Is writing a vet school letter of intent any different from writing one for medical or law school? The short answer is, no. Like a , one for a veterinary school application should follow the same template as other programs (educational achievements, work experience, internships, etc.), but it is the content and experiences you detail that matter more than its format.
However, a letter of intent for veterinary school is not the same as a , which has its own requirements. Instead, a strong vet school letter of intent should showcase your first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a vet, and the insights you gained from these experiences.
This article will delve into the particulars of what will make your vet school letter of intent ring true and provide examples.
A vet school letter of intent is a short precis of your educational background and experience, but it can be a vessel for so much more. A letter of intent reveals how you express yourself and what about yourself you deem most important as it relates to the veterinary field. Like a cover letter does, a letter of intent bridges the gap between you and the program you wish to join. It should draw clear connections between your experience, education, and passion and the goals and mission of your preferred veterinary school program, without deviating too much into personal stories. Of course, there are many things to consider when preparing your vet school application and writing a lackluster letter of intent will not make or break your chances.
But why write a lackluster letter when you can write an excellent one?
When looking at , the acceptance criteria of every school differ, and some programs may not even ask for a letter of intent. But if your school of choice does ask for one, then they deem it a useful prism through which to judge and scrutinize your application. You should focus on all aspects of your application but concern yourself equally with your letter of intent.
There are general guidelines available online on how to write a compelling letter of intent. Those guidelines are good starting points, but they are also too generic. You should craft your letter to reflect the uniqueness of the veterinary profession and sprinkle it with precise points that other letters lack.
The following list outlines some specific points that will help elevate your letter by sticking to the true intentions of a letter of intent: to document your real-world experiences but also demonstrate the seriousness of your application through the breadth of your experiences. As stated above, a letter of intent is different from a personal statement, and it’s important to remember that while writing.
Precision is a quality that speaks for itself. It reveals a focused mind and an ability to sort through what is important and what is not. That’s why you need to focus on not only where you worked or volunteered but also what you did. When you volunteered at a stable, did you bale hay, or did you work directly with the animals? Did you feed and care for the animals, or did you have another role? Don’t be afraid to mention this experience, even if you didn’t work directly with animals. Admissions committees for veterinary schools always look at how much you have interacted with animals, regardless of whether it was directly or indirectly.
Insert Unique Experiences
are notoriously low. There are only a few schools in specific countries that offer a veterinary program, and there are not always enough spots for all the students who apply. For this reason, a potential veterinary student should, if they are serious about becoming a vet, begin working or participating in fields related to veterinary medicine as soon as possible.
Be it volunteer work at a local animal shelter, working part-time at a zoo, or having experience working on a farm, whatever past encounters you’ve had with animals and their care are bound to reflect your honest commitment to being a vet. The variety of your work matters too and should include working with all types of animals.
The point of this is to have a glut of unique experiences under your belt to include in your letter of intent. You want to have enough up-close and real-world encounters with animals so that you can separate superfluous stories from ones that reveal a genuine interest in caring for animals.
Address the School’s Standout Features
Only a handful of universities have the , and they are not all alike. You want to take a good, hard look at a school’s overall offerings for new students and see if its environment, student culture, and location appeal to you.
Once you have ordered your top three choices, you should research your top school’s veterinary program to see how it connects with your background. Do they offer courses that interest you? What interests you, specifically, about the program? Make notes as you read through the university’s website and try to focus on those points when you start writing.
Show Another Side of Being a Vet
Veterinary medicine has the same life and death stakes as traditional medicine, and you shouldn’t shy away from elaborating on negative experiences you’ve had in your life with animals. A sobering story can add gravity to your narrative and leave a lasting impression on admissions committee members.
Of course, you don’t want to go too dark or explicit. Simply mention how a troubling incident helped you understand an animal's needs better and made you take their plight and suffering seriously. It would help if the incident occurred while you were involved in caring for animals, but if it didn’t, make sure you explain the circumstances.
Vets are not necessarily thought of as leaders, but a leadership role of any kind demonstrates being comfortable with outsized responsibilities. If you do have experience being in a leadership position (experience related to animals, hopefully), then that is something you should include. Write about the challenges you faced in this position and what steps you took to overcome them.
A Strong, but Subtle Narrative
This applies to students who have been asked to submit only a letter of intent, without a personal statement. If your letter of intent is the only space you are given to tell your story – aside from the vet school interview questions – you should try to build a narrative from your academic and professional backgrounds.
If there is no section in your application to signal any red flags, you may want to devote a small part of your letter of intent to discussing how you dealt with setbacks. For example, if you struggled with grades in your junior or sophomore years, detail how you improved them. If that example does not apply to you, you could write about some personal struggle that you overcame. DVMs must have excellent problem-solving skills and showing admissions officers how you’ve handled a trying time in your life is one way to show your capabilities.
The don’ts of a vet school letter of intent are similar to those of any other important academic or professional letter. Following the steps listed above should help you avoid these missteps, but beware of unintentionally veering off into digressions and wordiness without offering any new information.
Boring Job Descriptions
When writing about a specific job placement, include the ways that you changed or adapted to the role, rather than reciting the original job description. Writing an interesting, informative description of your duties is an opportunity to showcase your skills, ambition, and drive. It is a concise way to demonstrate how you took over the role and made it your own, rather than repeating the same staid text.
Don’t Get Too Personal
If you have been asked for a personal statement, put all your stories and personal experiences into that essay and let your letter of intent showcase your concrete academic and professional achievements. If only a letter of intent is required, you can insert stories of non-academic experiences, but make sure to keep them short and connect them to your passion for animals and becoming a vet.
Remember that a letter of intent should be only one page (two, maximum) and have four or five paragraphs, so you have to be picky with what kind of stories you want to include. Of course, if you have to write a personal statement as well, you have more room, but even people who write both letters often blur the lines between the two, which can muddle your overall message.
Any quality summary of your achievements should draw a straight line through all your past experiences directly to the person who is applying. If you distort your timeline and confuse your educational, social, and professional development, it points to a lack of organization and an inability to prioritize.
Think of yourself in linear terms. Start with the earliest experiences – professional or academic – where you realized your desire to learn veterinary medicine. Then go through your chronology to make a connection from that starting point to the present, where you are ready to fulfill the promise of that first brush with animals, vets, and veterinary medicine.
The internet is replete with websites describing how best to structure a college letter of intent, and vet school letters of intent follow the same structure, more or less. If you follow these steps, your letter will be short, concise, and contain only essential details, making it more palatable to read and harder to forget.
Start with an Introduction
In the simplest terms, address the admissions committee, write your name, your program of study, your university, and why you have the requisite experience to excel as a veterinarian. Your first paragraph should be an invitation into the rest of your story, so make sure you get perfunctory items like your name, where you live, and your education level out of the way.
Talk About Them
You should use the second paragraph to show what you know about the school and its veterinary program. Do you like the focus on exotic animals? Did the school recently make headlines for breakthrough research? Is there a faculty member whose work and research you admire? Use these paragraphs to detail what stands out for you about the institution.
Why You Want to Study There
After mentioning what draws you to the school, explain why that coincides with your personal and professional values. If you are drawn to a school for its public policy work and advocacy for animal welfare, write that. If you are inspired by the school’s other departments and programs, unrelated to the veterinary program, mention that.
What Makes You Stand Out
The fourth paragraph is where you specify your educational and professional achievements and why they make you more than suitable for veterinary school. You can demonstrate your knowledge by mentioning specific details about your studies like milking techniques for cows or what it is like to perform surgery on an injured pig.
Dear Members of the Veterinary College Selection Committee,
My name is Julia Reif, and I am writing to you today to express my interest in attending Veterinary College (VC) to complete a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. I am on track to complete my undergraduate degree at X University in Chemistry and have completed fourteen of the sixteen prerequisites to attend veterinary college.
I believe the VC is an innovative and forward-thinking institution that is committed to improving the lives and welfare of animals worldwide. The VC’s melding of new technological advances and a more global outlook is something about the university that appeals to me, given my belief in harnessing new methods to provide a safer, more humane world for all animals.
I graduated with honors from my Local High School and was president of the Student Council for my last two years and an active member of the Girl Scouts. I grew up in a small farming community outside of Big City, and I’ve spent my life around animals, big and small. Growing up on a farm is not an idyll. You experience things most people don’t, like seeing births and deaths every day, which makes you accept that all things pass.
Despite my upbringing, I have a strong passion for reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic animals. Reptiles have been around longer than humans, and the genetic diversity in their DNA is something that interests me. The lessons to be learned from studying them! It was on a family trip to Tropical Country where I saw my first crocodile and felt like their eyes were portals into the past.
This is what set me on the path to VC because your institution is home to one of the most renowned herpetologists in the world, Dr. Jack Williams. I followed Dr. Williams’ work in my second and third year and have been an admirer ever since he published his paper on the mating patterns of Nile crocodiles.
While at X University, I spaced out the prerequisites for admission into a veterinary program so I could give myself room to improve, should I falter or score poorly in one of my classes. During my first year, I struggled with Developmental Biology and sought out extra tutoring from my TAs to improve my grade, which I did by my second year.
I also participated in intra-mural volleyball and represented my country in the university’s chapter of the Student UN. Participation in the Student UN was very demanding, but it also gave me a chance to interact with international students and discover new things, like how some cultures view and interact with animals in a completely different way.
University was also where I began realizing that rather than studying animals, I wanted to help them. I was fortunate enough to already have many of the prerequisites needed to become a DVM, so I decided to apply. I hope that my strong educational background, my genuine passion for veterinary medicine, and a willingness to push myself will coincide with your school’s commitment to excellence.
I am grateful for the opportunity to apply to your prestigious institution, and I look forward to speaking with you more about my academic and professional goals.
Dear Members of the Veterinary College Admissions Committee,
My name is Sasha Petrovic, and I am applying for the Veterinary Medicine program at X Vet School because I feel my academic background, non-academic pursuits, and extracurricular interests make me an ideal candidate. I completed most of my fourth-year courses with a 93% average and have consistently made the Dean’s Honors List throughout my academic career.
I am enthusiastic about joining the program at X Vet School because it emphasizes the connection between animal welfare, climate change, and environmental protection. I have always been a strong believer in the sanctity of nature, as demonstrated by my summers working at the Forestry and Wildlife Service while being an avid hiker, fisherman, and outdoorsman.
My love of spending time in nature has resulted in some very close encounters with typical forest animals like deer, elk, moose, and Black bears. Without consternation, I can say that some of these encounters were tinged with fear, but I also have a respect and reverence for these animals that can survive the harshest conditions thrown at them.
But I can trace my desire for helping and caring for animals back to my childhood. I was born in Another Country. I arrived here when I was six years old with my parents to start a new life. Those first few months were very lonely, as I am an only child and did not speak the language. Hoping to cure me of my loneliness, my parents gifted me a Golden hamster whom I called Loonie. My parents were right to follow their instincts; Loonie and I became best friends, and I took on the responsibility of caring for him with purpose and love. All my sadness and loneliness drifted away when I held the hamster in my hands and felt his soft fur on my skin.
In high school, I learned that I could apply for a summer placement with the Forestry and Wildlife service, so I did. It was there that I met an important influence on my life and academic pursuits: John Crawley. John was a twenty-year veteran of the Forestry and Wildlife service who took me under his wing and shared his intense love and respect for animals; his favorite job as a ranger was setting trapped animals free. In my second year, I was given my own detachment of rangers to lead and from there, it seemed like a natural progression to become a veterinarian. I envision myself in a large private practice with a wide range of resources and services, helping to care for the animals that give so much love and care to their humans.
I am eager to begin this next phase of becoming a veterinarian and hope that my application, academic background and demonstrated experience working in the field is sufficient to grant me a place at your renowned institution. I appreciate your time and consideration and am ready to discuss my future at X Vet School with you.
These vet school letters of intent are not meant to be prescriptive. Instead, they are meant to guide you toward using your own voice to personalize your letter and express yourself in a more holistic way. You may not even need to submit a letter of intent to your particular school, but if you do, you can structure your submission with the above format and fill in the content with the most important, relevant details of your story.
1. Do all veterinary programs ask for a letter of intent?
It depends on the program. Some programs are known to ask for both a letter of intent and a personal statement, while others ask for only one or the other.
2. How long does my letter have to be?
A typical letter of intent should range between one and two pages and have an approximate word count of 400–800 words. Your program may have specific formatting requirements for font, font size, and line spacing, so make sure you know their exact requirements if they have any.
3. What’s the difference between a letter of intent and a personal statement?
A letter of intent is more professional and details the steps you have taken to be at your current position (work experience, academic achievements, leadership skills). A personal statement may be on any topic, given or not, and may demonstrate your creativity, critical thinking, and writing skills.
4. What do I have to include in my letter of intent?
You should focus your letter of intent on the concrete, real-world experience and knowledge you have gained (job placements, volunteer work, internships), but you can also add unique personal details within reason.
5. Will a good letter of intent help my application?
Yes, it will, especially since admissions officers have shifting criteria. Some programs do not ask for a letter of intent, while others look closely at them. The general rule for your entire application should be to ensure that every part is well done. Admissions committees take note of well-written and poorly written letters.
6. What structure should my letter of intent have?
You should write your letter with four basic components: an introduction, two main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You can adjust these components based on your particular program’s requirements or based on the details you want to share.
7. How many drafts should I write?
You can write as many drafts as you want until you are happy with the result but remember your deadline. You can send your drafts to colleagues you trust and make any changes they suggest or propose. If you are struggling with writing any components of your application, you may wish to consider whether .
8. Do I have to edit my letter?
Yes, you should always make sure any written pieces you submit are properly formatted, contain no spelling or grammatical errors, and have no awkward, informal phrases.