The common criteria among Texas’ health-professions institutions in identifying and selecting underrepresented or disadvantaged applicants are:
Economic, social, and/or educational background;
Relationship to school alumni;
Parents’ level of education;
Whether the applicant would be the first generation of the applicant’s family to attend or graduate from an institution of higher education;
Cultural factors such as bilingual or multilingual proficiency;
Employment or other responsibilities, such as assisting in the raising of children or being legally responsible for other people as a parent or guardian, while attending school;
Region of residence;
Whether the applicant is a resident of a rural, underserved, or health professions shortage area of the state;
Performance on standardized tests in comparison with the performance of other students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds;
Personal interview; and
Admission to a comparable accredited out-of-state institution
My goal in this discussion is to address the question of how we proceed in identifying and selecting applicants who have the potential of becoming positive health professionals in light of the attacks on affirmative action and the use of race-neutral processes. I have provided an overview of some of the literature that indicates the importance of studying the relationships between traditional cognitive determinants and non-cognitive factors in selecting applicants and in predicting success in the health professions education environment. It is apparent among the authors cited that success in a health professions school is dependent not only on varied and balanced factors—some with stronger correlations than others—but also on an institution’s commitment to advise prospective applicants and provide support services for students perhaps considered vulnerable.
My discussion centers on the methods used and issues faced by health professions schools in developing race-neutral admissions processes. I believe that there can be merit in such approaches, provided that there is a change in criteria and in the process of evaluation, as well as an institutional culture that places value on the uniqueness of an applicant.
What can be said about the relevance of non-cognitive variables in identifying and selecting underrepresented minority and disadvantaged applicants? Many medical school admissions committees take the position that an applicant who is motivated and has knowledge of the profession through experience; the skill to lead; resilience, especially in the face of adversity; and a propensity for