The #1 ranked school of pharmacy in the United States, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Eshelman School of Pharmacy leads by example when it comes to holistic and comprehensive admissions processes.
Keeping patient care at the heart of every decision, UNC Pharmacy goes beyond academics to evaluate applicants’ traits and soft skills to ensure that they’re enrolling candidates who are not just good students but also have the potential to be great pharmacists.
“One of the biggest draws of our pharmacy program is the time we dedicate to in-clinic immersion experiences,” shared Heather Azzu, the Director of Admissions at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Starting with a one-month immersion after their first year, students complete over 50% of their curriculum (2,400 hours) in real-world pharmacy settings in North Carolina including options during the fourth year in locations around the globe.”
“These immersion experiences help our students cement the knowledge that they’re being taught in the classroom,” she continued. “But for that to be successful, they need to be able to communicate and work well with many different people — skills that you can’t assess through a traditional application.”
Those skills are what Kira Talent is helping the team at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy evaluate.
Redefining the pharmacy admissions process
“Each year we receive approximately 500-600 applicants, of whom we invite around 250-300 to interview to reach our average enrolled class of 150 students,” shared Azzu.
“The interview is a critical component in our admissions process because it brings that human element to the application,” explained Bonnie Barsalou, the Admissions Coordinator at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “It helps us get to know each applicant as a person and begin to understand how they think, how they process information, and how they demonstrate important interpersonal skills that are necessary for strong patient care.”
“You can’t really assess those on-your-feet communication skills through a written essay,” Azzu added. “You need that live interaction.”
UNC Pharmacy’s interviews consist of several stations at which applicants are presented with a different scenario.
“It’s not about testing their pharmaceutical knowledge, it’s about how they react to a situation,” explained Azzu. “We’re looking for insight on how they would interact with patients and think through real-life problems or challenges.
“We used to conduct all of our interviews in person,” she continued. “Because we have a rolling application process, which is open from July through to February, we were hosting multiple interview days each cycle.”
“It took us more than a month just to organize the events and secure the commitment of every person that had to physically be there.”
“In the week leading up to an in-person interview day every working minute is devoted to preparation,” added Barsalou. “If you take that amount of time and multiply it by two or three employees, and then multiply that by several interview cycles, the time commitment really adds up.”
“With Kira, we’re saving all of that time.”
Eliminating organizational burdens
“Kira makes the organization and execution of interviews incredibly easy,” shared Azzu. “The pre-interview work is so minimal and it’s much easier to get faculty to participate because they don’t have to be on campus for the interview day. If they’re working from home or travelling, they just need their laptop and an internet connection.”
“This past year we were able to add two interview dates at the last minute,” she continued. “We had many great applicants apply late in the cycle and didn’t have enough spots in our scheduled dates to interview them all.”
“We sent a quick email to Kira asking to add two more interview dates and they immediately replied with ‘Absolutely, we’ll set it up!’.”
“That has been a game changer for our admissions process,” Azzu added. “Prior to Kira, we wouldn’t have been able to consider those applicants because we were out of interview days. Instead, we were able to interview every single qualified applicant.”
Getting offers out faster
On the other side of the interview, Kira’s custom in-app rubrics have also brought increased efficiency to UNC Pharmacy’s admissions process.
“We consider the whole application when making our admissions decisions,” Azzu explained. “Their interview scores are the final piece of that holistic review.”
"Prior to Kira, faculty had to upload their completed scores into an internal classroom grading system,” explained Azzu. “We often experienced a delay in collecting all of the scores, which lengthened the amount of time that it took to make decisions and get offers out to applicants.”
“With Kira, our faculty are scoring the interviews directly in the platform, so all that data is available to us immediately after the interview,” she continued.
“That means that we’re able to turn around and make offers to applicants within a week.”
“It’s more streamlined, more effective, and more time efficient,” added Barsalou.
Reaching and assessing a more diverse applicant pool
“We’re now able to reach more applicants and assess them efficiently and equitably with Kira,” Azzu shared.
“The physical restraints that come with hosting interviews on campus have been completely eliminated,” Barsalou continued. “Our in-person interviews were limited by the availability and size of the rooms. We typically had the space for a group of 15 applicants to participate in each session but room availability on campus meant that we only ran three sessions per interview day. With Kira, we have the flexibility to add extra sessions to cover the larger interview days and host up to 60 students instead of the on-campus maximum of 45 applicants.”
“And it’s not only that we can interview more applicants at one time, but Kira also removes time and cost barriers for our applicants,” Barsalou added.
“It’s extremely helpful for applicants to not have to travel to campus,” Azzu continued. “They can fully participate in the admissions process without having to worry about the financial and logistical implications of travelling here for an interview day.”
Providing a more accessible route to interview for more applicants, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy then uses Kira’s Horizontal Review – where reviewers assess multiple applicants for a single competency – to reduce bias and create a level playing field for its diverse applicant pool.
“Our reviewing process allows reviewers to become experts in assessing one specific competency,” Azzu explained. “They’re hearing responses to the same questions across 25 to 30 people which allows them to be more accurate in their scoring.”
“It also eliminates the potential for a situation where an applicant and a reviewer get off on the wrong foot and that impression influences the applicant’s entire interview score,” she continued. “With Kira’s Horizontal Review, their candidacy doesn’t rely on just one person’s perception.”
The benefits of a full-service solution
“Kira provides us with the flexibility to build the interview we want without any of the technical challenges that come with other online options such as Zoom,” shared Azzu. “When you’re trying to manage multiple links, applications, and windows it can be very overwhelming.”
In Kira’s Live Interviewing, UNC Pharmacy’s applicants click a single link and the platform automatically moves them into the right interview rooms at the right times, according to the set schedule. Reviewers similarly click their link to enter the interview room, and then use the in-app rubrics and notes section to meet and evaluate applicants all in one platform.
“Kira allows us to focus fully on our applicants.”
“You don’t have to contend with any manual or technical work behind the scenes, so reviewers can wholly focus on their conversations with the applicants,” Azzu shared.
“And because we on the admissions team aren’t having to manually run the session, we can be much more responsive to our applicants if they reach out with questions before or during their interview,” Barsalou added. “If applicants had any kind of connection issue or their microphone wasn’t working properly, they were getting support both from the Kira team and our admissions team. It’s really improved the overall experience for them.”
“Applicants have shared with us how easy it was to use Kira and how comfortable they felt in the session,” Azzu added. “Likewise, we hear a lot from faculty just how much they like using the platform.”
“After the initial setup and reviewer training, Kira has been a self-running process. We just log on and it pretty much handles the rest.”
Looking toward the future of admissions
“There has been a lot of discussion around whether we keep the hybrid admissions process or go fully virtual in the future,” shared Azzu. “We don’t want to completely remove all in-person events, but we’re looking at options like hosting admitted student days where successful applicants have the opportunity to come to campus, engage with us, and get a feeling of the atmosphere and community at the school.”
“In general, we’ve been able to transition our traditional admissions experiences online with great success,” she continued. “We host sessions for the students during the times that they are not interviewing where they can learn about student life. We have group sessions at the end of the interview circuits where applicants can decompress and talk to current students.”
“There are so many different ways in which we can engage our applicants where they are. And the Kira platform can help you do that by being as flexible as you need it to be.”