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The Importance of The Admissions Summit: Interviews with Speakers and Attendees

“I think if we stay within our own country, our own region, we actually miss the knowledge. I think international meetings like this allow us to share knowledge from across the world, to get inspired by other people’s solutions and see if we can fit them into our own problems.” 

These are the words of Lyndall Parker-Newlyn, Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong, and presenter at the inaugural Admissions Summit Conference. Lyndall’s words perfectly capture the importance, and key takeaways, attendees felt after taking part in the two-day event downtown Toronto. The Admissions Summit offered a unique opportunity for healthcare admissions professionals from around the world to connect with their peers, share ideas, and find solutions to the unique challenges they face daily. With the second Admissions Summit having been recently announced to take place on June 1-2, 2020 in Toronto, we decided to interview three event attendees and get their reflections on the value of a summit tailored to admissions professionals. 

While this summit was the first of its kind, being the only event dedicated to the professionals who work in the healthcare admissions field, it also came at a time when the process of admissions is experiencing more scrutiny and evolution than ever before. From the admissions scandal, to Harvard’s attempts at a holistic process that ended in accusations of profiling, the latest news has put teams under pressure to validate their selection process and re-evaluate their methods.

“One of the things that I think has really been in the news lately is admissions under fire” said Louis Perez from Texas Tech University. “Why are admissions offices doing what they are doing? And so the answer to that is we just need to be more transparent about the entire process. It’s not like we’re taking things into a magic black box, and whatever happens, happens. There’s actually a defined process involved. There is a methodology and a philosophy behind everything we do and if we share that with everybody, that’s what helps people understand what it is we do and how we go about doing it and I think tying those two things together is really important.” 

Louis’ comments perfectly highlight the importance of the Admissions Summit. Admissions has always been a process guided by research and a common goal to find the applicants who will best fit an institution and thrive academically and professionally. However, the process has become increasingly more complicated as institutions look to define what makes an ideal applicant while also fairly assessing a diverse group of students from different backgrounds. 

Susan  Mulholland, from the University of Alberta, expanded on the issues: “ We have a real struggle to know how to define the end product that we are trying to produce in a graduate, and what skills or attitudes we want them to have. So which ones they need to come in with and which ones we can train or educate. And I guess the other key piece is the fairness because you always have too many applicants and how do you fairly make decisions and especially with such a focus on equity, diversity and inclusivity.”

The Summit allowed a highly qualified group of admissions professionals to not only discuss the recent issues with their peers, but also to learn strategies other teams employ to remain transparent and still accurately assess their applicants. They also found camaraderie in the struggle to remain true to a methodology that best fits their program and fairly assess applicants with the best chance for success. 

As Louis goes on to explain, “I think it’s really good to understand that some of the other individuals that are speaking and some of the individuals that you’ll meet here are going through the same struggles that you have. It’s also reassuring to talk to individuals and say ‘hey you know, we’ve actually implemented some of those things, had some of the same thoughts’ and things like that. If you will, it’s sort of a melting pot of good, best practices, and I think it’s important to get that type of information and then take it back into the fold and really kind of cultivate a different type of environment.”

Many admissions professionals, like Louis, were able to discuss new ideas to develop their processes, and also share what has helped their teams succeed in admitting a diverse range of applicants that thrive in the program. Louis’ positivity around the chance to make connections and have these discussions was shared by many attendees. Overall, there was a clear and present feeling that everyone present was working towards a common goal: to learn new strategies that improve the admissions process, and to share their own stories of success. 

Gathering professionals together not only helped them to connect and understand that certain problems are global and shared by all admissions teams, it also opened up the discussion on the value of assessing applicants beyond their grades. Attendees were able to directly discuss how to approach a holistic process and truly assess “people skills” in applicants. They discussed their own strategies,  looked at the importance of finding applicants who are qualified beyond their grades, and other top trends in admissions.

“Basically, academic marks don’t tell you anything about a human other than their ability to perform in the constrained environment of a university. And that’s driven by so many factors, many of which have nothing to do with that student: so the family they were born into, the education of their parents, their access to resources have a big factor on their performance at university, none of which has anything to do with their performance as a doctor.”

Lyndal’s comments sum up the true value and importance of the Admissions Summit: people and connections. For two days, problems were tackled, stories were shared, data was presented, and ideas were born. By gathering a group of people, who all do the work of admissions, together, the Summit helped make lasting connections that will continue to improve and develop the admissions process. 

Looking to meet your peers and help push admissions forward? Pre-register for the second annual Admissions Summit here: