Prospective students who want to pursue their dreams of becoming veterinarians at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech must first overcome a major hurdle: standing out among the second-largest applicant pool in North America.

For the second year in a row, the latest figures from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) place the college in the No. 2 spot among North American veterinary schools, beating all but Colorado State University. The college received more than 1,400 applications for its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program and offered campus interviews to 336 candidates for 120 available seats.

“We recently sent offer letters to those individuals who rose to the top of another highly competitive application process,” said Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services. “During this application period, we not only received a large number of total applications, but also an increasing number of applicants from underrepresented populations.”

This year, less than 10 percent of applicants for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program will join the college’s Class of 2020 following increasingly competitive application periods. The college also had the second largest applicant pool in 2015, the third largest in 2014, and the fourth largest in 2013.

Prospective students apply to their top three schools of choice through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service, a common application administered by the AAVMC, and are then considered for a campus interview. In 2009, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine became the first U.S. veterinary school to adapt the multiple mini-interview (MMI) format — first developed at McMaster’s Medical School in Canada — for use in a veterinary program. Other veterinary colleges have since followed suit.

Numerous prospective students have written to the college with praise for the interview format and campus visits. “It was a great experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed touring the school and campus and meeting current students and other interviewees,” wrote one applicant.

Another added, “Although I was nervous, I found the process fascinating and, in some cases, illuminating. The interview and tour after strengthened my belief that this is my number one choice.”

During the interviews, prospective students rotate through interview rooms where an interviewer evaluates their responses to a scenario dealing with communication, critical thinking/problem solving, individual and team management, entrepreneurship, ethical and moral decision making, and cultural diversity.

Each candidate goes through the same set of mini-interviews at Virginia Tech’s Smith Career Center, and there is no right or wrong answer to the scenarios presented to them. The interview team included faculty members, current students, alumni, and private practitioners. In addition, faculty members from another veterinary school observed the college’s interview process.

“I was very impressed with the amount of participation from regional veterinary practitioners in the MMI process,” said Ashley Stokes, assistant dean for admissions and student services for Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It was fantastic to see such engagement of veterinarians from the region that are Virginia Tech alumni, as well as those who are not alumni but are equally committed to the success and future of the veterinary college. As Colorado State University’s DVM program considers the use of the MMI format for our interviews, our experience observing Virginia Tech’s process truly reinforced having strong involvement of veterinarians from our area with our interviews.”

According to Pelzer, prospective students also learned about proposed changes to the DVM curriculum involving integration of the basic and clinical sciences, early entry into the clinics, and more collaborative learning. Starting with the Class of 2020, students will begin clinical training after the second year of their professional program.

“I loved hearing about the new curriculum, and think that it is an excellent chance for students to have more hands-on clinical experience early on,” wrote one prospective student. “I also loved hearing about all of the student organizations that are available which provide additional information and experience in specific aspects of veterinary medicine.”

During the interview weekend, student ambassadors provided candidates and their families tours of the college and its Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Candidates also had an opportunity to learn more about the program and life as a veterinary student at a dinner held the evening before the interviews. This not only helped answer any questions they had about the interview process, but also gave them a chance to speak candidly in small groups with current students.

The Class of 2020 candidates hailed from 29 states, plus Puerto Rico and several countries of citizenship outside of the United States. Of the 120 available seats, 50 will be from Virginia, 30 from Maryland, six from West Virginia, and the remainder from elsewhere. Both Virginia and Maryland students are considered in-state at the regional college.

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is a leading biomedical teaching and research center, enrolling more than 700 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, master of public health, and biomedical and veterinary sciences graduate students. The college is a partnership between the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. Its main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, features the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and large animal field services which together treat more than 79,000 animals annually. Other locations include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, and the Gudelsky Veterinary Center in College Park, Maryland.

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