The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine is a non-profit osteopathic school based in Blacksburg, Virginia, with three satellite campuses in other states (South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana), making it the second-largest medical school in the US. The school was created to bring relief to the primary care doctor shortage affecting mostly rural communities in and around the Appalachia region. Despite its origins and location, the school is one of the many out-of-state friendly medical schools in the region. This article will detail the admissions process and what makes the school stand out in DO school rankings.
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“The MISSION of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) is to prepare globally minded, community-focused physicians to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations and promote research to improve human health.”
The school is clear about its path forward as a center for training physicians to go into remote areas to alleviate illness and disease and improve quality of life. The statistics bear out this mission in several ways. Almost 66% of VCOM graduates end up practicing in communities considered underserved for primary care medicine, while 48% of the school’s students come from these same underserved communities with populations of 30,000 or less.
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Overall Acceptance Rate: 25.3%
In-State Acceptance Rate: 15.7%
Out-of-State Acceptance Rate: 9.5%
Average MCAT of Incoming Students: 500–505
Average GPA of Incoming Students: 3.67
VCOM accepts out-of-state and international students, but the latter must have at least permanent residency or be naturalized citizens. Out-of-state applicants are considered, but the school makes clear its preference to admit students from what they call “target” states, comprising 15 different states including the ones mentioned in the school’s mission statement: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama; 72% of all current medical students are from one of these target states.
Out-of-state applicants do not have any additional application requirements. They must submit their application via AACOMAS and do not need to include any additional information with their application. The best way to guarantee an application’s competitiveness is by having high MCAT and GPA scores, but the school also practices a mission-based assessment of every application to see if your values align with the school’s regarding practicing in underserved communities.
MCAT and GPA
Minimum MCAT to be Considered: 496
Minimum Cumulative GPA to be Considered: 3.4
VCOM is not one of those medical schools that don’t require MCAT and is clear about its emphasis on your MCAT and GPA. They have explicit MCAT and GPA cut-offs, which are a little lower than those of other schools. While other parts of your application are important, and the school takes all factors into consideration, your MCAT should be at least the minimum, and if not, then you should retake the MCAT. In fact, the school recommends it for applicants who do not have high MCAT scores or who were not successful on their first application attempt. One departure of the school’s MCAT requirements is that they accept MCAT scores as old as four years, which is different from the usual three-year time limit of other osteopathic schools.
Coursework and Undergrad
The school has no preference for a graduate degree – master’s or PhD – but has other degree requirements. Students must have a 90-credit bachelor’s degree or have completed at least 75% of the degree requirements toward a bachelor’s degree to apply. This accommodation is for non-traditional medical school applicants and is an extension of the school’s mission to train doctors from the community.
Prerequisites and Recommended Courses
The medical school requirements to get into VCOM are similar to other schools and consist mostly of upper-level science-based courses that you must complete at a four-year college or university. The school does not give a grade or grade average at which these courses must be completed, but it looks specifically at the last two years of your bachelor’s degree when considering your GPA. The required courses must also have been completed within five years of your application. Students who completed their coursework at junior or community colleges are encouraged to take them at a university or college to have a competitive application.
The medical school prerequisites for VCOM are:
In addition to these required courses, the school encourages students to attain at least 9 credits in biomedical sciences, which it views as essential to a medical school education. The courses can be taken in any of the following subjects:
AACOMAS Work and Experiences
VCOM is a participant in the AACOMAS application service, like most osteopathic medical schools, and uses it to collect, organize, and review all DO school applications. Applicants to VCOM must submit their primary application via AACOMAS and then wait for an invitation to submit a secondary application to the school directly.
The school has agreements with several area universities located in any of the five states mentioned in the school’s mission statement. These agreements mean students from these schools can have the admission requirements modified to ensure the school’s mission of training doctors from the region is fulfilled.
These modifications can be anything from granting interviews to applicants from member universities or considering an applicant even if they have a lower-than-average GPA or MCAT score. You should contact the admission office directly if you are a student at one of these institutions to inquire as to what admission requirements apply to you.
All AACOMAS applications require students to submit a 5,300-character personal statement that articulates their intentions to become a doctor. The statement is an opportunity for an applicant to demonstrate things not visible on transcripts or MCAT scores, such as writing and communication skills, which are considered essential qualities all doctors must possess.
If you don’t think you are a strong writer or believe you will have difficulty writing your statement, you should read over medical school personal statements written by accepted students, which are a good guide to see what admissions committees are looking for in these statements. But if you are applying via AACOMAS, you should read AACOMAS personal statement examples since they are more similar to the statements you will have to write.
The secondary essays are another feature of all medical school secondary applications. If you are not invited to submit a secondary application, then you will not have to write one. But if the school selects you, they will send you instructions on how to apply and what you must write. The school requires all students to submit 500-word essays responding to the following list of prompts:
- Describe a significant challenge you have experienced in your life, share the strategies you employed to overcome the challenge, and what you learned from the experience.
- Professionalism and respect in the community in which you live is of utmost importance in medical school and as a physician. What three professional qualities do you believe a Student Doctor must demonstrate and describe how you will demonstrate these qualities as a medical student at VCOM?
- How do your professional ambitions align with osteopathic medicine?
- What influenced your decision to apply to VCOM? (e.g., personal or medical experiences; influences of friends/family/physicians/mentors; etc.)
Letters of recommendation are also required by VCOM, but they are more inclusive, and students can submit letters from a variety of different sources. The school does have one letter requirement though, as follows:
- One letter from a pre-medical or pre-health committee
- One letter from a science faculty member with experience teaching you
You may also submit one letter from a practicing DO physician you have shadowed. Even though it is not a requirement, the school strongly recommends it and even gives applicants advice on how to ask to shadow a doctor in their area. Students with physician family members can ask them to submit letters, but they will be counted as personal references and not meet the other medical school recommendation letter requirements.
The school sends interview invitations to students after they submit their secondary application and have met the school’s minimum requirements. Applicants will be notified directly by the school either by phone or email. The interviews take place during the fall and spring when school is in session so that applicants can see the campus as it normally is during the school year.
The interviews are held at the VCOM campus, but students can schedule an interview at any of the school’s three branches in South Carolina, Alabama, or Louisiana (applicants rank their choice of campus on their secondary application). If you are not sure how to schedule medical school interviews, the school will provide you with instructions on who to call and when.
The interviews consist of three one-on-one interviews with either the admissions committee or medical school faculty members. Applicants also meet with current medical students and are given a tour of the campus. You will also be given a tour of the surrounding area, depending on where you scheduled your interview.
If you are not sure how to prepare for osteopathic medical school interviews, then you should read a list of common medical school interview questions to think over possible answers. You don’t want to have a scripted answer ready since you don’t know what questions they will ask, and you will stand out more if you are natural and genuine.
Some of the interview questions past interviewees have been asked are as follows:
- “Tell me how you studied for the MCAT.”
- “Do you have any experience with rural medicine?”
Acceptance and Waitlist Information
Students will be sent a letter of acceptance or regret, or be placed on a medical school waitlist. While the school has no explicit instructions on how to get off a medical school waitlist, it does encourage students to contact the admissions office directly. Students who do not meet the GPA or MCAT requirements are often told to repeat coursework, improve their MCAT scores, or re-enroll in upper-level science courses.
Primary Application Deadline: March 1st
Secondary Application Deadline: March 15th
The school has a rolling admissions policy, so its acceptances are sent out to whomever applied first. There were almost 10,000 applicants to VCOM in a recent year, so they do see and review a lot of applications, which means wait times of up to two weeks or more, according to the school itself. You can check your application status online in the school’s portal. If you have waited longer than two weeks and up to a month as some applicants have reported, writing directly to the school will only result in you receiving a form letter saying that your application is still under review.
Tuition and Debt
In-State and Out-of-State Tuition Fees: $49,800
Average Yearly Cost-of-Living Expenses: $27,760
Average Student Debt of Graduating Students: $253,676
There are several ways students in all years of medical school can finance their education, from federal student aid to internal and external scholarships. In fact, federal aid fees are included in the yearly living expenses for all students since almost 85% of VCOM students use federal aid loans. But aside from loans, the school maintains an active database of available scholarships or scholarships that have been won in the past by students.
You can search according to the year of study, campus, and scholarship type and list them according to award money, availability, deadline, or sponsor. The average amount of grant money awarded by the school annually is around $6,391, but that number is subject to change every year. Some of the current scholarships available to first year students include:
1. Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) US Dept of Veterans Affairs
2. Japanese Medical Society of America (JMSA)
3. Frank and Louise Groff Foundation
Residency Match Rates
The school has strong showings in both matching its graduates and the number of students who pass their COMLEX Level 1 and COMLEX Level 2 CE licensing exams. In a recent year, the school was able to match 99.5% of its students to residency programs around the country, but the majority of those residencies (64%) were completed in one of the school’s target states.
The majority of residencies were done in one of four primary care specialties:
Family Medicine Residency – 26 %
Internal Medicine Residency – 24%
Pediatrics – 10%
OB/GYN – 5%
COMLEX 1 First Attempt Pass Rate: 98%
National Average: 92%
COMLEX 2 CE First Attempt Pass Rate: 97%
National Average: 95%
According to the World Directory of Medical Schools, which is a trusted source on the accreditation and legitimacy of medical schools worldwide, all Canadian provinces recognize and accept a degree from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Review of Available Programs
1. Four-Year DO Program
The main academic offering at VCOM is the osteopathic medical degree. The degree is divided between preclinical and clinical years when students perform clinical rotations in several area and local teaching hospitals. The two blocks are further divided between required courses, electives, and research or scholarly activity blocks that can be performed during the student’s final two years.
The preclinical years focus on Foundations of Medicine to incorporate osteopathic philosophy into all proceeding courses. The school uses a system-based approach to introducing systems of the body, and the first two years are spent learning about six core systems:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Neurological System and Special Senses
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Systems
- Gastrointestinal and Renal Systems
- Reproductive and Endocrine System
- Dermatologic, Hemostatic, and Lymphatic Systems
Students begin to interact with real-life patients in their second year if they are not sure how to prepare for clinical rotations in their final two years. The Early Clinical Experiences phase of their training includes faculty-supervised participation in local primary care clinics and shadowing of various health care professionals like ICU nurses, resident doctors, and athletic trainers.
The clinical rotation years are when students enter the field and perform ten four-week core clinical rotations in various primary care specialties like pediatrics, OB/GYN, internal medicine, surgery, family medicine, and rural and medically underserved population primary care. There is also one four-week research course and one elective course students can take in another medical specialty.
There are more elective courses in the final year, 5, to be exact, or 20 weeks, meaning students have more freedom to choose which courses to take to fulfill their requirements. Students in their final year can also take time to prepare for licensing exams. The school also participates in several outreach programs in both rural areas and international locations in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, where students can perform a rotation in real-world settings while also fulfilling the mandate of the school to care for medically underserved populations at home and abroad.
2. Master of Arts in Biomedical Sciences
This degree offering is a collaborative effort between VCOM and Bluefield University, but it is not a dual-degree program. Students receive a Master of Arts in Biomedical Sciences, and this degree can significantly increase their competitiveness if they decide to apply to the DO school. The program takes nine months and is done entirely online.
The program is open to all undergraduate students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree and have completed coursework in a variety of life sciences (biological sciences, physics, chemistry) with at least a C grade. Students must also have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to be competitive. There is no MCAT requirement, but students may apply with an MCAT score if it is at or above 496 to stand out from students who do not take the MCAT.
3. Master of Science in Applied Healthcare Data Analytics
As another collaboration between VCOM and a local online university, Averett University, this master’s program takes up to two years and focuses on health care data and its collection, organization, and analysis. Students are taught the basics of data science, data mining, and data analytics as they apply to health care while also learning about the ethical side of data protection and privacy.
Campus and Faculty
The entire school takes up four different campuses in four different states, but the main campus is located in Blacksburg, Virginia. There are additional campuses in Auburn, Alabama, as a joint venture with Auburn University; a campus in Monroe, Louisiana, as a joint venture with the University of Louisiana Monroe; and one more in Spartanburg, South Carolina as a joint venture with a collection of smaller colleges in the area.
The main campus in Blacksburg was opened on a section of the larger Virginia Tech campus, which means VCOM students have full access to Virginia Tech resources like libraries, discounted transportation, and recreational facilities. Many of VCOM’s most advanced teaching simulators are housed in the Simulation and Technology Center located in the main building. VCOM students, especially those specializing in pediatrics or sports and osteopathic medicine, perform many of their clinical rotations at the site. The building also hosts the school’s many labs and research centers, along with the administrative offices.
Affiliated Teaching Hospitals
- Ballad Health – Johnston Memorial Hospital Core Hospital Abingdon, VA
- Wythe County Community Hospital Core Hospital, Wytheville, VA
- Ballad Health – Russell County Medical Center, Lebanon, VA
- Ballad Health – Smyth County Community Hospital, Marion, VA
- Clinch Valley Medical Center, Richlands, VA
- Carilion Tazewell Community Hospital, Tazewell, VA
- Carilion New River Valley Medical Center Christiansburg, VA
- Lewis Gale Hospital Montgomery Blacksburg, VA
- Lewis Gale Hospital Pulaski, Pulaski, VA
- Carilion Giles Community Hospital, Pearisburg, VA
- Lewis Gale Medical Center at Salem, Salem, VA
- Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital Roanoke, VA
- Lewis Gale Hospital at Alleghany, Low Moor, VA
- Salem Veterans Medical Center, Salem, VA
- SOVAH Health – Danville Core Hospital, Danville, VA
- Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, South Boston, VA
- Eastern Virginia Riverside Regional Medical Center Core Hospital Newport News, VA
- Eastern Virginia Augusta Health Core Hospital Fishersville, VA
- Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, Fredericksburg, VA
- W.G Bill Hefner VA Medical Center, Salisbury, NC
- Princeton Community Hospital, Princeton, WV
- Catawba Hospital, Catawba, VA
- 633rd Medical Group Langley-Eustis Air Force Base, Hampton, VA
- Naval Medical Center at Portsmouth, Portsmouth, VA
- Womack Army Medical Center, Fayetteville, NC
The school directs its research resources into investigating health-related issues affecting the local community, like cardiovascular disease, the prevalence of diabetes, and respiratory ailments. But the research interests of the faculty and students are varied. Many of their interests have focused on subjects as wide-ranging as sports-related brain injuries, cancer research, and exploring the possibility of creating apps for medical students to monitor their mental health.
1. Mayra Rodriguez, PhD, MPH – Discipline Chair for Epidemiology, Community and Public Health, and Preventive Medicine
Dr. Rodriguez graduated with an MS from the University of Brownsville, Texas, and received her doctorate from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She was won multiple awards, including the President’s Hero Award from the University of North Texas Health Science Center and the Outstanding Research Paper Presentation prize from the Texas Public Health Association.
Her research interests include how racial discrimination and income disparity impact access to health care for children from families who experience these stresses and more. She has also researched whether motivational interviewing – a type of cognitive behavioral therapy – can help treat criminal justice offenders with alcohol and substances use disorders.
2. Skip Garner, PhD
Dr. Garner is a professor of biomedicine at VCOM and received his PhD in Plasma Physics from the University of Wisconsin Rolla. He has won several awards over the years (Fellow of the Virginia Tech Honors Residence College, Postdoctoral Mentor of the Year) and has been published in over 200 peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Garner worked for the Department of Energy for 12 years, researching fusion energy at various sites worldwide.
His research interests include using bioinformatics to develop new treatments for genetic diseases and cancers while also exploring how to translate patient information into actionable plans using computer science. He also investigates medical education, medical ethics, and text analytics.
Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine- Virginia Campus
2265 Kraft Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Main phone: (540) 231-4000
Phone: (540) 231-6138
1. What is the mission of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine?
The mission of the VCOM is to be a center for high-quality medical training and education to help bring relief to communities in and around Kentucky. The school prides itself on its mission and sees it as integral to its medical school program, which gives students many opportunities to practice in rural and remote communities in the US and abroad.
2. Do I need to take the MCAT and submit my scores?
Yes, VCOM does require that students submit MCAT scores no older than four years and has a minimum MCAT cut-off of 496 to be considered. To be competitive, the school encourages students to have an MCAT somewhere between 500 and 505.
3. What is the minimum GPA requirement?
The GPA requirements are the same for both in-state and out-of-state students. Students are expected to have at least a 3.4 GPA to be considered for the interview stage of the application process.
4. What kind of degree do I need to get into VCOM?
You need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university to be considered a competitive candidate or have taken up to 90 credits from a school in the US. If you have only completed 75% of your bachelor’s degree, you can apply while you complete the rest of your degree.
5. Are there prerequisite courses I have to take?
Yes, VCOM requires that students complete 6 credits each in organic chemistry, general or inorganic chemistry, and physics. Students must also have 6 complete credits in English and Composition. Four credits in biological sciences are also required.
6. How can I apply to VCOM?
All applicants must submit their primary application via AACOMAS and then wait for notification from the medical school to submit a secondary application to them directly.
7. How much does one year at VCOM cost?
One year of medical school in the four-year DO program costs $49,800 for in-state and out-of-state residents. The cost-of-living expenses for one year of a student’s life are estimated to be around $27,760.
8. Is it hard to get into VCOM?
If you are not sure how to get into medical school with a low GPA, you should reconsider whether you want to enroll at VCOM. The school is very stringent when it comes to academics and stresses how much it considers them when reviewing applications. But if you have competitive scores and have an interest in rural medicine or primary care, then you have a good chance of being accepted.
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