This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
- The most important yet obvious indication that should point you towards a D.V.M is a fervent love for animals. If you feel strongly about taking care of animals, then this may be a degree for you.
- There are other factors to consider, however. The D.V.M is an extremely technical and tough degree, and so you should only go for this degree if you are sure you will be able to deal with the immense pressure of a tough four years of study. You will not only be learning about the species that you wish to specialize in, but will have to deal with a broad range of animals (although specialization is possible after you have completed the broad range of study).
- The degree and career path of this field is an extremely emotionally taxing one. As said by Dr. James Blanshard, ”You are a medic, a surgeon, a nutritionist, a family doctor and a bereavement counsellor (and so much more). You are also offering a service and running a business. You need to be prepared to switch among these roles quickly.” Due to this, you need to be absolutely sure about this career path from the get go. A study in Kansas University also recently showed that the depression rate amongst D.V.M. students is considerably higher than in students studying general human medicine. Keep these things in mind before you jump into this field!
TYPES OF DEGREE
In a nutshell, the following degrees + sub-fields/specializations are available for Veterinary Science:
- A D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) is required from an accredited college after your Bachelor’s degree for you to become a vet in the United States. This degree is four years long.
- PHd and dual PHd programs with a D.V.M.s in Veterinary Science are also offered in some universities.
- Currently, just under thirty schools offering an accredited D.V.M. exist within the United States, which can be found here.
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees/specializations within this field):
- Look at all your options carefully. Different schools have different types of facilities/faculty/locations. Since there are only thirty schools to choose from, research each one’s facilities, the type of faculty, and where they are located in depth to see which one is the best fit for you.
- Look at the rankings. These can be found here. Be careful when doing this, and read up on the methodology used and the different criterias. Make your own preference list by figuring out which criterion is most important for you.
You can also check out the following fields if you are interested in a D.V.M.:
- Animal Sciences
- Preventative Veterinary Medicine
- Public Health
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Students interested in applying for D.V.M. in the United States do not need to have a degree in any particular field as long as they have fulfilled the prerequisite requirements of courses that exist for the universities they are applying to (see CourseWork section below). Students have gotten into a Vet Sciences degree with undergraduate degrees in Mathematics, Engineering, English, and many others degrees.
When assessing your application and transcript, admissions’ committees will pay extreme attention to the types of courses you have done. You will be expected to have a strong grasp on a number of science and mathematics subjects. Each school has a set of prerequisite courses they expect you to have done during your undergraduate degrees; although these are largely similar for each program, there may be some differences that you should be careful to check when you research the different universities.
For example, Cornell’s D.V.M. requires one to do the following courses (their exhaustive prerequisite list can be found here):
- English Composition or Writing Intensive Courses worth a full year.
- Biology (or Zoology) I and II with labs.
- General Chemistry I and II with labs.
- One semester of Organic Chemistry.
- General Physics I and II with labs.
- One semester worth of an Advanced Life Sciences course.
Universities also usually indicate a number of recommended courses on their program pages. To bolster your chances of getting into a specific program, try to do these recommended courses as well.
This link includes a detailed chart on every university’s prerequisites in the 2018 cycle. Note that these may be subject to change, and this list also includes some universities outside the USA.
Furthermore, here is a list of recommended classes to take:
- Neuroscience (with neuroanatomy and neurophysiology)
- Animal nutrition
- Metabolism, or a Biochemistry class with a metabolism component
- Reproductive biology (animal)
- Embryology / Developmental Biology
Your GPA is an important part of your application in this field. A GPA within the range of 3.5-4.0 is a competitive one here because of the low number of universities and seats that are existent. Not only this, the study environment for aspiring veterinarians is extremely difficult, and so committees want to see if you have the work ethic and discipline to excel academically. If your GPA is not up to par, you can make up for it by having stellar work or volunteering experience with animals, as well as with the rest of your application.
This is not a requirement, but can boost your application considerably. If you can gain experience in an animal research lab for example, it is definitely going to give you an edge in your application and perhaps even help you define your goals more concretely. Any type of animal research is welcome in your application.
An extremely important aspect of your package — you need to ensure that you have at least some experience working with animals. This can be in the form of an internship at an animal hospital or a clinic, or you could try to secure a job at a vet’s office. Here is a short guide on how you can get a job at a vet’s office (although it is mostly applicable to students in America, you can use some of these tips to try and find work in Pakistan as well). You can’t be picky with the sort of work you have to do at this stage — just getting experience on your plate is golden for your application. Therefore, do not fret if you end up having to clean some kennels during your first animal related job, because eventually you may just be assisting a vet during a surgery!
If you are unable to get a job or an internship at a vet’s office, there is plenty of volunteer work you can do which will be extremely useful in your application. Look for zoos, animal shelters, wildlife rescues, and other related places to volunteer at. Some organizations have yearly opportunities where you can volunteer.
Vet Camp is another great option for aspiring veterinarians to get some experience under their belt. Although these are not available in Pakistan, here is some useful information on Vet Camps that can be found in the USA, if you are able to attend them.
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
Applying to a vet school is comparatively different from applying to another degree, because you will have to use the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service) system to apply to any of the thirty universities. Detailed tutorials on how to use the system exist on the very website, and can be found here. They also have a helpline and contact email in case you get stuck anywhere. A sample application and guided tutorial on how to fill the application for the year 2019 can be found here.
In the VMCAS, you will be required to fill in:
Scores for official tests you have taken such as the GRE.
All your essays. An essay section exists within the academic history portal where you have to answer three open ended questions in essay form (e.g. In what ways do veterinarians contribute to society and what do you hope to contribute?).
Information for three of your recommenders/references. This is found in the supporting information section.
A list of your extra-curricular experiences and achievements.
Specific requirements and questions that are asked of you by the specific programs you wish to apply to. These are found in the program materials section.
Any supporting information that is required
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Overall Application Deadline
Standardized tests or entry exams
GRE: Required (General)
GRE Biology: Often required (check specific programs)
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
Required (in the form of experiences and achievements)
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
The current VMCAS system requires you to answer three essay prompts within the application; each question has a character limit of 1500. It is useful to start your essays well ahead of time in order for you to get the best writing into your application.
Some schools use take the personal statement extremely seriously during the admission process, while some consider it as a minor part of the application, and some schools do not even read it at all, (such as UC Davis SVM pre-2015, but now they say they are taking it into consideration). It is a good idea to contact a specific university’s admissions department and ask them how they score the personal statement to make sure, or do a thorough reading of their program’s website.
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
- It is recommended writing your own statement, and not using some pre-prepared format (especially because this particular statement follows a much older format). Just give yourself enough time to do it.
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- A clear direction. If you are extremely vague, or give cliche responses, it can bring your application down considerably for schools where the statement matters.
- Indications that you don’t just have an interest in this field, but that you have acted on your interests. Speak of experiences that indicate that you
What are some elements of exceptional statements:
- Choosing the right kind of experience/story to talk about. You may have a lot of experience that is relevant to the profession, but due to space and stylistic constraints you may not be able to add all of them to your statement. In this case, you can try to choose experiences that are most “medical” or technical in nature, or experiences that are most vivid to you and which you can talk about easily. It can also be a good idea to choose an experience that ties in with the rest of your narrative the most, to make the entire thing cohesive.
- Descriptions of possible role models.
- More than anything, the essay section exists for admission committees to understand who you are as a person, and why you are unique. They wish to find out more about your characteristics, drive, and personality as well, so make sure not to repeat things that are already apparent in the rest of your application, but factors that set you apart which cannot be included in the rest of your structured application. It is advised however, to expand on other areas of your application, such as describing experiences and achievements in detail and why they have made you perfect for this program.
What are bad statements/ what things to avoid:
- Not addressing the prompt. You will be given a prompt or a question to answer. Read this extremely carefully and make sure to address every part of it in your statements. Ignoring the prompt will show poor comprehension skills and give an unfavorable impression. A good idea after you have written your draft is to get your mentor or a third-party to read both the prompt and your response and ask them candidly if they feel you have addressed everything that you needed to.
- Spelling mistakes/grammatical errors.
- Things that you cannot back up when interviewed. Do not do any name-dropping or talk about any articles if you have not thoroughly researched them, for example.
- Avoid being general in these essays, and remember that this is your only opportunity to present yourself as a dynamic individual. Speak of your long term goals and have a clear direction. If you get picked for an interview, you will be asked about these things as well as other details from the rest of your essays, so make sure you have put down stuff you can talk about at length!
- Do not repeat things in your essays that are already made clear in the application. You have a limited amount of space in your statements and you should use it wisely to present unique aspects about yourself that are not already apparent. Moreover, the statement is supposed to tie things together, not repeat them.
- Do not get too caught up in the storytelling, because this can take away from the admission committee finding out about how you are as a person (which is the most important part). In short, don’t make your entire statement revolve around one story.
- Stay within the word limit, because it is strict and your essay will automatically be cut down to fit the word limit in the system.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
These are called “evaluations” in the supporting information section of the VMCAS and must be submitted by your recommenders themselves. Some programs have specific requirements for evaluator roles so make sure to check these before you come to tackle this section. For example, they may ask for one professor, one employer, and one supervisor.
You must get three evaluators to submit evaluations for you. You are allowed up to six, but having more than three does not improve your chances of getting in.
In order to request an evaluation, you must enter specific information about your evaluator (more information here). Once you save your evaluation request, an email will be sent to your evaluator asking them to complete your form. This is why, it is essential that you speak to your recommender well in advance and explain the system to them so as to cause the least inconvenience and trouble. You will be able to monitor whether your evaluators have completed the recommendation or not, so make sure to send them gentle reminders to get your application done timely.
Recommended sources for evaluators include:
- A member of faculty or a professor who is well acquainted with your work
- A faculty advisor
- A veterinary professional with whom you have experience
- Someone who is acquainted with your voluntary work and has supervised it
- Any sort of mentor (advice on how to work with a mentor can be found here)
- Any other employer
Having a good range of recommenders will give you an edge in the application.
- Before requesting your recommenders for LoR, go over the following links carefully:
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD LETTERS
What is essential in the LoRs:
- Insight into how the positive qualities of the candidate fit in with a career in Veterinary Medicine.
- Speaking of your character as a person. This is important in medicine, for example when confidential communication is required with patients.
- Speaking of your discipline. Veterinary Medicine requires a huge amount of responsibility and self-regulation.
What are some elements of exceptional LoRs:
- Descriptions of favorable personal qualities of the student. The most important aspects here are academic record and professionalism.
- Analysis of the student’s potential. Why does the recommender think they are a good candidate for the program?
- Indications of favorable interpersonal relationship building qualities through the letter. This is a very important aspect of veterinary science.
- Objectivity. If your recommender mentions any weak points and explains how a DVM would help in fixing these issues, the letter itself will gain more credibility. The recommender should also offset the candidate’s weak points with their positive qualities.
What are bad LoRs/ what things to avoid
- Generalizations that do not seem objective. This will decrease the credibility of the letter.
- Short length and lack of detail.
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Interview season usually begins from November and goes on until February. The interview is one of the final and most important steps towards vet school, and there are a number of ways in which you can hone your interviewing skills to better ensure selection.
The interview can be taken in either the traditional format, or the MMI format (multiple mini interviews). The latter is more popularly used at the moment.
The interview exists for the committee to figure out why you want to be a veterinarian, what your qualifications are to study in this field, and why you have chosen this school specifically. They will also try to see what makes you a fit for their program, so try to leave a lasting impact.
Make sure to go through all of these before your interview!
Here is a tentative list of questions you could be asked (make sure to also look at the comments of the post). Note that this is a student’s experience, and so read it with scrutiny.
The interview section in the Cornell pre-vet guide is extremely helpful for more specific tips. (Pages 13-14)
Here is a current student’s advice on how to tackle MMI interviews.
Carefully read every single piece of information you are given about the interview. Your specific university might give you a dress code, for example, so make sure to follow these sorts of instructions.
Go through your entire VMCAS application in detail (more specifically your essay section). The interviewer could ask you anything on the basis of your application.
Set up a practice interview with your friends, mentors, professors, or even family. This will help make you more comfortable for when you go for the real thing.
Read up on current news related to Veterinary Science as this could be a topic that is brought up.
Think about why you want to be a veterinarian—make sure you have interesting and earnest responses to questions that could be asked that correlate with your own interest and drive.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for interviews (under the tab of ‘interview’).
The General GRE is a requirement. Some universities also accept the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in place of the GRE.
Some universities will expect you to do the Biology GRE as well. Make sure to read up where this is a specific requirement.
The following sources were consulted in developing this tip-sheet and we encourage you to consult these sources for additional information and guidance on your application.
Furthermore, the following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet:
Youngpost, UC Davis, Penn State, The Balance Careers (1) (2) (3), Living My Dream