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Personal Traits Get Emphasis in Admissions

Who are you and where are you going in the profession?

The answers to those questions will be key to determining the makeup of the Class of 2008 and classes beyond.

The Admissions Advisory Committee has implemented procedural changes to address a longstanding dilemma in evaluating applicants’ strengths: how to balance the importance of the academic skills needed to handle the demanding veterinary curriculum with the personal traits that mark success in the profession.

Stats on the Class of 2007
Invited to the February 3, 2003,
• 150 Illinois residents, average cumulative GPA 3.49, science GPA 3.39
• 221 non-residents, average cumulative GPA 3.59, science GPA 3.52
Enrolled as of June 16, 2003
84 Illinois residents
20 non-residents
(80 women, 24 men)

“Obviously academic scores are important,” says Dr. Gerald Pijanowski, associate dean for academic and student affairs, “but we are trying to place more emphasis on who the person is.”

All applications will be subject to an initial evaluation of cumulative and science grade-point average, the rigor of the undergraduate academic experience, and Graduate Record Examination score. A composite score derived from these factors will identify applications demonstrating sufficiently strong academic ability to proceed to review by faculty on the admissions committee.

At the next review stage, only subjective measures—personal statements, letters of recommendation, and work and life experience—will be evaluated, and three faculty members will review each application.

“We’ve expanded the categories of relevant experience to include community service, leadership activities, entrepreneurship, and work experience in business, agribusiness, or research,” Dr. Pijanowski says. “We want to be sure those with career goals other than practice are not at a disadvantage in the selection process.”

An order of merit list created after the second review stage will determine which applicants are invited for the personal interview, which will be held on March 1, 2004. Offers of admission will be made on the basis of the combined results of the review of subjective measures and the interview scores.

“We expect that these changes will mean students’ backgrounds will become much more diverse, but the students will still be academically strong. We may be able to get some people who have not spent as much time in private practice, but have been very active in other ways,” notes Dr. Pijanowski.

He points to the so-called mega-study, commissioned in the 1990s by leading professional organizations to assess the state of veterinary medicine, as an impetus for the changes. The findings focused on the “skills, knowledge, aptitudes, and attitudes” of successful veterinarians.

A more recent study began defining in a concrete way traits desirable for the profession. These include positive interpersonal skills, stress tolerance, a desire for achievement, independence, creativity, service orientation, and being a problem solver and good decision maker.

“A lot of veterinary schools are looking at ways to incorporate this type of thinking into the admissions process,” says Dr. Pijanowski. He is not aware of others that are implementing changes at this point.

The changes at Illinois evolved with the consensus of the members of the Admissions Advisory Committee: Drs. Karen Campbell and Dick Wallace, veterinary clinical medicine; Drs. Tony Goldberg and Joanne Messick, veterinary pathobiology; and Dr. Aslam Hassan, veterinary biosciences. Dr. Pijanowski is chair of the committee.

“There are still a lot of nitty-gritty details to work out,” he concedes. “Ultimately, the procedure must ensure a fair process that can be applied consistently to every applicant.”

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