Admitting one of the largest Veterinary Medicine classes in the country each year, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) relies on an efficient interviewing process to strike a balance between scale and scope.
In past years, the program hosted applicants on campus for a traditional in-person MMI. Stretching across three days, this process, while placing a significant burden on organizers, helped Texas A&M dig deeper into applicants’ soft skills and personality traits.
But when they transitioned their admissions process online in 2021, the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences discovered a new way to deliver their beloved interview — one that ticked all the boxes without burning out staff — and they haven’t looked back.
The power of the right admissions partner
“The admissions interview has always been a core piece of our assessment process,” shared Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Associate Dean Karen Cornell.
Ten years ago, the school transitioned from a traditional interview format to a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). The new six-station process took place across three days, with nearly 300 applicants rotating through six-minute stations.
“We were essentially going non-stop for three days,” shared Cornell. “The wear-and-tear on our teams was significant, but we felt that the benefits of the MMI warranted the extra work.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to host students on campus, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences experienced firsthand how critical their interviewing process was in identifying their best-fit students.
“We made our admissions decisions that year based strictly on academics and the file assessment,” Cornell explained. “For the following year, we knew we needed to bring the MMI back.”
“Veterinary medicine education is a fairly small field so we very often find service providers by word of mouth,” Cornell continued.
“A peer school told us about Kira and how well it’s working for them and we decided to explore it ourselves.”
Moving their interviews online with Kira, Texas A&M is able to maintain the intricacies of their tried-and-true interview while bringing critical flexibility and stability to their admissions process.
“We went into it thinking that this might just be a pandemic solution,” explained Cornell. “But after that first year using the platform, we saw what benefits, in addition to flexibility and time savings, Kira could bring to our process.”
Spotlighting objectivity in admissions
“We believe that the virtual process actually results in a stronger assessment.”
“It’s not uncommon to hear that programs want to interview in person so that they can get an overall feel of the applicant,” Cornell observed.
“Thinking about it more deeply though, that kind of subjective evaluation shouldn’t be incorporated into admissions assessments at all.”
“We value our process precisely because reviewers are instructed to use clearly defined rubrics that are designed to eliminate that kind of subjectivity,” she continued. “If you’re sticking to those standards of equitable review, it makes no difference whether you’re assessing the applicant in person or online.”
Revitalizing a tried-and-true interview
Accounting for around 20% of an applicant’s overall admissions score, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences now conducts their MMI asynchronously with Kira Talent.
“Applicants are offered interviews based on an academic review,” explained Cornell. “They receive an invitation to interview, giving them a date and time when the on-demand interview will be open for a 4-hour window. During that time, applicants move through each of the six stations, just as they would in an in-person setting.”
Using a horizontal reviewing method, each response is then viewed and scored independently by two reviewers.
“This structure reflects the way stations were conducted and scored in our in-person MMI,” Cornell explained. “There were always two reviewers that assessed each question across candidates. Now we simply have two reviewers reviewing each video response.”
Looking to conduct an online MMI in real-time? Learn how Arizona Vet Med is meeting applicants face to face with a live MMI in Kira
Even the campus tours at Texas A&M have been reimagined and adapted to suit the new remote admissions process.
“We have what we call an admitted students day,” explained Cornell. “Applicants who have received an offer of admission or are on the alternate list are invited to come to campus, meet the faculty, and get a feel for the school community.”
“We’ve actually found that bringing students to campus separately from the interview helps to support the right atmosphere.”
Scaling admissions without increasing fatigue
The efficiency and accessibility of their process with Kira has helped Texas A&M achieve their goal of scaling the Veterinary Medicine program.
“We had a set goal of increasing our class size,” shared Cornell. “In order to do that while maintaining the quality of applicants admitted, we needed to reach a wider pool of candidates. Kira gave us a way to do that.”
“This past year, we had around 1250 applicants,” she continued. “Of those, we interviewed around 350. With that number of applicants, compared to the size of our team, it would have been a challenge to bring them all to campus.”
"With Kira, we’ve been able to increase the number of applicants we interview with minimal additional burden on our team."
VMBS’s reviewers supported the sentiment in a post-cycle survey conducted by Texas A&M, with the overall majority sharing that they enjoyed the ease and convenience of working in Kira.
“At the end of the day, Kira is a more efficient use of our reviewers’ time,” Cornell shared. “Instead of having to set aside three full days for interviews, they can work when it’s convenient for them, whether in the office or at home in their pyjamas.”
“The problem of reviewer fatigue, which used to be a significant challenge once we got to the third straight day of interviews, is now completely solved.”