Applying to vet school as a grad – part 2

Part 1 of my catchily named “grad vet applicant info dump”, covering how being a grad applicating impacts your choice of university, can be found here. This is part 2 looking at how you can hope to meet the demanding entry requirements whilst you work, study or are otherwise kept busy in ways that teenagers aren’t.

Entry requirements & work experience

It’s a good idea to download the Admissions Policy for each vet school. I printed them off and highlighted the relevant bits because I’m sad like that. They key points to pick out are…

  • Do they expect you to meet their A-level requirements as well as having your degree? This came up last time around as part of choosing where to apply but it’s possibly something you could discuss with the admissions tutors, for example if you have a first in your degree or other awesomeness to point out to them.
  • If you don’t have the A-levels they’re asking for, is your degree the right type of subject (generally biosciences) for them to consider you?
  • Is there a cut-off date for returning to university? The only time I saw this in an admissions policy was Liverpool, who wanted you to have graduated in the last 5 years.
  • They all want at least a 2.1 result.

Besides grades the other thing you need is work experience. The universities all ask for different amounts and ratios of animal husbandry/vet practice, ask you to submit evidence of it in totally different ways and use it to judge your application based off their own unique criteria. There’s chapter and verse written elsewhere about how to get good work experience for your application. For grads, the key question is how on earth you’ll fit it around your existing studies or job.

As grads have less holiday per year than school students my first question was whether there was a cut-off date – did I have to cram all my placements into a certain amount of time or would they let me include things I did before my first degree in the total?  I wrote to the universities and got a variety of answers back. I’ve also copied in their guidance on how they evaluate your work experience:

  Work experience requirement: Comprised of… Completed within the last…
Bristol 8 weeks 4 weeks husbandry

4 weeks practice

Their website advises 3 years

but an admissions tutor told me this was now “at any time”.

“Top marks are given if candidates have spent more than 4 weeks (i.e. more than 20 days) in more than 1 veterinary practice and more than 4 weeks in a good spread of animal establishments (e.g. dairy, beef, poultry, pig, sheep farms, kennels, cattery, rescue centre, wildlife park, zoo, abattoir, laboratory). We do understand that it may be difficult to get placements in some establishments (e.g. due to bio security concerns) or that placements may be for a short period such as an afternoon (e.g. at abattoirs and zoos). We understand that you may have work experience placements booked for after you have submitted your UCAS form; you must have completed a minimum of one week in each category (vet and animal establishments) then we will allow 1 week of booked placement in each category that will be completed by the end of the Easter vacation of the year of application.”
Cambridge Not stated N/A N/A
“Work experience is not a requirement for applicants but some experience is useful to understand the profession and what is required of its members. “ “Unlike other veterinary schools, we do not stipulate that you should have completed specified amounts of particular types of animal care/veterinary experience – merely that you should have done enough to be able to discuss and analyse your experiences at interview and have a realistic idea of what a veterinary/scientific career entails. Perhaps a total of two or more weeks ‘seeing practice’ with vets is sufficient. This limited requirement is very important as far as fair access to the course is concerned: not everyone has the time, money, contacts or parental availability to see remote hill sheep farming practice, but most people can arrange a few weeks with a local vet. Quality is more important than quantity – and by quality we mean the ability discuss the scientific and professional aspects of what you have seen.”
Liverpool 10 weeks 6 weeks husbandry

4 weeks veterinary

3 years “preferable”
Minimum 6 weeks animal husbandry and 4 weeks veterinary practice in at least 2 practices, preferable one small and one large animal. Circumstances such as full time employment will be considered.
Nottingham 6 weeks Not stated


2 years
No additional credit for 6+ weeks of work experience.
RVC 4 weeks 2 weeks husbandry

2 weeks practice

18 months
“A total of two weeks of work experience (paid or voluntary) in one or more veterinary practices; A total of two weeks in a variety of different animal environments (outside of your home environment)”
Surrey 4 weeks To include 1 week in practice unknown
“Applicants are expected to have gained at least four weeks of animal related work experience to include a week in a general veterinary practice. Experience could include farm, stable yard, kennels, rescue centre, research laboratory or abattoir work. A broad range of experience is an advantage. Applicants must have completed the minimum requirement before they apply and should clearly state how they have met the requirement in their UCAS application”


In the end I included some really old placements on my application but I also picked up enough recent experience to get offers by:

  • Taking time off work. I used annual leave for about 4 weeks of placement and it took up up a lot of my holiday allowance! This was mostly spent seeing practice where only attending on weekends or evenings would have limited what I got to observe. I could have spread this out over multiple years I suppose but I sort of wanted to power through it.
  • Working a few hours in the evenings. The vet schools state x many weeks but they don’t have to be consecutive hours/days. I added up my hours at the stables after work and suddenly had a 4 week placement to include. Watch out though because some universities cap how many weeks they will count from each establishment, so read their paperwork again.
  • Working weekends. Like my stable placement I got two weeks in a rescue centre by working one day every second weekend over several months.

I think the big challenge while you do all this is not burning out, especially if your full-time job/studies/family care take up a lot of energy too. I tried to volunteer every Sunday at one point on top of work and my evening placements and it was too much. Although some of my “placements” were actually stress-relieving (especially the stables which is less of a placement, more of a hobby) even if you are socialising kittens or walking dogs it can be physically tiring work and emotionally tiring to meet lots of people and remain polite and professional.

The vet schools are looking for your ability to manage the variety of demands on your time, remain resilient to stress and maintain a work/life balance – and beyond the application process it’s obvious they’re all skills you will need in the future. So look after yourself, plan ahead and work out how to fit in the hours you need within the timeframe your university is looking for.

Again I hope this has been useful, check back soon for a post on how the hell you’re meant to afford your mad plan to go back to uni! Thanks for reading – Caitlin.

Applying to vet school as a grad – part 1

Applying to vet school is difficult when you’re 17 and trying to get three As and ten weeks of work experience. I don’t know if it’s easier or harder once you’re 21+ and working full time or finishing degree #1, but it’s definitely different in lots of ways. The university websites plus literally thousands of online resources outline exactly what’s expected from the school leavers; working out graduate applications takes a slightly more digging. Given the time and effort I put into researching this over the last two years I thought it was worth putting what I’d gathered in one place in the hope that it’s useful to the next round of hopeful grads. Good luck!

I hadn’t realised quite how much stuff I’d accumulated about going back to uni. I’d made spreadsheets and filled a ring binder, for god’s sake. So I’ve split this down into several posts, the first of which covers…

Which vet schools should you apply for?

The UK has seven vet schools and UCAS allows you to apply to four. You can also apply abroad (Slovakia seems a popular choice) but I don’t cover that here (except for Ireland) as it wasn’t an option for me and I didn’t research it enough to pass on anything useful.

For almost everyone cost will narrow the field straight away. The English universities charge standard undergraduate fees (currently £9,000/year, rising to £9,250 and who knows how much more) for second-time students. However, the Scottish and Irish vet schools charge much more. Even though Dublin and Edinburgh offer 4-year graduate programmes, the course costs still add up to more than 5 years in England.

In case you were still considering:

  Annual fee for grad-entry vets: Total over full length of course:
Glasgow £26,250 £131,250
Edinburgh £29,000 £116,000
Dublin £16,719* £66,876

*Converted from Euro on 08/01/17. When I first researched this it came out about £2,000 less so even if you feel you can afford it in first year, you have to worry about exchange rates and of course becoming a non-EU student!

The remaining vet schools to choose from are Liverpool, Bristol, Royal Veterinary College, Cambridge, Nottingham and Surrey. Out of these Cambridge is the anomaly as you may have to pay additional college fees of several thousand pounds per year. You’d need to discuss these with the college you apply to as they vary and/or don’t apply at every college.

A second important factor is the length of the course. At the short end, RVC offer an accelerated (four year) graduate entry programme. You’ll qualify a year sooner but based on my estimates slightly worse off than if you spend five years elsewhere due to the higher cost of living in and around London. The first year is spent with entirely other graduates, which might make it easier to settle in and socialise than joining a class of mostly 18 year old. On the other hand the Cambridge vet course last six years with an intercalated year in another department. You may be able to discuss skipping the extra year with your college but it’s still a factor to bear in mind.

A few other points:

  • Cambridge also require you to sit the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test), which the other universities do not.
  • Surrey is such a new vet school that it’s not yet accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (accreditation means graduates are vets, not just highly skilled biologists). However it’s fully expected to gain this in 2019 once their first year of graduates finish the course.
  • Some universities expect you to meet their A-level requirements as well as the 2.1 degree qualification so it’s worth checking whether this narrows down your options at all.

With the graduate- and vet-specific factors out of the way, it now comes down to all the things you considered the first time you were comparing unis… campus vs. city, the area, the facilities, proximity to home etc. There seem to be lots of posts online about which is the “best” or “worst” vet school, or “best for horses/cows/dogs/rabbits”, but I’m yet to see a consensus on the answer. Every open day I went to the students told me their uni was the best so you’ll have to decide for yourself!

The next part of my grad application info dump will be up next weekend and focus on work experience and meeting entry requirements whilst working or studying. Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful to someone!

Happy New Year

This post is a bit later than I intended because I was ill over new year. 2016 may be a year lots of people seem happy to say goodbye to, but for me it seemed pretty good. Of course it had its ups and downs but I’ve decided to pinch an idea from Amy Stamp’s awesome blog and come up with 52 positives from the last year. I hope 2017 treats you well – happy new year!

  1. I took my little sister to a concert.
  2. I adopted Roo the unwanted hamster after many months in the adoption centre.
  3. I finished my grad scheme and got a permanent job.
  4. I learned to lamb a sheep!
  5. I spent a whole year riding at a lovely yard and making friends (equine and human!) there.
  6. I galloped across stubble fields with some of my oldest
  7. I picked up art materials again thanks to Fiona.
  8. I flew a spaceship in virtual reality (thanks Dave!).
  9. I visited Anna and Fiona in Wales at last.
  10. I rescued 3 pigeons.
  11. I ran a hobby event with Elli and Jan.
  12. And we attended 3 others to take part, making some new friends along the way.
  13. I read a bunch of books on Arthurian legend.
  14. I cared for a Katie’s pets while she was away and had 7 animals living with me at one point!
  15. Megan and Logan came to visit us. We met a stag.IMG_4693.JPG
  16. I spent a week in equine practice…
  17. …and a week in farm practice…10 - A lot of pus from a cow.jpg
  18. …which made me grateful for where I grew up.
  19. I volunteered at the RSPCA through the summer.
  20. I applied to vet school.
  21. I racked up some miles for open days and interviews including a road trip with my dad.
  22. I got in to Nottingham!!
  23. I voted remain.
  24. I won a model making class.
  25. I started working out how to buy a house (seriously, it’s so complicated and expensive).
  26. I helped set up an internship scheme for disabled youths.
  27. I painted my grandma’s nails.
  28. I lead a lot of little girls and boys in their riding lessons.
  29. I finished my course of CBT and learned positive ways to deal with anxiety.
  30. We went home for my little sister’s 21stimg_20161203_192250
  31. I learned to play Pokemon.
  32. We taught kids about exotic animals at Walthamstow Garden Party.
  33. I started keeping cacti, picking up my grandad’s collection.
  34. I gave Olaf the rabbit a chance and when it didn’t work out, I knew he’d had a good run.
  35. I spend my birthday with Dave, Chaz, Tom, Sian and my family.IMG_2429.jpg
  36. I learned about a whole bunch of topics and wrote about them on here.
  37. I visited the baby elephant at Twycross Zoo with Tom, Katy and Matt.
  38. I saved a big chunk of money towards my degree.
  39. We travelled to London to see friends from uni for bonfire night.
  40. We visited Ally and Sam in their new home.
  41. We fixed the windscreen wipers on our car ourselves.
  42. I persuaded my mum to take ex-stray Boris to the vet.img_20161129_104713
  43. I watched cross country/eventing for the first time.
  44. Tom and I went to Birmingham Aquarium, met a friendly dogfish and had delicious Chinese food for lunch.
  45. I went on a work Christmas do that surprised us all by being so awesome.
  46. I practiced letting myself have downtime, even if it does mean watching TV.
  47. I braved a make up counter and learned how to “do my face”.
  48. I kept Ham the geriatric hamster alive for another year!IMG_4941.JPG
  49. I learned a lot about riding young horses.
  50. We took part in the Wakes parade.
  51. I took some MOOC courses – even if I didn’t finish them all, I learned some stuff.
  52. Lily and I went to the Horse of the Year Show in Birmingham.


Learning about BVD

On my farm practice placement one of the diseases the vets talked about a lot was bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD). Apparently BVH has a huge economic impact on cattle farming: it can cause poor performance in herds for many years without being treated as farmers may come to accept this as normal. Ongoing infection and re-infection happens via an interesting mechanism including intrauterine transfer to calves and Persistent Infected (PI) individuals constantly shedding virus into the herd’s housing.

What does BVD look like?

BVD infection leads to respiratory problems and poor fertility, as well as compromising the immune system and making cattle more vulnerable to secondary diseases like pneumonia and scouring. In pregnant cows it can cause abortion, embryo death or birth defects, particularly neurological problems. Where cows are infected early in pregnancy their calf becomes exposed to BVD antigens before their immune system is developed enough to recognise it. These calves, if they survive, become the sinister PI cattle responsible for infecting herds more broadly.

What’s the deal with PI cows?

BDV can be transmitted directly or via the environment between infected cows, replicating and causing infection once it touches epithelial cells. Normal individuals will produce antibodies and can become immune, although some will have chronic infections in organs the immune system struggles to reach such as reproductive organs. PI cows, however, “see” the virus as self because it was present before their immune system formed properly. They can never produce antibodies and go around shedding viral material at a thousand times the rate of a normal infected cow.

Many PI calves fail to reach adulthood, often dying from mucosal disease or cerebellar hypoplasia, the aforementioned neurological condition they are likely to be born with. But those that do grow up continue to infect the cows they live with for their entire lives. Identifying and culling these individuals is crucially important to controlling BVD in a herd and restoring herd performance.

What can be done?

As well as removing the PI cows from a herd, biosecurity and vaccination are both important tools. Milk, ear tag and blood samples can be used to test for the presence of antibodies or antigen and look at the infection status of the herd whilst measures such as double fencing and only buying in BVD-free animals can help keep the disease out.

A voluntary BVDFree scheme started in July aiming to eradicate the disease from the UK by 2022. Several Scandinavian countries have proved this to be possible already and practices are encouraging their clients to sign up and gain BVDFree status. This can be expensive but does lead to greatly improved performance of the farm and can be a selling point, for example selling stock certified as BVD-free.

BVD was an interesting disease to learn about even if we never actually dealt with it during my placement week. I’ve listed my references below but a lot of this came from the vets at the practice who were fantastic teachers!



The Cattle Site

Ususal disclaimer: I’m not a vet, not even a vet student yet, so please don’t use my blog for vet advice! If you notice things I’ve got wrong or not understood properly, please feel free to point them out. Thanks 🙂


Interview nerves!

So, the scary crazy exciting news is that I have an interview for Nottingham on Wednesday next week. I had two days off work to use up this month so I booked one of them and the interview is 10am so I have enough time to drive up there first thing.

At first I was so, so excited and happy to have an interview, especially for my top choice university. Since then some weird nightmares including “forgetting” you aren’t meant to leave interviews halfway through and rejection letters have kicked in! I’ve tried to re-cap my placement notes and things I’ve read over the past year, but at this point (as I have to keep reminding myself) it’s not about what I can cram. It’s what I’ve been living and breathing this last year and more generally the theme of animal biology which has run through my whole life!

Nottingham write on their website that the interviews have three 20-minute sessions, including a formal interview, practical and group task. None of those sound too scary. I’ve tried to prepare answers to a few obvious interview questions and I’m going to download my competency notes from work tomorrow in case they come in handy, having had a successful interview using them earlier this year. For the practical I’ll just try to be enthusiastic (shouldn’t be difficult) and think things through logically. As for the group task, they gave us a little taster at the open day – I’m going to try and start useful discussion of our task without dominating, make useful suggestions, encourage others and include everyone like we look for when recruiting apprentices at work. I can’t tell if that experience has been useful or not: yes, I appreciate how a group task works, but I can get carried away picturing their wash-up discussion afterwards!

Then there are the other dilemmas like what to wear, but I think they can wait until the night before. Good luck to everyone else with their interviews, I hope they go well and you end up where you want to be! Xxx


Wildlife rescue

Since I posted about a racing pigeon who came to stay in September two wood pigeons seem to have heard that I’m a soft-hearted pushover and turned up for handouts.

The first one actually knocked himself out on my bedroom window. I collected him from the lawn and put him into a dark box in the hope he would recover. I thought one of three things could happen: he’d die, he’d recover and I’d let him go, or if he just lurked in his box unable to function I’d have him put to sleep. It doesn’t seem fair to me to keep broken wild things that will just be scared and feel helpless.

He did seem to be improving and got back on his feet, but he wouldn’t fly away. I put him back in a box with a perch, food and water, but he died during the night.


The second I found at on a work call-out. He kept falling over and once I picked him up I could tell he was seriously underweight. I took him home and set him up with seeds and chicken feed to try and build him up but he wouldn’t eat, so I contacted a local wildlife rescue who agreed to take him. They knew a LOT more about pigeons than me and showed me the canker which was preventing him from eating. Apparently the prognosis isn’t great but they have had some successes so will have a go at helping him.

If I’m honest, I’m conflicted about rescuing wild animals. Nature is famously red in tooth and claw; the lives of wild animals end brutally, painfully and prematurely all the time. To interfere hinders the action of natural selection to produce better adapted animals and undoubtedly causes temporary stress to the patients. On the other hand, when I see something suffering, I want to help. Maybe that’s selfish and self-satisfying; but then maybe the young pigeon will get to fly off and fulfil its simple desires to eat, roost and raise chicks. Humans put their animal neighbours through a lot so perhaps when we can give something back, we should.

Update! Coventry Wildlife Rescue sent over a lovely message about how the last pigeon was doing. Apparently he is recovering well! How nice are these guys?

Pigeon feedback.jpg

The death of a cow.

On Friday I shadowed a vet whilst he observed and certified the emergency euthanasia of a cow. This was a new procedure for me and one which would once have made me very sad. However the welfare needs of the cow and the professionalism of everyone involved meant that although it was a shame to see an animal killed before its time, it was clearly a necessity and it was carried out in the proper fashion.

The cow was a dairy Holstein or Fresian type with a non-recoverable injury to one or both hind limbs. When we arrived on the farm she was laid in a frog-like position. Apparently there have been studies of how well a cow’s collapsed position predicts her chance of survival and if she’s landed this way, the prognosis is very poor. She did not try and move away as the farmer, vet and slaughterman inspected her and was clearly in a sorry state.

Continue reading “The death of a cow.”

Nottingham Open Day – and…

The first part of this post can only be to say one thing: I just sent off my application to Nottingham, RVC, Liverpool and Bristol Universities! I was (am) so nervous just to do it, I read and re-read my personal statement so many times and then had to make a bunch of last minute changes to fit the 3,999 characters onto those 47 permitted lines. But eventually UCAS accepted it, I made Tom double-check all my details, paid my money and pressed the red button. Aaaaaargh!

On an equally exciting note, we spent yesterday at the open day for the Nottingham vet school. I am a little bit in love with this one. The facilities were modern and expansive and their teachings methods sound really varied. They also integrate more practical work and clinical skills into the early years of the course compared to the other schools. Although I have every intention of applying myself to anatomy and physiology textbooks, it would certainly help to be getting regular insight into why I need to know it from the very start.

Unlike the open days I attended five years ago and the more recent Bristol and RVC visits, Nottingham didn’t offer a free-form day where you went to two talks and could optionally go to the farm or have a campus tour. Instead we were given our itinery and taken though a busy afternoon of educational activities. After a talk about the school we went straight into ultrasounding the hearts of four very tolerant dogs. Our group had a brown lab with a tendency to lie down but we all managed to get some images of atria and valves from between the ribs via an “acoustic window” near the right elbow.

(I didn’t take many photos during the day as I wanted to get stuck in to the activities and chat to the existing vet students and other applicants. It seemed a waste of time to stop for pictures even if they’d have improved the blog post! But Tom did take some later on.)

From there we went to a whirlwind obstetrics class where we delivered toy lambs and diagnosed pregnancy on “breeding betsy”, a model cow rectum/uterus. Here I had a chance to talk to some other potential vets and it was really interesting to hear their views on the universities I haven’t applied to, such as Surrey and Cambridge. Before long though we were off on a tour of the campus, a quiz, a mock emergency situation and a sutreing lesson!


I so enjoyed this open day, but best of all was the visit to the huge university dairy. It featured an incredibly high-tech indoor system: robotic milking, automated slurry scrapers, individual feeding programmes, cow mattresses and my favourite – cow wash brushes. Tom had to elbow me to point out a cow using one. Although I appreciated the advantages of the robot milker I got very frustrated watching it try to find a cow’s teats with the lasers and was tempted to try and lend a hand. We couldn’t take photos in the dairy or I would be bombarding you with them now (you know – how I do with sheep photos).

For me, Nottingham has two other advantages besides the amazing facilities and course. First is its proximity to beautiful Derbyshire where I grew up and am always going home to. Second, the entire veterinary course is based on one rural campus in Sutton Bonnington. Tom and I keep talking about buying a house when we move to wherever I end up studying, so to be on one campus for the whole course in what seemed to be a lovely area would make that much easier.

This weekend cemented Nottingham as one of my choices and saw the start of my application process. I also dropped in on one of the vets I’ll be shadowing in farm practice next month to make sure the arrangements would all work out. It’s been busy and nerve-racking but hopefully very worth it! Thanks for reading and good luck if you’re applying too at the moment 🙂


Pigeongate 2k16

It seems it’s that time of year… once again, our little flat has been home to a racing pigeon.


I saw him/her when I got to work on Tuesday and he hung around all morning. Due to the warm weather we had the office door open and he kept wandering indoors, clearly not fased by people but unwilling to fly at all. Eventually due to the number of cats who come through out car park we caught him and our customer complaints lady rang his owner to ask for advice. He said the pigeon was meant to be racing from Cheltenham to West Yorkshire but as he’d got stuck on the ground, would we feed him up for a few days and send him on his way? We couldn’t see any injuries but he really didn’t seem willing to take off at all; apparently this time of year is the “young bird season” and birds get “flown out” or over-exhausted due to their inexperience.

For the rest of the day we made him an enclosure in the workshop and the end of the day I took him home. He ate seeds and peas and drank water from a mug. By Saturday he was flapping around in his specially adapted rabbit cage, but the weather was terrible so we waited until Sunday morning to send him off.

We have a top floor flat, so he had to be packaged up to get outside.


(Honestly, he was in the box at this point – just getting his act together!)


He sat by the bins for a bit before taking off in roughly the right direction. I hope you got home in one piece pigeon!


A local puppy farm welfare case

The Dog Rescuers on Channel 5

The link above is to a documentary on puppies and the work of the RSPCA – featuring my local branch and the dogs I’ve been walking during my volunteering there!

Apparently there has been a lot of interest in the dogs shown and the centre have posted on their Facebook page to remind people that, due to being part of an ongoing case against the owner, they’re not yet available for adoption. I’ve been really careful not to share any photos or videos of the case dogs but now they’re on national TV I think it should be okay to provide a link to the show! The particular dogs shown in the video may not be up for rehoming but the centre has MANY, MANY dogs in need of forever homes if you’re looking for one.