- Competition for PA applicants has tightened with the exponential growth of PA programs in Georgia and South Carolina
- Implemented Casper test to assess non-cognitive skills and expand the university’s toolset for holistic admissions
- Able to identify outliers after grading applicant interviews and confidently validate final selections for admission
“So much has changed since I first started working in admissions over 12 years ago,” shares Lisa Daitch, Admissions Director for Augusta University’s Masters of Physician Assistant (PA) program. “We used to be one of only two PA programs in the state of Georgia, but that’s not the case anymore.”
Although still the only public university in Georgia to offer a Masters of PA, competition for applicants has grown tighter in recent years as many private universities in Georgia and South Carolina now offer the program. To ensure they still attract and admit the best, Augusta employs a holistic approach to reviewing applicants.
“We need to look at the whole person,” shares Dr. Alicia Elam, Associate Admissions Director. “That’s what helps us maintain that nearly 100% satisfaction rate in our graduates, the fact that we find and train the very best.”
She adds, “Once we receive the list of verified applicants – those who’ve met all of our minimum requirements – from our university’s admissions office, we then engage our entire faculty to review the applications.”
About the program
Augusta University’s Masters of Physician Assistant program develops physician assistants with the knowledge and skills to practice in all aspects of medicine from a primary care perspective. It’s a two-year, full-time 122-credit hour program that combines one year of classroom instruction with one year of clinical practical experience. Augusta University has celebrated 44 years of physician assistant graduates for the state of Georgia, with employers and preceptors rating these graduates with nearly 100% satisfaction.
No. of applicants per year
No. of matriculants per year
In that collaborative and holistic review process, faculty members consider each applicant’s GPA, GRE score, PA shadowing experience, relevant work experience, and reference letters before deciding on the list of applicants to be invited to interviews. All of these elements speak to an applicant’s cognitive skills, relevant experience and commitment to the profession, but really getting a complete picture of the person requires diving just a little bit deeper.
So three years ago, Augusta started using Casper to get some insight into applicants’ non-cognitive competencies such as collaboration, problem solving, ethics, empathy and self-awareness. Although all applicants are required to complete the test in order to be admitted into the program, it isn’t required to interview. Instead, after applicants have been graded on their interview, the faculty then looks at, and considers their Casper scores.
“This is where we’ve found the most value in using Casper,” says Daitch. “It’s helped us spot outliers that our other tools wouldn’t have done for us, helping us weed out anyone we think may create problems in the future in terms of their behavior. The scores have also added confidence to our assessment of applicants and validated our final sections.”
Both Daitch and Dr. Elam explain that they will likely stick to considering Casper scores towards the end of their admissions process. Dr. Elam adds, “we have noticed some correlation between Casper scores and an applicant’s age or life experience. So for us, using it later helps us make decisions based on multiple factors, and that ultimately increases confidence in our decisions.”
While Casper does have smaller demographic differences compared to other standardized tests, they still exist. That’s why Altus Assessments has launched a major research initiative to find ways to further minimize bias through improvements to test design, delivery and rating.
No single tool is perfect though, which is why many schools have adopted a holistic approach to admissions. Daitch and Dr. Elam say the best way to assess an applicant holistically is to examine everything that each tool reveals about the applicant and put all of those pieces together to create a complete picture.
“Considering Casper scores after the interview has really worked well for us, even though we know of other programs who use it earlier,” shares Dr. Elam. “That’s what’s really interesting about Casper. It’s flexible and can be used in so many different ways successfully.”
Photo courtesy of Augusta University
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