For many, becoming a veterinarian is a lifelong dream. The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine is about to make that dream one step closer to reality for 120 prospective students.

In mid-February, the college will issue acceptance letters to candidates for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program following another record-breaking application period in which more than 1,400 prospective students applied, 260 interviewed on the college’s Blacksburg campus, and less than half of those will make the final cut.

Despite little change in the total number of students applying to veterinary schools nationwide, the college saw a 15 percent spike in the number of applications over the previous year. This follows several years of double-digit increases in application numbers that now give the college the third-largest applicant pool in North America, according to figures from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

Dr. Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, points to the college’s turbocharged recruitment efforts as one reason for the continued success.

“The face-to-face interaction with prospective students at career fairs, conferences, individual program visits, and pre-vet clubs around the country has certainly helped increase the size of our applicant pool,” Pelzer said. “Additionally, prospective students cite our growing reputational excellence, unique tracking curriculum, affordability, and location in one of the most beautiful areas of the country as top reasons they apply to Virginia-Maryland Vet Med.”

This year, veterinary program representatives from Colorado State University, Oregon State University, and North Carolina State University participated in the college’s prospective student weekend to learn more about the interview process. In 2009, the college became the first U.S. veterinary school to adapt the multiple-mini interview format — first developed at McMaster’s Medical School in Canada — for use in a veterinary program. Today, four other veterinary colleges use the approach, with others likely to follow suit in coming years.

“The veterinary curriculum has moved to a more competency-based education, and the multiple mini-interview format is one of the best ways to assess a candidate’s potential for success in this type of environment,” Pelzer said.

During the process, interviewees rotate through eight interview rooms where an interviewer evaluates their response to a scenario dealing with communication, critical thinking, problem solving, individual and team management, entrepreneurship, ethical and moral decision making, or leadership.

“I really enjoyed the interviews. They were challenging, but much like a puzzle that I wanted to solve,” wrote one candidate after the interviews.

Although each candidate goes through the same set of mini-interviews, there is no right or wrong answer to the scenarios presented to them. “Because becoming a veterinarian is a calling and they are serving a society with many points of view, it is important that prospective students have a broad understanding of the competencies and the people they will be serving,” Pelzer added. “The type of candidate we seek displays an understanding that they will be working with diverse clientele who may not hold the same beliefs and values as they do.”

Student ambassadors once again gave 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 before the interviews. This not only helped answer any lingering questions they had about the interview process that awaited them the following day, but also gave them a chance to speak in small groups with student ambassadors and faculty members.

Class of 2018 candidates who were invited for on-campus interviews came from 24 states and three countries to vie for the 120 available seats. Of these, 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.

View a Facebook photo gallery of prospective student weekend.

Written by Michael Sutphin.

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