The Summer Before

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to sit and get to writing an update about my own application process. It’s official, I’m a part of the class of 2022! In a few short years, I’ll be a vet, assuming I can handle what vet school throws my way. I received a call offering me a seat off the alternate list for my top pick school, I obviously accepted while holding back some ugly – good – crying.

I had utilized SDN like most pre-vets (or even general pre-med students) and had been sure that due to my stats and (apparently unbelievable quantity) of my veterinary/animal hours, that I would not be getting in on my first cycle. Most of the reasons consisted of my obvious lack of a bachelor’s degree, my hours, lack of club involvement during undergrad, in progress courses (ochem 1 and 2, and biochem), age, and lack of research hours. It’s important to remember that while online resources such as SDN can be very helpful, the answers you receive aren’t the end all and there is still hope! Among the SDN stats you can also find those who had below average GPA, GRE scores, hours of experience, etc. who still were chosen among many others to attend vet school!

The summer before school has been filled with ensuring I have all the items checked off my list for matriculation; which includes updating all my vaccines, starting my pre-exposure rabies vaccines, and getting all my titers done for all my vaccines. The college I’ll be attending also has a dress code: business casual; so it seems my wardrobe will also be in need of an update to ensure I have enough clothes to not have to do laundry just about every week.

I’ve put in my notice at work and we’ve come to an agreement for my last day being August 18th, orientation is August 20th, and classes start August 27th. It’s happening so fast and it’s already June, next thing I know I’ll be hugging my coworkers on my last day. I’ve discussed coming back during vacations to continue my work as a tech, I couldn’t imagine spending 4 years and not continuing my tech skills or returning to my hospital. I’ve been lucky enough to have a shift with coworkers who support me and teach me every step of the way. We are all planning a housewarming party at my new apartment, which by the way is about 10 minutes from the school; needless to say that criteria was important so I can sleep in as much as possible! And of course be in class on time.

The most important thing to remember about the summer before is to enjoy it. Do not spend the time studying, instead spend the summer with friends, family, loved ones. Spending the summer studying will not be able to prepare you for what you have to come.

 

Until next time,

The Importance of Self-Care

We are nearing the end of a semester; for some this will be the break before the start of vet school and other’s are nearing the start of an(other) application cycle. No matter where you are in your journey, it’s always best to remember the real meaning of self-care and the importance of taking a break every once in a while. More often than not, pre-vet students (Hell, pre-med students in general) have this concept of what makes the perfect applicant.

What grade can I get, what can I do, what award/certificate can I win that will better my value to other schools? What will make me more competitive and well-rounded? What grade do I need on my final to get an A/B/C in the class? Where else can I apply for volunteering/shadowing/employment in a clinic? etc. etc.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. You can be the best applicant possible and someone is more preferred in some other way/shape/form. And, you can’t be successful in all your endeavors if you wear yourself down too thin. I almost did just that this semester, I fell behind in studying

Now, let’s not take this as I’m saying grades aren’t important; that it’s okay to glide by with Cs. That is not what you should take from this! School is still very important to me, it’s an experience, it’s my education, and I don’t plan on taking it for granted. My undergraduate courses have/are setting the foundation for what vet school will use to build my knowledge upon. But getting home after working 18 hour shifts has taught me that taking care of myself isn’t selfish. I shouldn’t feel guilty for taking a day or two off to sleep, rest; do things I find enjoyable.

It’s when you don’t take care of your mind and body that your light burns out. There should be absolutely zero shame involved with taking a break or saying “no” to staying late. Take pride in your abilities and learn this lesson early, stop and take time for yourself. If you feel like your light is burning out, do not be afraid to reach out to people: family, friends, coworkers, professors, peers, etc. Heck, you could even find a veterinary professionals group online and feel free to reach out! We are all in this together and we’ve all experienced similar things before, utilize us and lean on us for support! We are in this field together.

With how much of ourselves we give to every client/patient, it is a necessity in order for our survival. Not only do our clients and patients deserve better, but so do we (veterinary professionals of all sorts).

We are at our best when we are well fed, rested, and refreshed. We cannot sufficiently serve from an empty vessel.

 

Until then,

Veterinary School – VMCAS Round 2?

We are a mere two months away from the VMCAS 2018-2019 application cycle opening up! Some from 2017-2018 cycle have been rejected, accepted, or wait-listed at their school(s) of choice and are eagerly awaiting any further news within these upcoming months. Never the less, we are anticipating the best and the worst while waiting. Rather than staring at our portals/email all day, everyday we could be hankering down and figuring out how to ensure a win for next cycle. Even if you end up getting off the wait-list, or even hearing back from your dream school, at least you could say you were prepared for the “worst”.

Rather than waiting until May, getting a head start on buffing up your application for the upcoming cycle will ensure that you’re not scrambling to get stuff done and put together at the last minute! Take a look at your previous stats; see what could be improved upon, what were your weakest points? What could you boost? What do you feel you could elaborate more on (past experience descriptions, etc.)? Any make sure you take advantage of contacting the previously applied schools and discuss these factors with them as well; remember they are your friends in ensuring you grow to be the best applicant possible.

I’ve been wait-listed at my top school of choice, so I’ve spent the past few months reviewing my own application and improving where I can. I’ve found it difficult to do while finishing up prerequisites and working full-time.

The best thing I’ve found that I can do for myself is also spending the time relaxing and handling my workload to the best of my ability! I have a habit of overworking (especially with us being so understaffed currently) that I tend to create an imbalance between my work, school, and personal life (reflected in my lack of sleep). To maintain my sanity and ensure I don’t get burned out early, I make it a habit to take some time away from studying and focusing on myself. Do I feel guilty doing so? Definitely!! However, that shouldn’t be the case, and I will touch up more on self-care in an upcoming blog.

While preparing for the(/another?) application cycle, contact the schools of interest and request to speak with an advisor, they want you to succeed; it’s up to you to utilize all the resources available to you!

 

Until then,

 

Undergrad – Getting a C

For most of us it’s the beginning of the semester, meaning it’s a fresh chance to start anew in all things academic…. Well, okay, maybe not all things academic. But at least at the start of a semester you have a chance to forget about the grades earned the one before; focus on that A you want!

Unfortunately, you can’t erase the grades earned the semester prior, especially if those grades are reflected on your final transcript. In my experiences, most of the pre-vet students tend to be slight overarchievers. We work hard for what we want and what we want is an A in all things college, GRE, etc. We do not settle for less than what we deserve! But the fact of the matter is, you probably deserved that “bad” grade.

For some of you, the “bad” grade may be an A- or a B; for others it may be much worse. Most of the vets I work(ed) with had at least 1 C on their transcripts. I ended up with my first C in Organic Chemistry last semester! I started out strong in the class with an A on my first exam, a B on my second, and my third exam plummeted to an F, followed by a C on my final exam. I maintained 100% on homework assignments and quizzes with the hope it would booster me to a B, alas it was all in vain. Not really, because I still worked my butt off while in the middle of other life matters. At the time I was working almost 70 hours a week, taking care of my own pets, I was still adjusting to moving out and to a different city, and struggling with family matters. It negatively affected me, and it was reflected in my academic standing as well as in my work. Management pulled me aside due to concerns expressed by coworkers at my demeanor. When I slapped myself out of it, it was too late.

I won’t pretend like reading my final grade wasn’t a blow to my chest; I definitely won’t pretend like I didn’t mope around the apartment/work place for weeks on end. I considered changing my major as a back-up plan, I looked up all the blogs and forums I could to read other pre-vet student’s experiences with “bad” grades. It took a while before I came to terms with my grade and it gave me a different perspective, it showed things in a different light.

A C is not the end of your academic career, it doesn’t mean you will never be considered for the school of your dreams, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you failed. A C simply means you exhibited average comprehension of the course material. It could also mean that you couldn’t devote as much time to the course as needed (personal matters, work, etc.).Whatever the reason is, most vet schools will give you the opportunity to address that/those bad marks. And there are other areas in your application in which you can make up for a lower GPA: experiences, research, extracurricular activities, work, the GRE, achievements/awards, and essays. It is possible to get into vet school with a 2.9 GPA with a kick ass application!

For those of us who are so used to getting As/Bs, we think our first C in undergrad is hard? What about the first time we will get one in vet school? What about the first time we will fail an exam/quiz in vet school? It’s bound to happen! Vet school is hard, it’s a lot of classes and a lot of information being thrown at you all at once. While some is bound to stick, the rest may just slide right off. When that happens, are you going to let yourself be defeated? Will you decide the field isn’t for you? Leave the program?

If you come across a similar experience as a vet, if a patient passes in your care. If a patient’s procedure is unsuccessful. Will you dust off your hands and call it quits?

No. You get back up and you try again for your next patient. You figure out what went wrong, what you could’ve done better, and you implement all you can to ensure next time you are better prepared.

I promise, a C is not the end of the line. You can still get into your dream school. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and I hope to be another example of that for those hopeful pre-vets that’ll stumble across this page. If not this cycle, I’ll make sure to continue to share as I pick myself up for another battle I mean VMCAS cycle. Strive to be the best version of yourself, but remember to take care of yourself too. It’ll all fall into place eventually.

Until then,

Veterinary School – Interview Day

Let me begin by saying: WEAR COMFORTABLE AND SENSIBLE SHOES! We had quite a bit of walking and I felt for those that decided on wearing heels.

Interview day was a blur, I walked into the building, was given a name tag and info folder in regards to the program with a scheduled layout of the day’s activities. There was about 18 applicants sitting in the main area with a few student ambassadors who were happily answering questions. We were soon greeted by the dean who escorted us into a room for orientation and introductions, we went around the room and introduced ourselves to the rest of the applicants. This is where we got to know each other a little bit, but more of that was done while we sat together waiting for interviews.

For those who are used to being the top of their class and the aspects of undergrad. Expect a lot from the other applicants! We all got an interview for a reason, we were plucked from the pool of applicants for the school to get to know us a bit more. I was majorly impressed with the other applicants on interview day, some recently finished their masters/PhDs and are applying, some have years of veterinary experience, some had outstanding GPA/GRE scores; some have more than one of the above! Just realize you are going through the same thing right now and support one another!

We were separated into two groups; while group 1 began interviews, group 2 went on a tour to the most commonly used areas of the school (i.e. library, gym, etc.). After both groups were doing interviewing we got a large scale tour of the facilities.

The interview was with two faculty members and they asked questions regarding my ethics, case scenarios, teamwork capabilities, etc. They did not have access to my application other than my experiences and VMCAS questions. The interview lasted about half an hour with questions for me to ask at the end.

Prior to the grand tour we all went to the cafeteria for lunch, the dean, faculty and student ambassadors attended lunch with us; continued to answer any and all questions!

Overall, this was an amazing first interview experience; I’m excited for the others. I felt well prepared for my interview but still nervous! The admissions staff were very kind and answered questions in regards to waitlist and when we should expect to hear back in regards to acceptance, etc.

Until then,

The Day Before

I never expected to be writing so soon after my last blog, especially the day before my interview. However, I had so much get in the way of my preparations, even before it was noon!

I planned today to be finishing touches like beauty preparation, removing body piercings, deciding how to do my hair, and going over more interview questions with people.

I get ready to start my day by feeding my pets, however I didn’t wash their bowls from the night before; so that’s the very first thing I go to do.

Much to my surprise, my water wasn’t working.

I put in a maintenance request hoping to get that fixed very soon, you know so I can shower and smell good the day of my interview! Time rolls around and no one is here yet, I call the office several times only to get voicemail. By the time I reach them to send maintenance up, it’s time for my beautification appointment.

Maintenance comes to check out the water and videos I took, they explained the apartment had some valve replacement fixing stuff they had to do this morning and to let my water run for a few minutes. WHALA! It’s fixed! No more weird nonsense with my water. Time to get in my car right?

WRONG!

My car battery is 100% completely dead, no one in the complex has cables to jump it! Yes I know, I should probably start carrying some. I had to cancel my appointment while calling around and figuring out what to do!

I was lucky enough for AAA to come and fix my car (they installed a new battery and made sure everything was running smoothly)… who knew a car battery needed to be checked?

I was thankfully, and finally, able to get everything situated prior to my interview tomorrow morning; was grateful to have appointments with amazing people willing to squeeze me in that day!

Time to try and get some sleep before the big day!! Wish me luck!

Until then,

Veterinary School – Interview Preparation

A gradual constant nausea caused by the butterflies’ insane flapping in my stomach.

This basically sums up how I’m feeling now that I’m almost at my interview date, it was pushed up; is the reason behind my intense preparation. Needless to say, I’ll be drinking quite a bit of hot tea over the next few days.

I’ve consulted who knows how many previous applicants, current vet students, and recently graduated veterinarians; it still didn’t prepare me for the search for an appropriate interview attire. I was avised to wear a pant suit, preferably black, with nice and comfortable dress shoes (no heels due to the amount of walking that will be done throughout the day). If you’re short, I recommend going shopping the moment you get your interview invitation because it was definitely a journey to find something that fit!

Interview questions are available all throughout the internet, I primarily used mockquestions.com and an amazing forum SDN (https://forums.studentdoctor.net). In SDN you can browse in the pre-veterinary forum and see applicant advice from previous cycles along with their stats. It’s a very useful tool when preparing for vet school and the application process, there are current vet students, veterinarians and other pre-vet students; so, finding someone in the same shoes as you isn’t too hard!

A breakfast the day of will be the most important! I should make sure my brain has all it needs to think quickly with whatever hard balls they throw at me! I’ve read plenty of interview questions to know that there are a few hypothetical ethical ones that they tend to present along with the basic “Why do you want to be a vet?”, “How do you plan to handle the stress/finances of vet school?”, “Give an example of a time . . .” According to some applicants the behavioral questions did jumble their nerves a bit.

While thinking about answers while reading practice questions is one thing, it is a completely different thing to have someone perform a mock interview with you! Get a friend or family member to help you by asking you a few random questions and you answering as if in a vet school interview, at the end discuss your answers with the person and what you could improve on. Some schools may offer this with a professional, if so I would definitely encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity!

I was told at the end, if there is enough time, interviewers will ask if you have any questions for THEM. If so, it is better to have some prepared than to not have any at all.

These next few days I will be continuing my intense preparation alongside trying to maintain caught up on my organic chemistry homework (in other news I got an A on my first test!! Woot woot!!)

Until then,

Veterinary School – Interview Invitation

I woke up this morning, like any other morning. I took care of my pets, prepared myself for the day ahead of me; settled down to enjoy some Netflix before having to go into work.

I’ve had a habit of compulsively checking my email and portals several times a day for the past week.  It wasn’t until this morning that this compulsiveness paid off! I received my first invitation to interview at a vet school! Of course, the first thing I did (after spending a few minutes crying) was contact friends and family to share the amazing news.

I didn’t even receive an email for this particular invitation; had coincidentally checked my portal directly. Make sure you check both! Don’t rely heavily on one or the other as you may not get the notification where expected. It also gave me the option to choose an available scheduled spot based on my availability (which is majorly refreshing, I was expecting to be given a date & time). I chose the soonest available time, coincidentally I know someone who has an interview at that time as well; I’m sure it’ll lessen my anxiety to know someone else going through this process.

Now, before anyone freaks out about not receiving an invitation…. I was advised by several 1st year vet students that it can take anywhere from submission date until ~ March 1st before you are sent invitations, so if it doesn’t happen quickly that doesn’t mean you aren’t being considered! It just means there are quite a few applications they must filter through prior to sending out those invitations.

I did have to remind myself hold my horses and that this doesn’t guarantee I’m in. Another 1st year vet student advised that it’s okay to not be accepted the first time around, it’ll give me a chance to ask the interviewers their opinions regarding my application and time to strengthen it. However, an interview means they like you enough to be considering you; this gives them a chance to get to know you a little better!

Nonetheless, I’m ecstatic to have conquered the first hurdle! Even if I don’t get in this cycle, I’m still excited to be given the opportunity to see firsthand what this experience is like; maybe become better prepared for the next application cycle. I will admit I’m most excited to meet my potential dean, professors, and peers, along with touring the beautiful campus I may soon call ‘home’.

Speaking with a recent vet school graduate she informed me the interview length itself varies from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the school itself. One of her interviews she could pick 3 rotations in which she shadowed the students and was able to ask them questions regarding the program, school, courses, etc. The school instructed me to expect several hours to be set aside for this process, so I’m assuming it’ll be more like the other interview she explained to me.

Over the next few weeks I’ll definitely share the ways I plan on preparing for my interview, what I plan on wearing, and any other general insights I have after the interview is completed! While these past few days I’ve been able to have exciting news and tips to share daily, I have a feeling my next few blogs may be more sporadic until after the interview!

Until then,

Veterinary School – VMCAS

One of the first steps in applying to vet school is completing the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS).

Like with any other website you actively use, creating an account is the first step with the usual – name, address, phone number, email, username, password, etc. From then on you log into your account when you need access to it. Your immediate homepage is your dashboard which will present any important notifications and allow you to keep track of what has been completed and how much still needs to be done.

The four main parts of the application are as follows: Personal Information (7 sections), Academic History (4 sections), Supporting Information (3 sections), Program Materials (will vary depending on how many vet schools you’re applying to).

Personal Information

Release Statement: Consists of agreements such as the code of conduct, general information (when the application must be submitted by), agreeing to not giving falsified information or withholding important information.

Biographic Information, Contact Information, Citizenship Information, Parent/Guardian, Race & Ethnicity: The following 5 sections are pretty self-explanatory, general personal information along with parental information. This section allows you to put 2 addresses if needed.

Other Information: Necessary miscellaneous factoids about yourself such as, language, military status, criminal record (if any at all, allows a chance for explanation), any previous applications, and the essays. This application cycle there were 3 essays allotting a max of 1,000 characters per essay. This cycle’s prompts were:

  1. There are many career choices within the veterinary profession. What are your future career goals and why?
  2. In what ways do veterinarians contribute to society and what do you hope to contribute?
  3. Consider the breadth of society which veterinarians serve. What attributes do you believe are essential to be successful within the veterinary profession? Of these attributes, which do you possess and how have you demonstrated these in the past?

Can you imagine squeezing all you can about yourself, your dreams, career goals, and experiences into 1,000 characters!? It wasn’t fun, and had to be one of the hardest parts of the application for me to complete, I notched each prompt at ~970 characters.

Academic History

High School Attended, Colleges Attended: Here you input the name of the high school(s) and college(s) you attended throughout your undergraduate journey, the time you attended, how their system works (semesters, etc.), and what/if you graduated with any degrees/certificates.

Transcript Entry: This is a very tedious but important aspect of your VMCAS, here you must input the courses taken at the college(s) attended in the prior section. You are also required to send an official transcript to VMCAS, which they will use to verify whether or not you entered in your transcript information correctly. Here they have the right to be very particular about how the information is entered, so make sure it is identical to how it appears on your official transcript! It can take a few weeks for them to verify your coursework. My transcripts were received on August 4th and my coursework was verified on September 12th. Make sure you give them ample time to verify the coursework, don’t wait last minute to submit this stuff!

Standardized Tests: Input any test results here, MCAT, GRE, IELTS, TOEFL. Not all of these exams need to be taken, most vet schools will require the GRE (whether they want it sent through VMCAS or directly to their school can be found on their website). Some schools may require or encourage the MCAT, TOEFL/IELTS are basically English proficiency exams and most schools won’t require these unless you are an international student.

Supporting Information

Evaluations: These are your electronic Letters of Recommendations (eLORs) and your school(s) of choice should have their preferences of who they should be from, listed on their admissions page. I had 2 written by veterinarians I worked for, 1 was written by a HS teacher, another was written by my previous volunteer coordinator. Usually they’re looking for someone to vouch for your personal integrity and qualities, as well as academic supervisors or profs., and preferably at least 1 veterinarian. Through the VMCAS you may have a maximum of 6 eLORs, but some schools will strictly look at 3 and will typically ask you in “program materials” which 3 you would like them to review.

Experiences: There are four main categories of experiences: Animal, Veterinary, Research, Employment; and two other categories: Extracurricular Activities and Volunteer. You must list these experiences along with contact information to verify your hours. You are to provide the start and end dates of these experiences and are given a spot to insert your estimate weekly hours. This was a bit difficult for me, I didn’t keep a hard track of my hours (work, volunteer, or otherwise) so it was a bit of a guesstimate for me. My hours weren’t always consistent which made it a bit more difficult to allot for the time I spent without going over or under.

Achievements: Here you enter awards, Honors, and/or Scholarship information. I added dean’s list, among other awards I’ve been granted throughout the years and scholarships I’ve accepted. I wouldn’t recommend adding those scholarships you earned but did not use, it can clutter the application; adding the pertinent information will be less tedious to the board.

Program Materials

The sections within this part of the application will vary depending on how many schools you are applying to. Each school will have its own supplemental information for you to fill out, whether it be which eLORs you want them to read, any additional essay(s) they want you to complete, or a simple tracker of the prerequisites. Some schools may have additional instructions here or on their website, make sure you follow these to their entirety in order to complete the application.

Once your application is submitted, you may be contacted in regard to it being marked as complete by your school(s). Once that occurs you await an interview invitation, some schools it may occur sooner than others, and some may send them on a rolling basis – meaning they send as they receive, first come first serve basis for the interviews.

Make sure your application is submitted prior to the final submission deadline, VMCAS can have technical difficulties, submissions can take a while to finalize, if there is an issue with your transcript entry then an early submission allots you enough time to fix it.

After the hustle and bustle of collecting, writing, and completing everything for the submission of your VMCAS, it’s a waiting game. So far, waiting is the hardest part.

Until next time,