Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Applying to Vet School: Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a key component of your application. In my opinion, you will not be accepted to veterinary school without solid letters of recommendation. Although each school varies, many schools require 3 letters of recommendation. Sometimes, the school requires one letter be from a veterinarian, professor, or employer. Outside of the actual letter that is submitted, these people also mark a “grade sheet” of sorts that ranks you in terms of leadership, ability to work with animals, and communication among other things. So now who should you ask to write your letters and what can you do right now to “build” a solid letter of recommendation? I will try in give you these answers below:

Who should you ask?

Veterinarians- Often schools require that one letter be from a veterinarian, but this is a must even if it is not required. You want a veterinarian that has seen you work with animals, communicate with people, and had known you a long length of time. Again, depending on what the application requirements are, using more that one veterinarian is a good idea.

Professors/teachers- I would recommend a teacher that teaches a class involved with science, and a class that you have done well in. Also, you will want a teacher that you have actually worked or talked with outside of class. You want your letter to give the school more that you are a good student, but also attest to your communication, leadership, and integrity. Furthermore, it’s best to choose a college professor over a high school teacher.

Employers- These sources are good to verify your leadership, communication, dedication, integrity, and responsibility. Again, it’s best to use an employer you have worked with for a while and hold you in high regard.

Other- The three above would all make excellent choices for letters of recommendation. In case you need more letter or sources, the rules for choosing someone is fairly simple. You want a person (not family) that can prove you have the key traits to be a veterinarian. Its best to choose people that have known you a long time and can provide concrete details to show who you truly are.

What can you do now?

Start making strong relationships with people that hold the above positions. The longer and more complete these people know you, the better the letter of recommendation they can write. If your letters show that the person writing them has only known you 4 months, this will not carry the weight of a letter from a long time associate.

How I did it was easy and simple:

1) I started working a veterinary hospital in high school and during some college breaks I would return there to work. I built strong relationship with the owner and head veterinarian at the practice. Both of them wrote me letters of recommendation.

2) In college I did a summer internship with my advisor/professor. Not only did I work for her for a summer, but also visited with her outside of class at least once a semester. She wrote my other letter of recommendation.

So there you have it, 3 letters, one form a professor, veterinarian, and employer. Now go out there and meet with these people in your lives, I promise it will give a huge boost to your application.

Be sure to check out the basic attributes veterinary schools look for in their applicants. I’m talking more that just smart and animal-loving, but some other key attributes that schools believe all their students should posses. This can really help you write your personal statement, describe your past jobs and duties, and choose you letters of recommendation so that these attributes are highlighted.


Joy said...

I just found this site and I've found this site really helpful. Thanks!
I'm a high school senior and I want to go to vet school after college. Right now I'm working on getting experience. Do you have any idea roughly how many hours is considered "sufficient experience"? I've that term used more than once but without any indication of what "sufficient" is. Also, do you know if most schools expect you to have experience with cows? I have a lot of small animal experience, a fair amount of horse experience, I'm working on a farm with some smaller farm animals, and I also am a caretaker for a bunch of various reptiles at a nature center, but because of the area I'm living in I'm really struggling to find cows to work with. My mom is pretty much convinced that I must have expereience with cows. I am working right now on finding a vet to shadow or a clinic to work at especially after reading here how important that is. I'm sorry this is so long. Thank you again for any help you can give me.

jonp21 said...

Joy, I'm glad you found the site and find it helpful, please spread the word to other Pre-vet students. In regards to your questions, I hope I can answer them sufficiently.

I don't know there is any set number of hours to consider experience "sufficient". For example, I spent 2 summers full time working as a kennel worker, worked part time another summer cleaning stalls of horses and cattle. Also, a few school breaks I worked for a small animal clinic. That was the extent of my experience, and it was evidently enough for me. However, there are other people whom have worked much more than that and not gotten in, but others who have worked less and have gotten in. So, if I had to say an amount I would guess schools want a person to have worked full time for a few months in a veterinary clinic, but this would be the minimum and more is always much better.

The better way to look at it, would be was the experience sufficient for you? What did you learn? Did you get see surgery? Handle animals? Communicate with clients? What were your duties? I think if you can prove you learned a lot of about veterinary medicine, any experience is "sufficient" regardless of the actual amount of time you spent there. Bottom line, the more the better, but concentrate on getting quality experience, and don't stress about the actual hours. Judging by your post you're on the right track.

Lastly, I don't think getting cattle experience is absolutely vital to getting into vet school. It's always helpful, but not required. Personally, I only had about 150 hours working with large animals period, both horses and cattle. Plus all I really did with them was clean their stalls and fed them while they were in a clinic. A few people in my class have never seen and/or touched cattle ever before vet school. Schools do like students that have cattle experience as vets in rural areas are a growing need, and I once heard some people on vet school admission boards "expect" applicants to have some large animal experience. However, do not kill yourself trying to find a way to get cattle experience, as I have seen several student be admitted without it. Again, it would defiantly help your application, but is not a all a requirement.

Be sure to fallow the links under "More Advice" to the posts: "How to get Veterinary Experience and What Jobs Look Good on Your Application" and "The Most Important Aspect of your Application" for some more info.

Sorry for the excessive length of my comment, let me know if this is helpful and if you have any more questions.

Joy said...

Thank you very much for your help! I just got a job working in the kennel at the vet's where we take our pets. Thanks again.

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Study Smarter!

Obviously getting good grades is a key and sometimes difficult part to preparing yourself for veterinary school. The best advice I can give you is to work hard, use tutors for specific topics if needed, and be sure you are using your study time wisely. Also, there are products out there that might be beneficial in helping you to learn, study, and make the best grades possible. Here is one product I ran across yesterday. Please check it out if you are interested. It comes with a 60-day full refund , so at least give it a try and let us know if it worked for you! Study Tips!