The holistic admissions process used by the Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing at the University of Houston (UH) is addressing discrimination and bias in nursing admissions and strengthening diverse representation in the health care workforce.

A key aspect of the process is an event known as “interview day,” where prospective UH nursing students participate in a variety of activities at various stations.

One station includes the interview panel, where two faculty members interview students for the nursing program; another is a group project, based on the code of ethics from the American Nurses Association, which tests how well students work together. An additional station focuses on logistics, providing detailed information about the program, as well as clinical requirements with hospitals. Prospective students also write and submit a sample essay online. To keep the process fair, questions and prompts are changed for each cohort.

During interview day, students are designated by a preassigned number and letter. The process prevents their name and personal characteristics from being part of the admissions process, therefore removing any biases when considering their application.

Kathryn Tart, EdD
Kathryn Tart, EdD

“The admissions process was interesting,” says Reem Haimour, who is in their final semester of the second-degree bachelor of science in nursing program. “They really made the entire process go by smoothly and it felt like they were assessing us holistically. They really do evaluate us as individuals.”

This is the goal of the process, says Kathryn Tart, EdD, founding dean, professor, and Humana Endowed Dean’s Chair in Nursing at UH. Tart says the system allows admissions leaders to identify students who are the best fit beyond factors such as just GPA.

“I was talking to a student who said, ‘I’m just an average student. I really can’t believe I got into this program. I’m so happy. I love it here,’” Tart says. “I said, ‘No, you’re not an average student. You’re a student with a heart, you’ve met all the criteria, and you’re the kind of student who knows what they want, [especially] in the discipline of nursing.”

For fall 2023, UH received 298 applications for the bachelor of science in nursing program. Of those, 173 students met all required criteria, completed interview day, and were offered admission. Subsequently, a cohort of 120 enrolled. The racial and ethnic diversity of the cohorts has increased since interview day began in spring 2017. For instance, the number of Hispanic students admitted into the program has increased by 20% since its inception.

Fort Bend County, where UH is located, is one of the most diverse counties in the country.

“We knew we had to mirror the population that we were going to serve, and that’s been our calling in nursing for decades,” says Tart. “But [you really] have to be so intentional about it.”●

The University of Houston Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing is an Insight Into Diversity 2023 Health Professions HEED Award Recipient.

This article was published in our January/February 2024 issue.

Above: A holistic admissions process used by the University of Houston Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing is strengthening diverse representation in the health care workforce.