PTCAS Technical Information

The following technical information is intended to help operational and information technology (IT) staff determine what data is available to PTCAS programs and how it is protected.

Admissions Portal

The PTCAS Admissions Portal is a dynamic tool that provides programs with real-time application data for a particular institution. PT programs may use the Admissions Portal to view, sort, search, and print data on incomplete and complete applicants who designated the program and have e-submitted their PTCAS application. The online system allows programs to drill down to detailed application and status information, such as the list of transcripts expected and the date each was received. The tool also provides PDF versions of the complete application file so that programs can print a copy of the applicant's record exactly as it will appear in the printed weekly mailing (see the next section). Before the applicant's file is verified by staff, the GPAs are omitted from the PDF and the course history may contain errors.

Each PTCAS institution will receive at least one Admissions Portal username and password. A program may request as many additional login accounts as needed. Each authorized Portal user will receive a unique username and password via e-mail. Multiple users within the same institution may be logged into the Admissions Portal at the same time.

Weekly Mailings

Beginning in August 2011, PTCAS will generate a new electronic and paper mailing of applicants deemed COMPLETE and verified. PTCAS staff will mail the batch of files to the appropriate designated programs. The weekly mailing is also available in electronic form. Individuals with a PTCAS Admissions Portal account will receive an automated e-mail from PTCAS once a new weekly e-file is available for download. The program should assign one individual to download the weekly e-file to a secure local server. Each program will decide whether to receive printed (paper) application files each week, or to adopt a paperless admissions process. Both options will be available to the institution at no charge.

The weekly PTCAS e-file mailing will contain all of the fields captured in the PTCAS Web application, EXCEPT the following (subject to change):

  • Social Security Numbers: The PTCAS application includes an optional social security number field. By default, PTCAS will hide all social security numbers on the printed and electronic files. If needed, programs can opt to receive the last 4-digits of the SSN or the full SSN. If received, programs should make a reasonable effort to protect the applicants' SSNs from unauthorized access.
  • PT Program Designations: During the cycle, the program will not know how many or what other PTCAS programs the applicant has designated. Information on shared applicants will be shared with programs after the admissions cycle closes.
  • PT Program Fees: The program will not have access to the applicant's PTCAS fee payment amount, method of payment, or payment received date. The program can determine whether the PTCAS fee was properly submitted by logging into the Admission Portal.
  • Applicant's Username and Password: The applicant's application username and password are not reported to the program.
  • Advisor Release Statement: The program will not be able to determine whether the applicant released their application information to their pre-health professions/pre-PT advisor.
  • Reference Text: The e-file will contain information about the applicant's evaluators, as entered on the PTCAS application. The e-file will not; however, include evaluator's responses on the PTCAS reference form. To view an applicant's references, the program must login to the online Admissions Portal or review the references in the printed weekly shipments.

In addition to the PTCAS application fields described above, the weekly e-file mailing will contain selected PTCAS-generated fields, including the following:

  • All PTCAS GPAs 
  • PTCAS Edits to the College Courses Section 
  • TOEFL Scores: Official scores reported, if received from ETS. (GRE scores are self-reported on the application, but cannot be delivered to PTCAS due to an ETS policy).
  • Degree Verification: A yes/no field will indicate whether a degree reported as "earned" appears on the applicant's official transcript.

E-File Format

Once a weekly mailing is published, an export file will be made available for that specific mailing, which can be downloaded directly from the Admissions Portal. This e-file will be a relational database in MSAcess (.mdb) format. MSAccess 2000 or above is required. PTCAS does not guarantee compatibility with MSAccess '97 or below. A second format of pipe-delimited ASCI (.txt) is also provided for those institutions who prefer this alternative and to those who run on MAC environments. Both types will be packaged in a single .ZIP file for easy downloading. Only authorized admissions officers with access to the secure Admissions portal can download these files. All weekly mailing files are numbered and will remain available on the Admissions Portal for one year after the close of the cycle.

Data Dictionary and Sample File

An initial 2011-12 PTCAS data dictionary is now available on the APTA site. The draft data dictionary provides the layout of the PTCAS data tables and the descriptions of the individual fields. This includes field descriptions, the application questions that the fields pertains too, field sizes, lookup tables used, and other relevant information that will assist the institution in developing their import process for this data file. This data dictionary is applicable to both the ACCESS and ASCII text file formats. The sample test file (saved in ZIP format) is also available and includes basic dummy data so that your IT staff can test their mapping process.

PTCAS Version of AMCAS/TAMF File for Banner

The PTCAS TAMF file format for BANNER users is available to PTCAS programs in addition to the ACCESS (.mbd) and ASCII text file formats previously describe. The data dictionary mimics the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) "V2 TAMF" layout. This third file format may be useful to those programs that share a campus with an AMCAS medical school and/or utilize Banner. Programs that already use the original AMCAS TAMF file should not need to do any additional field mapping for the PTCAS TAMF file. Contact staff for a sample file.

Mapping PTCAS Data to Local Database

PT programs can match the PTCAS fields to the fields required in the local admissions or enrollment management database, such as Banner, PeopleSoft, etc. Each program must determine whether to upload all applicants into the student information system (SIS) or only selected applicants (e.g., accepted). The program will also need to determine how frequently it will upload data into the local database.

PTCAS cannot provide step-by-step instructions to any institution on HOW to map the data from the weekly e-files to a proprietary admissions or enrollment management system. PTCAS can only provide an explanation of WHAT the data is and that they should refer to the data dictionary for details on the data elements themselves. It is the responsibility of the institution's IT staff to determine which fields are needed and to develop the field mapping process to import selected PTCAS data into their equivalent database tables.

APTA asks PTCAS programs to identify their local database system as part of the program page form. APTA will collect and share the list of databases used by all PTCAS programs so that institutions with the same system can share resources and strategies for integrating the data. Programs that share a campus with another health profession discipline that utilizes a centralized application service (CAS) may also want to speak to their colleagues to determine how they integrate their CAS data into the university system.

PTAdMIT

As a benefit of participation, PTAdMIT is free for all PTCAS programs. It is optional software that participating programs can use to manage their local admissions process and allows users to create program-specific GPAs, custom export files, personalized emails and letters, and more.  PTAdMIT is a product of Academic Software Plus  (ASP), a subsidiary company of Liaison International, APTA's PTCAS partner. For more information, contact the AdMIT Support Team at 716/636-7777 (option 8) or e-mail AdMITSupport@academicsoftwareplus.com.  To download a trial version of PTAdMIT, go to http://67.99.163.75/admit2011/ptadmit.htm.

PTCAS and non-PTCAS programs are invited to attend one of the free PTAdMIT training sessions offered in July. The purpose of the training is to help PTAdMIT users better understand the software’s features and incorporate them into the local admissions process. Faculty and staff who use PTAdMIT or are interested in learning about the software should attend. Attendees will have an opportunity to preview the new Web-based version of AdMIT scheduled for release in the 2012-13 cycle.  

  • PTCAS Overview for Prospective Programs and New Users (10:00 to 11:30 am)
  • PTAdMIT Training (1:00 pm to 5:30 pm)

Register by June 30 - There is no registration fee to attend a session, but seats are limited to faculty and staff and advance registration is required. Contact staff for the registration link.

  • JULY  7 - Florida International University (Miami)
  • JULY 13 - Duke University (Durham)
  • JULY 15 - St. Catherine University (Minneapolis)
  • JULY 22 - University of Southern California (Los Angeles) 
  • JULY 25 - New York University
  • JULY 29 - University of Tennessee Health Science Center (Memphis)

DATA SECURITY

The PTCAS service provider, Liaison International, runs backups on a nightly basis on all servers, unless staff is otherwise working on them for scheduled maintenance. Below are the levels of security that will be implemented for PTCAS.

Physical Security: The PTCAS Servers are located at AT&T Internet Data Center in the Boston area. This is one of largest data centers in the region with redundant power, internet access and dynamic bandwidth expansion. The PTCAS office conducts background checks of all office personnel and the facility is equipped with a secured entry system.

Applicant Portal: The PTCAS Applicant Portal use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate by VeriSign. The Portal sits behind secure and redundant routers and firewalls at the IDC.

Admissions Portal: PTCAS Admissions Portal use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate as well. The Admissions Portal URL address is not published. The Admissions Officers receive the Admissions URL and their user ID and Password after these users have been authenticated by PTCAS. The Admissions Portal is Web-based and it only requires a Web browser from the school side.

File Download: The only way an admission officer can access or download the weekly mailing is through the "Web interface" of the secure Admissions Portal. The schools download the file in an SSL Secure encrypted (128 bit) environment. No FTP access involved.

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