Vet School Personal Statements

My Second Personal Statement: (The one I got accepted with)

 I am competitive and my life experiences have added to my personal character and stamina. Since I can remember, I was addicted to horses, eager to muck twenty stalls just to spend time with them. During my parents divorce, I turned to horses to give me the strength and reassurance I needed. I spent long hours at the barn far away from my troubles at home learning about equine care, training and management. Eager and present to hold horses for the local vet, I had the opportunity to be involved in various diagnosis and treatments.

I was hesitant to attend college at first, although I was drawn to veterinary medicine from my lifelong involvement with horses, I did not know if I could afford a college education or handle the challenging coursework. Scholarships relieved my financial burden; I sought out to tackle the coursework. My successes in learning how to problem solve and developing an applicable study method enabled me to excel in my chemistry courses and receive a position as a tutor at the Sierra College skills center. Always able to establish a good rapport with students, I consider myself to possess a talent for teaching others in an outgoing and professional manner that helps them to perceive difficult concepts easily. My persistence and resourcefulness in obtaining scholarships throughout college is rewarding as I am commended for my academic success. My accomplishments in my college years have helped me to understand my own potential and the path that I wish to pursue. Once I realized that veterinary medicine was my goal, I worked harder to succeed, and obtain experience in the field. My desire and diligence to obtain a variety of jobs and internships in the animal health field is indicative of my motivation for success. 

My internship in equine medicine at the VMTH gave me the chance to see life as a veterinary student and the opportunity to participate as part of an investigative team of knowledgeable veterinarians. One of my most memorable shifts involved a young alpaca that was in labor for almost 24 hours. I watched intently as individuals from various departments of the VMTH worked together to relieve the distressed alpaca. I jumped in the mix when an extra hand was needed to pull the chain wrapped around the trapped Cria. I heaved and thought positive thoughts for the young alpaca and her unborn Cria. As the lifeless Cria was released from its confine, a sense of relief and sadness came among the group. I watched the doctor console the owners as they grieved for their loss of a new life. The experience was a memorable example of the abilities and limits of veterinary medicine.

Working as a foal team member in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the VMTH introduced me to unique cases requiring critical care. My experiences with foals have always been in a positive light, with the foal eagerly nursing, a curious expression accompanied by a soft nose and fuzzy ears. This picture became drastically different when I met my first critically ill foal. Caring for sick neonatal foals requires a substantial commitment physically, mentally and emotionally.  You have to be able to think quickly when dealing with foals. I was able to remain calm and rational when exposed to stressful and high-pressure situations when we had difficult mares and fragile foals. I worked the graveyard shift under the supervision of veterinary technicians who were more than willing to let me get my hands dirty. I performed physical exams on mare and foal, assisted with milking and feeding of the foal through a nasogastric tube. In addition to assisting in veterinary procedures, I could not help but become attached to patients and always followed up on cases. While providing an invaluable service, I was able to gain excellent veterinary medical experience.

Travel is one of my favorite hobbies. I spent four weeks in South America studying the Spanish language in addition to broadening my cultural awareness. Staying in hostels while traveling through Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia allowed me to meet fellow travelers engaging in their cultures and experiences. Having witnessed the similarities and differences among many diverse cultures and geographical areas has allowed me to relate to various nationalities, a quality that will help me work effectively with colleagues and help me better serve my clients in the future.  I believe that a veterinarian must be attuned to the needs of their community. Veterinarians should have the heart to offer their services for the betterment of their community. Working at the Mercer clinics in Sacramento assisting with treatment of pets of the homeless has given me perspective in the necessities of the services offered by such indispensable programs.

My undergraduate program is a process whereby I have deepened my interest and understanding of Animal Biology. I consider science as a process and means of advancing society. The major allows me the autonomy of my future as an undergraduate by detailing my education to my interests. The practicum research project is what separates the Animal Biology major apart from other majors at the UC Davis. I am currently conducting research for my senior practicum under the supervision of Dr. Gershwin at the VMTH in veterinary immunology. I began my research investigating the field of immunology by auditing Dr. Gershwin’s immunology course for first year veterinary students. I found my experience in her course stimulating, a genuine example of the veterinary curriculum where I learned a great deal about clinical immunology and gained appreciation for the relevance of my research project. My research project aims to examine several antibody classes from equine sera samples in order to develop an assay to predict if a horse may be predisposed to having a vaccine reaction. The applicability of my project to the real world was heartbreakingly made aware to me when Dr. Gershwin informed me of a recent clinical case witnessed by the mobile VMTH on a routine call to examine an older mare with an acute lameness. There turned out to be no problem with the lameness, but as the vet was leaving, she noticed the mare was not up to date on her vaccinations. After administration of the vaccines, the mare dropped dead due to a severe vaccine reaction. The consequence of not knowing if the mare was predisposed to having a vaccine reaction was detrimental to the mare, emotional turmoil for the owner, and shocking for the young vet. The purpose of my research is to prevent endings like these and other problems associated with vaccine reactions.

All of my life experiences have been significant in bringing me to this point. I am mentally prepared and determined enough to succeed at any endeavor, and posses the maturity demanded in the veterinary profession. Working with experts in veterinary careers has highlighted many of the physical, emotional, and financial struggles involved in becoming a veterinarian. My compassionate feelings for animals and zeal for emerging research facilitates my commitment to veterinary medicine that will motivate me through the years to come. My ultimate goal is to be accepted into the Veterinary Scientist Training Program to combine my passion for research and joy of teaching while also serving on the cutting edge of new technologies and the ever-changing face of veterinary medicine. My future is greatly anticipated, as for me, veterinary medicine emerges as the ideal approach for satisfying my intellectual curiosity as well as my desire to contribute to the betterment of animal, human and environmental health.  I am aware that this is a career with many demands, both emotional and physical, but I know that I possess the diligence, ardor and endurance to overcome these obstacles and to become a valuable member of the veterinary community. 

My First Personal Statement: (you can see the difference!) This one was not quite up to par with my second try

 My life experiences with animals have led me to pursue an education in veterinary medicine.Since a young age, I've loved horses, and had a profound interest in working with and helping animals. All my life I have established goals and made a dedicated agenda to accomplish them. Animals, especially horses, have driven me to work hard toward my ambitions. Although my parents couldn’t afford to provide me with everything I desired they were very supportive in helping me succeed. I became self-motivated, taking initiative to work hard for the things I wanted in life.

            At ten years of age, I purchased my first horse. By working at the barn in exchange for riding lessons and my horses’ keep, I became knowledgeable about equine care, training and management. I competed in a wide range of events at local and statewide competitions. By competing in hunter/jumper, western pleasure, and endurance riding I gained insight to the competitive aspects of the equine industry and the concept of the horse as a partner, but also an athlete.

            During high school, I worked at several different barns as an assistant trainer. I had an opportunity to work with a variety of horse breeds as well as equestrians. I started young horses under saddle as well as riding seasoned show horses. I would often encounter difficult horses and then work with my senior trainers to solve the training issues. With the experience I gained in the saddle and the many hours I spent with horses, I was able to teach others how to ride. During my first summer camp, I took responsibility for a group of four ten year olds with no previous horse experience. Over the four weeks of camp, I became a teacher and a mentor to my group. I was able to effectively convey basic equine care and riding techniques through group exercises. I taught my students to communicate with their horses as well as each other. After the camp, I went on to give riding lessons to all different ages and riding levels.

             Though I enjoyed training horses, I still felt strongly about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. I earned scholarships to attend Sierra College so I could take animal and equine science courses along with my prerequisites for veterinary school. I excelled in my animal related courses, though I struggled through chemistry. I worked diligently to overcome my difficulties, seeking help from the tutoring center. I worked hard to receive an “A” in the class. After my second semester of general chemistry, I realized that I actually liked chemistry. I began working at the tutor center with students individually as well as in groups to help them overcome the same challenges I had faced in chemistry. I learned how to explain the material while being patient with students that struggled.

            In addition to my undergraduate coursework; I became involved with Saddle Pals, a therapeutic riding program for the disabled. As a volunteer, I became involved with weekly lessons that gave students the opportunity to work with horses and overcome the challenges they faced in life. Since many of the horses used in the program were rescue cases with soundness issues that left them only good for light riding, routine veterinary care was essential to the stability of the program. I admired the local vet who had dedicated her time to treat the horses in the program at a low cost, allowing the program to thrive.

              Through hands-on experiences in veterinary settings, I have gained understanding and insight about the veterinary medical profession. Working at Lakeside Pet Hospital, a small animal veterinary clinic, I was exposed to the daily tasks required of a small animal veterinarian. I learned that veterinary work at a clinic was often arduous, but also gratifying. By following up on patient cases, I often gained insight to both routine and emergency situations. One Sunday morning at the clinic, I had the chance to be involved in a unique case. The patient was a mini Yorkshire terrier that had been kicked in the head by a deer. As I watched the doctor examine the small dog, it was evident that the animal had severe trauma to its head, and there was nothing we could do but to end the dog’s suffering. This was my first experience where I encountered the limits of medicine.

            This summer, I had an opportunity to work with Dr. Dave Turoff, a skilled and highly respected local veterinarian. I gained exposure to working with large animals in an ambulatory practice allowing me to assist in exams that showcased the dynamic process of veterinary medicine. I was intrigued by the method of obtaining a patient history, vitals and symptoms to locate a specific problem. We often had to treat patients before getting blood work or x-rays, exposing the limitations of a mobile practice. I had confidence in the logical process of treatment protocol. 

            My dedication to working with horses has evolved into a passion to become a veterinarian. I am confident that my life experiences have driven me to be successful in my pursuits.

Admission committees look for applicants who capture the compassion as well as the passion for the field to which they wish to apply. The personal statement is your primary opportunity to distinguish yourself from the thousands of other applicants. Make a lasting impression by showing the admission committee who you are as a person and making the case that you possess the personality traits and characteristics to become a successful health care provider. 

The Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) prompt is: 

Discuss briefly the development of your interest in veterinary medicine. Discuss those activities and unique experiences that have contributed to your preparation for a professional program. Discuss your understanding of the veterinary medical profession, and discuss your career goals and objectives. 

Here are some tips specific to veterinary school personal statement: 

  1. Do not regurgitate experiences and other data already existing on other parts of the application.
  2. Write about your knowledge of the veterinary profession.
  3. Include information about who you are as a person and what diveristy you might bring to the institution.
  4. Include information about why you'd be a good candidate.

 

1. Brainstorm

Questions to ask yourself before you write
  • Who are the most influential people in your life? What did they do for you?
  • What have been the pivotal moments in your life? 
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • What obstacles have you overcome?
  • What makes you different?
  • How will your skills and personality traits add diversity to the class?
  • Do you feel a passion for medicine? What is the source of that passion?
  • What do you want medical schools to know about you that hasn't been disclosed in other sections of the application? 
  • How would your family and friends describe you?
  • What are your goals and dreams?
Take Notes

Compile an inventory of all the activities, experiences, and relationships/influences that have helped to define the person you are today. Looking back, what can you recall having changed you? How were you affected? What lessons did you learn? What personality traits do they reflect in you? These notes will help you identify the topics or themes on which to focus your statement. As you are brainstorming, you may identify experiences that stir strong emotions. These experiences are likely to be meaningful to you and therefore may be good material for your personal statement. Speak from your heart. 

2. Start Writing

Identify Your Word Limit

Word/character limits for personal statements vary across professions so it is important that you identify your word or character limit before you start writing. The limit for the veterinary school application (VMCAS) is 5000 characters. Generally speaking, this is roughly one page single-spaced.

Character limits for common health professions' application services (all include spaces):
Allopathic medicine (AMCAS): 5300 characters. For Texas schools (TMDSAS): 5000 characters
Osteopathic medicine (AACOMAS): 4500 characters
Dentistry (AADSAS): 4500 characters
Veterinary (VMCAS): 5000 characters
Physician Assistant (CASPA): 5000 characters
Accelerated Nursing programs: varies by school; for schools using NursingCAS, the limit is 5000 characters
Physical Therapy (PTCAS): 4500 characters Public Health (SOPHAS): 1500 words

Get It on the Page
For your first draft, don't get hung up on your beginning or ending. Instead, just start writing. You may feel the urge to write a lot about your personal journey; if so, run with it. This may provide you with good material and you can edit it later. 


Focus In
  • Identify the most significant aspects from your notes that will enable you to address one or more of the following standard topics:
  • Your motivation for this career
  • Influence of your family and early experiences on your life
  • Influence of your extracurriculars, volunteer activities, and/or jobs on your life (what have you learned, how have you demonstrated leadership, and how have you matured?)
  • Your qualifications (unique attributes, personal qualities, and/or skills that set you apart) 
  • Long term goals 

Use your experiences to provide personal insight into your personal attributes. Weave a story that helps the reader understand who you are as a person rather than simply listing your achievements. Avoid repeating information that is included elsewhere on your application unless you are elaborating on how an experience has shaped you and your motivation for a career as a health professional. 

Address Academic Irregularities If Necessary

You may wish to use a section of your personal statement to address academic irregularities such as withdrawals, incompletes, repeated courses, or significant fluctuations in your academic record. If applicable, you may mention special hardships, challenges, or obstacles that may have influenced your academic performance. Instead of making excuses, acknowledge and explain the situation, and if applicable, what you are doing differently and what you have learned. 

Take Your Time and Take Breaks
  • Take breaks from writing instead of trying to write everything in one sitting. Picking up your draft later can test whether your writing flows. 
  • Read your writing aloud and listen to what you hear to check for grammatical errors, flow, and clarity. 

3. Organize Your Writing

Overall Shape of the Essay

There is no one correct format for a personal statement. Strong personal statements often begin with a brief background that will serve as the foundation for the message you wish to convey. The bulk of the essay will illustrate the impression you wish to make on the reader, and will flow into a succinct conclusion. Always keep in mind that your essay must be interesting enough to immediately grab the reader's attention and compelling enough to hold it whether your essay is the first or fiftieth one the reader has seen that day.

Though you are not limited to these examples, some people find it helpful to use one of the following approaches:

  • I've always wanted to be a doctor/dentist/veterinarian
  • My parents are health care providers
  • Being a patient/having a sick family member made me want to become a health care provider
  • My experiences in a clinical environment piqued/confirmed my interest in the health professions
  • Through my [non-health care] experiences, I have developed the skills and personal qualities to be an effective health care provider.
Organizational Strategy 

You may find it helpful to use one of the following  types of organizational strategies with your outline:

Standard structure: This type of organization is one you are probably very familiar with from your academic writing. In your first paragraph, you introduce the main points of your essay. In the following paragraphs, you provide evidence to support each of your main points (usually defending one point per paragraph). In your final paragraph, you reiterate your main points in the context of the evidence you presented, possibly leaving the reader with some "big idea" that takes your message one step further.

Comparison: This organizational structure attempts to draw a comparison or analogy between two seemingly unrelated things. In the case of medical school applicants, these essays usually compare a non-medical life experience/talent/interest/famous quote with the field of medicine or the applicant's desire to pursue medicine. It is common for applicants to begin with a story, personal anecdote, quote as a lead and then spend the rest of the essay describing how the lead relates to or sheds light on medicine or their goal of becoming a physician.

If you use this structure, make sure that you provide adequate reflection on how your two disparate ideas connect (or don't connect) to each other. Make your arguments explicit; don't leave it up to the audience to figure out your points. Also, don't get too abstract or philosophical in your comparisons. You don't need to say something profound; rather, just be yourself. Remember, your discussion should always lead back to you and your motivations to enter your health profession of choice.   

Chronology: In this type of outline, the writer takes the reader through the various steps in his/her life that led him/her to medicine. The introduction is usually the initial event that started the writer on his/her journey toward becoming a doctor. The writer then generally recounts the subsequent events in which he/she further explored and/or was further drawn into the medical profession before concluding with how all these events brought him/her to where he/she is today.

The advantage of this approach is that it allows for a more personal approach and helps the admissions committee to know you by turning the focus of the essay to you throughout the various stages of your life. The drawback is that the points you are trying to make can get lost in the narration of your life. To avoid this potential danger, make sure you clearly state how each of these events shaped you and your decision to pursue a health profession as well as the important lessons you learned along the way.

Opening Sentence

Your opening sentence can simultaneously set the theme of your essay and engage the reader. Here are some different types of leads you may wish to try out:

Standard: State what you will be talking about in the paper. This can take on the form of a "thesis" in many ways (i.e. "My interest in medicine began with my trip to Honduras"). This lead sets up the reader for a focused, well-structured essay and helps you to get the point quickly (infinitely useful in a short essay like the personal statement).

Creative: Add interest by making the reader wonder what will come next (i.e. "I was awoken by the beating of African drums that filled the air").

Action: Take the reader into the middle of the action. This is useful if you're trying to conserve space or if your essay begins with a story (i.e. "Our car breaks screeched as the truck came hurtling toward us").

Personal: Reveal something about you (i.e. "My grandmother's words touched my soul like nothing else").

Quotation: Begin with a direct quotation or paraphrase whose meaning pertains to the main points you are trying to convey in your essay (i.e. "FDR once proclaimed that 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,' and I have frequently tried to follow his advice"). Avoid using clichés. 

Dialogue: Put the reader into the middle of a conversation, whether it be an actual talk between two people or your own internal thoughts (i.e. "'I don't want to die,' cried the little girl").

Informative: State a fact that is relevant to the topic of your essay (i.e. "Every doctor remembers her first patient"). 

Ask yourself if your essay can stand without an introduction. It may be appropriate to simply begin with the action of the story (in media res as they say) and then move on to discussing how that story ties into the points you will be making throughout the rest of the essay. 

Conclusion

Tie together the most important points you've made in your essay to bring the reader full-circle. The final sentence or two of your essay can be enough for a conclusion, especially if you're running low on space. The important thing is to make sure you bring your thoughts to their logical end and create a positive, memorable image in the reader's mind. Endings are the last experience the admissions committee will have with your essay, so your goal should be to leave them thinking that it was a satisfying read and wishing that there was more.

4. Get Feedback

Find someone to give you critical feedback who isn't afraid to hurt your feelings. Give your draft to multiple sources to get different perspectives. Ideally you should ask someone who is a good writer to help you with your writing, someone who knows you well enough to verify if your writing sounds like you, and someone who doesn't know you as well who can provide perspective on the impression you are making. Clarity in your writing will reflect good communication skills. By the end of the statement, the reader should be able to see the world through your eyes. 
 

5. Refine Your Writing

The most important part of the personal statement is the impression of yourself that you are creating. After reading your personal statement, readers may ask themselves if you would be interesting to interview. 

Quality of Writing

It is expected that your personal statement be error-free. Grammatical errors may reflect carelessness. 


Further resources

For further advice on writing personal statements in general, visit the Writing Center Resources page. Click here for a revision guide. 

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