What I Wish I Had Known as a Student Applying for Internships

The Vetducator - Rock lines path symbolizing internship path.

I only applied to 11 internships, 9 of which were academic.  My letter and CV were not particularly good, but I was very assertive on clinics, did a good job, and got good letters of recommendation.  I didn’t participate in clubs or do any substantive research during vet school. If I applied nowadays, it is unlikely I would have gotten any internship, much less a good one.  I want to help you avoid my mistakes by giving you this advice:

Apply everywhere.  I have no idea why I limited the scope of where I applied.  I suppose I had some high-minded ideal of only wanting to go to places on the west coast.  Don’t do this. Apply wherever you think you could be happy for a year. Which is anywhere.  Even the frozen north or broiling south.

Polish your materials.  You need to reach out to your mentors and have them provide advice and perspective on your application.  Almost no one writes a good letter or CV the first time around without input. Seek advice constantly from those who know better.  If for some reason you don’t have mentors, reach out to me.

Don’t try to game the match.  I thought I knew how the match worked and ranked institutions according to where I thought I would get matched, rather than where I wanted to go.  This reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the match. Rank where you WANT to go first.

Demonstrate leadership.  Although I didn’t participate in vet school clubs, I opened and ran a karate school for 4 years while in vet school.  I wish I had known that participating in student clubs may have helped my application more than running a non-vet-school-related organization.  I don’t think it hurt but, for the amount of time it took, it didn’t help as much as it could have.

Go to private practice.  I knew I wanted to do a residency and felt that an academic internship would position me best for this.  It’s probably true, but, in fact, I did a private practice internship which has been incredibly valuable for teaching students for the Real World.  You may need to take a more meandering route if you do a private practice internship- doing specialty internships or other roles after your internship- but it is better to stay in the system in some capacity.

Fortunately, you have the benefit of my experience as well as the entirety of human knowledge in your pocket.  Hopefully, you will make more informed decisions than I did. I have a pretty great life, so do not regret any decisions, but it would have been nice to know the consequences of my decisions when I was younger.

2 thoughts on “What I Wish I Had Known as a Student Applying for Internships

  1. AvatarVetMed Survival Guide

    Great post as usual! I agree with your comments and actuall have a similar post looking at additional things I would have done differently back in the day – https://vetmedsurvivalguide.com/7-things-done-differently-vimrp-match/

    A couple extra pieces of advice:
    1.Although one year will go by quickly, it will be a difficult year, and if you are sure you do not want to go to some area of the coutry, don’t rank those programs. But don’t limit yourself too much as it can affect your chances of matching.
    2.Put in the work in vet school and on the clinic floor. Act as if you’re the doctor and show your mentors what you can do. That’ll land you great letters of recommendation and really increase the quality of your application!

    1. The VetducatorThe Vetducator Post author

      I absolutely agree with #1 and #2! With regards to “not sure you want to go there”, the mismatches I see most commonly are with interns at an academic institution who hate teaching. I always think, “What are you doing here if you don’t want to help teach students?!? Go to private practice!” For #2, that is solid advice- work hard and do a good job!


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