College of Nursing adopts holistic admissions for BSN students

Holistic admissions looks beyond grades and test scores to evaluate whether an applicant has the attributes of a nurse.

The Washington State University College of Nursing has begun admitting students to the popular Bachelor of Science in Nursing program based in part on how well their experiences and skills align with the attributes of a nurse. 

Called holistic admissions, the process looks beyond grades and test scores.  

“Holistic admissions helps us better match the mission, vision and values of the college — and WSU’s land-grant mission — with the admissions process for our nursing program,” said Chris Sogge, director of the Center for Student Excellence at the college.

For example, the consideration given to a student’s cumulative grade point average is now half of what it was in the past. 

“We repeatedly saw how applicants were weighed down by lower cumulative GPAs from when they were younger or newer to college,” Sogge explained. Focusing on more recent metrics such as nursing prerequisites gives a better picture of who the student is now, not who they were then, he said. 

The interview process has also been revamped to make it less subjective and more geared toward evaluating qualities that are critical for students preparing for a nursing career. Using a video tool called Kira Talent, students are asked questions that gauge leadership potential, communication skills and experience engaging with diverse communities, among others. Answers are scored using clear rubrics that are designed to be inclusive, Sogge said. 

Also considered are prior life experiences, which can ripple out to enhance knowledge development in nursing school for the student’s peers and ultimately enrich patients and healthcare providers as the student enters nursing practice.  

Other health sciences professions have used a holistic review process for some time, including both the WSU College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Studies have shown that holistic admissions practices across healthcare disciplines improve outcomes and experiences in care delivery. 

College of Nursing Dean Mary Koithan said considering the whole student, not just their grades and test scores, helps identify those who will make successful nurses, not just successful students. 

“Nurses need to make sound, practical decisions, and to think on their feet,” she said. “For me, holistic admissions looks at that person and asks, does this applicant have the qualities needed to see them through a decades-long nursing career?” 

The first class of BSN students to be selected using holistic admissions is going through the process right now, and will start in January 2023. 

–Addy Hatch