Building Your Admissions Process: Evaluate, Fix, Repeat

The upcoming Admissions 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.


Admission is part of a continuum — recruitment, admissions, program of study, graduation, and clinician. Evaluation of your admissions process through your program’s self-study keeps it strong and reliable, contributing to your program’s overall mission, goals, and outcomes.


It’s important to regularly evaluate what criteria comprise your ideal applicant and how these criteria impact the applicant evaluation and admissions process. Evaluating student success rates, national board performance, and outcomes-based graduate and employer surveys — then aligning the findings with indicators of success — will help determine strong areas to assess in your applicant pool. This continuous assessment process “closes the loop” to fully complement the educational process.

It’s also important to consider an evaluation of how applicants move through your process to determine its fairness and equity. You should complete this evaluation process with sensitivity to protect the anonymity of the participants and to ensure the admissions decision-making process is not influenced by the evaluation. This can be overcome by asking an unrelated staff member to collect the evaluations and hold them until admissions decisions are final.

Once admitted, tracking student performance may identify trends related to remediation and attrition of your students — as well as successful certification and placement of program graduates. Your program may track performance in didactic courses, supervised clinical experiences, summative exams, and the PANCE. Postgraduate training may include gathering data on certification, licensure, and job placement, especially as these relate to your program’s mission and goals. Identifying overall trends and individual traits related to these defined outcomes may affect the qualifications and criteria you use in admissions decisions for both cognitive and noncognitive traits. This will lead to data-driven decisions when modifying your admissions policies and processes.

Your evaluation may include a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with your admissions process. This should lead to the identification of both strengths and opportunities for improvement, allowing your program to plan and modify admissions materials for future enhancement, increase the efficiency of the process, provide higher satisfaction for applicants, committee members, and faculty, and allow for reassessment of measurement effectiveness.

Helpful evaluation hints:

  • Start with what you have
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Allow for a realistic workload
  • Track data for longitudinal analysis
  • Use the results to make the process relevant
  • Make data-driven and mission-driven decisions
  • Choose indicators that are observable
  • Consider external issues
  • Triangulate the data
  • Perform a 360º evaluation
  • Evaluate trends

Potential related outcome:

  • Who is admitted to the program? Compare who is interviewed, who is admitted, who accepts admissions offers, and who ultimately matriculates. Looking at all parts of your process may help to determine if there are any barriers to enrolling your ideal class.


  • What criteria do you wish to evaluate in your admissions process? Are there specific criteria that are reported to your institution, grant agency, or other organizations?
  • How will you gather data for each specific outcome that is measured?
  • How will you evaluate the data?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your admissions process?
  • If your program is not meeting admissions goals, are your goals clear, realistic, and consistent with your program and institutional mission?
  • Is your program using materials and processes for recruiting that are geared toward your program goals?
  • Are there students who are selected but who do not attend the program? If so, what are the reasons for their decision?
  • Are your retention and attrition rates similar to other PA programs and national averages? If not, what should be done?

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:

  • Admissions & Recruitment Retreat
  • Admissions Variables: Predictors of PA Student Success?
  • Mission-Driven Admissions: Aligning Process and Purpose
  • Decisions, Decisions: A Faculty Admissions Workshop
  • Emotional Intelligence in the Admission of PA Students
  • Holistic Admissions: A “How To” Guide for Implementation
  • Being Conscious of Unconscious Bias in Admissions
  • Enhancing Your Admissions Process Using CASPA 3.0