The End is Only the Beginning, Part 1
This is my last semester as an undergraduate student at LMU, and I’m beginning to get nostalgic. I just received the Fall 2014 Housing Application, and for the first time I’m marking “Moving Off Campus” instead of filling in my roommates and our preferred residence hall. Fall Early Registration begins soon, and I’m not going to be meeting with my advisors to set up my schedule for my last year at LMU. I’m no longer going to be having class with the people that went through the Freshmen Survival Weekend with me. I’m moving into a new chapter of my life, and it’s quite terrifying, but incredibly exciting at the same time. That’s because I’m going to be a Railsplitter veterinary student come August! I’m going to do a two-part post on the process of applying to vet school. This is part one, where I talk about the application and all of its parts and pieces.
The process of applying to vet school began over the summer, when I began to complete the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). If you’ve never completed a “common application” before, let me be the first to tell you that it’s a daunting task. VMCAS begins with the easy questions: name, mailing addresses, date of birth, ethnicity, parental information, basically all the “typical” questions that I had seen on college applications when I applied for undergrad. This is also where the Personal Statement is submitted-but more on that later. Then, I had to fill out my Academic History. The High School section wasn’t too bad; I just had to list where I went to high school. In Institutions Attended section I listed the two colleges I had attended-Lincoln Memorial University, where I was enrolled full-time, and East Tennessee State University, where I had taken General Chemistry II as summer class between my freshman and sophomore years. There’s also Other/Previous Applications, where people that have applied more than one time list the years that they submitted applications, or where people who are applying to non-VMCAS schools state those schools. Because I was a first-time applicant applying only to LMU, I left this section blank.
The Coursework section was the most time tedious section of the VMCAS. I had to list every class I had ever taken at a college or had received college credit for, like my Advanced Placement (AP) classes. VMCAS recommends getting an official transcript from your school so you can complete this with the highest degree of accuracy; if I made a bunch of errors, when I submitted my application to be verified, they would ask me to go back and fix them before sending my application. This section took a lot of time and careful attention to detail because I had to state whether the class was lower-division (freshman/sophomore level) or upper-division (junior/senior level), what the course subject was (i.e. Biochemistry, Other Life Science, Social/Behavioral Science, General Non-Science, Animal Science, to give you an idea of a few of the categories), how many credits the class counted for, my grade, and the classification (i.e. Not Applicable, Honors, Advanced Placement, Online).
Some people don’t understand why we have to fill all of this out if the school receives our transcripts anyway; why can’t they just input this information? It’s pretty simple: the process of verification means that they look at the courses I input and make sure they match what my transcript says. Before this year, applicants would have to send a transcript to every school they were applying to and the schools were responsible for this verification. However, sending transcripts to several schools (students submitted applications to 4 schools on average in the 2013 cycle) gets expensive for the student and is time-consuming for the admissions committees. Having the transcript verified once before sending it to schools saves time and money across the board. The final section under Academic Coursework is for Tests, which is where I input my Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Unlike medical school applicants who take the MCAT, veterinary school applicants take the GRE, which tests the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning (read: math), and analytical writing skills of the applicant.
The next section was for all of my Experiences: veterinary, animal, research, employment, honors and awards, and community activities. This is where having good records comes into play! Whenever I went and shadowed a vet, worked as a volunteer, or won an award, I made sure to put information and the hours I had spent in an Excel file so that it was all organized into one place when I needed to fill out my VMCAS. For all of my experiences, I had to put down a brief description of my duties, the award, or my activity. This was the place to list EVERYTHING I had ever done related to animals, as well as how I contributed to my community, like participating in concert and pep band, 4-H, and different LMU clubs. Vet schools love seeing a lot of animal and veterinary experience, but they also like to know that the applicant is well-rounded in different experiences and knows how to give back to their community.
Along with my application, I had to have at least 3 evaluations from veterinarians and professors. These help the admissions committees better judge your commitment to the profession and how practicing veterinarians think you can contribute to the profession. In order to submit my VMCAS, I had to have at least 1 evaluation completed, and the other 2 had to submit their evaluation before the deadline on October 5th. I chose two veterinarians that I had worked with, one of my professors from my veterinary technology classes, and the director of the LMU Honors program, whom I had for several classes. I felt like this gave the admissions committee a well-rounded view of my abilities as a future vet in practice and my abilities to succeed academically in vet school. Some schools list exactly who they want applicants to have evaluations from, but LMU didn’t specify any stipulations for evaluators. Once they had completed their evaluation, I was sure to send them a thank you note to let them know I appreciated the time they took out of their day (these people are busy!) and their willingness to submit a recommendation on my behalf. The veterinary community is small, and something as simple as a thank you note can help build bridges that will be important when I get out in practice and need advice on cases.
The Personal Statement is the one place on the VMCAS that I had a chance to express myself, how I became interested in veterinary medicine, and what my goals for my career were. One stipulation: I only had 5000 characters (including spaces) to accomplish this formidable task. To put it in perspective, my personal statement was 4,961 characters and 817 words. This seems like a lot, but when I started talking about my background in horses, my interest in OneHealth, my veterinary technology classes, and why I want to become an Equine Sports Medicine veterinarian, it took many edits to whittle it down to 5000 characters. I’m fortunate that my professors were patient enough to read my many edits and contribute suggestions that strengthened my personal statement while decreasing the character count so I was within the limits. I started working on my personal statement before VMCAS opened so I had the time to have a lot of different people read it and make sure the points I made came across clearly.
Finally, after completing all of these sections, I submitted my VMCAS. This part was scary, because once I hit submit and paid my fee, I could no longer make any changes to my application. I went over every section with a fine-toothed comb several times to make sure all of the information was correct and everything read logically. Then, I submitted my application, took a deep breath, and rejoiced that my application was submitted! Now, I just had to wait to be verified by VMCAS, who would then send my application to LMU.
If you have any questions about applying to vet school, writing your personal statement, or about LMU-CVM, leave a comment or email me! You can also check out LMU-CVM’s admissions page, which has everything you need to know about applying to LMU-CVM, or the VMCAS page, where you can see a sample application.
A special thanks to Dr. Casey Bassett, Dr. Tod Schadler, and Dr. Bob Lester for providing their words of wisdom.
Posted on March 11, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged 2014, AAVMC, college life, GRE, Lincoln Memorial University, Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine, LMU, LMU-CVM, loving animals, pre vet blog, pre-vet, pre-veterinary, Veterinary medicine, VMCAS. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.