For any top school, the challenge of efficiently evaluating thousands of applicants is a difficult one. The traditional solution has been to use test scores and transcripts as quick evaluation metrics to shortlist applicants. But schools are realizing how this approach can leave underprivileged groups behind.
In low-income communities, underfunded high schools tend to offer few, if any, International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP) or honours courses. Without access to these opportunities, students struggle to earn grades high enough to be part of the top percentile of applicants to selective programs. By using GPA cutoffs as a first filter in the admissions process, schools might be missing out on many talented students and inadvertently narrowing their cohort diversity.
The admissions team at CSU Fullerton was determined to not let this issue impact their applicants. They wanted a holistic approach to admissions to help minimize the impact of this disparity by ensuring that an applicant’s scores and transcripts are only one piece of their application.
That’s when they turned to Kira.
Using Kira to engage with a diverse range of applicants
Offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in nursing, Fullerton sees thousands of talented applicants looking to fill a limited number of spots each year.
A proudly Hispanic-serving institution, the school is deeply engaged with its surrounding community in Southern California. The admissions team knew that if they took the traditional approach and based their admissions solely on transcripts and test scores, they could be missing out on some of the brightest students – from their local community and beyond.
To help make their ambitious dream a reality, the admissions team at Fullerton applied for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant* to redevelop its admissions process. Incorporating aspects such as community service records, letters of recommendation, and a written essay, the school became the first of the Cal State group to leverage holistic admissions practices.
The final step was to add an interview. Having successfully conducted interviews for the post-graduate programs, Fullerton had seen firsthand how impactful interviews were to the final admissions decisions.
Creating a lasting impression, virtually
With Kira, Fullerton was able to add that final piece of the puzzle, engaging with a wider and more diverse pool of applicants.
Pre-recorded videos welcoming applicants to their assessment and walking them through the questions allowed the program to shine a spotlight on their values, giving prospective students a glimpse into what the university’s culture is like.
“Kira allowed us to bring our own personality,” shared Deanna Jung, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Coordinator of Pre-Licensure Programs**. “We have a diverse faculty, so there was a diverse group of individuals reading the questions. Students were able to watch those videos and think ‘okay, there are faculty who teach here who are like me.’”
Getting the best of both worlds
“Our reason for getting started with Kira was in pursuit of greater diversity, academic inclusion, and getting to know our applicants better,” shared Jung. “The efficiency and ease that it brought to our process was an added benefit.”
“Because we didn’t have to bring applicants onto campus, find available rooms while classes were running, and schedule faculty based on their teaching schedule, we were able to engage with more students in less time.”
By eliminating travel and cost barriers, Kira’s online assessment enabled Fullerton to engage with a more diverse group of students. Moreover, the ability to meaningfully engage with more applicants in less time eliminated the need to evaluate applicants based solely on grades and test scores.
Fullerton has since enrolled its most diverse class to date. Publishing a paper in the Journal of Professional Nursing, Jung and her colleagues shared their process of implementation in the State University system as well as the success of the holistic admissions practices in increasing diversity in their program.
*This project is/was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number D19HP3043 and title EMBRACE for grant amount 1,291,589.00. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.
**Deanna Jung is currently an Assistant Professor of Nursing