Are they right for an OT career? Casper helps the University of Arkansas answer that question

“What struck me was how easy, accessible and affordable the assessment was. With one score, we’d be able to get a sense of an applicant’s personal and professional attributes and compare it to other parts of their application to see if there was consistency. It’s affordable for applicants compared to other standardized tests and the accessibility of the online format means anyone can take it, and that may help us consider applicants who would otherwise be missed.”

Jeanne Eichler, Ed.D., MOT, OTR/L, MT, Assistant Professor and Head of Admissions, Occupational Therapy at the University of Arkansas/ University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Highlights

Challenge

  • The program is new, and a very small team handles admissions, which is led by a faculty member. Trying to implement a process based on best practices required a lot of independent research.
  • It was really important to find an alternative to the GRE as the assessment is expensive and may be inaccessible due to cost, does not specifically evaluate suitability for a healthcare profession, and may disadvantage those from under-represented groups.

Solution

  • The program adopted Casper along with the Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT) to dive deep into applicants’ professionalism, personal attributes, and critical thinking skills in a healthcare setting.

Results

  • The program was able to gain a richer background on applicants by using the results of both assessments, which aided in final applicant reviews. There are also early indicators that more applications from under-represented groups are being received.

Deep Dive

When Dr. Jeanne Eichler was discussing launching the Occupational Therapy program with her colleagues, a major part of the conversation was focused on diversity. How would they attract more people from different backgrounds to the program and the profession, which is largely occupied by white women?

“I’m not an admissions expert, but as a therapist and educator, it’s important that we admit the best people through an accessible and holistic process,” explains Eichler. “We are not just looking for people who will succeed in their studies. Our aim is to attract and include people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who can succeed in this career path and help deliver quality care in their communities for many years to come.”

It’s quite common for programs to have small admissions teams managed by faculty members who split their time between administrative duties, instruction and their practice. “It makes it all the more necessary to have the right tools and processes in place so that it’s all manageable and effective,” shares Eichler.

Through discussions with other programs and independent research, Eichler discovered Casper.

University of Arkansas and UAMS logo

About the program
Launched in January 2020, the Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program is a joint offering between the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. It’s a three-year (9 semesters), full-time, on-campus program with an off-campus fieldwork and capstone component. Graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the National Board Certification Examination for the Occupational Therapist. After successful completion of this exam, the graduate becomes a registered occupational therapist (OTR). The program has been granted candidacy status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

No. of applicants per year
75-100

No. of matriculants per year
26-32

“What struck me was how easy, accessible and affordable the assessment was,” she says. “With one score, we’d be able to get a sense of an applicant’s personal and professional attributes and compare it to other parts of their application to see if there was consistency. It’s affordable for applicants compared to other standardized tests and the accessibility of the online format means anyone can take it, and that may help us consider applicants who would otherwise be missed.”

Casper also presented an opportunity to eliminate the GRE from the admissions process. “We needed an alternative to the GRE because we felt it was not the best way to gain the information we needed to determine if an applicant would be suited for this career path. Casper and the HSRT do,” claims Eichler. 

So where does Casper fit in the process? Eichler explains that the team looks at Casper scores during final reviews, along with HSRT scores (which reflect an applicant’s critical thinking skills in a healthcare setting). Those scores are then compared to all the parts of the application, including GPA, personal statements, reference letters, and MMI performance to find consistencies or outliers that warrant further investigation. 

“We never make a decision to cut an applicant based on a single data point, but if we see someone who has all the goods on paper, but a low Casper score or a low HSRT score, we do spend a bit more time trying to figure out why that is,” says Eichler. “This means diving deep into their answers in the interview or analyzing their personal statements or reference letters to understand why they’re considering this career path, and if they’re ready.”

The combination of the Casper and HSRT scores has provided Eichler and her small but nimble team with a holistic understanding of every applicant through the lens of the program’s mission. Being able to use those scores to validate their selections or investigate outliers helps them find those mission-oriented individuals. 

“No single screening tool is perfect or provides all the answers, but when they’re used together you can see a much bigger, clearer picture,” says Eichler. 

What’s next? As the program and application numbers grow in the coming years, Eichler admits that they may need to tweak the process. Access to research and learning opportunities provided by Altus Assessments may help with those adjustments. 

“I found so much value in Altus’ Admissions Summit because I was able to explore so many topics and best practices in everything admissions-related, and the outcomes-focused research Altus is conducting on Casper and its other selection tools within Altus Suite will help us adapt our processes as we grow,” shares Eichler. 

It’s that commitment to research and evolving best practices, in addition to Casper’s existing strengths, that makes Eichler want the assessment to become standard in OT admissions. “That way, we can really compare notes and advance those best practices together.”


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