Veterinary medicine is a rewarding but competitive field. Gaining admission to an accredited veterinary school such as Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet)* requires planning and careful work. Before applying to vet school, check out the vet school application tips below to better understand what you can do to strengthen your chance for vet school admission.
STRATEGY FOR CREATING A STRONG VET SCHOOL APPLICATION
Your vet school application itself has several parts. You can learn more about the requirements for admission in another entry in this Ross Vet blog series. Here, we will focus more on preparation and strategy.
PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY
Applying to vet school has many moving parts and can take time. It’s better to start your vet school application early—in fact, your preparation may have already begun. Perhaps you have completed some prerequisites and built relationships with professors or veterinarians—some of whom may write letters of recommendation for you. But even if you haven’t yet taken these steps, you probably have begun to gain relevant experiences, and you also probably have a passion for veterinary medicine. Your values, desire to serve, and curiosity are important parts of who you will become as a veterinarian down the road. Your vet school application should highlight your virtues and interests.
GRADES, GRE SCORES AND MORE
Good university grades are important for your vet school application, as is your score on the Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®). But they are only part of the overall student portrait admissions reviewers want to see. Applicants can also show their worth by writing excellent personal statements, or by acing interviews. Applicants can explain how they have evolved as students over the course of their studies, and how that evolution translates into a commitment to veterinary medicine. Admissions reviewers do not expect perfection. They want to see determination, resilience, growth, and triumph over adversity.
EXPERIENCE WITH ANIMALS
Experience with animals is a major part of your vet school application. At Ross Vet, you need at least 150 hours under the supervision of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) for vet school admission, but most students gather many more hours than that. In fact, applicants have an average of about 1,660 hours of veterinary experience and 1,130 hours of animal experience by the time they seek vet school admission, according to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).
Hours gaining meaningful and productive hands-on experience are very important, but the experience should be well-rounded and demonstrate a variety of abilities and interests for the vet school application. For example, exposure to both small and large animals will help, as will time spent working with exotic or “pocket pets.” Also, applicants should try their hand at multiple veterinary specialties.
Not all students will have easy access to a wide range of opportunities, but many veterinarians are eager to provide experience to prospective vet students. It may help for students to start small and prove themselves. For example, you might shadow practicing vets as well as their assistants. If you stay out of their way and observe carefully, it can be a good learning experience—and it may open doors to other opportunities.
SET YOURSELF APART
You probably already know that your vet school application should list experience with work, clubs, and organizations, including any leadership responsibilities. Think of your experience in terms of how it demonstrates your virtues—among them accountability, maturity, responsibility, and dedication to service.
Students applying to vet school sometimes focus on volunteering with animals alone, or they think non-animal experience may be irrelevant—it’s not. Reviewers who decide on vet school admission want to learn who you are as an entire person. Your long-term interests in sports, music, science, and the arts are all relevant and should be included in your vet school application. Outside interests add depth and color to a vet school application, and they help to show the person behind the transcripts.
Finally, you should seize opportunities to participate in conducting research, even if it is not in the veterinary field. Conducting research shows critical thinking, active learning, and an inquisitive mind. Research experience makes you stand out from the crowd. If you have the chance, finding a way to conduct research is one of our top vet school application tips.
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
Any professor or vet can write a general letter of recommendation for you. But letters that stand out show that the author has known the applicant for some time, and that they are making their recommendation based on sound personal knowledge. If you have only known a vet for a few weeks, they may not know you well enough to write a strong letter of recommendation.
This is an area where preparation is key. Think about likely recommendation prospects and approach these professors and vets early. Remember that professors in particular will have a number of such letters to write, so it is critical that you give them enough time to put thought into your particular recommendation.
The essay or personal statement part of your vet school application is more important than you might expect. It’s the part of applying to vet school where you tell your story, share your values and goals, and provide a theme to your application. Think about likely questions an admission reviewer might ask and consider them while creating your personal statement.
At Ross Vet, a personal essay is required as part of your application. We ask that you explain a defining moment that helped steer you toward a career in veterinary medicine. Consider using that moment as the focal point of your essay. If applying through VMCAS, the AAVMC application service, the personal statement will be accepted as your essay.
Although there is no set of rules mandating what a strong personal statement should include, here are a few basics to help you successfully craft an effective personal statement:
- Discuss how you would contribute to the profession and patient care, all of which will help you stand out from other applicants.
- Explain why you are good candidate for veterinary school—in a pile of 100 applications, would you enjoy reading your statement?
- Convey your passion for veterinary medicine in your statement.
- Avoid repeating information from your transcripts or reference letters.
- Ask yourself if this essay is a good representation of your character, ideals, and aspirations.
ADVICE FOR WHEN YOU ARE APPLYING TO VET SCHOOL
Your personal statement should highlight your values and goals. Vet school is a formidable academic challenge that requires perseverance and drive. Be sure to feature your personal values, your dedication, and the contributions you hope to make to veterinary medicine and the larger world. But do not just talk about your values—show how you have demonstrated them throughout your experiences, volunteer work, and relationships.
Do not confine yourself to vet-related experiences; vet schools value communication and interpersonal skills as well. After all, while vets care for animals, they also work closely with people, typically as the leader of a care team. This is another place where you can show the breadth of your experience and add personality to your vet school application.
You should write your statement long before you are ready to submit your application. Be sure to have people you trust read the statement to provide constructive criticism, and find a grammar expert to proofread it for you. Remember, your vet school application should show strong communication skills. You don’t want mistakes to slip into your final draft.
Now that you know how to apply to vet school, take a closer look at the DVM program at Ross Vet, where the broad-based curriculum integrates unique research opportunities, classroom study, and hands-on clinical training. If you have the necessary animal experience and have followed some or all of these tips, perhaps you are ready to Apply for admission to Ross Vet.
*Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine confers a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, which is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE), 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173, Tel: 800.248.2862. For more information please visit: https://www.avma.org/education/accreditation-veterinary-colleges.
The AVMA COE uses defined standards to evaluate veterinary medical education programs, including facilities, clinical resources, curriculum, faculty, student outcomes and research programs. The standards are interpreted and applied by the AVMA COE-accredited veterinary medical education programs in relation to its mission.