Friday, November 13, 2009

Applying to Veterinary School: The Personal Statement

The dreaded, stressful, what do I say, and agonizing personal statement. The personal statement always seems to cause applicants the most stress. It’s hard to describe your hopes, dreams, and experiences into one little essay. For me the question: Why do you want to be a vet? Is tough to answer in specific terms (both in essay and interview).

So, what should I write?
This is one question I cannot answer for you. It’s called a personal statement for a reason; it’s about you and you alone. However; I will write up some quick tips for you.

Start Early: It’s so easy to wait to start working on your personal statement. Don’t tell yourself you write it tomorrow, start today. I will admit I waited til the last week to complete my personal statement, and it wasn’t fun at all. I good personal statement is well thought out, organized, and clear of all spelling or grammatical errors (as is not the case with my blog as I’m sure you have noticed). All this takes time, so start early to help relive stress to produce the best essay you’ve ever written.

Organize: If you’re me, you hate writing outlines for essays. I only did it if I had to in college, but it’s wise to do so with your personal statement. I know I wanted to say a million different things in my personal state, so an outline really allows you to organize all those ideas. Present yourself in an organized, easy to read format. You want to appear professional and organized, not as a rumbling, scattered brained person.

Proofread: So, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I am the world’s worst grammar/spelling person, so I required many, many, many proofreading sessions before I felt my personal state was even decent. I read it several times, and more importantly I had others read it as well. Again, if you can’t write one professional document, how are veterinary schools supposed to expect you to be a veterinarian?

Get others to read it: Let’s face it you’re going to be biases and miss many mistakes if you only relay on yourself to edit and revise your personal statement. Get others, many others to read it to catch errors and make suggestions. What makes sense to you may be confusing to others.

Highlight yourself: Be sure to give examples that highlight the attributes I discussed before. Also, make yourself seem well rounded. Don’t write the entire essay about how much you love animals, but also that you are hard-working, a leader, honest, and a strong communicator.

Be Unique: Do yourself a favor, don’t read someone else’s personal statement. Don’t let your statement become a cookie cutter, but rather a reflection of your personality and life. There is no one right or wrong way to write your personal statement.

Remember the audience: Try to put in a plug of why you are applying to their school. Research the school and comment on what attracts you to them. For example, if you like horses, comment on the research or quality of medicine their equine veterinarians have done. Also, if you have a personal connection, tell them about it. Maybe you worked for a vet that graduated from there, worked in their facilities over a summer, toured their vet school and loved it, or whatever else. Schools want students that not only want to be vets, but want to become vets at their school. I mean you don’t pick up girls without telling them their beautiful, veterinary schools are the same way. Similarly, don’t waste your whole essay with flattery, then you’re just trying too hard.

Remember the prompt: I know this seems like basic, elementary school stuff, but it’s amazing how easy it is to loose tack of the prompt. It’s simple to write about what you want to write about. Maybe you have a lot of knowledge already about treatments, so you are tempted to describe various ways to treat common health problems. All the while forgetting to answer to question of why you want to be a vet. Take note, I think the prompt could be anything, they can vary between schools so read it carefully.

Show your career goals: Now depending on the prompt, this could be a necessary component of your personal statement. Be honest, but ambitious about your goals. You want to a high quality large animal vet, a cardiologist, a DVM/PhD, or whatever your goals may be. Schools don’t want to just be happy to get out with a DVM, i.e students with the C=DVM mentality. They want students that are shooting for the skies, students that want to become the best vets possible. They want students that are eager to learn, work hard, and have ambition. Schools want students that will become great ambassadors and examples of their program in the future.

Cut the Fluff: Now, this is just my option, but I don’t think schools really care about how well you can describe your love for animals. So, if have ever written a personal statement before you know it hard to fit all the information you want into such a “short” essay. So, really concentrate on adding quality content and examples, not trying to impress them with your vocabulary and filling the space. One of the most difficult aspects of the personal statement for me was fitting all the information I wanted to into such a short essay. Remember, the statements have a charter limit that must be adhered to.

Concrete Details: Every time you make a state about yourself, be sure to cite some specific examples. For example, “ I am a good communicator and leader. I was the president of Student Organization A for two years during which I had lead meetings and communicated with our 45 members” Not the best example, but you get the idea. Be sure to hrighlight all that expiernce you worked so hard to gain.

In conclusion, there is no magic format or words that must be in your essay to get into vets school. Be yourself, be honest, and proofread.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.
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Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I find it hard to take professional advice about an essay from someone who misuses "their" for "they're".

Jerry carter said...

Amazing tips you have provided on veterinary personal statement. I was really very grateful to read your post. Thanks for the inspirational blog.

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