Tag Archives: UCAS

To Blog or Not to Blog: That is the Vetty Question.

Chris the Nerdy Vet & his laptopI was recently asked about blogging by a prospective vet student and whether it is something that is advised to do in the lead-up to an application to vet school. A number of students, for whom I have been reviewing UCAS statements for vet school applications, have included a link to a blog of their experiences during work experience placements and their thoughts on a variety of matters relevant to their application. The questions that instantly spring to mind are:

 

 

1. Will it increase your chances of successfully being called for interview?

2. How can you go about contributing to ‘the blogosphere?’

The answer to the first question is, in my opinion, NO. I do not for a second believe that including a link or address to an online blog about anything in your UCAS statement will impact in any way on your being selected by the admissions tutor to attend an interview or be offered a place. This is for two main reasons:

a) The vast majority of admissions tutors that I know barely have enough time to stop for loo breaks between reading one statement after another, especially as they all come streaming in towards the October 15th deadline, and so the notion that they are going to have the time to indulge in clicking through or otherwise navigating to and reading additional material not directly included in your statement is hugely optimistic. All you are likely to achieve is to waste your precious character limit when you could use it to reflect on a lesson learned during one of your experiences. It is this sort of information that vet schools want to see in statements; not hyperlinks and computer code. Incidentally, the UCAS website makes no reference to including hyperlinks in your statement in their guide to writing yours. I suggest that this is because it is not worth doing so and in fact the system may even inactivate hyperlinks before statements are sent out to universities as a security precaution, again rendering an inclusion of one pointless.

b) Although the universities access your submitted statements electronically, many admissions tutors will choose to read yours in printed form. Can you imagine spending hours per day staring at a screen and reading page after page of small text? It would wreck your eyes! You can see, therefore, why the admissions tutors would be more likely to want to read printed statements. The immediate problem with this of course is that your fantastically well written link to your wonderfully interesting and insightful blog is, well, just a line of inactive text. It is very very unlikely in this situation that a tutor would then manually type out your link to view its contents.

The take home message here is that if you are under the impression that starting, writing and then providing a link or reference to a blog is going to give you an edge over other applicants then I suggest you think again and instead focus on writing a really strong, reflective, well structured and grammatically correct statement that does not rely on external content to support it.

If, of course, you just want to start a blog for your own interest and those who are likely to view it, then by all means go ahead and get blogging. The fact is that blogging is great fun and a really effective way of communicating ideas and sharing content with others. As a means of recording your experiences whilst on veterinary placements then it is, I guess, the modern day equivalent of the classic diary, albeit with the ability of the world to peer into its pages. One note of caution, however, on recording the details of your various experiences on placements: be certain that you are not going to be compromising data protection or the trust of the vets, nurses and clients that you are gaining privileged access to by publishing information online. This could get you into hot water and, in all seriousness, wreck any chance you have of being offered that coveted place at vet school that you want. If you apply careful thought, however, then blogging can be an awesome activity so go for it.

How do I start blogging?

Good question. There are numerous blogging options available to you from simply writing and sharing notes on, say, Facebook, to signing up for a ‘proper’ blog, such as WordPress, which is free to use*. Other services include Tumblr, Blogger, TypePad, and many many more – a simple search for ‘blogging services’ reveals the plethora of options.

Happy blogging and I hope you have found this post helpful. Feel free to leave any comments below (another advantage of blogging) ūüôā

 

* WordPress.com is where you can get yourself a free, hosted blog, meaning that you do not have to worry about paying for, hosting and setting up the software on a dedicated domain (eg ‘i want to be a vet.com’). The alternative option is to go to WordPress.org, where you can download the software for free, but you will then have to put your hand in your pocket to get yourself a domain, as described above. This blog, for example, runs on WordPress hosted on my own dedicated domain, which I pay for each year.

Vet Work Experience – Top Tips

Vet School, My Foot In The DoorGaining an insight into the actual day-to-day business of being a vet is a vitally important part of helping you decide for sure if a veterinary career is the right path for you, and many of you will be actively engaged in arranging and attending placements over the course of the year. What follows here is, hopefully, a few helpful bits of advice that will help you to maximise the success of any placements you go on.
This assumes that you have already managed to secure a placement. In which case, nice one! That is the hardest bit so you have done well. Now is the time to really go in and impress the placement/ vets with your enthusiasm, interest and helpfulness. Make sure that when you leave they’re falling over themselves to write you a glowing reference!
Vet surgeon, Vet School, My Foot In The Door
BEFORE:
1. Confirm – About a week before you are due to start, contact the organiser to confirm all the arrangements (date, time, place and whether there are any bits of information, clothing or equipment that you should bring with you). This shows superb organisational skills and is sure to impress. A polite phone call is probably the safest bet. Otherwise, a short email with a polite follow-up phone call after a few days if you haven’t had a response will be just as effective.
2. Do your homework – Have you looked at the practice/ company’s website? I often think of work experience placements in the same way I would a job interview – I want to impress. One of the best ways of doing this is to be completely familiar with exactly what the practice/ company does and who everyone is. Most places now have very informative websites, including staff profiles. Get familar with who you are likely to see and what the practice does and offers clients, and you will instantly feel more at ease on day one.
3. Read ‘Vet School’ – Have you read ‘Vet School’? This might seem like a blatant plug (which it is) but there is a serious point. I have talked about many of the things you would expect to see whilst on placement, such as vaccinations, and so being familiarised with information like this will not do you any harm at all. As in all things in life, preparation is the key to success so get reading ūüôā
Vet with rabbit, Vet School, My Foot In The DoorDURING:
1. Leave plenty of time – Arrive on time, or a little early to provide plenty of time to report in at reception. Vet clinics are often at their busiest first thing in the morning so arriving in plenty of time means that your placement organiser can get you initiated and familarised with the practice and facilities before the day goes crazy!
2. Relax – Vets and everyone who works with them are generally a very friendly bunch who enjoy having work-experience students around. We completely appreciate that you will be nervous and so will do our best to ask you questions and just generally ease you into your time with us. However, it is very difficult to remain enthusiastic if you just freeze up, stand quietly in a corner and say or do nothing. You will need to be a little pro-active, be fully prepared and enthusiastic to pitch in and help where requested – in fact, asking how you can help, especially the nurses, will endear you completely to the practice. You will be expected to help with many of the less glamorous aspects of life in a vet practice, and indeed any placement, such as cleaning and showing¬†anything other than willingness to¬†help out will¬†not go down well. My biggest tip is to get on the good side of the nurses. They do an exceptional job and are vital to the work a vet does. If they like you then your time will be blissful!¬†Do not be afraid to ask questions even if you think it is an obvious or silly question. There is no such thing as a silly question (not strictly true but you know what I mean). Vets and nurses¬†love to tell you about what they’re doing so feel free to ask.
3. Watch & Learn – Even if there are times when it seems a bit quieter, or there aren’t any super-exciting operations going on, you will still be able to learn a lot about being a vet from careful observation. How do they talk with clients and other team members? What do they do when they’re not consulting or operating? These are also great times to be able to talk with them about their jobs, training and careers and are likely to offer the greatest insight into what it means to be a vet. Use such opportunities to their fullest as you’ll be amazed at how quickly your time will pass.
4. If in doubt, ask – Hopefully it is needless to say but it is important that you do not do or touch anything (including animals) unless directed or given permission to. This is for your own safety as we deal, on a daily basis, with potentially dangerous substances and drugs, radiation, and animals who are unpredictable, usually scared and therefore at risk of reacting in a manner that is out of character. The last thing we want is for you to get bitten or injured in any way. We also have a lot of very expensive ‘toys’, such as endoscopes, which even the vets can be a little wary of touching for fear of breaking them! If in doubt always ask – you’ll never get into trouble for clarifying but you might if you make assumptions and accidentally break something.
5. Keep a placement journal – Keep some basic notes during your placement. There is no need to write a thesis or to record every single thing you see or hear but a few notes on anything you find interesting will help you make sense of the placement, and provide a useful memory jog when it comes to preparing for your personal statement or interviews.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Again, I am sure this is needless to say but during your placements you will privy to confidential information about clients’ pets and their care. No personal or confidential information should ever leave the practice and please, please think carefully before posting anything relating to your placement on social networks. We’ve all been there – you absent-mindedly post a comment or photo due to being caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment and don’t realise that you might be posting sensitive or confidential info.
6. Have fun! Vets, nurses and everyone who works with them are, on the whole, really nice, down-to-earth, fun loving professionals and enjoy having enthusiastic people around.
Vet with lamb, Vet School, My Foot In The DoorAFTER:
1. Thank the placement – This doesn’t have to be expressed in the form of cakes or biscuits, although vets do respond very favourably to such gestures, and a simple letter and/ or card will go down very favourably. It is also smart career planning as you will be far more memorable and considered in a very positive light should you wish to arrange another placement in the future. If you are keen to organise another placement then say so and offer some dates that you are interested in. Popular practices get booked up a long time in advance so think ahead and make your life a little easier.
2. Ask for a reference – Ask for a written reference as soon as your placement is finished, or even near the end of it. Do not do what most people do and wait until you start to write your personal statement or prepare for interviews, which may be many months or even years after your placement. I personally have trouble remembering some of the animals who I have literally just seen so being expected to remember anything even remotely helpful about a work-experience student months after they were in is impossibly optimistic. You want a reference to be specific to you and highlight your unique, personal traits and awesomeness. If the placement organiser can’t remember you, or has since left the practice, then the best you might be able to hope for is a generic, bland “they were here” type of reference, which adds nothing to your overall bid to secure a place at vet school. One student we had recently had the foresight to ask about a reference on their final day of the placement – such a great idea and the result was they walked away with an absolutely glowing reference, completely tailored to him as a person.
Good luck with your placements and, as ever, let us know how you get on and feel free to ask any questions.

Veterinary still a very popular career choice

An interesting article caught my attention recently that suggested that in spite of the increase in university tuition fees this year to £9,000 per year, which includes veterinary science courses, application numbers to study to become a vet have actually risen, thus bucking a general trend. Data from UCAS revealed that in spite of a 12.9% drop in year-on-year applications for all degree subjects, veterinary courses actually saw a rise of 6.7%. Why, I wonder, would that be the case?

It has always been known that a degree in veterinary science is an incredibly good degree to have, regardless of whether the holder eventually enters, or indeed stays in, clinical practice, due to it’s high standards of training across a multitude of subjects and skillsets. It could be expected that with degrees becoming significantly more expensive, and graduates facing being saddled with such debt for many many years, a lot of students are looking a lot more carefully at which degrees they actually apply to in the first place. It may be simply that a veterinary degree, and subsequently a career in veterinary, is valued as a good, professional option as opposed to some other degree options available. I am sure such students are going into their applications with a good understanding and appreciation of the huge costs involved, with the projected cost of tuition fees for a standard 5-year course alone coming to ¬£54,000. If they are not then that needs to be addressed, especially when you then factor in the total likely cost of completing a veterinary degree which, with living costs and the fact that much of the vacation time other students are able to use in order to work in paid employment is occupied with compulsary, and necessary, work placements, is very high.¬†Latest figures put such a final figure at around about ¬£78,000. A truly staggering amount of money!

Of course, the fact that students are not being put off veterinary as a career option is a wonderful thing as it is a truly unique and rewarding career, in many ways, but one concern is that students applying for and studying veterinary medicine have a clear and realistic appreciation and expectation of the salaries, and earnings that they can expect as a vet. I know for a fact that many students have wildly unrealistic expectations about veterinary remuneration and have heard of students even halfway through their courses expecting to start their careers commanding salaries of £60,000 per year. If they know of graduate vet jobs that are paying that then I would love for them to get in touch with me as I will be sending my CV over immediately!

Another ongoing concern for the profession is the issue of widening access, with the RCVS and the vet schools actively engaging in ongoing activity to broaden the appeal of and access to veterinary as a career option among the under-represented demographics. Are we seeing a rise in application numbers from such students or are the increases coming from the more traditional camp? These are interesting questions and do have ramifications for the future of the profession as a whole.

The main point, however, is that veterinary is clearly still a popular career option, and rightly so, and the buck in the general trend should be applauded and celebrated as a sign of the veterinary profession’s bright future.