Lots of the questions that I receive from you guys relate to work experience, whether it be what experience is necessary through to how to actually go about finding and securing placements. Some ask if it’s even really that important.
The answer to the last question is yes, it is undoubtedly one of the most important factors in a successful vet school application and should definately be taken seriously.
How do you really know that you want to be a vet?
How do you really know that you want to do something? The answer is by doing it. You might think that you know what being a vet is all about from watching TV shows, reading vet books and watching your pet’s vet in action on their annual vaccination trips, but the truth is that until you pop the hood and take a look at the mechanics of the car that is your chosen career option, then you’ll not be able to make informed decisions about what is actually one of the most important decisions of your life.
Vets work in many different capacities, from small animal practice to equine to farm, and beyond. Our training is still one in which we are taught, examined and ultimately qualified across the board. If you find that upon starting your training there are aspects of being a vet that you cannot cope with, such as meat production, then you’ll either find the course incredibly difficult to complete or feel compelled to leave vet school, with the heartache and stress of having potentially wasted a number of years of your young life that you could have spent focusing your efforts on a far more suitable career. The value of work experience is in drastically reducing the chances of this from happening by exposing you to the realities of the veterinary profession before you apply. This will either have the effect of confirming your wish to pursue a career as a vet, in which case your application will undoubtedly beam with passionate enthusiasm and wonderful examples of your dedication to and knowledge of the profession, or inform you that it perhaps was not quite what you had first imagined and that your future may lay in a different direction. This is what is mean’t by making an informed decision and is why I believe work experience is the most important aspect to anyones’ preparation for applying to vet school.
Do the vet schools really care?
Yes, they do. Training you to be a vet is a costly, lengthy process and it really sucks to have students drop out of the course during their degree. By focusing on recruiting students who have shown that they have seriously considered their options and made an informed choice that veterinary is what they want to do, the vet schools significantly reduce the chances of you not sticking with things. The drop-out rate for vet degrees is incredibly low, in large part due to the fact that in spite of it being really tough at times, each vet student accepted their place with eyes wide open to what lay ahead and the prize at the end.
Most vet schools will assess your level of work experience through reading your UCAS application and specifically your personal statement. If they see potential then you will likely be invited for an interview during which you may well be asked to expand on your experiences. Some, such as RVC and Edinburgh, request extra information on your work experience to be submitted separately to your main application.
This is such an important topic that I plan to bringing you more on the subject, in addition to it making up a rather large chapter in the upcoming edition of Vet School. If you have any specific questions about Work Experience, then please contact me via Facebook, the vetschoolsuccess website or Twitter.
How do you go about getting work experience on a farm?
Hi Lucy. Great question and one worthy of a blog post so watch this space. In essence, the best way to get farm experience is to first of all decide what type of farm experience you want (dairy, lambing, pig etc), identify some good candidate farms (local knowledge, ask people, ask your local farm animal vets for suggestions as they may well know which are good farms to approach and which are student friendly), find out who you need to ask at the farm (ie the owner or key decision maker) and then write a nice, polite request letter to them. Same principles as for requesting any other type of placement.