Self-Care During NAVLE Season

Veterinary students all across the country are in the midst of NAVLE season! The NAVLE is the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (aka national boards) that all senior veterinary students must pass in order to become licensed to practice medicine. It is an exciting and terrifying time!

It is easy to become overwhelmed and consumed by constant notecards, VetPrep/Zuku reviews, quiz questions, class notes… the list goes on. However, it is just as important to ensure you are treating yourself well during this stressful time so you can make sure you stay at the top of your game. Here are a few tips to help you survive NAVLE season!

  1. Make a schedule! It should include designated time each day for focused studying and time protected for doing something you enjoy. When you complete your studying for the day, you won’t feel guilty taking some time for yourself.
  2. Treat yourself! Order a pizza. Take a walk. Grab your favorite Starbucks drink. Get a massage. You are studying hard, and you deserve it!
  3. Encourage your classmates. Everyone is in the same boat. You are all struggling to keep up in clinics while also trying to reach that 80% mark on VetPrep! You are all stressed and tired. Be considerate of each other, and provide encouragement when needed.
  4. Take a day off each week from studying. Yes, I know it sounds crazy! How on earth are you supposed to pass the NAVLE if you don’t study 24/7? Well, I promise that taking a break from studying will leave you feeling rejuvenated and will give you something to look forward to! You will likely remember more material if you give your brain a break too.
  5. Remember that you are worth more than an exam. You have a wealth of knowledge in veterinary medicine having gotten this far in school. You have outside interests, family, friends, and other hobbies that make you who you are. Don’t forget about these things while preparing for boards. It will help bring things back into perspective when you feel consumed and pressured by the NAVLE.

How to Select Letters of Reference for Veterinary School

Recommendation letters are one of the most important aspects of applying to veterinary school. They demonstrate how other veterinarians and mentors view you and your dedication to this profession. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the process.

Three letters of recommendation are required for your application. Two of these need to be from veterinarians, but one can be from anyone who is familiar with you and your dedication to medicine. Schools may vary in these requirements so be sure to check each application page for specific guidelines.

Be open about the desire to obtain a recommendation letter. If you begin shadowing or working at a veterinary hospital, thank them for the opportunity and mention that you are hopeful your position may result in a recommendation letter. This demonstrates that you are willing to work hard to make a good impression, and they will likely be more observant of you and your work ethic in preparation of writing a letter.  

Provide your references with a resume. In doing so, they can see your extracurricular involvement that they may not have otherwise known. They will be able to write a more detailed letter and incorporate your experiences into building a strong recommendation.

Ask potential references in person. Although it is much easier to send a quick email, taking the time to ask in person will show you are confident and take this application seriously. You will also be able to see their reaction to your request. If it looks like they are hesitant for whatever reason, it is best to choose someone else. You want to make sure you are choosing people willing to write good letters, not just any letters.              

Provide about 2-3 months’ notice when asking for recommendation letters. People have busy schedules, and you do not want to spring this question on them last minute. They will be appreciative of having more time to construct a well-written reference.

Follow up regularly. Depending how early you ask for letters, people may lose track of time and forget. Send a quick email each month until the due date to check in on their progress. Most of the time, they will be happy to have reminders! Give your references a due date of two weeks before the submission deadline. This adds a small buffer in case an emergency comes up or technical issues occur in the application system.

Lastly, be sure to send thank you notes after they have submitted their letters. It is always nice to show your appreciation for them not only acting as a mentor, but also being an important part of your journey towards your DVM!

Asking for reference letters can be nerve-wracking, but if you have built strong relationships and have demonstrated your dedication to veterinary medicine, you have nothing to worry about!

I hope these tips are helpful for you, and best of luck with your application!

5 Essential Tips for Veterinary School Success

With sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach, you slowly tear open your veterinary school decision letter you just finally received in the mail. “Congratulations! You have been admitted….” You are likely so excited your dreams are coming true but also slightly nervous about what to expect. A mixture of emotions is completely normal. You have gotten this far and you will succeed in veterinary school. I won’t go into details about coursework, schedules, clinics, etc today (stay tuned for a future post!) but I will let you in on a few things I learned during my time in vet school.

  1. Stay grounded and make time for things that are important to you outside of vet med. It can be so easy to become consumed with the overwhelming amount of information that must be studied and retained for exams and your future patients. The truth is, it is literally impossible to remember every detail. You will drive yourself crazy! Trust me, I know from experience. I heard someone say once that if you remember 75% of the information that is provided very well, you are in good shape. Knowing this from the get-go will help you relax and just do your best. Having a hobby and spending time with friends/family makes such a difference in your morale and will ultimately help make you a better student.
  2. Find a mentor. You likely already have one or two DVM mentors that wrote your reference letters for your application. Keep those relationships! It is so helpful to have a veterinarian that has been through what you are about to embark on and can provide support when needed. I encourage you to seek out another mentor at your vet school that can be a resource for your program specifically as well. He or she can help guide you through your classes and discuss potential career options with you.
  3. Develop friendships with your classmates. It is important to have people who can relate to what you’re going through. They can laugh with you, cry with you, vent with you, and provide the occasional sweet treat to lift your spirits! Better yet, develop friendships with senior students. These people are almost done with the program and can give you tips and tricks on how to study, what you should and shouldn’t do in a certain clinical rotation,  and provide insight into job prospects.
  4. Explore all areas of veterinary medicine. You may come into veterinary school set on a certain career path, but I encourage you to keep all of your options open. Even if you think you never want to touch a cow after veterinary school, take advantage of an extra palpation lab or ambulatory call. You may discover you love cows! Or you may just confirm the fact that you can’t fathom smelling like manure every day! My point is no experience is wasted. You learn something from every opportunity that you take advantage of. This is how you discover your passion.
  5. Study smart. Figure out how you best learn and retain information if you don’t know already. Maybe you need to make notecards or maybe simply reading information is what works for you. Determine a plan and a study schedule, and stay motivated to accomplish your daily goal. This way you will stay on top of the information. Veterinary school moves quickly and you will easily get at least 200 new powerpoint slides of information each day. Be honest with yourself if you are not understanding something, and reach out to get clarification early on. You are ultimately responsible for what you are getting out of lecture.

These next four years are going to fly by faster than you realize. Take it all in, and realize that veterinary school has so many awesome unique opportunities. While it can be overwhelming, take a step back and realize the difference you are about to make in the lives of so many pets and people. I wish you the best of luck!

What if I Don’t Get Into Veterinary School?

What if you don’t get into veterinary school on your first try? So what! Seriously, it may seem like the end of the world while the rest of your friends have the highly coveted letter of acceptance, but it really isn’t. There are only 30 accredited veterinary schools in the United States with on average 100-130 students per class. With so many more applicants than seats available, it is not uncommon for aspiring veterinarians to go through one, two, even three application cycles before getting in.

I know it is easier for me to say than for you to see the bigger picture now, but rejection can lead to blessings in disguise. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a specific reason and that sometimes it takes a little searching and trust to determine exactly what that reason is.

During your “off year,” you can grow as a person, explore fun opportunities, and gain more experience to strengthen your application. Maybe you will discover something new about yourself or your interests that you will be able to build upon for the next application cycle.

One piece of advice I would suggest is to reach out to the schools that you applied to and ask how you may increase your likelihood of gaining acceptance next cycle. Usually they will be able to provide feedback on the application components or your interview. Sometimes experience is lacking, which is fairly easy to correct by shadowing more or getting a job at a vet practice during your year off. Sometimes the interview does not go as planned and you can take advantage of the career center and mock interviews at your undergrad for additional practice. If you performed poorly in a course, you can retake it to increase your GPA. It is great to show initiative so don’t be shy reaching out to schools and don’t take the critiques too personally. Have confidence and work hard during your year off, and I bet you will be holding an acceptance letter next time around. Good luck!

How to Prepare a Competitive Vet School Application

It’s the summer before your senior year of college, and it’s finally time to start your veterinary school application! You are so excited and then open up the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) website and you immediately panic. There are so many sections… so many things to write…so much to remember!

First things first, stop panicking. Yes, it is an application that is very time-intensive, but if you start preparing early,  you will be fine. My most important piece of advice is don’t wait until the last minute! Start inputting information into your application the first day it opens. Trust me, it will make your life so much easier than waiting until the day before it is due to even begin. Also, set a goal to submit the application 5-7 days before it is actually due. In case there are any glitches in the system when it comes close to the submission date, you won’t have to worry.

Now let’s talk about some of the application components. There will be a section related to experiences, including veterinary, animal, volunteer, and work history. I recommend keeping a journal of these activities with the name of the mentoring veterinarian (if applicable), a short description of what you did, and the number of hours you participated. This will help you immensely when it comes time to fill out the application! You will essentially just have to transcribe what you’ve already written instead of trying to remember the activities that you’ve been involved in for several years.

You will also need to enter a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, which is a standardized test taken for both veterinary and graduate schools. This exam is typically taken in the summer or fall of your junior year. You will also send official score reports to each veterinary school you are applying to. Along the same lines, undergraduate coursework will be entered into the application by hand, but official transcripts will need to be sent to each veterinary school.

At least three letters of reference are required for your application. Usually, one to two of these letters must come from a veterinarian familiar with your work ethic or clinical experience. I recommend building relationships with veterinarians early on during shadowing experiences. I would say most DVMs will expect to write a reference for the students they are mentoring, and most are more than happy to!

Last but certainly not least is the personal statement. Begin thinking about why you want to attend veterinary school and what makes you a good candidate. They want to see that you want to pursue this profession not only because you love animals, but also because you love medicine and science. Think about what sets you apart from the other applicants and what unique talents you can bring to this profession.

On a side note- Don’t be discouraged if your GPA is a little lower or you lack thousands of hours of experience! Schools will look at the full application and strong sections may offset deficits in other parts. Vet schools look for well-rounded candidates!

Whew! That was a lot of information. Hopefully this provides you with some helpful tips so you can begin preparing. You got this!


So You Want to be a Veterinarian?

You’ve grown up with animals. As a kid, you’ve nursed injured or abandoned pets back to health. You’re intrigued by physiology of disease and medical knowledge. You’ve decided you want to pursue veterinary medicine as a career! So now what? Below are 3 important steps to consider when preparing to apply to veterinary school.

Step 1: Start getting experience! Vet schools require animal and veterinary experience to apply. You will need to start volunteering or shadowing at a veterinary practice early on to gain experience. This is also a great way to network and build relationships for potential reference letters. Vet schools want to see a variety of clinical experience, including small animal, equine, large animal, and exotics. They also like to see that you were involved with other animal-related activities as well as community service. It is not uncommon for applicants to have around one thousand hours or more of experience on their applications. The earlier you start gaining experience, the better! Research experience is also a plus!

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s degree! I would say the most common undergraduate majors that are completed prior to veterinary school matriculation include biology and animal science. However, you have the ability to major in whatever interests you during undergrad. As long as you complete and excel in the pre-requisites for veterinary medicine, schools will not base their decision off of your undergraduate major. I will say, though, that majoring in a science-related field will provide a better foundation for your veterinary coursework and help you in the long run. You will need an impressive cumulative GPA as well as scientific GPA to be considered. Be sure to also check out whether your undergrad has a pre-veterinary club. These clubs can provide you with networking or shadowing opportunities.

Step 3: Research veterinary schools! Each veterinary school has slightly different requirements. I recommend checking out the websites for the schools that you are interested in to ensure you are meeting their pre-requisite course work and other application necessities. Make a spreadsheet of the schools you are interested in, their requirements, and tuition info. It’s also important to research what each school is known for so that you can match your interests with their expertise.

Vet school is incredibly difficult to get into (yes, more difficult than medical school!), but with the right preparation, you can do it! Be sure to check out next week’s post on the vet school application process!