How to get into vet school

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1 How to get into vet school By Amanda Hoffman, YCP Biology Class of 2012 Before you begin make sure that veterinary medicine is exactly what you want to study in your future, that this is the career you want to hold and that this will make you happy. If you are saying I am still not sure, that is completely fine. Take some time to think it over. Shadow at a local vet office for a couple of hours to understand what a normal day is like as a veterinary practitioner. Research on the internet various careers that a veterinary degree makes you eligible for. There is so much more than simply being a veterinary practitioner, although this is the most common route. There are research opportunities, opportunities with the government and military, academia opportunities and more. This is one of the reasons why a veterinary degree was appealing to me. It makes me versatile as so many doors open with this degree. Be aware, however, that a veterinary degree is not the degree for you if you want to just help animals because you love them. Granted, veterinarians do this on a daily basis, and all vets love their patients. Still, this cannot be the sole reason to enter the field because it will eventually destroy you if it is. As you may know or will soon find out, animals are used for research and sometimes life sacrifices are made in medicine for the betterment of the field. Similarly, in hospitals, there are times when nothing more can be done for a patient or the client does not want to pursue farther treatment even though there is more that can be done, making euthanasia the only option. Make sure that you are okay with this concept (especially because your future interviewers will ask you this during the application process). Moreover, as a veterinarian, clients are sometimes just as important as your furry patient, and you must make sure you can handle people in a professional and friendly manner, especially if you are a veterinary practitioner. If you are saying I want to pursue this, I know it, please continue! 1

2 The application process actually begins way before your last year in undergraduate school. As part of the application process, you are required to list all animal experiences, veterinary experiences and research experiences. Therefore, it is essential that you start NOW to gain any type of experience that you can. Working on a farm, volunteering at an animal shelter, working in a kennel or any type of experience with animals that you physically interacted with animals is considered animal experience and should be listed in this section. Veterinary experience includes working under a veterinarian, shadowing a veterinarian or volunteering at a veterinarian hospital. And research experience is fairly self explanatory. A benefit about York College is that you are guaranteed research experience through your senior thesis project! Also, in many upper division classes, professors allow you to design independent projects so I even included these projects (particularly the ones in animal physiology, animal behavior and zoology) as research experience in my application. I truly feel that this was one way that I stood out among the other applicants. Overall, it is important that you put in enough hours and gain as much experience as you can because some schools have experience hour requirements (as much as 500 hours or more). However, in order to have a competitive application, you want to make sure you exceed this number greatly! So, contact your local vet offices, animal shelters and ask what you can do during your summers and vacation breaks before vet school. Don t prolong this. The actual application that almost all veterinary schools in the U.S. use is the VMCAS application. VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service) can simply be found by googling VMCAS or following the following link Medical-College-Application-Service.aspx which takes you to the AAVMC website. The actual application is due in the first few days in October of the year before you want to enter graduate school. However, do not wait until September or even August to start the application! VMCAS opens the application in the first week or so of June, and I would suggest that you create your VMCAS account and look over the application then. A sample 2

3 application can be found on the same website as the application so you can familiarize yourself with the application well before June if you so desire. A couple of things I would mention about the application now is that the VMCAS requires a personal statement, which, for me, was the hardest part of the entire application because it asks you to summarize everything you feel about veterinary medicine, why you want to pursue this career and discuss experiences and state why you are the best candidate for the schools all in less than 5,000 characters. The best advice I can give you for writing this is to speak with your heart and make your statement stand out. Give an outstanding experience, or talk about a situation that you really shined in dealing with veterinary medicine. Talk about your background, and if there were any serious disadvantages you had, talk about it. Basically anything goes in this essay, as long as you write well and make yourself stand out. Samples can be found online so if you are unsure of what to say (much like I was), you can read through them and get some ideas. Another part of the application requires you to submit recommendations from veterinarians and other professionals who you worked closely with during the last couple of years. Therefore, make sure you have a good working relationship with a few professionals. Your senior thesis mentor is a perfect example. The number of required recommendations vary with each school, so make sure you know you met the requirements for each school you are interested in. You are allowed a maximum of six recommendations, and to give you an idea, I had five people submit a recommendation for me. Supplemental applications are the last part of the application process. Depending on the school you apply to, they may or may not require a supplemental application and application fee. Also depending on the school, the supplemental application may be a page of extra information or it may require more essays. Make sure that you fill out not only the VMCAS application but any supplemental applications the schools you are interested in require. Be careful of the deadlines for these applications too! The deadlines will vary greatly for these applications, as some are before the VMCAS deadline and others are after the deadline. Overall, during the 3

4 application process, you are going to feel like you keep repeating yourself over and over again. If you feel this way, you are probably doing it right! Which veterinary school to apply to depends on who you are. The choice can be very fun but very complicated because the veterinary schools in the U.S. are as diverse as the field itself. To help aid your decision, you can go to the AAVMC website and download summaries of each school in the United States which tells you a little about the school, the class size of the school and how many out-ofstate students they usually take, an estimated tuition cost for residents and non-residents, supplemental application requirements and pre-requisite requirements. Analyzing these summaries really helped me figure out which schools I was interested in most, and then I looked on the schools actual website. Overall, when making the choice on which vet school to apply to, remember that they are all accredited institutions which means they are all excellent schools and meet the educational requirements set by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). Also, if you know you are interested in one part of veterinary medicine over another such as large, small, exotic or research, look at what each school offers in these areas. Prerequisites vary from school to school just like everything else. Therefore, make sure you have covered all prerequisites. For the most part, your biology degree or chemistry degree from York College will cover all the prerequisite classes for the schools. However, some schools require animal nutrition which is not offered at York. Fortunately, there are online courses that you can take that veterinary schools recognize although not all programs are accepted so call the schools you are interested in to make sure they accept an online program you are looking at. I took my animal nutrition class from Oklahoma State University, and it was very easy to do and accepted by all the schools I was looking at. Simply contact the university and they will sign you up for the class, send you all course material including the textbook and you have one year to complete the course. Of course, you have to pay the tuition for the 4

5 class, but I had an overall great experience with it. Also, some vet schools will require both parts of biochemistry if your school offers it in two parts (which York does) while other vet schools only require the first part of biochemistry. This requirement is different than other medical schools which only require one biochemistry course. Therefore, make sure you sign up for biochemistry in the fall and spring at York. GRE is the required standardized test for veterinary schools. I recommend buying a GRE practice book and do multiple tests before actually taking the GRE. Take the GRE seriously and make sure you score as best as you can. On many of the school summary (aka descriptor) pages (off of the AAVMC website), average GRE scores can be found. Keep in mind that you can retake the GRE if you did not score as well as you wanted. However, some schools will average your old and new scores while others will look at the best score. Also, if you think you want to retake the GRE, make sure you allow yourself enough time to do so, because there is a certain amount of time that must pass between each GRE attempt, I think it is two months but I m not sure. Transcripts from all undergraduate schools you attended (even if you went there for one class) are required by each veterinary school, and must be sent to the school directly. When sending transcripts, make sure that you send it to the correct address to make sure the document is received by the correct department in the school. To assure you have the correct address, look on the school website, and it will usually tell you where to send it. Also, it may be beneficial to call the schools periodically to make sure they received your transcripts and GRE scores before the deadlines, since things can get misplaced when around 1000 different students are applying at the same time. Interviews 5

6 are the next step in the application process after submitting the VMCAS, all supplemental applications, GRE scores and undergraduate transcripts. From October until the end of February, veterinary schools make decisions about their applicants and narrow down which students they want to interview (usually schools will narrow the application pool from around 1000 to 200 or 300). Some schools will contact you in December while others wait until February. It is important to know that not all schools require an interview, but all schools that do require an interview need in-person interviews so traveling to the school is absolutely necessary. And of course, not every school interviews during York College breaks so you will have to miss class. However, I never had a problem with this because our faculty is very understanding. To prepare for the interview, I recommend making a mock interview appointment with the career services department here at the college. I did this, and I found it very beneficial because, even though I thought I was ready for the actual interview, I found that I really wasn t. Also, there are a lot of practice interview questions that can be found online, and I advise that you look over these and think of how you would answer them. I did this and found that many of the questions I was given in my actual interview I had found online and was able to form an answer easily due to the practice I had with these questions. The questions asked can range from personal questions such as what books do you like to read or tell me about yourself to factual questions such as what are the common vaccinations dogs are given to ethical questions such as how do you feel about euthanasia or how do you feel about terminal surgery and animal research? Basically, be prepared for everything. For ethical questions regarding tail docking, animal research, convenience euthanasia, ear cropping, and others like these, please refer to the AVMA policy. Make sure you familiarize yourself with all AVMA policies because you do not want to give an answer that goes against the policy they teach in veterinary school. For example, before researching the information, I did not know that veterinary schools do not support the practice of ear cropping and tail docking and do not teach this in vet school (which was surprising because many vets I work with do these procedures), so if I would have said I was fine with this, I could have been looked upon negatively. 6

7 Interviews can last from 15 minutes to an hour. For the actual interview, make sure that you walk into the interview room with confidence and keep your head up. Look at each one of your interviewers, because usually there are at least 3 or more, introduce yourself and shake their hand if possible. During questioning, keep eye contact with your interviewers and relax. I interviewed at four schools, and not once was I uncomfortable during the interview. And trust me, I usually freeze up and become very nervous during these types of situations. However, I found that the interviewers were always so nice which made me relax! The interviewers really care about the school they are representing, and they want to make a good impression on you just like you want to make a good impression on them. I found that at all my interviews, even though I was asked questions, the interview was more of a conversation. For example, at the interview at Purdue, we even began talking about snowboarding and some great resorts to visit because one of the interviewers and I really enjoy the sport! Overall, the goal of the interview process is not to impress them with all of your accomplishments (because they already read your application although some schools will have only half the interviewing team read your application). Rather, the goal of the interview is to show the interviewers that you are a normal and confident person who can carry on a natural conversation, respond to questions under pressure and demonstrate proper ethics. Keep in mind, your interviewers are going to be the people fighting for your acceptance, along with your application, when the entire admission committee meets to make final decisions. Because I relaxed and demonstrated everything I mentioned above, Purdue actually offered me a scholarship because the interviewers were so impressed. Of course, not all interviews are the same, and some schools do not follow the normal interview process. While I personally did not have any interviews of this nature, I talked to other students who did. These interviews are called mini interviews in which a question is given to you outside the interview room, you have a few minutes to develop an answer, and then you present your answer to interviewers. This is done for several questions, and only a few schools use this process. 7

8 After your interview, you may feel like it is necessary to send thank you notes, but be cautious with this. Some schools specifically ask you not to send thank you letters. Waiting after the interview can be one of the longest times of your life, but again, relax. At this point, you have done everything you can to impress the school, and now it s up to them. Many schools use formulas to make their final decisions. For example, interviews are 20%, GRE scores are 15%, essays are 30%... etc. Eventually you will hear a response from the school either by or letter. From two schools I even received a call from the dean. You will either be given an acceptance, be wait listed or removed entirely from the application process. If you are accepted celebrate! You have achieved your goal of getting into vet school. However, do not accept your acceptance just yet, unless you have been accepted to the school of your dreams and you know without a doubt that is the school for you. It is possible to be accepted to more than one school (I was accepted to five) and while this may seem stressful, it is not. Because all schools use the same application process, they all agree to not pressure you into a decision until a common set deadline, which was April 15 th for me. And most schools will let you know of your application status before this common deadline so you can make the best decision. If you are accepted to more than one school, now you have a choice to make. I found this choice to be one of the hardest of all. So to help you, I will tell you what I looked for in each school. Financially, I looked at the tuition cost and the financial aid available to me. Few schools give you a financial aid package before this common deadline so tuition is the main financial factor. Also, schools very rarely give scholarships to their students based on merit. If they do offer you a scholarship, they truly want you to go there. Another factor I looked at was the atmosphere of the community and average living accommodations. I personally like more rural and quiet communities so I looked for that. I also looked at the atmosphere of 8

9 the school itself, the classrooms, the faculty and students and the large and small animal hospitals. I looked at the student to faculty ratio and how friendly the faculty are. Coming from York, I was used to having a close relationship with the faculty, and I did not want to lose that. I would really recommend talking with student ambassadors when you visit the school for interviews or contact the school and ask if there are any students you could talk to. Talking to students helped me make my final decision. In regards to the program, I looked at the case load in the large and small animal hospital. I looked at the tracking program (if the school offered it) and other classes the school offers. Surgery was really important to me, and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of surgery experience so I made sure I chose a school that would provide that (and this experience varies greatly from school to school). And of course, I analyzed the little things the school provided. Some schools provide microscopes for free while others make you rent. Some schools only allow you to access patient records while on school property while others allow you to access it anywhere. I also looked at the clubs the school offered and different wet labs each club has for members. As I said, it was the hardest decision I had to make but eventually I came to the right conclusion after weighing each pro and con of the schools I was accepted to. Hopefully, it will just click and you will know that is the school for you. I chose the University of Missouri, which one will you choose? If you are wait listed be patient. Many students wait until that common deadline to make their decision, but after that deadline, the ball really starts rolling. Schools will contact you quickly and expect a quick answer. I know Kansas State said if the contact you and offer admission after the April 15 th deadline, they expect a yes or no answer from you in 24 hours. 9

10 If you are removed from the application process don t give up because many students do not get in the first year they apply. Simply take this extra time to gain more experience of any kind and make your application even more appealing! Also, after the application process is over and the freshman class is picked for that year, you can contact each school that you applied to and ask them why you were not considered farther. Many schools offer a service to tell you where you were lacking in your application and how to improve that. Lastly BEST OF LUCK TO YOU IN YOUR APPLICATION PROCESS! If you need any farther information or need some advice, feel free to contact me by at Again, GOOD LUCK! 10

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