personal lives and academic preparation has been impacted by the pandemic and provides considerations for discussion at your school.
This resource expands on the video presentation above.
This resource will help guide essential discussions around admissions at your school.