Holistic Review Process

Most health professional programs perform holistic reviews of applicants. This means they want to learn as much as they can about you. They are interested in your academic and non-academic experiences, your skills, sensitivities, awarenesses, and other personal attributes. They also really want to know why you are interested in the career path you are pursuing. The maturity and thoughtfulness you show in describing all these things are critical parts of your application.

Want to learn more about applying to health professional programs? Sign up for a CPHA Application Course. These are Canvas courses that serve as resource libraries. Each one introduces you to the ins-and-outs of applying to programs.

Surrounded by a sea of flowering bluebells, undergraduate Sydney Rearick works on her laptop computer while studying under a historic bur oak tree near Nancy Nicholas Hall at the University of Wisconsin on May 13, 2013. A major in human development and family studies, Rearick was writing a paper for a class on family stress and coping during final-exams week of spring semester. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Elements of Holistic Review

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Core Competencies for Health Professions

Each health profession provides a list of core competencies that they consider necessary skills, sensitivities, character traits, and awarenesses for applicants to demonstrate when you apply. Think of your application as an evidence-based document, and the following lists as what you need to provide evidence for.


  • GPA (overall and science)
  • Trends in your academic work; consistency is best, but an upward trend is taken into account in admissions
  • Professional Exam Score (DAT, GRE, MCAT, OAT, PCAT)

Experiences outside the classroom

  • Clinical experience (shadowing, hospital or other clinical volunteering, or paid clinical work)
  • Community Service (non-clinical)
  • Paid Employment (non-clinical)
  • Personal Interests or Hobbies (student organizations, intramural sports, music, etc.)
  • Profession-Specific Shadowing (many dental, vet, med, PA, PT and OT programs require students to observe professionals)
  • Research
  • Studying abroad, language skills, cultural immersion and/or experience learning from others

Personal attributes

  • Interest in Healthcare
    • Personal and Professional Characteristics
    • Skills and Attributes
  • Letters of Recommendation (LOR’s)
  • Maturity and thoughtfulness expressed in your writing
  • Demographic Factors
  • Timing of Application
  • Citations/Institutional Actions

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