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EY 2021 Applicant Survey

TMDSAS surveyed 9,367 individuals who completed and submitted an EY 2021 application about their applicant experience.

What: The survey consisted of 73 questions, covering the following topics: Communication, Application Strategy/Preparation, Application Resources, Application Usability, TMDSAS Support Features, and Self-Identifying questions.

Who: The survey was sent to the 9,367 applicants and was completed by 549 (approx. 6%) of the applicant pool.

When: The survey window was from March 24 to April 13, 2021

How: The applicant survey was sent via email.

Why: The purpose of the survey was to learn the ways in which TMDSAS applicants are using TMDSAS as an application service, to test our assumptions about the ways applicants interact with the various resources provided by TMDSAS, and to improve the sphere and efficacy of these resources. For this survey, particular emphasis was also placed on learning how applicants prepare for the application process by engaging with outreach and educational components.


What We Learned

The EY 2021 survey brought with it important lessons about the way applicants prepare for their application, specifically how often they engage in activities meant to get them ready for the process.  We learned that over half of respondents indicate not participating in any kind of pre-application activity at all, which begs the question, why? We also learned that of those that do participate in these activities, certain populations turn to some sources more than others. Therefore, the focus becomes ensuring that applicants receive consistent messaging across all platforms, while also finding resources that meet their specific needs. The EY 2021 survey also showed us that consistent, and even persistent, messaging is key to influencing applicant behavior. This has proven true in the growth in awareness and use of application resources, such as the Application Handbook, as well as the rising practice of printing and reviewing one’s application prior to submission. Armed with this knowledge, TMDSAS will work to develop strategies that aim to increase applicant involvement in preparation activities, ensuring that our diverse applicant pool is well represented, and will continue amplifying best practices to all audiences.

As TMDSAS works to meet the needs of the pre-health community in Texas, we will continue to seek feedback from applicants and other key stakeholders to effect organizational learning and improvement.

 

1. Preparing for the Application

In recent years, TMDSAS has increased outreach opportunities meant to educate current and future applicants on best practices for how to complete the TMDSAS application and navigate the admissions process successfully. These outreach efforts included in-person application workshops that later transitioned to virtual webinars in 2020 due to constraints brought on by the global pandemic. This shift to online teaching also created an opportunity for TMDSAS to expand its virtual presence by engaging with applicants via social media in features such as TMDSAS Office Hours and the TXHES created Courage Sessions series. The aim of these programs was to provide applicants with guidance on specific aspects of the application and admissions process.

For the EY 2021 Applicant Survey, TMDSAS sought to understand the extent to which applicants (current and future) made use of these resources and to uncover any potential correlation between engagement with these resources, applicant background, and overall success.

TMDSAS also knew that another essential resource for applicants in preparing for application to professional school is guidance from a pre-health advisor. The survey included questions regarding access and engagement with a pre-health advisor prior to submission of a TMDSAS application.

Engagement and Success

Applicants were asked whether or not they had participated in the following activities prior to submitting their TMDSAS application: met with a pre-health advisor regarding the application, attended a TMDSAS application workshop (in-person or virtual), and spoke to a TMDSAS representative at a health professions fair. Applicants were also able to indicate if they participated in more than one of these activities. We were surprised to learn that successful applicants - those that had received offers - reported non-participation at the same rate as the general pool, around 51%.

survey graph

With just over half of our respondents indicating that they did not participate in any of these activities prior to submitting their TMDSAS application, we looked to see how members of unique populations reported engaging with these resources.


Texas Residents

We expected to see a difference in the number of applicants participating in these application preparation activities respective to their residency. We didn’t anticipate such a disparity.

The percentage of Texas Residents that report not engaging in these activities is 47%.

survey graph


For non-Texas residents, that number jumps to 68%.

survey graph 3

Meeting with a pre-health advisor is the most popular activity reported, however, regardless of residency status.

As an application service representing Texas schools, it is no surprise that the majority of our applicants would also be Texas residents. However, the number of non-Texas residents that apply through TMDSAS has remained steady, at around 22% in recent years. Therefore, with out-of-state applicants making up such a significant portion of the applicant pool, TMDSAS would like to see more engagement from non-Texas residents in activities that prepare them for the application and admissions processes.


Reapplicants

A second unique population is reapplicants. First time applicants report participation at a comparable rate to their reapplicant counterparts, hovering around 49% and 48%, respectively. However, did reapplicants and first time applicants engage in the same activities at the same rate?


survey graph 4

First time applicants reported that by and far, the activity they participated in most was speaking to a pre-health advisor. However, we start to see a more varied distribution among the types of activities reapplicants engaged in, with increased numbers reporting participation in multiple activities such as attending a TMDSAS application workshop and speaking to a TMDSAS rep at a health professions fair.

survey graph 5

Why might this be? One possible reason for this variation is that reapplicants might see these activities as opportunities to strengthen a previously unsuccessful application. This provides a unique opportunity to TMDSAS to create specific resources with reapplicants in mind. An applicant workshop is a perfect example of an activity that can provide targeted guidance to reapplicants on making improvements to their application.


Non-Traditional Applicants

A third group that TMDSAS collects data on are applicants that self-identify as “non-traditional”. What defines “non-traditional” may vary from applicant to applicant; many applicants that self-identify this way may differ from a traditional applicant demographically in terms of age, or may already have an established professional career, for example.

The types of resources used by  a non-traditional applicant might not match those typically used by a traditional applicant. Therefore, TMDSAS sought to understand how non-traditional applicants availed themselves of these resources.

Overall, non-traditional applicants engaged in these activities at a lower rate than traditional applicants. Non-traditional applicants are also engaging with pre-health advisors at a lower rate than traditional applicants, likely because they are out of school and do not have easy access to one.

At the same time, non-traditional applicants report attending a TMDSAS workshop at a higher rate than traditional applicants. When we slice the data further to look at successful applicants (those who had received offers of admission at the time of this survey), we see something even more interesting.


survey graph 6

That percentage of successful applicants reporting participation in a TMDSAS workshop more than doubles for non-traditional applicants.

survey graph 7

These findings mirror that of reapplicants and underline applicant workshops as a key component of the educational opportunities provided by TMDSAS.


Greater Confidence

What is the impact that applicants report based on participation in these activities? Seventy-five percent of applicants that participated in at least one prep activity report feeling “confident while completing each section of the application”.

survey graph 8

If we slice that further and look at applicants who also received offers, the percentage that report feeling confident is 80%.

survey graph 9

Takeaways: We understand that applicants may prepare for their application differently depending on their background. Certain populations rely more heavily on their pre-health advisors, especially for Texas residents. However, other groups may not have access to a pre-health advisor well versed in the TMDSAS application, and this creates an opportunity for TMDSAS. Firstly, to engage more with pre-health advisors that support our out-of-state applicants. And secondly, to build upon our virtual workshops as a way to provide targeted support for applicants from unique populations.

 

2. Resource Utilization

What about the use of TMDSAS resources? TMDSAS has created a whole host of resources for applicants to use as they complete their application. These include the Application Handbook, FAQs, Course Listings, TMDSAS Website, and Social Media Pages, to name just a few. Would there be a connection between resource use and overall prep for the application?

We know that overall, applicants report engaging in pre-application activities at less than 50%. Did this participation correlate to the way applicants used resources? It would seem so.

survey graph 10

Sixty percent of applicants that engaged in prep activities also report consulting the Applicant FAQs, Application Handbook, and Course Listings at least once. And 62% report having at least one resource on hand as they worked through the TMDSAS application.


survey graph 4

A possible conclusion here is that by meeting with their advisors, speaking to TMDSAS at a health professions fair, or attending a TMDSAS workshop, applicants are receiving the message that these resources exist and are heeding the guidance to use them.


Growth with Time

Over the past few years TMDSAS has made a targeted effort to “get the word out” about these resources and encourage applicants to use them while completing their application. What has been the result?

We started collecting data on applicants’ reported awareness of resources in EY 2019 and continue to collect this information in our annual applicant survey.


survey graph 12

We can see that over the course of three application cycles, applicant awareness of resources has grown 20%, suggesting that these campaigns have been successful.

One resource in particular that we tend to highlight is the Application Handbook which was created to serve as the step-by-step companion to the application.

How has the use of this resource changed over the course of the three application cycles?

survey graph 13

3. Additional Trends

TMDSAS also collects data on other ways applicants interact with the application itself or with us as an application service.


Communication

We’ve taken a look at how frequently applicants report communicating with TMDSAS and for which reasons.

Over the course of three cycles, we see that communication holds steady with an average of 83% of applicants reporting communicating with us over the three year period with 64% reporting communicating with us 2-5 times.


survey graph 4

Why do applicants communicate with us? Applicants were asked to select all of the reasons they communicated with TMDSAS. For the EY 2021 application cycle, these were the top three:

  1. Supporting Documents (these include letters of evaluation, transcripts, and test scores): 70%
  2. Application Help: 58%
  3. Coursework Questions: 51%

Interestingly, applicants that communicated with TMDSAS for application help also report having at least one resource on hand at a slightly higher rate than other applicants, about 3% more as shown in the two images below:

survey graph 15

Did applicants have questions that were not addressed in our resources? Or could it be that applicants were seeking clarification or confirmation of their understanding?


survey graph 16

While at the moment the precise answer is yet unknown, TMDSAS is always looking for ways to improve our resources, so applicant feedback will be key in making future improvements.


Encouraging Thoroughness

One key message we send to applicants over and over is the need to take their time and to be thorough when working through the application. When it comes to taking their time, 58% of applicants report spending more than 10 hours on the application, likely over the course of multiple sittings.

 

But how can an applicant ensure thoroughness? With nearly 40 sections of the application to work through, the best way an applicant can ensure thoroughness is to review each section prior to submission. Applicants are encouraged to download and print the PDF of their application and review each section's responses carefully prior to submitting. This helps to catch any mistakes that might otherwise be missed, which is critical given that only minimal changes to the application can be made post submission. So are applicants heeding this advice?

For EY 2021, 88% of applicants reported downloading the PDF of their application prior to submitting; that number rose slightly to 90% for applicants that had received offers of admission.

survey graph 17


Forty-five percent of applicants report taking that extra step and printing their application prior to submission with the same rate of increase (+2%) for applicants with offers.


survey graph 18

What about trends over time? Since EY 2019 TMDSAS has really amplified the message that printing the application prior to submission can save applicants from the trouble of learning about crucial mistakes after it was too late to make any changes.

Applicants seem to have responded in kind by increasingly following the advice to print their application prior to submission, with the greatest surge seen in EY 2021.

survey graph 19


What’s one takeaway here? Repetition is effective, especially when coupled with the high value proposition of putting forth one’s best application possible.

What does this mean for TMDSAS? When a problem with an application is found during processing, sometimes the application must be held until the issue is resolved. One common area in which problems arise is coursework. Here’s a look at how that has changed over time:

survey graph 20

4. Conclusion

The EY 2021 survey taught TMDSAS a lot about applicant behavior, especially with how applicants prepare for the application.

We see that the most popular activity applicants engage in is meeting with a pre-health advisor, highlighting the need for TMDSAS to maintain strong relationships with our advisors, in and out of Texas,  and to ensure that they are fully knowledgeable about us as an application service.

We also learned that applicants from special populations report attending TMDSAS workshops at a higher rate, so this is a unique opportunity for TMDSAS to build on this resource by developing webinars with these groups in mind.

At the same time, the survey also revealed that less than half of respondents report engaging in any kind of pre-application activity at all, so the call to action here is in creating greater awareness and opportunity for applicants to participate in these activities prior to completing their TMDSAS application.

The applicant surveys have also shown growth in the awareness and utilization of TMDSAS resources, such as the Application Handbook and Course Listings pages. Applicants are also indicating that they are taking the time to carefully review their application prior to submission to ensure thoroughness and accuracy. Both of these gains seem to coincide with the increased messaging from TMDSAS encouraging applicants to do so.


Looking Ahead

So what can be expected from TMDSAS as we build towards future application cycles?

  • Increase applicant participation in activities designed to prepare them for the application.
  • Create targeted application workshops for members of special populations.
  • Design Advisor Workshops to better support advisors in this process.
  • Ensure application resources are visible, easily accessed, and reflective of the needs of our applicants.
  • Continue broadcasting best practices to applicants and the broader pre-health community.

We know that we can learn a lot from our applicants, and we look forward to more opportunities to collect feedback and share our findings with the greater pre-health community.


nichole-castillo

About the author: Nichole A. Castillo is the service delivery coordinator for TMDSAS. She works with the TMDSAS team to educate and prepare applicants prior to the start of the application cycle and coordinates application processing throughout the cycle. Nichole also contributes to the development of resources for applicants and serves as the chief editor of the Application Handbook. Additionally, she participates in various outreach efforts, including on-campus or virtual workshops, applicant webinars, and cohosts TMDSAS ‘Office Hours’ via Facebook Live. She is also responsible for coordinating TMDSAS assessments such as the Spring Applicant Survey. Nichole holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy studies from UT Arlington and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

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