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The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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Rachel Houghtaling Tells All on the Veterinary School Application Process

Graphic+by+Angelina+Clark
Graphic by Angelina Clark

Becoming a veterinarian is hard work. Not only does it take countless years of schooling, an extensive collection of hands-on practice experiences, and a regimented dedication to the career path from a very young age, but it’s also extremely difficult to apply and get into veterinary school in the first place. Countless years of hard work could all go down the drain if a person doesn’t make the right impression – or at the very least, they’ll have to wait another year to apply again and risk facing the same rejection.

Rachel Houghtaling, soon-to-be graduating senior at MCLA, is very aware of the difficult process of becoming a veterinarian. Having been through the entire song and dance of trying to get into Tufts Veterinary School and after having had the rare experience of receiving an acceptance on her first application, she had a high level of awareness as to what exactly the school was looking for and that is why on Thursday, February 15th, she hosted a seminar in the CSI atrium from noon to one o’clock all in an effort to make any other applicants from MCLA more aware of the entire process of applying and how to best cultivate a unique and winning application. 

Houghtaling presented to a surprisingly small pool of people on that Thursday afternoon, but if she noticed the size of crowd, she did not appear to recognize it visually in any way, delivering an impressively compact (yet highly detailed) explanation as to the entire process of what applying to veterinary school will look like from start to finish. 

First, she explained the exact online form that all applicants would be filling out no matter which schools they applied to. It’s called the “VMCAS,” which stands for Veterinary Medical College Application Service. On the VMCAS, there are three main subcategories of forms that must be filled out in their entirety before an application can be considered. First is personal information (such as your address, age, and all other typical personal information you put on a schooling application), then you have to put in your academic history (such as the level of schooling you have gotten to, what schools you went to and when, and your GPA), and finally, you’ll fill in your supporting information (these are your essays and resume). 

“Supporting info will take the longest,” warned Houghtaling. “January to September may seem like a long time,” she began, referencing how long the form will remain open before that year’s cycle of applications are looked over, “but the amount of effort you will have to put in is a lot more than you would expect,” she finished. 

When discussing the personal essays, Houghtaling took the time to really emphasize just how important they are for an application. She explained that since veterinary schools have a 10-15% acceptance rate, oftentimes, your essay can end up being the only thing differentiating your level of expertise from another applicant.

“Don’t write, ‘I want to go to vet school because I love animals,’” advised Houghtaling. “They already know you love animals. That’s why you’re applying to vet school. Maybe get into why you like the scientific side of things, write about something they wouldn’t expect.” 

After talking about the essays, Houghtaling moved on to discussing the resume section of the process. She mentioned that it was important to look at your resume within the scope of the schools you’ll be applying to before you start the application.

“Filling out the form is not the first time you want to be looking at these schools. You want to go in knowing what the schools are looking for and whether you fit their criteria. For example, maybe they don’t usually accept out-of-state students,” she illustrated, “or maybe they aren’t a good fit for you. Try to refine your resume for the schools you’re applying to.” 

Once she wrapped up discussing the form itself, Houghtaling moved on to different areas of logistics. At one point, she reminded her audience that their first application would cost $220 and each subsequent application to another school would cost $180. These costs are, of course, nonrefundable, even if your application gets rejected. “You need to think ahead about how much money you’re willing to set aside for applications,” she advised. 

The penultimate point of her presentation was about the interview process. Once your application is looked at, you will either be rejected or you will move on to the next phase of the process, which is a live interview with actual faculty members of the school. Houghtaling gave advice as to how people can best present themselves if they do get accepted for an interview. “Dress to impress. Don’t be afraid to take your time with a question,” she listed. “They know you’re going to be nervous and they’re not going to hold that against you.” This is your final chance to make a lasting impression on the very people who are either going to accept or reject you, so Houghtaling made sure to take her time and emphasize how important making it is to make a good one.

Come January, schools will begin sending out official acceptances and rejections. They will continue to do this up until early March. Students will either be rejected, put on an “alternate” (waiting) list, or accepted. Students who are accepted will have until April 15th to craft a response and officially accept their place at the school – this date is the same for every veterinary school in the United States. 

There is nothing that a journalist inexperienced in the field can say to comfort somebody going through the extremely stressful process of applying to veterinary school, so take it from Houghtaling, who had to go through the same exact thing herself: 

“Please don’t give up on yourself if you get rejected on your first application,” she urged during a final moment of tenderness in the presentation. “It’s not easy to get in. I know some people who have gotten rejected six years in a row and are amazing vets now. Getting into veterinary school is extremely competitive, and you’re just as good whether you get accepted the first time, the sixth time, or any time in between.” 

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Ainslie Lafko, Staff Writer

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