You may think it superfluous, but, starting right now, start keeping track of all of your veterinary experiences, honors and awards, extracurricular activities, and jobs. Why all of this (seemingly irrelevant) information for vet school, you may ask? Good question! The Veterinary Medical College Application Service, VMCAS, requires you to submit information regarding the following:
- Veterinary Experience
- Animal Experience
- Employment (non-animal related)
- Honors & Awards
- Community Activities
As an aside, just so we’re clear, the Community Activities section is broadly defined and can include anything from formal extracurricular activities and leadership opportunities to informal hobbies. Personally, I used this section to give the admissions committee a more complete picture of who I was as an applicant. Although it was natural for me to include that I was a captain of two varsity sports teams, including experiences such as times when I served as an alumni panelist for my undergraduate institution to speak to current students was not as natural for me. Such experiences may not be of comparable significance, yet they are valuable in that they demonstrate qualities that are desirable in a veterinary student.
It took me many months to accumulate a list of everything I wished to include in the Experiences section of VMCAS. I found it particularly difficult to remember activities from high school. Fortunately, my parents had saved copies of my college applications, which included a detailed list of all my extracurricular activities from high school. I cannot tell you how invaluable that list was for me, as it brought back memories of things that I had otherwise forgotten about. However, you do not need such a list in order to compile a comprehensive and detailed list of your non-academic life thus far.
- 1. Start a detailed list of all your experiences and awards. You are going to need details, so make sure you include the who, what, where, when, and why of everything! For experiences, it is most important to get the WHO, WHAT, and WHEN. The WHO is the person, business, or organization, the WHAT is what you did, and the WHEN is the span of time that you were involved. If you don’t remember everything now, that’s fine, you can fill in the details later. It also might be fun to speak to friends and family to ask them what they remember!
- 2. Keep track of your experience hours on a spreadsheet! This will make your life so much easier when VMCAS comes around and you are trying to determine precisely how many hours you spent per week and in total doing each experience. Make sure you note dates and hours worked. That way, when VMCAS asks you for the Average Number of Hours/Week and Total Number of Hours Over Span of Experience you will be prepared, spreadsheet in hand!
- 3. Update your resume! If you don’t yet have a resume, start one now. (I’ll tackle resumes in a later post.) I essentially used my resume to compile the Employment section of VMCAS. If you’ve never had any non-veterinary related jobs, then don’t worry about the Employment section, but you should still create a resume!
- 4. Keep contact information for the places you worked or gained experience from. While this is a little harder, VMCAS does ask for phone numbers for each of the experiences you list. Although it is not mandatory, it can’t hurt.