Dr. Jason Sweitzer did not have an easy time getting into vet school. After he applied to vet school 3 years in a row, he finally got into UC Davis. Dr. Sweitzer thinks it was his interview that gained him an acceptance letter. Interviewing just happens to be a strong point for Dr. Sweitzer. To read more inspirational stories click here.
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This book is a must for navigating the requirements for each of the veterinary medical colleges: Check out this book: Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR).
Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Jason Sweitzer, BS, RVT, DVM
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine started in 2005
What was your major in undergraduate?
Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
How many vet schools and application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
4 vet schools and 3 application cycles.
How many vet schools invited you for an interview?
The first two application cycles I didn’t get any interviews. The third year I only applied to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and got an interview.
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
I got an acceptance letter after interviewing, which just happens to be a strength of mine.
NOTE TO READER: Here is an example of a mock veterinary interview. If interviewing is not a strong point for you it will be beneficial to do as many mock interviews as you can. This will make you more and more comfortable during your “real” interview.
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
I had prepared for what I thought was every ethical question I would be asked. I was not prepared for the question I got.
That was “Ms. Smith is bringing in Fluffy. She previously had him neutered and Neuticles implanted. She is coming to you because they don’t feel natural and she would like you to implant the second generation Neuticle instead that feel more natural. What would you do?”
After trying to stifle a laugh at the mental image this created, I composed myself and answered the question honestly.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
What was your GRE score?
I don’t remember exactly but I got a perfect score on my Math, I think a 560 on the English/second category. The third category changed between my 2nd and 3rd application to Analytical Writing and I think I got a 4/5 or one point below the full score.
Did you attend grad school?
No. The guidance counselors encouraged me to but with my ADHD, the thought of further coursework to get into vet school was not ideal for me so I worked full time in a busy and high-level GP/Specialty/ER in between applications to stand out.
Did you have large and small animal experience prior to applying to vet school?
I worked at a mixed animal practice and had spent some time at the UCDavis goat barn but most of my experience was in small animal.
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
Several. Between coaching, playing, and umpiring field hockey, to cycling, and vet aide club and pet sitting I had lots to go around.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to Vet School?
Kennel assistant, pet sitter, veterinary assistant, non-licensed tech (became licensed in vet school before becoming equivalent), and a paid field hockey coach and umpire.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
In the radiology department at UC Davis, as a student extern at a local small animal GP, at the UC Davis goat barn, and as the UC Davis Club field hockey coach.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
When did you decide to become a veterinarian?
I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be one. My parents report asking me at 3 what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to work with animals. They asked if I wanted to be a vet and I said yes. Things continued to evolve from there.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
I worked with several vets prior to applying and had asked them about becoming a vet while I worked with them.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
I joined the Vet Aide Club and it helped me make connections within the vet school and gain experience.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program? If so, which ones? Were they helpful?
Did you apply for vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
Both. I started applying my senior year of undergrad and continued for two years after graduating until I finally got accepted.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
My letters of recommendation all came from veterinarians that I had worked with for 1-2 years except for one written by the head tech of the radiology department whom I worked under for two rotations with the Vet Aide Club.
Did you find the vet school application process stressful? Why or why not?
Yes, it was stressful. I was not truly clear where I stood, I had the admissions counselor forget to send me a letter stating I was not accepted one of the years, and I felt like I was told the only way I would be accepted is if I did a masters program. While that could have been helpful, the thought was highly stressful to me so I worked hard at gaining great experience and improving my personal statement and my letters of rec. I ended up proving I didn’t have to do a Masters program and I am glad my extra two years of great experience gave me a great foundation for understanding veterinary medicine so much easier than those without it.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
Yes, I am. I love what I do but I’ve also pushed to do exactly what I want to do instead of settling for the first opportunities that presented themselves.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Try to get some experience during school in whatever field you want to eventually work. Learn what you will be doing and try to have opportunities to apply it as you go. You will retain more information and integrate it better when you get to see everything in action and how it is relevant in real cases.
Vet school and vet med both come with many stresses, some you will not appreciate until you are in them. Don’t be afraid to get a therapist or counselor. Don’t be afraid to talk and share about it. Please make connections and develop a support network. Make sure to take some time to do things that you enjoy and recharge you, including several separate from vet med. Vet med may be your chosen profession but it doesn’t define who you are, it’s only one part. It’s very easy to let it be all-encompassing but that will set you up for problems later without having good coping skills outside of vet med.
Any vet school study tips?
Find how you learn best. I was diagnosed with ADHD after I graduated with my BS. I learned more effective ways to study because I will fall asleep within 10 pages of any reading assignment. For me, it worked to discuss things in study groups, read aloud, write things down, and break things up into small portions, then do something different in between.
If you are struggling, seek support, and find others like you so that you can all help each other. Too often we think it best to push through instead of accept help. That help will make you a better student and that same help will make you a better vet so learn to ask for and accept it early.
Have there been any classes, within your DVM program that were especially relatable to your current position?
The community surgery and community practice rotations were especially helpful as were most of the fourth-year clinical rotations including behavior and dermatology.
What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program?
General pathology. We covered a new body system every week. There is just so much to learn and it flies by so quickly.
As a Doctor, have there been any particular cases that were your favorite?
An 8-week old kitten that I did a resection and anastomosis on for dietary indiscretion that grew up to be a healthy (if not fat) adult. Also, a German shepherd that was very anxious and needed to be muzzled for any handling that I was able to desensitize and counter condition with weekly appointments and eventually could do an entire exam with just treats and patience.
Do you have a specialty or are you working towards one?
I am not working towards a specialty as I enjoy so many areas but my interests are in behavior, exotics, teaching, management, GP and ER.
I also am working on furthering my understanding of mental health and suicide prevention in the profession, as I am a board member of a non-profit of over 13,000 vets and vet students devoted to preventing suicide in the profession. I now speak across the country about mental health and want to make sure we make the profession as great as we can be, and make sure people have or develop the coping skills needed to be in the profession.
What has been your most challenging case?
I wouldn’t say there is a most challenging case; instead, it is a set of cases. I find it most challenging when I have owners who refuse or are unable to let me fully treat their animal. It is often due to finances but is sometimes due to different ideologies, or because they swear by the opinion of someone with little to no training in veterinary medicine. Figuring out how to convey the extensive knowledge I have gained in 9 years of post high school education and even further continuing education, in a way that shows them that I am an expert on the matter but also that I care deeply about their animal and want the best for it. It can be a fine line to walk and I constantly remind myself that the client wants to care for their animal but they just don’t understand all of the information how. So my job is to assist them in understanding their pet and what it needs and not just telling them the solution.
Do you frequently have to research cases, on off hours?
Yes. There are only so many hours in the day and because of the financial demands of the profession (high debt load, relatively low pay, limited client budgets, yet significant diagnostic capabilities that have significant costs). The number of cases that need to be seen to keep a business afloat and to allow enough income to pay for a decent standard of living, leads to either staying quite late, skimping on records, not researching cases, or not making ends meet (all of which have major downsides).
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
Dr. Andy Roark has a great blog and website with insight published by many vets. There is a website and group called QPR that helps to address how to identify and what to do if someone is suicidal. This has been essential in my work. I also find that the insight from helping run Not One More Vet, Inc. has been tremendous for my understanding of our profession.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
Please get experience in whatever field you want to work (whether vet med or other) so you have a better insight of what to expect. The profession is great and I love it but it is not what many expect it to be. I, unfortunately, see many people who expect that they will be financially well off and many clients who assume we are, but financially many vets struggle.
I also find that many people think the job is easy or underestimate the difficulties of it. It is very important to know how to cope with euthanasia, including economic euthanasia, with people transferring their guilt or frustrations on to you, with not being able to solve every case even if you do everything right, and with finding a healthy work/life balance. If you have healthy solutions for the financial, emotional, physical, and mental stresses of the profession, then I say welcome and we’d love to have you.
If you aren’t sure if you have those answers, I encourage you to seek out solutions before you commit to a veterinary school. This is a great profession and I love what I do but I also have a personal mission to make sure that we find ways to help everyone have great mental health and job and life satisfaction.
How can people find you? (Social media or email)