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

  1. -

    It’s good to know that you should research vet schools and apply everywhere. My sister is wanting to further her vet career by doing an internship in the summer. I’ll be sure to share this with her as she continues to apply for internships.

    • - Post author

      Hello Taylor, yes more information is always good! To be clear, this post is aimed at current vet students who are looking to do more education after their DVM, which is a one year rotating experience at a referral hospital. This is similar to human medicine. People use the word ‘internship’ for students BEFORE they get into vet school in a variety of ways. Nonetheless, the advice applies! Good luck to your sister!

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