Building Your Admissions Process: Admissions Decision-Making Criteria

Editor’s note: The Handbook comprises an overview, discussion, and questions for consideration on 24 key admissions topics, with the goal of helping you develop and continuously improve your program’s admissions process.


In designing the admission process, many considerations must be taken into account based on the mission and goals of the PA program to identify the best candidates for each individual program.


Evaluation of candidates should include not only their previous academic performance, but other qualities, experiences, and backgrounds that are valued in your program mission and outcomes. For example, if the mission of the program is geared toward providing access to care in urban underserved areas, then preference may be appropriate for those applicants expressing interest, experience, and commitment to urban underserved populations. This preference must be documented and made readily available to all prospective applicants to ensure a clear understanding of the program mission, goals, and preferences.

Typically, students with diverse intellectual and life experiences are valued as applicants. Broad backgrounds help to prepare future PAs for interactions with increasingly diverse patient populations and health care teams. Each applicant’s complete portfolio should be reviewed carefully to ensure selection is ideal to the program’s mission and goals.


  • What criteria are important for your program? How often is this criteria evaluated?
  • What objective measures are used to select students and what is the relative value of each?
  • How can the criteria be evaluated in the application and interview process?
  • How and when does the review take place and who participates in each step of the process?
  • How will interviewers be trained to participate in the admissions process?
  • What are the methods of evaluation?
  • How do you ensure fairness and equitability in evaluation of applicants?
  • What methods can be implemented to decrease inter-rater reliability in scoring applicants?

If you’re interested in learning about other admissions best practices, be sure to check out the following sessions at the 2016 Education Forum in Minneapolis: