- A long history of complications associated with considering race and ethnicity in admissions due to legal barriers.
- Needed to recruit more under-represented minority (URM) applicants using other methods.
- Adopted Casper initially as a pilot and conducted a research study to see if Casper could support diversity-building efforts and more holistic admissions processes.
- Casper had smaller demographic differences than the MCAT and GPA.
- Casper was the greatest predictor of SPE score and the second greatest predictor of interview score after GPA.
- Texas A&M now plans to explore the weighting of Casper in the interview screening process to invite a more diverse applicant pool to that stage and ensure greater interview and SPE scores.
Since the 1990s, consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions in the states of Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana has been challenging due to legal barriers. While a 2003 ruling from the Supreme Court eventually allowed race and ethnicity to be considered, proponents of race-neutral admissions pointed to California’s model, where universities were able to maintain diversity without affirmative action. This entire experience compelled Texas A&M to look at admissions differently and find alternative ways to recruit more URM applicants.
“This is where holistic admissions comes into play,” explains Filomeno G. Maldonado, Associate Dean of Admissions at Texas A&M College of Medicine. “It’s about moving away from focusing on one or two key metrics that may hinder certain demographic groups, and looking at a whole variety of factors and seeing how they align with the program’s mission, values, and priorities.”
The holistic approach still needs data, particularly for non-cognitive competencies, which the school was lacking at the time. Maldonado eventually met Dr. Harold Reiter, co-founder of Altus Assessments and creator of the Multiple Mini Interview, at the annual AAMC conference and discussed the importance of situational assessments in key admissions decisions. Not long after, Texas A&M decided to pilot Casper in 2018.
About the school
For over 40 years, Texas A&M College of Medicine has focused on innovating new technologies and systems as well as educating students who can help treat those with the greatest need, such as rural communities and military members and their families. With five locations across Texas, including an ever-expanding presence in the Texas Medical Center and with Houston Methodist Hospital, its faculty and students have the opportunity to impact medicine from the big town, to the small town, and everywhere in between. In June 2020, the Texas A&M College of Medicine was reaccredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) for eight years, with the next site visit scheduled for the 2027–28 academic year.
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“As a relatively new assessment, we used it impressionistically and focused on collecting data that could help us prove to the committee its value in contributing to key admissions decisions,” says Maldonado.
It was only in 2019 that the program used Casper to inform decisions, particularly during pre-interview screening and interview deliberations.
So what exactly has the data on Casper revealed?
While there were demographic differences in Casper, they were lower than both GPA and MCAT scores. “We had hoped the demographic differences would be even smaller, especially since we saw such promising results from New York Medical College,” shares Maldonado. “That said, they used Casper formulaically and we didn’t, which I believe highlights the importance of properly weighting non-cognitive data along with cognitive measures.”
Texas A&M saw even better results when looking at Casper’s predictive capacity when it came to SPE and interview scores. Casper was shown to be the greatest predictor of SPE scores and second greatest predictor of interview scores, behind GPA.
“I was really glad to see the correlation between Casper and SPE scores,” says Maldonado. “They’re both based on situational judgments, and these findings really helped make a strong case to continue using Casper as part of our admissions process.”
So what’s next for Texas A&M now that the data has proven Casper’s value?
The school plans to explore a formulaic method to weight Casper during the pre-interview screening process to help increase the diversity of applicants being moved forward in the admissions process. They’re also looking to adjust the cutoffs for GPA, MCAT and Casper based on the demographic data to alleviate any potential barriers for groups that may be disadvantaged.
Texas A&M is also piloting Duet, a value-alignment assessment that helps programs evaluate “fit” in a more standardized and objective way. “I’m actually really excited to see how Duet works out for us,” shares Maldonado. “An institution’s mission is at the heart of holistic admissions, so any evidence-based assessment that can help us identify applicants who align with that mission will help us find those well-rounded applicants who can each make a real difference in health care.”
As for his advice to other medical schools looking to change up their admissions processes, Maldonado said there are lots of tools and resources available to help them on their journey. “There are many practices that schools have had success with, such as implementing MMIs or situational assessments, going partially blind to interviews so you don’t get lost in specific metrics, or diversifying your interview panel to reflect the diverse community these future health care professionals will end up serving,” explains Maldonado. “At the end of the day, it’s about tying everything back to your mission. Act on your mission so that it isn’t just a statement, and you’ll begin to see results in the students you welcome into your program.”
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