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Holistic Review

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Holistic Review considers the “whole” applicant.

Holistic Review refers to mission-aligned admissions or selection processes that take into consideration applicants’ experiences, attributes, and academic metrics as well as the value an applicant would contribute to learning, practice, and teaching. Holistic Review allows admissions committees to consider the “whole” applicant, rather than disproportionately focusing on any one factor. The core principles of holistic review are outlined below.

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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)

Tools and Resources

The AAMC has compiled tools and resources to assist admissions officers and program directors in applying holistic review to their selection processes.

Holistic Considerations in Light of the Intersections of Covid-19, Racism, and Inequality

These tools and resources encourage admissions officers to consider and discuss changes to applicants’ life and academic circumstances in order to promote consistency, equity, and fairness for all applicants.

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This presentation outlines some of the important ways that applicants’ personal lives and academic preparation have been impacted by the pandemic and provides considerations for discussion at your school. (9 minutes)

Admissions Officer Interviews in Response to Covid-19, Racism, and Inequality

This series features five conversations with admissions officers about changes they are making to their admissions process as a result of the intersections of COVID- 19, racism, and inequality. Each interview includes an individual and group reflection guide you can use to explore the topics discussed in the conversation.

Admissions Officer Interview Series

1. Metrics

Dr. Christina Grabowski, Associate Dean for Admissions and Enrollment Management at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine, discusses how her institution is evaluating metrics this admissions cycle. (12:01 minutes)

Video highlights:

  • Posting information for applicants about COVID-19-related changes to the admissions process on the UAB website
  • Changes to admissions committee training
  • Discussion about pass/fail grades

Additional resources:

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2. Secondary Applications

Dr. Christina Grabowski, Associate Dean for Admissions and Enrollment Management at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Medicine, discusses changes her institution is making to their secondary application this admissions cycle. (9:06 minutes)

Video highlights:

  • Posting secondary application questions on the UAB admissions webpage
  • Addition of narrative questions about COVID-19
  • Changes to admissions committee training

Additional resources:

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3. Virtual Interviews (General)

Dr. Lina Mehta, Associate Dean for Admissions at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, discusses how her team is transitioning their admissions interview to a virtual format this admissions cycle. (12:48 minutes)

Video highlights:

  • Adopting a “flipped classroom” model for the interview day 
  • Training interviewers to be effective in a virtual format 
  • Providing resources for applicants to prepare for a virtual interview

Additional resources:

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4. Virtual Interviews (MMI)

Dr. Leila Harrison, Senior Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University, discusses how her team is transitioning their MMI interviews to a virtual format this admissions cycle. (13:07 minutes)

Video highlights:

  • The importance of communicating change
  • Applicant interview support through their Student National Medical Association (SNMA)
  • Adopting AAMC’s Video Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA)

Additional resources:

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5. Premed Advising

Dr. LaTanya Love, Interim Dean of Education at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, discusses how her team is communicating with premed advisers about changes to their admission process this admissions cycle. (12:38 minutes)

Video highlights:

  • Posting FAQs on changes to the application process
  • Participating in Courage Sessions to engage with students about changes to the application process
  • Encouraging applicants to reflect on the skills they have developed as a result of the pandemic

Additional resources:

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Holistic Review Primer for Admissions Officers

These tools and resources provide an overview of holistic review in admissions. This primer 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.

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This presentation introduces you to the conceptual underpinnings of Holistic Review as applied to medical school admissions. (8 minutes)

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This presentation helps you to think through the elements of the medical school admissions process you can influence and control and how Holistic Review can be applied to your admissions process. (4 minutes)

Holistic Review Primer for Program Directors

These tools and resources provide an overview of holistic review in residency selection. This primer 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.

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This presentation introduces you to the conceptual underpinnings of holistic review as applied to graduate medical education. (8 minutes)

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This presentation helps 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. (4 minutes)

Who we are

Holistic Review Advisory Committee

  • Bruce Blumberg, MD, Professor of Clinical Science, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
  • Dwight Davis, MD, 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, MD, EdD, 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, DrPH, MS, RN, Assistant Dean for Interprofessional Education, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Jorge A. Girotti, PhD, MA, 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, MD, 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, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Alicia D. H. Monroe, MD, (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, PhD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Health Sciences Clinical Associate Professor, University of California Riverside School of Medicine
  • Erik Porfeli, PhD, Professor and Chair of Human Sciences, Human Sciences Administration, The Ohio State University
  • Will Ray Ross, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean for Diversity, Washington University School of Medicine

AAMC Staff

  • Amy Addams: Director, Student Affairs Alignment and Holistic Review, AAMC  
  • Hope Gray: Specialist, Student Affairs and Holistic Review, AAMC  
  • Michelle Shader: Director, Holistic Initiatives and Learning, AAMC
  • Raechel Timbers: Manager, Holistic Initiatives and Learning, AAMC

Contact us for more information.

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