Monday, July 7, 2014

Application Basics

Hey everyone!! Sorry I haven't posted in quite a while, things have been crazy with graduation and my crazy personal life.. that's something for a different kind of blog [the kind no one wants to read!]. Anyway, I've been thinking about all the students that are currently applying to veterinary school this cycle and how much they are looking for advice online- I know I did, anyway!  I spent hours typing into the search bar "How to get into vet school," "How to be competitive on a vet school application," and asking more questions than anyone could ever answer. So, I thought I might give my advice on applying and hopefully help one nervous student feel better! 

When I sat down to write this I couldn't even remember what I put on my application because it took me about three weeks to make sure I had everything on there and then check it over about 1,000 times before I clicked submit. This was a problem... so I utilized the re-application feature on the VMCAS portal to take a peek at what I submitted last year. [Shhhhh!... I'm sure that's not what they intended that feature for.] So, to help keep my thoughts organized I'll break it down like they have done on the application page.  As far as your personal info and other things, they're all going to be concrete; the more important questions are pertaining to the Experiences section, so that's what I'll focus on.

Veterinary Experience:

This category is considered any work you did under the direct supervision or direction of a veterinarian. This includes if you shadowed in a clinic (it helps if you get hands-on), and if you went to any functions where you learned from a veterinarian. For example, I was able to put Dr. Nicholas Bacon, an amazing veterinarian who teaches oncology at the University of Florida CVM under my veterinary experience because he taught the lab on suture technique during the APVMA conference at UF.  Things like that count, so list them!  (If you're a pre-vet student looking for some advice, join APVMA, even if your school doesn't have a pre-vet club {like my school didn't} because they provide some AMAZING opportunities to get to know lots of fields and many vet professionals as well as students from around the country.)  

I know that didn't sound like a lot of advice, but veterinary experience is pretty straight forward- if a veterinarian is present, put it under veterinary experience, and the more diverse the better. You need to appear well-rounded.  Honestly, I had minimal large animal veterinary experience and I still got accepted, but there has to be diversity somewhere. I think my interest and experience with wildlife veterinary medicine showed the diversity I lacked in large animal, but try to get hours in different fields as well as with different veterinarians.

Animal Experience:

This seems to be the category everyone is most nervous about- including me when I was applying.  The reason for all the nervousness is the expected quantity of hours put in here... but I'm here to tell you that quality is better than quantity! I didn't have that many animal experience hours relative to those that worked a lot in those fields, but the quality of the hours I had was pretty great, so I believe that made up some of the difference. In fact, that's one thing Ohio State really stressed: Quality over quantity.

So what counts as animal experience? I put things from helping to take care of cows for a couple days while my friend was out of town, to pet-sitting, training my dog (pet ownership), to being in the equestrian club for two semesters, and volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation facility.  As much as things like "pet ownership" seem trivial they can prove to be useful if you learn something about animal interaction during those times.


This category I believe is a BIG DEAL.  The interest in research needs to be there because it shows the students' ability to ask questions in a scientific way, and those questions can only come from a good educational background and the passion to search for those answers whether in literature or in the laboratory.  If you're still in undergrad, take the opportunities presented to you to conduct your own research, or even do projects under professors in your department. You pay a lot of money for your education, so utilize those resources you have in this category! For example, one research project I did was only literature based and was a review of Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia, which was a case I experienced during some of my veterinary experience hours. While it was literature based, I learned a lot about the disease and about how research is conducted in the veterinary field. 

Community Activities:

There isn't much I can say about this category other than: put everything you have done within your community from high school to present.  I put things like Vacation Bible School Aid from 9th grade on, to Pep Band, All Ohio State Fair Band, and all of the clubs and organizations I participated in during undergrad. These organizations also had some volunteer activities that were required of us, and I listed those as well!  I ended up with a lot in this section, and I also included things like CPR/First Aid Certification. So, don't be afraid to include a lot in this section, as much as you have done.

Rhetoric Matters:

The way you word your experiences is really important to the context in which they're viewed.  It's important to always be answering the question: "What did I learn from this experience?" If you word it to sound unimportant or boring, that is how the admissions committee will read it as well.  Always keep in mind that your goal is show how you learned something, and why it is important for your application.

Phew! After all that I'll leave you with one more tip: DO NOT LIE ON YOUR APPLICATION.  If you feel like you don't have enough of something, don't panic!  I guarantee that everyone was lacking in one area or another when they applied, so lying about it will not help you. Those topics will come up in your interview, especially if they seem a little fantastic, and then you'll definitely panic! They look for what you're passionate about, and if you add other things to look more well-rounded than you are, it will tarnish what might stand out about you. Stay true to who you are and what you're passionate about, put down as much as you can without fabricating experiences.

I hope this helps! If you have any specific questions you would like to see answered, feel free to comment! 

Thanks for reading, God Bless!