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!

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!