Within the field of higher education admissions, few disciplines are as challenging to recruit for as pharmacy. With many distinguished programs across the country and only a limited number of students invested in pursuing a pharmacy degree, admissions teams need to ensure that they’re constantly finding new and improved ways to reach and engage potential applicants.
For the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, a top-three ranking school in the United States, in-person events and on-campus conversations played a significant role in that strategy. From campus tours to peer lunches, these events helped prospective students get a feel for the school’s culture.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to cancel all in-person events, the admissions team needed a way to pivot online without sacrificing the key components of their applicant experience.
Luckily, U-M Pharmacy’s Assistant Dean for Student Services and Admissions, Mark Nelson, had been introduced to Kira Talent.
Selling the on-campus experience
“Before Kira, our process consisted of a team of faculty and student services staff who would review written applications before inviting select students to an on-campus interview,” shared Kristin Heinrich, the Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruiting at Michigan College of Pharmacy. “Running over the course of an entire day, applicants would have their interview with faculty as well as current students, but most of the day was spent learning about Michigan Pharmacy.”
Applicants were given tours of campus including Michigan Medicine where they’d have most of their rotations. Current students mingled with applicants over lunch, inviting them to ask questions, get advice, and engage in more casual conversation.
“The whole process really allowed applicants to get a sense of the atmosphere here on campus and decide if Michigan was the best fit for them,” explained Heinrich.
Over the following weeks, Heinrich and her team would review notes compiled from the various interviewers and would combine those scores with the other components of the application in order to reach an informed decision.
“At the end of the day, as admissions professionals, we just really want to make sure that students are finding the right fit,” Heinrich continued. “The on-campus experience was crucial to our interview process and to our yield process in general. It was definitely a big flip for us to go virtual.”
Bringing the college atmosphere online
A primary focus for Michigan Pharmacy was how to provide a professional and efficient virtual interview process, while still being able to give applicants a taste of life at the college.
“As we started to explore our options, Mark introduced the rest of the team to the Kira platform,” shared Heinrich. “After connecting with the team at Kira and seeing the functionality of the platform, we decided that this was the best option for us.”
In previous years, the college interviewed around 100 students per cycle. “Coordinating Zoom interviews for all those students would have been an immense task,” explained Heinrich. “We really wanted to maintain the sense of ease and simplicity that we cultivated with our on-campus visits, and Kira allowed us to do that.”
Michigan Pharmacy engaged the university’s creative team to help film their welcome and closing videos and video questions, which were used to create an engaging and fully branded experience in the Kira platform. “The incorporation of introduction and conclusion videos created a very sleek experience for our applicants,” shared Heinrich.
The entire onboarding process, from the first discussion through to the launch of the assessment, took a total of about three months.
“I was shocked how quickly we were able to get it all going, given how many different components we had in the assessment,” shared Heinrich. “I credit that to how responsive and engaged the Kira team was.”
“Whatever components we wanted, whatever changes we wanted to make, our Client Success Manager was always quick to respond and happy to help.”
Increasing efficiency to connect with applicants
“Through Kira, our process has become more efficient,” shared Heinrich. “In terms of coordination, it’s more efficient in that I don’t have to do the manual work of organizing reviewers’ schedules and making sure that they show up on the right day at the right time.”
The on-demand nature of Kira’s Asynchronous Assessments means the college increases efficiency on the reviewing end as well. No longer needing to work around everyone’s individual schedules, Heinrich was able to assign more applicants to each reviewer, creating room in the schedule to hear from more applicants.
“Kira increased the number of students we interviewed by 53%.”
With no minimum qualifying threshold for GPA or test scores, Michigan Pharmacy assesses applicants holistically, weighing cognitive and non-cognitive variables equally. Opening up the interview to more applicants has helped strengthen the school’s commitment to holistic review by enabling them to get a better look at more of their applicants prior to making a decision.
“With on-campus interviews, we had to be a lot more selective with the candidates we invited to interview, as we only had so much room in the schedule,” explained Heinrich. “This year, we had much more flexibility to invite applicants to complete a Kira assessment.”
“If our admissions committee was on the fence about an applicant after reviewing their written application, we were able to gather more data points about the applicant before making a decision,” she continued. “It helped us make more informed admissions decisions.”
Building equity into the admissions process
“Kira has allowed us to maintain consistency and fairness across our process, despite all the turbulence of the past year,” shared Heinrich.
Invested in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in the higher ed space, Heinrich and her team were thrilled to see how the addition of Kira prioritized fairness in several different parts of the school’s admissions process.
“Kira has removed financial barriers for our applicants,” shared Heinrich. “When we held on-campus interviews, we provided lunch, but the cost of transportation and accommodations fell on the applicants. Kira has removed that financial barrier as well as the time-cost barrier associated with moving their classes or work schedules in order to attend the interview.”
From a reviewing standpoint, the platform has also fostered an equitable process by maintaining consistency across applicants.
Using timed video and timed written responses, Kira’s Asynchronous Assessment ensures that every applicant gets the same preparation and response time. By removing the influence of the reviewer, the platform also helps to mitigate potential biases.
“Within our old process, reviewers would often ask additional follow up questions or clarifying questions during the interview,” shared Heinrich. “And while that’s very natural in an interview, it unintentionally invites a lot of bias into the process.”
“When reviewers ask follow-up questions, they give the applicant insight into what they’re looking to hear and give them the opportunity to expand upon their answer accordingly,” she explained. “The problem is that these follow-up questions are not consistent across reviewers or across interviews. In situations where they don’t ask the same followups, the reviewer may walk away with the impression that that applicant had a less comprehensive or insightful response.”
“Our process with Kira eliminates those biases, giving each applicant the same fair shot.”
Keeping applicant schedules top of mind
With Kira, Michigan Pharmacy can offer applicants an interview that can be completed without causing any disruption to their schedules. By enabling applicants to complete their assessment on their own time, Kira removes a substantial obstacle that often prevents applicants from following through with the interview.
“In previous years, our interviews were always on Thursdays,” shared Heinrich. “If an applicant couldn’t make it on a Thursday there was a lot of work in order to figure out how to get the student to campus and interview them.”
“With Kira, students can complete their assessment at whatever time and place is most convenient for them,” she continued. “It gives our applicants a lot of flexibility.”
Engaging applicants through online experiences
“Finding different ways to engage the students is always important,” shared Heinrich. “We wanted to make sure that with Zoom fatigue and everything else, applicants had many different ways in which they could communicate with us.”
In previous years, the college leveraged on-campus events as a way to engage applicants and get them excited about the possibility of enrolling at the college.
“It was a crucial part of our recruitment process,” shared Heinrich. “So this year, we re-created the key elements online.”
Michigan Pharmacy organized and hosted several events running throughout the admissions cycle in order to capture the attention and interest of prospective applicants.
“We centred a lot of our outreach on social media and had current students host Q&As, which helped us meet the applicants where they are,” shared Heinrich.
More formal information sessions were also scheduled for applicants, allowing them to interact with the student services team, as well as current students at various stages of their degrees. “Applicants could ask questions about the student experience, covering everything from the lack of parking to what rotations are like, to how important it is to connect with faculty,” explained Heinrich.
“We were able to give applicants a glimpse of their future at Michigan, from being an applicant all the way to an alumnus” shared Heinrich. “All it took was a little creativity and a willingness to adapt our traditional events to get the most out of the online environment.”
“By taking our process online, we’re able to reach more applicants in unique ways,” Heinrich continued. “And our process with Kira allows us to engage more of those applicants in a way that’s efficient, fair and professional.”
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