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Kristian Taylor, MHS, OTR/L; Cat-Tien Nguyen, MHS, OTR/L; Jenny Grant, MHS, OTR/L; Mary B. Brewster, MHS, OTR/L; Mary A. Barrett, MHS, OTR/L; Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L; Sharon M. Cosper, EdD, MHS, OTR/L


Holistic admissions criteria are one strategy to be more inclusive of students with a variety of experiences, cultures, and beliefs. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the relationship between holistic admissions criteria and occupational therapy program ranking. We used a retrospective cross-sectional cohort descriptive study design of occupational therapy programs in the United States to understand whether top performing programs employ holistic admissions criteria. Secondary descriptive analysis from the top and bottom 50 ranked occupational therapy programs in 2020 U.S. News & World Report (Morse et al., 2020) was completed. We used a nominal scale to classify programs into two groups based on use of holistic measures. Overall, 54.95% (n = 61) of the programs used holistic admissions criteria. Of these, 36 were among the top 50 ranked programs, and 25 were among the bottom 50 ranked schools. Occupational therapy programs using holistic admissions criteria were not statistically different from the programs that did not use holistic admissions criteria on their overall ranking (χ2 = 0.55, p = 0.46). The bottom- and top-ranked programs were not statistically different regarding use of holistic admissions criteria, which suggests that implementation of holistic admission criteria is not associated with program ranking. Therefore, this research should encourage universities to implement holistic admissions criteria, as it is not associated with lowered program ranking, but has been associated with increasing both diversity and academic performance in other health professional programs (Glazer et al., 2014; Witzburg & Sondheimer, 2013; Price & Mills, 2010).


The authors declare that they have no competing financial, professional, or personal interest that might have influenced the performance or presentation of the work described in this manuscript.