Maximize Your Senior Year for Internship Success

The Vetducator - Picture of senior vet year schedule for internship prep
Sample senior year schedule for a small animal internship-bound student.

What are your concerns in scheduling your senior year?  When you plan to take boards and what rotations to do before that.  When you want to take vacation and do job interviews. Have you thought about how scheduling your rotations may affect your intern application success?  Because it can, fairly dramatically.

Remember what intern evaluators want to know– can you do the job?  More specifically, do you have general surgical and medical skills sufficient to be a competent intern?  Even if your interest is neurology, the internship evaluators are probably not very interested in the amazingness of your neuro knowledge.  Evaluators know about your clinical skills largely from your letters of recommendation.

You need to make sure your senior year is structured to maximize your likelihood of getting good letters of recommendation from core clinical disciplines.  Core disciplines are medicine, surgery, and related disciplines. Your first rotation or two is a wash- you’re just learning the clinic and figuring things out.  Getting a good letter from the first rotations is nearly impossible- you don’t know enough to shine yet. Load up rotations which will get you in the clinic but which are not core, such as ophthalmology, dermatology, anesthesiology, oncology, and similar disciplines.

You want to schedule the rotations where you will get your really stellar letters of recommendation in the late summer and early fall.  Internal medicine, surgery, and emergency medicine are probably the top contenders. Cardiology and neurology can be rotations for good letters if you absolutely cannot arrange your schedule to get medicine and surgery during this time.

Some internship programs may offer on-site interviews after applications are due in early December.  Having some vacation time in late December or early January to arrange these may be helpful. However, everyone else wants to be off over the holidays, too, so this may be difficult.  Don’t lose sleep if you can’t arrange it- most programs which do interviews are fine with phone or video interviews.

Don’t waste any time before the match doing external rotations at the clinic where you worked during undergrad, or on peripheral disciplines like pathology or behavior.  You may, however, do external rotations at other universities or clinics which have internship programs to which you want to apply. But remember, you don’t have much time to become an above-average clinical senior veterinary student in order to perform to the level where you will get good letters of recommendation.  Focus on core clinical disciplines and leave the rest of the year after match applications are due for anything else. Not sure how to do this? Ask away!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *