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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.

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Guide to Holistic Review

Core Principles

  1. Applicant selection criteria are broad, clearly linked to school mission and goals, and promote numerous aspects of diversity as essential to excellence.
  2. Selection criteria include experiences and attributes as well as academic performance. These criteria are:​​​​​​​​​​​​
    1. 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,
    2. Applied equitably across the entire candidate pool, and
    3. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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