The Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences PharmD direct-entry pathway (PharmD DE pathway) offers students a seamless transition from their undergraduate degree into the first professional year of the PharmD program.
Known for its co-op program, the PharmD DE pathway balances campus-based and experiential learning, giving its students three times as much experience in rotations as any other program in the United States. For Christina Folsom, Admissions Coordinator for the PharmD DE pathway, it’s this open-armed approach that makes the program stand out to applicants.
“Our faculty are so committed to our students,” she explained. “They want to see students come to Northeastern Pharmacy and succeed in the program. It is very genuine, it’s not a sales pitch.”
Having received consistently stellar reviews from applicants on their in-person interview days, the bar was set high for the admissions team as they transitioned their interviews online in the spring of 2020. With the help of Kira Talent, they've ensured their interview experience continues to be nothing short of exceptional.
Why soft skills are a hard requirement
Affiliated with pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals throughout the United States, the PharmD DE pathway offers its students ample hands-on experience in their field prior to graduation. From interacting with patients to collaborating with healthcare professionals, communication skills play an important role in student success.
“We want to continue building relationships with these world-class healthcare-providing facilities,” Folsom explained.
“If we were to send them students who continually miss the mark on that communication piece, that’s not going to happen.”
Together with traditional academic metrics, the program evaluates applicants on factors such as problem-solving and critical thinking. When it comes to admitting students into the direct entry pathway, they’re looking for applicants who can hit the ground running.
In previous years, the admissions team was able to identify these soft skills through in-person interviews. When that was no longer possible, Folsom and her team tried putting together a home-grown system that could replicate their traditional process online.
“We tried to create our own virtual system,” she explained. “But we’re a school of pharmacy, not a software company."
"We weren’t achieving the outcomes that we wanted to see.”
That’s when they turned to Kira Talent.
Leveraging a tailor-made tool
Over a quick 4-week onboarding, Folsom and her team worked with Kira to build an assessment that was efficient and thorough without feeling impersonal.
“The ability to reach out to the Kira team with a question or a change and have that promptly answered or taken care of has been hugely beneficial,” Folsom shared. “I want to learn as much as I can about the software. But I know that for my colleagues who don’t have as much time to commit to it, the Kira team is there to help them and keep the process flowing. It makes my life a lot easier.”
Through welcome videos and recorded questions, the PharmD DE pathway was able to showcase the dedication of their staff and the welcoming atmosphere on campus.
“Using Kira helps give off the vibe of who we are and what we’re looking to accomplish as an institution,” said Folsom.
“I don’t think you would get as much with a less customizable platform.”
The program’s process with Kira is a three-pronged approach. Applicants submit their application, they complete a Kira assessment, and then they do a live interview. During their interview, applicants are asked application-based questions and follow-up questions to responses they gave in their Kira assessment.
“In this way, we let them know that we’re interested in what they’ve said and show that we’re invested in each student,” explained Folsom.
Engaging more applicants - fairly
“We used to only do in-person interviews, and they were required,” shared Folsom. “So before switching to Kira, we didn’t admit many international students to the direct entry pathway.”
Now, the program is able to enroll students from around the world, while still ensuring that they have the proper communication and interpersonal skills needed to succeed in their placements. And while a video call might seem like an easy solution, Folsom had concerns about the fairness of relying on that evaluation.
“I had one interview day where I had applicants from South Korea, Canada, Morocco, the US, and the Netherlands all at the same time,” she explained. “For some of them, it was happening at 5 am. With Kira’s Asynchronous Assessment, we get to see them when they're in a comfortable environment, at a time that they’ve chosen, and make sure we’re not putting them at any disadvantage.”
From tracking page refreshes to checking how many practice questions an applicant completes, the admissions team has used Kira’s reporting features to gain further insights into applicant behaviour.
“We’re very data-driven, so it’s great to be able to pull reports on both applicant and reviewer activity,” shared Folsom. “We can see an overview of the scores and see how each member of the faculty scores. It helps us ensure we’re maintaining an equitable system and that we’re training our reviewers to the fullest extent.”
The perfect enhancement to a traditional process
For Folsom and the PharmD DE pathway, Kira has been a seamless addition that has brought immense value to their admissions process.
“I think it complements our process in PharmCAS super well,” shared Folsom. “PharmCAS is so user-friendly. It has all the functionality I need as an administrator, while still being simple enough to be used by faculty and reviewers who may never have used a platform like this before. With Kira, I have the same confidence.”
And it’s not only the faculty and administration who are enjoying the benefits of a Kira assessment. With the majority of the program’s applicants applying directly from undergrad, the admissions team is conscious of the need to appeal to a new, tech-savvy generation.
“Whenever I look at changing something operationally within our admissions process, I want to make sure that I’m getting a beat on how our applicants look at things,” shares Folsom. “We’re coming from a different generation, a different background, a different educational experience, and possibly a different perspective. How we look at things doesn’t necessarily represent how our applicants see things.”
After conferring with work-study students, Folsom and her team felt that Kira gave the program the opportunity to connect with applicants where they were — online.
Looking to the future, the PharmD DE pathway is sure that Kira belongs as part of their process. “Kira is a great way to be able to assess applicants in advance of an in-person interview more efficiently because it’s completely virtual” shared Folsom. “We want to keep using it as a tool in the admissions process even once we’re back to having that final interview piece be in-person.”