Red Flags in Vet School Applicants

In my opinion, there aren’t many reasons that applicants are flagged as not acceptable for entry into vet school.  In the application, the three I can think of are academics, experience, and ethics.  In the interview, the two I can think of are cluelessness and obnoxiousness.  Let’s break each one down.

Academics

“The art and science of medicine.”  This phrase is often used to describe the fact that science is a foundation for medicine, but there is personal style and approach which also makes it an art form.  For better or worse, you need to learn a LOT of information during vet school.  Some people are not academically inclined.  That doesn’t mean they’re not smart or not valuable people.  Maybe they didn’t have a family which gave them books growing up, or maybe they were never taught how to study effectively.  

Regardless, you need to be academically competent to get through vet school and be a competent veterinarian.  No one wants the vet who prescribes Temaril-P and deracoxib together (true story: I’ve seen at least three dogs with GI perforations due to this combination prescribed by licensed DVMs).  So if an applicant doesn’t have strong academics, they’re going to have a harder time getting in and- more importantly- progressing successfully through vet school.  No school wants to admit a student only to have them fail out.  Some people are just not able to become a veterinarian, and that’s OK.

A single “F” grade is not enough to indicate an academic problem, nor is a single  “W”.  I would say an applicant routinely taking <12 credits a semester (unless they have a good reason, such as working full time), an applicant who only ever takes one science class a semester, an applicant who only earns “C”s in science classes, or an applicant with an overall low GPA would be a red flag.  Vet school semesters are usually 18-22 credits and are almost ALL science courses.  If an applicant hasn’t demonstrated they can handle that load, that’s a little problematic.  If an applicant has a string of “F” or “W” grades without a good reason (e.g. personal illness), that’s also problematic.

Experience

If you don’t know what a veterinarian does, how can you possibly make an informed decision to go to vet school?  Applicants don’t necessarily need thousands of hours of experience, but they absolutely must have spent SOME decent amount of time with a veterinarian.  I have seen applications with zero veterinary experience and we did not admit those people.  You have to have some idea of what you’re getting into.

Ethics

Applicants with felony convictions, letters of recommendation which indicate they did the Wrong Thing, or a contradiction between what the applicant says and what is in their official materials are all serious problems.  Medicine requires a high ethical standard.  No school wants to accept someone who has questionable ethics.

Cluelessness

I’ve only had one interviewee about whom I wondered how in the world they got an interview, because they seemed to have no idea what veterinary medicine was.  This is mostly tied in with Experience, above.  If you’ve spent time with a vet, researched questions for an interview, and have an idea of the profession outside of taking care of individual patients, you will do fine in the interview.  If you don’t know that vet school is 4 years long, or that vets learn about pharmacology, or that vets do research and military work and food safety, you’re probably not going to do well in the interview.  Do your interview prep work and you’ll be fine.

Obnoxiousness

This one is HIGHLY variable among evaluators.  As I mentioned in the intro to this series, I have seen applicants I would never have admitted be ranked quite highly by other evaluators.  But everyone has their “thing” that bugs them about applicants.  Mine is arrogance.  I am a big fan of humility, so any sense of arrogance I get from someone puts them immediately in the bottom of the barrel.  For other evaluators, maybe they are irritated by lack of confidence or obsequiousness or brashness.  There’s not a lot you can do about this as an applicant, other than being an RFHB.

Those are the red flags I can think of.  Other evaluators may have different ones, but I think these are the major categories most of us would agree on.  Are there any elements of your application you are worried will be a red flag?

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