UC Davis Vet School Changes Admissions Process

As if applying to veterinary school wasn’t stressful enough with how difficult the process is to navigate, UC Davis threw a wrench into things by changing their admissions process from the ground up! Let me say, first of all, most of my fellow students who have discussed their thoughts on the changes with me are pretty unhappy, skeptical at best. However, this is what the school has decided to do, at least for the Class of 2017.

The admissions committee will now be evaluating students based upon a very limited number of criteria – namely academics. The new website divulges this information by stating:

Evaluation criteria

Grades – Science GPA and Last 45 units
GRE Quantitative scores
PPI Evaluations
MMI Interview

You may be wondering what the latter two items on that list are, so here’s some help. Davis no longer cares about your letters of recommendation that are provided through VMCAS, but now requires students and their evaluators to go to the extra lengths of getting PPI (Personal Potential Index) Evaluations done through ETS, the same organization that provides us with our other friend, the GRE.

PPI Evaluations:

The idea behind this is that the admissions committee wants to be able to evaluate students more objectively. Letters of recommendation are not all created equal simply because some people are better or more proficient at writing them than others, some people know to include certain pieces of information while others don’t and that could put the student at an advantage or disadvantage without them even knowing it. PPI Evaluations will give evaluators the ability to rate students on a 5-point Likert scale on the following criteria:

Knowledge and Creativity

  • Has a broad perspective on the field
  • Is among the brightest persons I know
  • Produces novel ideas
  • Is intensely curious about the field

Communication Skills

  • Speaks in a clear, organized and logical manner
  • Writes with precision and style
  • Speaks in a way that is interesting
  • Organizes writing well

Teamwork

  • Supports the efforts of others
  • Behaves in an open and friendly manner
  • Works well in group settings
  • Gives criticism/feedback to others in a helpful way

Resilience

  • Accepts feedback without getting defensive
  • Works well under stress
  • Can overcome challenges and setbacks
  • Works extremely hard

Planning and Organization

  • Sets realistic goals
  • Organizes work and time effectively
  • Meets deadlines
  • Makes plans and sticks to them

Ethics and Integrity

  • Is among the most honest people I know
  • Maintains high ethical standards
  • Is worthy of trust from others
  • Demonstrates sincerity

Likert scales are loved by many people in research, as they help take qualitative data and transform it into a more quantitative form. The scale rating categories are “Below Average,” “Average,” “Above Average,” “Outstanding (Top 5%)” and “Truly Exceptional (Top 1%)” with an additional area for evaluators to provide additional commentary on any of the 6 categories of evaluation.

Like I mentioned, the idea is to convert this qualitative information into quantitative data that can be comparable from applicant to applicant. Therefore ETS will take all of your PPI evaluations and compute your PPI for each category as well as overall, including comments made by evaluators as well. Evaluators will also provide an overall evaluation for students.

MMI Interviews

Per the UC Davis website: “The MMI is a series of short, structured interviews used to assess personal traits/qualities. Each mini interview provides a candidate with two minutes to read a question/scenario and mentally prepare before entering the interview room. Upon entering, the candidate has six minutes of dialogue with one interviewer/assessor (or, in some cases, a third party as the interviewer/assessor observes). At the conclusion of the interview, the interviewer/assessor uses the next two-minute period to evaluate while the candidate moves to the next scenario. This pattern is repeated through a circuit of up to 8 stations.”

“The MMI was derived from the well-known OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) used by most undergraduate medical programs to assess a student’s application of clinical skills and knowledge. However, the MMI does not test knowledge of veterinary medicine but rather personal attributes such as communication skills and ability to work as part of a team,  ethical and critical decision-making abilities, and behaviors important to being a veterinarian such as empathy, honesty and reliability.”

We truly do not know what these interviews will be like until students have gone through them, but we can make guesses.

  • Ethical dilemmas. The instructions describe a situation and then ask the candidate to discuss ethical issues involved, with the interviewer possibly probing with additional questions for more information.
  • Personal Interactions. Students at UC Davis are trained for clinical learning using actors, so I wouldn’t put it past them to bring in actors for these interviews in order to gauge an applicant’s interpersonal and communication skills…perhaps even your ability to show empathy.
  • Standard questions. I wouldn’t put it past the admissions committee to throw in a generic question or two such as, “Tell us a bit about yourself.” or “Tell us about an obstacle that you had to overcome to be here today.”
  • Teamwork. Remember, veterinary medicine and the new UC Davis vet school curriculum are heavily based on teamwork, so why wouldn’t they have a station where you have to work with someone to complete a task?

Remember, that for these interviews, in the few minutes you have to read the instructions, it is imperative that you consider what the purpose of that station is before you begin so you know how to formulate your response!

Academics

As much as it pains me to see it happen, it looks like Davis is heading towards a heavily academics based admissions process. Your GPA (specifically your SCIENCE GPA and GPA for your last 45 units is what they are interested in. Also of importance to the admissions committee is your GRE Quantitative score – as in they don’t seem to be interested in your verbal score (something I would have been thankful for!).

Overall

Overall, it sounds like students are going to be granted interviews based upon GPA, GRE and PPI as there is nothing mentioned about how a personal statement, VMCAS letter of recommendation or experience would be taken into account. I only hope that evaluation of GPA continues to take into account the rigor of  the undergraduate institution. Once the admissions committee has decided who to interview, it seems like the MMI interviews will serve as an extra factor to weigh in and help the admissions committee make their decisions.

There is a mysterious supplemental application that applicants must also complete once it becomes available but we have little idea what it entails or how it contributes to the evaluation process as it is not listed under the “evaluation criteria” on the website. (I will be sure to comment on it once it does become available, so check back to this page in the future for updates!)

Oh! And the admissions process is sped up now (though they seem to have wavered in their estimations). At present, interviews will be mid-December and acceptance letters mailed in early January.

At this point, that’s all I have for you, but I hope it helps to understand what is going on and why the changes.

Good luck to everyone applying!

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