When students in the Class of 2021 arrive at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in August, they will begin their four-year professional training after another highly competitive application period.

More than 1,600 prospective students applied to enter the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program in the fall, representing the second largest applicant pool in North America for the third year in a row, according to the latest figures from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Earlier this year, the college invited 336 applicants for interviews for the 120 available seats.

“This year, we not only received a large number of total applications, but also an increasing number of applicants from diverse backgrounds,” said Jacque Pelzer, director of admissions and student services, who explained that the number of prospective students from underrepresented populations increased from 27 percent to 40 percent. “We continued to make progress on our strategic recruitment plan and implemented a holistic review process that considers life experiences in addition to academic qualifications.”

The Class of 2021 will also be the second cohort of students in the college’s new DVM curriculum. Last August, the college debuted a revised curriculum that integrates basic and clinical sciences into new courses organized around functions of body systems, incorporates team-based learning, provides for early entry into the clinics, and converts the grading system to pass/fall. Faculty members have logged extra hours to ensure that they successfully prepare students for the opportunities and challenges of 21st century veterinary medicine under the new curriculum.

The veterinary college’s application periods have become increasingly competitive. The college had the second-largest applicant pool in 2016 and 2015, each time surpassing every North American veterinary school except for Colorado State University. It also had the third largest applicant pool in 2014 and the fourth largest in 2013.

Prospective students apply to veterinary school through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service, a common application administered by the AAVMC, and on average, apply to their top five choices. Most veterinary programs require an on campus interview, including the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2009, the college became the first U.S. veterinary school to employ an adaptation of the multiple mini-interview format — first implemented at a Canadian medical school.

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 went through the same set of mini-interviews. The interview team included faculty members, current students, alumni, and private practitioners. In addition, faculty members from other veterinary schools observed the interview process.

The incoming Class of 2021 will hail from 16 states, plus Puerto Rico. Both Virginia and Maryland students are considered in-state at the regional college.

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