Holistic Review in Admissions: Challenging Conventional Thinking and Practice

Des Moines, IA US
July 31, 2012

The “Holistic Review in Admissions” workshop is designed to assist medical schools in enhancing student body diversity as a means of achieving the mission-based excellence they seek. The workshop broadly frames diversity using the Experience-Attributes-Metrics (E-A-M) Model to screen, interview, and select applicants. Through a logically structured sequence of interactive and hands-on activities, the workshop provides a forum for participants to think strategically about the school’s admission process through the lens of holistic review and identify where and how to integrate and improve its procedures and practices.

The workshop blends a self-study module; a half-day, onsite, facilitated component; and, follow-up, school-led conversations and activities. Of the sequence, the school-led component is the most important. It provides dedicated time and space for admissions committee members and staff to address the topics and questions participants identify as important to discuss in more depth. In combination, the components catalyze thinking and discussion about how, in the context of the school’s mission, diversity is integral to excellence and how holistic review can be integrated into admissions to support that goal. 

During the workshop, participants will:

  • Discuss and apply the principles, concepts, and processes that are integral to implementing holistic review practices in admissions in ways that are mission-driven, institution-specific, evidence-based, and legally viable;
  • Engage in thought-provoking discussion about individual and institutional values and perceptions, and explore how these elements can influence the medical school admission process;
  • Affirm the mission-centric characteristics the school values and seeks in its medical students and future physicians; and
  • Explore the dynamic tensions that often exist when weighing and balancing applicants’ experience and attributes with their academic achievements using an evidence-based case study exercise.

Target Audience

This workshop is primarily for admissions committee members and staff, although screeners, interviewers, diversity affairs officers, faculty, and other key medical education stakeholders may enrich the discussion.


In advance of the workshop, participants should review the school’s mission and admission policies and practices so they can take full advantage of the experience.


The purpose of this workshop is to enable admissions committee members to support the school’s mission-driven diversity interests using core holistic review principles and related practices to screen, interview, and select applicants.


  • Describe the interrelationship of the school’s admission process, diversity interests, and mission-related goals. 
  • Articulate how the criteria the school uses to screen, interview, and select applicants support the school’s mission and goals.
  • Identify existing individual and institutional preconceptions and their effect on the admission process.
  • Apply the four core principles of a holistic review admission process to identify where and how to integrate holistic review practices in order to derive the benefits of matriculating a broadly diverse medical school class.
  • Develop specific action steps to operationalize the recommendations the committee and staff identify to further enhance the school’s process.


The three-part workshop consists of:

  • A brief introductory self-study module to be completed by participants prior to the onsite component.
  • A four-hour onsite component comprised of guided discussion and activities at a date and time to be coordinated with AAMC staff.
  • Ensuing admissions committee discussions and activities planned and conducted by the school.

Module 1 is the first component of the three-part Holistic Review in Admissions workshop sequence. It is intended to:

  • Establish the context for conducting holistic admissions,
  • Describe the role medical schools play,
  • Introduce the basic tenets of holistic admissions and other key concepts, and
  • Provide an overview of the Holistic Review in Admissions workshop, including its purpose and structure. 

Module 1 also poses three questions to workshop participants, that we encourage you to think about prior to attending next week:

  • How is your school’s mission manifested in your admission processes and practices?
  • What role does your school’s diversity interests play in admissions?
  • How do you know that your admission outcomes are meeting the school’s mission and goals?

The facilitated, onsite component comprises a cascade of discussions and activities designed to stimulate critical thinking. Because discussions and activities may vary in length, these times are approximate.

  • Module 2: Welcome, Introductions, and Overview (20 minutes)
  • Module 3: Setting the Stage (60 minutes)
  • Module 4: Aligning Admissions with Mission (65 minutes)
  • Module 5: Shaping Your Medical School Class—Selecting for Excellence (55 minutes)
  • Module 6: Summary and Transition (20 minutes)

Lead Facilitator

S. Elizabeth White, MAEd
Lead Instructional Design Specialist, Holistic Review Project, Medical Education, Association of American Medical Colleges

Facilitation Team

The workshop component will be conducted by a team of trained facilitators who possess the knowledge, skills and abilities to provide the quality of learning experience necessary for:

  • Successfully maintaining a trusting and collaborative atmosphere.
  • Effectively guiding participants through prescribed discussions and activities, thus placing the content in a relevant context.
  • providing useful feedback to participants and staff.

The AAMC has selected the workshop’s facilitators from current medical school admission deans and directors, diversity affairs officers, and student affairs officers.  Each facilitator comes to the workshop with knowledge of and experience with holistic review admission practices, as well as training in effective facilitation techniques.

Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 8.00 CE Contact Hour(s)
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
07/31/2012 - 8:00am CDT
Event ends: 
07/31/2012 - 5:00pm CDT
Des Moines University
3200 Grand Avenue
Olsen Center
Des Moines, IA 50312
United States

Available Credit

  • 8.00 CE Contact Hour(s)


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