This review covers applicant’s essays, recommendations, extracurricular/community service activities, animal, veterinary, research, and work experience, personal development, diversity, and any special circumstances. Each of these items is considered and contributes to the overall impression of the applicant. 

Applicants are reviewed by Iowa State University employees who have been trained to closely adhere to the evaluation rubric created by the Admissions Committee.  The reliability of reviews is ensured through rater training and statistical quality control.


VMCAS requires a statement of purpose which asks students to explain their wish to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.


Three electronic letters of evaluation are required. Up to six electronic letters of evaluation will be accepted. All applicants are strongly encouraged to have at least four letters of recommendation in case one of their evaluators is unable to meet the evaluation deadline. Persons chosen to submit letters of recommendation should know the applicant well and be able to speak to their personal characteristics and attributes. Do not choose an evaluator solely on the basis of their job or position. It is preferred that the evaluators write comments or upload a letter in addition to completing the electronic form. Suggested evaluators are veterinarians, advisors, professors and employers although others are also acceptable. Evaluations should support the applicant’s experiences and should confirm their commitment, maturity, work ethic, leadership skills and communication skills with examples. Applicants are strongly encouraged to have a recommendation from at least one veterinarian. Evaluators cannot be related to the applicant by blood or marriage. Letters submitted by a family member will not be evaluated and will not count as one of the three required letters. 

The Admissions Committee may contact references directly if further information or clarification is needed.

Additional Application Essay

Additional Iowa State questions are included in the “Program Materials” section of VMCAS. However, the Supplemental Application is required as well. 

Extracurricular/Community Activities

Includes leadership roles, depth of involvement and accomplishments in university clubs, community organizations and varsity athletics.

Veterinary/Animal/Research Experience

Veterinary, animal and/or research experience may be voluntary or paid but must be completed under the supervision of a veterinarian or PhD scientist if it is research experience.

The applicant is expected to have at least 200 hours of quality experience (veterinary/animal/research) from which the applicant should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the veterinary profession. The diversity, level of responsibility, and breadth of the experience is considered. Diverse experiences are encouraged. This could include experiences with companion animal, equine, production animal, research, or zoological veterinary medicine. The goal of veterinary experience is to give the applicant a good understanding of the breadth and depth of the veterinary profession. Partial credit may be given for less than 200 hours of experience. Pet ownership and educational coursework is not considered under experience.

Personal Development

Personal development includes skills and activities outside of coursework and employment. Examples include study abroad, accomplishments and participation in community and civic organizations, achievements in varsity athletics or organized sports clubs, fluency in more than one language, achievement in dance, theater, music, art, photography and similar hobbies.

Welcoming Environment

The AVMA strives to educate its members regarding the value of diversity within businesses and workplaces, and its role in improving animal and human health and advancing the veterinary medical profession in an ever-changing world. As an AVMA accredited institution, Iowa State University shares this goal and seeks to contribute to an environment where all people are valued, appreciated, and respected. Factors influencing an applicant’s score in this category include experiences, activities and academic work that demonstrate an ability and desire to contribute to an environment consistent with these goals.   

Special circumstances

Special circumstances include factors which may have adversely affected the applicant’s academic record. These factors and how the applicant overcame them are considered.

NOTE: The Admissions Committee recommends candidates to the Dean based on these established admission criteria. The Dean makes final decisions regarding letters of offer. All selection criteria and their weight in the evaluation are subject to change without notice upon Admissions Committee review. 

Updated 03/04/2024