Managing PA Admissions Personnel Part 3: Common Questions
By Jim Pearson and Dr. Scott Massey
Welcome back to PA Admissions Corner. Last time, you evaluated your admissions staff to ensure that you have the right people in the right place at the right time to make the most of your admissions cycle. Today we’ll conclude this three-Issue series on Managing PA Admissions Personnel by responding to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding admissions personnel.
Every PA program has unique approaches to personal mission and vision, faculty involvement with students, and student recognition for achieving certain milestones and graduation. On the other hand, many of the specific challenges and problems that your PA program might face within your admissions department are not very different from the PA program located across town or the PA program located 1000 miles away. But don’t worry! We’ve conducted enough seminars on PA program management to hear them all, and we want to share the answers with you.
Question: How can we modify our admission processes to better select the right students?
Conduct a quality assurance process focusing on who is involved with the admissions process from the first moment that prospective applicants reach out to your program all the way to matriculation.
Perception can significantly impact an applicant’s decision to select your program over your competition. Providing focused and caring customer service throughout the admissions process will pay significant dividends, but it will require allocating specific workload and staff time. Rather than a team approach with multiple individuals working with each applicant, it’s best to split up your applicant pool and assign a specific individual from your admissions personnel to each group. Each applicant will be able to build a relationship with someone who has taken the time to listen, care, and get to know their individual situation. That specific admissions personnel can keep an ear to the ground for applicants who are particularly excited about your program.
Dividing up the applicants and establishing a consistent personnel member each segment of the pool allows for careful review of which applicants are the best fit. Shepherding prospective applicants all the way through the admissions process with a familiar face gives all applicants the opportunity to develop an affinity for your program, including the yet-to-be-determined ideal applicants. That affinity will result in matriculation for more of your ideal applicants than if they were passed back and forth between multiple personnel.
When you have properly focused applicant admission data, your admissions personnel will be much better equipped to make decisions, which facilitates appropriate selection for interviews. And as we all know, the selection process for interviews is crucial to provide your PA program with the highest conversion rate from interview to matriculation.
Question: How can we modify our admission processes to better screen and process our applicant pool for ideal applicants?
PA programs receive hundreds or thousands of applicants per year. Sorting through that many applications and deciding which applicants to invite for interviews is daunting. You need a workable strategy starting with specific guidelines and qualifications for your applicants to be eligible for consideration. Here are some suggestions to begin the process:
- Minimum GPA – Screen for minimum GPA levels. Applicants who do not meet your minimum levels can be eliminated from the pool. The designated staff member who manages the CASPA portal can begin the sorting process using these predetermined criteria. If applicants do not meet your minimum GPA, but they meet the other requirements related to your program’s mission, you may reconsider case-by-case whether to interview them.
- Basic Metrics – Compile basic metrics on students who meet your criteria. Using a standardized screening form for the pre-interview process, your staff member can compile some basic statistics on each applicant, enabling you to rank remaining applicants who qualify for interviews.
- Demographic Screening – Conduct a screening process for demographics, backgrounds, and other characteristics that you desire for your program. This crucial step in the process ensures that you are enhancing diversity within your program. In some programs this step never occurs because of the prescreening process. You can capture applicants who may not be as highly competitive using the basic metrics described.
- Interview Pool – Pare down the numbers and select applicants for interviews. The number of applicants you interview is directly proportional to your class size. Considering the typical conversion rate from interview to matriculation, interview a minimum of three applicants per seat. This density of interviewees ensures that you have competitive waitlist of applicants beyond initially filling your seats.
Once you have the basic steps established as described above, you can establish protocols to keep the process running smoothly and effectively:
- Screening Rubrics – Develop your screening rubrics with the end goal in mind. Ensure that your rubrics clearly state the minimum academic requirements and the ideal student characteristics you seek. Remember that dedicating labor to applicants unlikely to ultimately convert decreases your efficiency. This first step can eliminate applicants that you decide are not worth pursuing despite their highly competitive academic records.
- Mathematical Point System – Establish an appropriate mathematical point system for your desired characteristics. For example, determine the number of points applicants receive for stratification of GPA, admissions exam, disadvantaged population status, special considerations, and articulations that exist with your program. Some programs have admission agreements with specific institutions that will necessitate identifying these applicants early in the process.
You need to evaluate your current personnel’s skill sets to ensure you are only assigning skilled personnel to each key admissions duty. You will also need to evaluate your personnel’s ongoing duties to ensure you are not overloading them with too much additional work, which will lead to subpar outcomes.
Question: How can we establish sufficient labor to achieve our goals?
Here are some possible solutions to the problem of a small overworked staff.
- University Support from Parent University – Negotiate staff time from your university/college admissions office. This will require training to ensure that this individual is following the protocols that you have set forth and will require budgetary allocation for a staff member outside of your cost center.
- Multiple Roles – Hire a staff member within the program to assume multiple roles within the admissions process. Many programs now have dedicated admissions staff personnel. This individual can ensure that quality assurance is maintained throughout the process.
- Part-Time Support – Hire a seasonal staff member to assume this role during specific points during the year. Remember that graduate assistants can be an option, but FERPA would likely prohibit them from reviewing prospective students.
- Lay Down the Law. ARC-PA, the organization in charge of protecting the interests of the public and the PAs-in-training, sets labor standards . Standards A1.06 and A1.07 require your program’s sponsoring institution to provide you with sufficient staff and resources to keep your program ARC-PA-compliant. If you are struggling with the lack of labor to achieve your admissions goals, these standards can provide important leverage when addressing senior administration.
As we conclude this series on Managing PA Admissions Personnel, let’s summarize with a few key points and considerations.
- The structure of your admissions cycle, the realignment of your admissions workflow, and the reassignment of your admissions duties to your admissions personnel will have a significant impact on the overall success of your PA program’s admissions outcomes.
- 50% of all PA program applicants are seated before September. Is your current admissions cycle in line with the national trends and with your competition?
- Ensuring that your admissions personnel are aligned properly with their skill sets in their current roles will enable them to better screen, evaluate, and select ideal applicants for your program.
In the next Issue of PA Admissions Corner, we begin a two-part installment on meeting your enrollment goals by improving conversation rates with our 72-Hour Rule and 80/20 Rule.
To your admissions and program success,
Jim Pearson, CEO
Dr. Scott Massey Ph.D., PA-C
Scott Massey LLC
If you are in need of admissions support and services for your PA program, we can help.
Jim Pearson and Dr. Scott Massey have helped hundreds of educational institutions and programs improve their admissions outcomes.
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