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.”|
|“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
|No additional credit for 6+ weeks of work experience.|
|RVC||4 weeks||2 weeks husbandry
2 weeks practice
|“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.