Health Sciences Division Makes Significant Changes to Admissions Process

Photo of PCC President Lawrence Rouse and Health Sciences Division Dean Donna Neal standing in front of the PCC Simulation Hospital sign.

WINTERVILLE—Students planning to enroll in health care training at Pitt Community College have been advised to take note of several recent changes the school has made to its health sciences admissions process.

During a presentation this month, PCC Health Sciences Dean Donna Neal explained to college administrators that the process for accepting health sciences students had been improved to keep up with the times. She said the two most significant changes were moving forward the deadline for prospective students to complete admissions requirements and the addition of the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) for applicants to Pitt’s most competitive health care programs.

“I think we were at a crossroads and needed to move forward for the good of our programs and our students,” Neal said, adding that the admissions changes would help the college fill seats in its health care programs with students prepared for success.

According to Neal, to be considered for fall admission, prospective health sciences students must now complete the admission steps of their intended program of study by Feb. 15, instead of April 30. She explained the earlier deadline would allow the college to select and notify students of their admissions status by the end of April.

“There is no other college that I could find that waited as late as we did to accept students,” Neal said. “We were an outlier in the truest sense of the word. Most colleges accept students around the April time frame, and, as a result, we were losing out on many very qualified applicants. They were declining our seats even though many said they really preferred to come to PCC.”

Neal said that in addition to losing top students to other colleges, the April 30 deadline made it extremely difficult for the college to fill the seats of those who declined PCC acceptance. “We started our current fall semester with some empty seats this year, in part, because there was no time left to fill them,” she said.

New technology and additional mandates from the college’s major clinical facilities also necessitated the deadline change, Neal said. She explained that the time frame for accepted students to complete the final steps needed to prepare for enrollment and participation in their respective program’s clinical education experience had “always been extremely tight” with the April deadline but would be “impossible” with the new requirements.

Though prospective students will no longer earn admission points from the courses they take in the spring semester in which they apply, they must still complete all of the pre-requisite courses needed for program entry with a grade of “C” or better. Students who do not meet the grade requirement will lose their seat in a program, even if they’ve been accepted.

Perhaps the most significant admissions update involves the introduction of the TEAS for students applying to PCC’s nursing, radiography, respiratory therapy, medical sonography, cardiovascular sonography and occupational therapy assistant programs.

“Of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, 55 have some form of entrance testing for one or more of their health sciences programs,” Neal said. “I joined our program directors in reaching out to some of these colleges, and they told us they had seen an improvement in retention, completion and credentialing exam success since adopting an entrance test.”

Neal said of the 55 colleges with a health sciences entrance test, 44 use TEAS. “We decided to go with TEAS, because it’s a test that can be used by multiple health sciences programs, a majority of colleges use it, its cost, and the ease of registration and administration,” she said.

Prospective students must complete the TEAS with the PCC Testing Center prior to the Feb. 15 admission deadline. It costs $82 and consists of 170 multiple choice questions in the areas of reading, math, science and English/language usage. Applicants who don’t make the score needed to enter their desired program may take the TEAS a second time but must wait 30 days between tests.

“The minimum total scores we established to apply vary by program and were not randomly chosen,” Neal said. “The test has been normed by the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) for each health sciences discipline, and the minimum total scores we chose to apply at PCC were based on that data.”

Neal stressed to prospective students the importance of preparing for the TEAS prior to coming out to the PCC Testing Center. She said a TEAS Testing Guide available on the PCC website addresses frequently asked questions, making it easier for students to register and follow directions on test day.

“As we begin to test applicants at PCC, ATI will assist us with monitoring our data to see how our results compare to the national data,” Neal said. “It may take a couple of application cycles to draw any conclusions.”

Neal said PCC would also keep an eye on the effect the admissions changes have on health sciences curricula with regard to retention, completion and credentialing exam outcomes.