Addressing Biomedical Programs’ Unique Admissions Challenges

RJ Nichol
Sep 18, 2018

Graduate biomedical programs have distinct needs when it comes to admissions. Yet, often operating under the umbrella of a larger department or organization, admissions staff are frequently forced to make do with application systems that aren’t designed to accommodate these needs.

Van Andel Institute, for one, was using an application system tied to their student information system, which was an offshoot of their fundraising and development system. “It was built for a K-12 program, not really meant for a college or grad school,” said Enrollment and Records Administrator Christy Mayo. “It was cumbersome and not intuitive.”

Van Andel was not alone in having to use a less than ideal tool for the job at hand. In fact, while transcripts, letters of recommendation and other materials that supplement applications provide critical insight into whether or not a student belongs in a particular biomed program, oftentimes these programs’ applications fail to collect this information in a streamlined way.

BioMedCAS™: A new way to gather the information necessary to identify best-fit students

That’s not the case with BioMedCAS™. When Albert Einstein College of Medicine joined the Centralized Application Service™ for biomedical sciences programs, the school was able to ask more relevant questions via the application. Salvatore Calabro, director of graduate admissions and enrollment for graduate programs in the biomedical sciences, said “we were able to go deeper into our specific questions related to the biomedical sciences. We were able to focus on questions about research, which are really important to us.”

When Van Andel joined the CAS, they quickly realized that the new service made it easier to collect recommendations. “The recommendation letter system that comes with BioMedCAS is really nice,” said Mayo. “It’s a big improvement over the way we used to collect letters of recommendation, which was either through the mail or a general email box.”

Calabro said BioMedCAS also reduces the burden on faculty members providing recommendations for applicants. “Recommenders aren’t often considered in the admissions process, but in the biomedical sciences, they play a big role — research-based programs are looking for letters from faculty students worked with directly. To help get the student into a good school, sometimes they have to submit letters to 10 different schools, and these are busy people,” said Calabro. “With BioMedCAS they’re able to submit just one letter for all the programs.”

Streamlining the application process and applicant review

Weill Cornell Medicine’s applicants and faculty members saw a large difference in the college’s application process once BioMedCAS was implemented: “Students in our summer programs found the ease of applying to multiple schools such a pleasure they wished more schools were members of BioMedCAS because of the amount of time it saved them,” said Weill Cornell Medicine’s Associate Director of Enrollment and Education Operations Matt Cipriano.

Cipriano said since adopting the CAS, he’s been getting feedback from faculty reviewers about how much simpler it makes things and how much cleaner everything is, both in terms of the process and the applications themselves.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine had a similar experience. “Getting applications to faculty quickly for review was a priority — that was something we wanted to do better,” Calabro said. “We were able to leverage the functionality of the CAS to get complete applications to multiple faculty quickly and collect their feedback. Our faculty are really happy with it.”

Prospective students and faculty members aren’t the only ones looking forward to having more institutions join BioMedCAS. As more schools come on board, members will be able to compare their admissions and enrollment numbers to those of other biomed programs and the CAS pool as a whole, which is substantial considering Liaison powers over 40 CASs for disciplines in the health professions and beyond. “I’m looking forward to being able to benchmark against other schools,” Mayo said.

Learn more about joining the BioMedCAS community at

RJ Nichol

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.