Reapplying & More
Emma Harris, Year 1 Edinburgh Vet School
That time of year
It’s that time of the ‘applying to vet school’ year where you now know where you stand. Some of you will have offers (congratulations) be it conditional, and now concentrating on getting those all important grades. Or unconditional where you can sit back, relax and eagerly await the coming of September. However, for many of you, this time will have been bitterly disappointing as you find yourselves in the horrible position of having obtained four rejections.
Fear not my young vet school applicants, all is not lost. Speaking from experience, I myself have managed to obtain 15 rejections from my 4 years of applying to vet school and am now, eventually, in my first year at Edinburgh. There is a huge amount that you can do if you just can’t shake that vetty feeling.
The initial shock
No one likes being rejected. You have no doubt worked very hard over the last few years; getting top grades, cleaning up after a menagerie of animals on work experience and slaving away at your personal statements for the early UCAS deadline. To have all that thrown back at you, especially if you didn’t manage to secure any interviews, is extremely disheartening. However, there is a time to sulk and a time to take action! By all means, have a mope (I did after all my rejections, including the one where I was accidentally rejected and had to wait the whole weekend for the admissions team to rectify their mistake) but now is the time to ‘chin up’, find out what went wrong and concentrate on achieving those grades if you haven’t yet sat your exams.
Email the universities for feedback as soon as possible. As always, they are very busy people and it may still take a while for them to get back to you – but at least you’ve ticked it off your ‘to do’ list. I have found that feedback from the universities is very good if you’ve had an interview. If you didn’t manage to get one then getting a response that isn’t ‘unfortunately there are x many applicants for x many places’ is pretty rare. However, if you didn’t get an interview the most likely reason would be due either to academic requirements or your personal statement wasn’t quite ‘up to scratch’.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your personal statement. I won’t list them but make sure you get anyone and everyone to have a look over it. The more people the better, and by far the most important thing is to ensure you talk about your work experience and what it taught you about the veterinary profession. If you’re having a gap year, dedicate a paragraph (doesn’t have to be big) for your plans – you don’t want the admissions tutors thinking you’re doing nothing in your year off! Additionally don’t panic if at this stage you haven’t attended a lot of the work experience you have booked, as by the time interviews come around (or you have to complete work experience questionnaires) you will have done a lot of it.
If it was your academics that let you down, things are a little more difficult. If you just missed your grades, have a look/email the universities you’re thinking of applying to. Each has individual requirements for re-sits so check you’re still eligible to apply. On the whole, unless applying to Cambridge, I believe module re-sits are okay as the universities don’t take them into account and just want the overall grade (check the websites, or email to make doubly sure). If you missed your grade by a lot, then you need to consider why this happened or what you could improve on. The veterinary course is very challenging and being realistic about why you haven’t achieved what you wanted is key to knowing and being able to cope with the work load that will be waiting when you get here.
If you got to this stage, even if it didn’t end well, give yourself a pat on the back. For me, the interview represents the halfway stage, you’ve sent everything off, waited patiently to hear (don’t forget that no news is more than likely good news when it comes to applying for veterinary) and have finally been rewarded! People kept telling me that getting the interview was the hard part. For me it was the start of the worst part – and may feel like that for you to. I was not very good at preparing for interviews. I tried to learn answers for questions they might ask me (and of course they never did). I also only got asked once, out of my 7 interviews, why I wanted to be a vet – which was a relief as I still can’t answer it without sounding clichéd) instead of knowing what I learn’t on work experience. This is crucial. Knowing why you’ve seen what you’ve seen, not necessarily how what you saw works. Now, it is important, for instance, if you’ve spent x weeks at a small animal hospital to know that we remove the uterus from a dog during spaying. However it is much more important to know the reasons for that spaying than it is for you to tell me what suture material the vet uses when doing a midline or flank spay, for example. If you’ve been at that practice for more than 2 weeks I would expect you to be able to outline roughly what happens in a spay, but they would not ask you this outright in an interview – if it came up they would gradually build to it. If you turn up and immediately answer simple questions with a lot of detail you will be liable to dig yourself in a hole and get confused about the simple things. Interviewers are looking to see how you think and deal with different situations. Of course if you’ve said you’ve seen things on work experience they expect you to talk about it – but not in so much detail. After all, if you already know it all what is there for them to teach you?
There is also the worry that everyone else who is applying knows more than you. Social media is a great but worrying thing. My best advice to you is to not get hung up on what other people know or are doing for their interview prep – it doesn’t mean they will get offers because they know in-depth about x which may not even come up.
Do I or don’t I?
So you’ve already been through that once, you followed the advice, had a cracking personal statement, got the interview but it didn’t work out again. The big question now is do you re-reapply or go down another route? The only person who can answer that is you. It took me less than a nano-second to decide to re-reapply after my second lot of rejections. I had had interviews this time round and experience; surely this next application would be a breeze? It clearly wasn’t, but that was down to me and my, as I’ve mentioned, really bad interview prep. After the third set of rejections, the question wasn’t so easy. The reason I went for it was because I felt I could still improve my application. If I had been rejected that time I would of taken my backup option, as I truly had exhausted all possibilities of improving.
When I was applying people applying a third or even fourth time was almost unheard of (or if they were they kept quiet about it). The thought of having another gap year while your friends are halfway through their degrees puts a lot of people off. Its also difficult thinking of things to do after you’ve had a gap year of work experience and traveling etc just earning money or doing more work experience may not appeal to you. You may have parents or friends not being very supportive and thinking you should give up, or try a different route. The graduate route is expensive, even with some of the universities now offering lower fees. You would still be in competition with others for the places, and don’t forget, if you ever had to re-sit a year you would have to pay for that extra year as well. You would also be older, which may bother some people. Applying abroad is another popular choice, or doing a completely different degree altogether and forgetting about veterinary. There are a huge variety of things that you will need to think about. Some of you wont be daunted by the huge fees, or traveling abroad, some may even think that in the end veterinary wasn’t for them and could end up doing something else that pays better and has considerably less stress involved. The point that I’m trying to make is that if it’s your first, or your fifth application, the decision to re-apply is one only you can make. You are the only one that knows deep down why you wanted to apply for this course despite the high competition, crazy amount of work experience and dedication needed.