When you’re applying for the best vet schools, you’ll want to showcase your best vet school extracurriculars. Many students will have extraordinary grades and GRE scores, but one thing that will help you stand out from the crowd is your extracurricular activities. You can mention these extracurricular activities in your vet school personal statement or the experiences section of your application, as well as in your interview. The right extracurriculars can show that you possess the necessary skills and attributes required to be a vet, but what should you choose? Do they need to be specific to vet school? What do vet schools want to see as experiences?
If you’re wondering what extracurricular activities give you the best chance of getting accepted to your dream vet school, keep reading.
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When looking for vet school extracurriculars, it’s important to find activities that are not only enjoyable, but that also can be tied to veterinary medicine in some way. If you love spending time with our furry, scaled, or feathered friends, volunteering with animals can be both rewarding and an excellent addition to the extracurricular activities section of your vet school application. Moreover, colleges love to see volunteering experience on your application, and it looks good on a high school resume, too. In addition to having the fulfilling experience of serving a community, extracurriculars in your area of interest can give you ideas for the future and contribute to your reflection on whether this is a career you wish to pursue.
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Why Are Vet School Extracurriculars Important?
Before we go ahead and look at vet school extracurricular activities, let us first consider their importance.
Extracurricular activities are important in the lives of students and have been shown to impact their academic performance and overall emotional and social development. They can also help with stress management and greatly influence the student’s choice of career path. Participating in extracurricular activities has many positive effects on the student’s engagement level and achievement of better test scores and grades. They learn to adjust better in society and develop healthier academic attitudes.
With veterinary school acceptance rates being notoriously low and varying from year to year, having strong vet school extracurriculars can help shape and strengthen your application. Including them shows vet schools that you are a well-rounded candidate. While GPA and academic performance are important factors in determining your acceptance to your dream vet school, vet school extracurriculars are the character-building activities that complement your academics. They showcase your professional, leadership, and problem-solving skills and build your oral communication abilities.
If you mention extracurriculars on your resume, they may come up as vet school interview questions that allow decision makers to learn more about you as a person. Having great experiences and extracurriculars makes it easy to sound more confident and convincing when you answer.
Best Vet School Extracurriculars
1. Service Animals
If you enjoy working with one animal at a time, training to work with service animals will surely be a great experience for you. You might already have your own pet enrolled or you may wish to join an organization that provides hospital visits and therapy sessions with their own trained team of service animals. In this setting, working with service animals will also allow you to interact with people and improve your personal and communication skills: there’s nothing like having a nice, heartwarming chat with an animal lover!
If you’re still considering whether to go from high school to medical school instead of vet school, working in patient care with service animals can help you decide. However, it’s important to remember that when you accompany service animals into these areas, you are often working in secure or controlled environments, which could require special training, clearance, or certification. So, to work with service animals in clinical settings, plan ahead and read any guidelines carefully to ensure that you meet the qualifications of a program.
There are other ways to get involved in service animal work. For example, the National Service Dogs organization in Canada offers these volunteering opportunities:
2. Animal Advocacy Groups
Working with an animal advocacy group can take many forms: you may work directly with animals in a variety of fields, from pet adoption and fostering to animal rescue and rehabilitation, but you could also contribute to organizing, advocacy, and even government relations! Either way, you will be contributing to supporting animals, experiencing different facets of animal care and learning about their role in society.
Depending on where you are located, there will be a range of options as places to offer your services, including local, community-based initiatives, non-profits, and national organizations, such as the ASPCA in the US and Humane Canada. However, as clinical work with animals is the most favored experience among vet school applicants, be careful not to overextend yourself with advocacy; focus your efforts on those activities considered the best extracurriculars for vet school.
3. Animal Shelters
Often connected with animal advocacy groups, animal shelters offer a broad scope of volunteer and paid positions, such as humane education volunteers, outreach coordinators, animal care workers, and animal transport drivers. Finding such opportunities involves researching the organizations’ websites and job postings.
Note that some animal shelters have specific requirements about age, and attendants must be 18 years or above. Others will welcome you, provided you have the consent and signature of your parent or guardian. You can also check with your school to see whether training with the organization will count toward required volunteer credits in senior years.
To perform well in an animal shelter, you must decide what kind of animals you are comfortable with. Do you like dogs or cats? Reptiles? Birds? If there are animals you are not comfortable working with, inform the animal shelter when you apply. Certainly, a quality looked for in vets is a high comfort level with animals in general, but if you have a preference or any fears, the time to address them is early in your career – and establishing some boundaries for your extracurriculars is not a negative. Rather, it shows your maturity in protecting everyone involved: yourself, other volunteers, and of course, the animal.
If specific training or certification is offered by an animal shelter but is not required, take it anyway! Certificates are valuable supplemental materials that will make your application stand out.
Working in animal shelters, with frequent exposure to many animals, can also help you identify whether you have any allergies that could make this career direction an unwise choice. If you have mild allergies, you can be sure to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your health as you practice your dream job.
While research experience is not required for acceptance to vet school, contributing to research projects indicates to the admissions committee that you have developed some research skills and understanding of scientific inquiry, which may give your application a competitive edge.
If research interests you, look out for opportunities during your undergrad and ask your professors whether they have any projects you could join. Starting early means you can add content to your research resume and ultimately publish as a vet school student, which is great for your employability later. You will also get the chance to network with other researchers and, once you complete the project, even ask them for a college recommendation letter.
Research projects can vary. Some will be mostly writing, while others will involve experimental design. Choose projects that interest you, as this will make it easier to talk about them enthusiastically in your vet school interviews. Candidates for vet school can also participate indirectly in research – as animal care technicians, for example – ensuring the welfare of animals used in laboratory experiments. Remember that vet schools prefer direct experience with animals, so you will need to weigh what will benefit your goals more: research or clinical experience.
5. Veterinarian’s Office
If you plan to work in veterinary medicine, shadowing a vet can be a great way to learn about the ins and outs of this profession. Although not required as an experience on your application for most vet schools, some will require certain hours of hands-on work with animals in a clinical setting, and any exposure to handling animals will impress admissions committees.
Helping out at a veterinarian’s office also provides an opportunity to ask vets and technicians about their personal experiences in their career journey and academic requirements they completed. Furthermore, you will engage with pet owners in teaching them about animal health and healing.
To access this extracurricular, you would typically need to contact a vet’s office directly and inquire about any openings for volunteers or interns. Some offices may require more help during the summer period, which may fit conveniently into a student’s schedule.
If you live in a rural area, you can contact nearby farms to help out with horses, pigs, or cows and learn about large animal care, grooming, and medicine. Working at a farm also exposes you to a variety of animals, which may help you decide which direction to take when you specialize. Farm work is often seasonable; therefore, it’s worth looking around and applying in advance to land this great type of vet school extracurricular.
6. Pet Store
Pet stores offer a variety of products and services dedicated to animals, such as food, accessories, grooming, daycare, boarding, training, and vet care (via third-party clinics). Working at a pet store will not only allow you to meet many animals and pet owners, but you will also become acquainted with animal care products and services, learn what the needs of various breeds and ages of domestic pets are, acquire detailed knowledge of healthy nutritional plans, and so on.
Typically, a position in a pet store will be paid, rather than volunteer; however, this is an invaluable experience for younger students, in particular, as a wide range of activities with different animals is involved, and you will likely cross paths with numerous experts in specialized areas as well. Jobs in pet stores will mainly be advertised in-store, locally, on the store website in the careers section, or on online job boards.
How to Mention Your Vet School Extracurriculars in Your Personal Statement
When you write your vet school personal statement, you’ll start with an introductory anecdote to hook the reader, discuss your motivation to study veterinary medicine, describe any work that relates to your decision to pursue vet school, and present interesting and relevant hobbies, activities, or achievements; in other words, the final component of your vet school personal statement includes your extracurriculars. However, that doesn’t mean you need to just list them or mention them last.
The point of a personal statement is to paint a portrait of you as a candidate for vet school and the veterinary profession but also as a person. In fact, personal statements can get quite creative, and they should be memorable. When all else is equal, an astounding personal statement will likely sway decision makers in your favor. Don’t forget your audience: writing that you have wanted to be a vet ever since you were younger will sound superficial, so dig a little deeper and be very audience specific. Remember that your essays will not be read in isolation but compared to many others.
A strong statement tells a story about your own personal journey. Maybe you had an interest in veterinary medicine in your childhood, and now that you have grown into a mature adult, you can share the story in a theme that helps to pull your essay together. For example, if you have been a jockey since the age of 9 and have always intended to go into equine medicine, it’s likely that your extracurriculars (training, racing, ranch work) will be the core of most of your application and the main theme of your personal statement.
However, if you have had a less clear path, you may want to strategize what to include and where. You don’t have to confine yourself to vet-related extracurriculars. You can mention any incident that shows your growth, maturity, and sense of responsibility and makes the case for your candidacy. By showing, through your extracurriculars, rather than telling, you can add breadth to your experiences.
Basically, whichever direction you take, focus on what you learned from your best vet school extracurriculars and how these experiences helped you develop as a person. For example, you might have gained in teamwork and leadership experience; improved your ability to rationalize, conceptualize, or prioritize decisions and tasks; enhanced your communication skills, and so on. While these skills can be developed in many different ways from nearly all tasks, seeking them out through conscious decisions about your extracurriculars demonstrates self-awareness and a good understanding of the basic qualities required to thrive in the profession. A healthy dose of extracurricular-focused information in your application also indicates that you maintain a good work–life balance, consider your own health, and use stress management strategies, which are important for anyone involved in clinical work as a veterinarian or as a physician.
In fact, there is no “right way” to mention your vet school extracurriculars, but some ways are better than others. If you’re wondering whether you need grad school application help to assist with your vet school decisions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Canadian university admission consultants or other services. We have experts who can support and guide you in obtaining a spot in your vet school of choice. Our advisors know what vet schools are looking for; they can help you highlight certain activities and avoid repeating the same information from other parts of your application. They can also proofread your documents to check for misspellings or grammatical errors that reduce your credibility and the proper use of medical and technical terminology.
Managing Work–Life Balance with Vet School Extracurriculars
Juggling academics prior to vet school and extracurricular activities can be a challenge. Extracurricular activities will offer a wide variety of exciting opportunities, and you might feel that you want to do them all. However, pursuing any activity requires a serious commitment and time.
Keep in mind the following 3 strategies for thriving in vet school curriculars:
Veterinary medicine is an exciting journey, and your vet school extracurricular activities will be an additional star on your vet school application. There are tons of ways to experience working with animals, be it working at an animal shelter, shadowing a veterinarian, or being a pet groomer. These low-risk experiences will also help you determine whether being a veterinarian is what you want to do in the future.
1. How important are extracurricular activities for vet school?
Extracurricular activities play an important role during your vet school application process, as they show the admissions committee what you do outside of school, demonstrate your commitment to vet school, and highlight your interests.
2. Should I mention my extracurricular activities in my personal statement?
Yes, you can mention your vet school extracurriculars in your personal statement and other areas of your application to connect them with your interest in veterinary medicine and outside of medicine.
3. What are some of the best vet school extracurriculars?
Some of the best vet school extracurriculars are working with service animals, animal advocacy groups, animal shelters, in research, at a veterinarian’s office, and in a pet store.
4. Will extracurriculars help improve my GPA?
Extracurriculars complement your vet school application but do not affect your scores or grades. Strong extracurriculars can sometimes offset a weak GPA, but academic performance will always be number one when applying to vet school.
5. Do my extracurriculars have to involve veterinary in some way?
Not necessarily. You can strike a balance between activities that involve and do not involve the veterinary field. However, the best extracurricular activities do involve direct contact with animals, especially in clinical settings, because this is what vet schools look for.
6. How can I find volunteering opportunities in a rural area?
You can contact nearby farms if you live in a rural area. Working at a farm will acquaint you with a wide variety of animals to learn about their nutrition, care, grooming, and medicine.
7. How to balance extracurriculars with school?
Establishing a balance between your extracurriculars and university studies is vital. Set clear boundaries and times for each commitment. When you are at school, avoid checking messages related to your extracurriculars. Delegate tasks when you can and avoid overcommitment.
8. Why is it so hard to get into vet school?
The main reason it's so hard to get in is that there are very few vet schools for the number of interested applicants.
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