Officials say veterinary college prerequisites need streamlining

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One critical issue likely to be discussed by the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium is prerequisite standards for the 28 U.S. veterinary schools and colleges.

As it stands now, each veterinary college has its own set of prerequisites. They have become so varied that it creates challenges for students to prepare their applications, said John E. Roane Jr., chief operating officer of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and Veterinary Medical College Application Service director.

Students, on average, apply to 3.8 veterinary colleges. When applying to multiple colleges, applicants have a greater burden ensuring that their preparatory work is consistent with each school, Roane said.

The issue has come up for years, he said, so the AAVMC launched a national recruitment strategy survey a few years ago in conjunction with professional enrollment consultants Stamats Inc.

Feedback from advisers and students provided to the AAVMC indicated what the association had suspected—prerequisites were too varied and difficult to navigate.

"They said it's easier to apply to the 125 U.S. medical schools than the 28 U.S. veterinary schools," Roane said.

Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, AAVMC executive director, agreed.

"It's a patchwork and difficult for students to know. Anecdotally, we've heard high school counselors dissuade students from applying and tell them to apply to medical school instead," Dr. Pappaioanou said. "We make it hard for students to apply. It hurts us, but it's a challenge."

To make progress on the issue, Dr. Pappaioanou said everyone involved—from deans to admissions counselors—must examine what knowledge, skills, and competencies veterinary college graduates must have at the time of graduation; what can be accomplished prior to veterinary college versus during; and how veterinary colleges can assess graduates to determine how well they've done.

The issue was discussed at length during the admissions officers and directors workshop at the AAVMC annual meeting March 14. Attendees recommended the creation of core prerequisites for all U.S. veterinary colleges. Instead of working to standardize all veterinary colleges' prerequisites, Roane said, efforts should focus on creating a common set of core prerequisites to make it easier for students to apply.

Dr. Pappaioanou remains cautiously optimistic, saying some schools may be more ready than others to adopt a set of core prerequisites. She calls it a work in progress.

"There's a growing recognition that we need to address this, but if it were really easy, it would have been done a number of years ago," Dr. Pappaioanou said. "It will be extremely important to achieve, but we need to take a very careful look at how to achieve it while making sure the concerns of veterinary schools are addressed as we come to a core set of requirements."

In the next few months, Roane expects workshop attendees to talk further and possibly arrive at a recommendation for the entire AAVMC constituency on a core set of minimal requirements, as well as repackaging how prerequisites are presented "to make it easier for applicants to understand."