Daniel C. Tullos, Ph.D.
Harding University

As we meet together to discuss the problem of developing innovative admission criteria, we have just completed the grueling and overwhelming task of advising our students in the application process, writing hundreds of letters of recommendation and sorting through hundreds of applications for the relatively few graduate positions available at our institutions.  Now that we are looking back on the process, we have a fresh perspective on the problems associated with selecting the students who will best match the expectations of our programs and our professions.

We are all aware that the student with the highest grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score may not necessarily be the student who will interact well with the individuals we serve.  Also, a 4.00 GPA from one undergraduate program may not be comparable to the same GPA from another program.  This concern was discussed in a previous section presented by William Ryan.  Letters of recommendation are useful, but only if we have received a sufficient number of letters from the person to judge the extent of their recommendation.

The bottom line is that we need a better way of evaluating the potential of the applicants.  Elizabeth Crais previously presented an alternative to numbers and letters currently used at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  This form and evaluation allows for greater flexibility in the admission process, but other approaches are also being used.  The remainder of this presentation will discuss some of these alternatives.

During the Academic Town Meeting at the 2000 ASHA Convention in San Francisco, a group of academic and clinical faculty met to discuss currently utilized admission criteria.  It was noted that although there is usually not a problem in selecting students who can academically complete their graduate requirements, there are two major areas not sufficiently considered.  The first involves a student's ability to problem solve and to think critically.  The second involves identifying students with such poor or unacceptable interpersonal and professional skills that they cannot function as student clinicians or professionals.  Neither of these areas can be easily identified using GPA and GRE scores.

 The participants in this Town Meeting felt that to adequately evaluate applicants the following could be included in the selection process:
- interview (including academic and clinical staff)
- include several applicants
- have applicants read an article
   - ask general questions and evaluate how students
      - work together
      - follow-up on other's comments
      - give other's credit for previous comments
- letters of recommendation
- written statement
   - perhaps completed on-site and prior to the interview guaranteeing that it is the student's work
- resume
   - including jobs, memberships, other responsibilities)
- GPA (last 2 years)
- GRE scores

Following the discussion on additional information which would help match the best applicants to the available graduate school positions, the group attempted to rank-order this information on the basis of usefulness.  The following components were determined to be most important (in order of perceived usefulness).

  1. student contact (interviews, program visits, personal interaction, etc.)
  2. sample of the student's writing ( preferably during the interview process)
  3. GRE score and GPA (either one of both)
  4. clinic practicum experience (Although this had not been mentioned during the previous discussion, the participants felt that this established interest and a knowledge of what the professions involved.)
  5. letters of recommendations
  6. individual program rating scales (designed to meet needs of specific programs)
All participants left this discussion concerned about our current admission criteria.

Additional Innovative Admission Criteria:
CAPCSD "How To" Suggestions

At the conclusion of the presentations, the participants in the CAPCSD "How To" sessions were invited to suggest additional innovative admission criteria.  Many of the suggestions previously presented were discussed and are not included in this summary.  The following additional areas were addressed:

Interviews:  An interview is successfully used by several of the programs represented.  Successful interviews often involve a substantial number of administrative and clinical faculty meeting with all prospective students in groups on the same day.  This allows strengths and weaknesses of applicants to be compared and discussed by both academic and clinical faculty representatives.  Concerns were expressed that this process would favor local applicants over those applying from some distance and that could be time consuming and unproductive.  It was suggested that these interviews could use "distance technology" or designated program representatives (alumni) in the applicant's area.

Interpersonal and Professional Skills:  Several participants suggested that  a student's successful involvement in undergraduate practicum indicated several things about the applicant.  Initially, the student knew what was involved in clinical work and had already made the decision to continue.  Secondly, the student's interactive skills would have already been evaluated.  Problems in interaction with clients and families as well supervisors would have already been identified and possibly remedied before Moving Beyond the Numbers: Current Alternatives application to a graduate program.  These problems should certainly be forwarded on the graduate school through the recommendation process.

The remainder of the discussion involved our need to study research and material already available that addresses many of these issues.  Material is currently being developed involving "emotional intelligence" and "executive function" that could be applied to identifying students that would best match our graduate programs and our professions.  This material would allow us to fairly evaluate ethnically and linguistically diverse students.  Also, medical and physical therapy academic programs have developed innovative admission criteria that we should evaluate and perhaps emulate.  Finally, we must determine the factors that make a good student and professional in communication sciences and disorders and develop criteria around those factors, something many participants felt we were remiss in doing.