A career in healthcare was always of interest to Lauren Bentham. She envisioned herself becoming a clinical psychologist but, while pursuing her psychology major at Wilfrid Laurier University, she discovered the job would require a master’s degree and a PhD, and all the thesis work that comes with. Having worked as an assistant researcher before, Bentham knew that maybe her clinical psychology dreams weren’t going to work.
“I realized I didn’t have the mind of a researcher,” she says. “It wasn’t a path I wanted to go down anymore.”
In her last year at Laurier, she started looking at other post-graduate degree options, including the masters of business administration (MBA) at McMaster University, which had a health services management stream. The stream offered a co-op component, which Bentham knew would give her the opportunity to work in a variety of jobs within the healthcare sector, making her degree broadly applicable. She applied.
Once she was in the program, Bentham immediately gravitated towards co-op placements at hospitals that allowed for quality improvement projects with front-line staff. “Right from the beginning, I knew I had zero interest in sitting behind a desk,” Bentham says. Observing the staff who performed hands-on work with patients, she felt fear of missing out.
It was that fear that made her realize that what she was actually destined for was a career in nursing.
“I knew my MBA wouldn’t qualify me to do everything I was seeing others do during my placements,” Bentham says. She knew nursing school was for her, but that completing her MBA would provide her with upward mobility later in her career should she want it. Time for more research — this time into accelerated nursing programs for after she graduated.
The programs Bentham looked at had different admissions requirements. Some schools only considered GPA, while others required multiple reference letters, personal essays, completion of the CASPer® test, and/or prerequisite courses that she didn’t yet have.
It would make anyone’s head spin, but Bentham was determined. She start organizing her applications by programs she qualified for, including the University of Toronto, Western University, Nippissing Universiy, Trent University and Humber College affiliated with the University of New Brunswick. “U of T was the most intense in what they required, and Western and Humber, the least,” says Bentham, “but I appreciated the schools that would look at more than just my GPA.”
The schools that took a holistic approach to admissions, meaning they looked at an applicant’s unique experience, not just their grades and test scores, were the programs she wanted to get into most. This meant that writing personal essays and taking the CASPer® test were welcomed tasks.
Though Bentham appreciated the opportunity for expression that personal essays can afford, especially when personal interviews aren’t an option, she felt that they “don’t really say a lot about somebody’s ability to do well in the program.”
While CASPer® was a bit intimidating to Bentham — “having known it was originally developed for medical school,” she says — the fact that there was nothing she could do to prepare for it, and that it was truly an assessment of her personal qualities, eased her nerves. “In programs such as nursing and medicine, you see the value of having someone who can make quick decisions in highly stressful situations similar to the ones presented during the CASPer® test,” she says.
Ultimately, Bentham chose to attend U of T’s accelerated bachelor of nursing program, largely because the school emphasized how important it was to get to know their applicants, rather than just using grades to disqualify them.
By using assessment tools like CASPer®, academic programs can demonstrate to applicants that soft skills do matter — which, as Bentham’s own experience proves, can be part of a school’s successful recruitment strategy. By showing prospective students that personal and professional characteristics are valuable, schools can better attract the kind of applicants that value and possess those same traits. The result: a well-rounded cohort of students who become well-rounded professionals.
Published: December 5, 2017
By: Diana Ibranovic, M.A.
Marketing Manager at Altus Assessments