ROANOKE – Less than one percent of the students who applied to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine actually got in this year. 4,400 students applied and 307 interviewed for just 42 spots.
"I'm hoping to go into orthopedics. I'm a runner myself so I definitely know what it's like to go through injuries," said Alyssa Vassallo, a student from New Jersey.
Vassallo applied to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine twice.
"When I came to interview, it's kind of hard to describe, but you just get a feeling that you belong somewhere. I couldn't find one thing that I didn't like about this place," she said.
That's why when Vassallo got put on the waiting list, she didn't accept an offer from another school and worked with people like Barbara Parshall, senior director of admissions.
"We like to offer those people that we've interviewed the opportunity to take the next year to build their resume, make it just a little bit stronger and make them stand out," said Parshall.
Vassallo shadowed more people in the medical field, getting more hands on experience. She applied again and this time got in for the fall 2017.
"We're looking for people who aspire to do research because they're passionate about it. They have demonstrated they have medical motivation. That patient interaction. If you don't have interaction with a patient you don't necessarily demonstrate that you actually know what it means to be a doctor so shadowing positions is important as well," said Parshall.
"It was just a really personal process being able to feel like they wanted me and I'm not just a number. I think that's really important," said Vassallo.
The school is small by design and can only hold 42 students. Parshall says many other medical schools have classes of 100. That's why they work with students to improve their applications, because sometimes it's not what they've done, but how they describe it that can make a difference in being accepted.