Our First Interview with an Iowa State University Student!
Meet Kate Alucard, she is a dual-degree student (DVM-MPH) within Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Kate will graduate from Iowa State University in the year 2022. One of the purposes of the dual-degree program at Iowa State University is to prepare professionals with knowledge and skills in both veterinary medicine and public health. Veterinary medicine and public health are two complimentary disciplines and this dual degree will provide the graduate with many employment opportunities!
***There might be affiliate links which help keep this site running and support the scholarship fund***
Note from editor: If you need help with your study techniques I highly recommend Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel The book will provide you with concrete, actionable techniques for becoming a more productive learner and student!
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
I have three cats, (all of them rescues) a snake, and a bearded dragon.
How do you balance caring for them with the rigorous class load at Iowa State University?
My cats are self-sufficient, other than one that is paraplegic. She gets along fine but needs her bladder expressed every 10-12 hours. I feel that since I will be living close to school, her medical needs will not impose any issue with my schedule.
Do you think there were any specific experiences or items on your application that helped to strengthen it?
I think that working 30+ hours a week and volunteering while taking on average 18-21 units a semester helped broaden my life experience. I feel that my ability to multitask while in undergrad may have strengthened my application.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
I attended the University of Arizona and earned my B.S. in Veterinary Science. While at UOA, I minored in biochemistry and special education rehabilitation programs. One thing I should add is that I did attend a veterinary technician’s program for a semester but, after deciding it was not for me, I left the program and retook physics. This allowed me to graduate with three Associate degrees the year after I graduated from UA! It is a unique part of my story, but it certainly takes people by surprise to see that I earned Associate degrees after my Bachelors.
Every person’s path is different though, and it certainly helped me in that I did much better in Physics the second time (earning an A) than I did the first time (earning a D).
Did you apply for vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
I applied for veterinary school after my BS was completed. When I decided to leave my veterinary technician program, I applied for several graduate programs at the University of Arizona.
Did you attend grad school?
I did start my MPH One Health program at the University of Arizona. I applied to my top five schools with the plan to leave my program early if I were to get in. As a first-time applicant, I anticipated that there was a fair chance that I would not get in my first round of applying. My plan was then if I did not get in, I would finish my MPH at the University of Arizona. The plan was to apply again the summer before the first and second year of my program.
I am pleasantly surprised that I got in this round, so I will not be completing my MPH program through UA. I plan on continuing my MPH at ISU in their dual degree DVM/MPH program. I am unaware yet if my classes will/will not transfer, but I still will complete a dual degree regardless.
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
I applied at the age of 23.
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
This application cycle (my first one), I applied to 5 schools (Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Lincoln Memorial, and Iowa State University and was accepted by 2 of them outright (Wisconsin and Iowa).
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
Oregon State and Washington State waitlisted me. Lincoln Memorial has not issued responses to everyone yet, so I am unsure where my application status is with them. However, I am in love with Iowa State University and have chosen to commit before having my last answer.
How many schools invited you for an interview? How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
Only two of the schools I applied to offered interviews this year (WSU and LMU), and I interviewed at both. I was waitlisted by WSU, and I am unsure of my status with LMU.
If you were accepted to more than one school, what were some reasons why you chose Iowa State University?
I visited both Iowa State University and Wisconsin for applicant Open Houses (WI only holds their event after acceptances are sent out while Iowa held their events in October/November before decision day on February 15, 2018). I wanted to visit both because I wanted to see where I felt most at home. I had loved Ames, IA and I loved the ISU campus and its commitment to public health as well as the various opportunities I could have at nearby facilities such as USDA APHIS and National Animal Disease Center and the National Center for Animal Health. There is also a large wildlife wing at Iowa State University and students told me while visiting WI that they did not see wildlife in the teaching hospital (they worked with wildlife offsite).
For me, focusing on public health and possibly wildlife, Iowa State University was a better fit for me. I was also offered a scholarship from ISU; the reduction in financial burden also played a significant part in my decision. Before finding out about the scholarship I had already planned on committing to Iowa State University’s veterinary school.
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
I will not comment on specific questions, but I highly recommend utilizing the questions on Student Doctor Network to practice commonly asked questions for all interviews for veterinary school. I will say that many questions asked at both of my interviews were similar if not the same as those on SDN.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
My primary GPA from UA (undergraduate) reported to VMCAS was 3.36. My overall GPA after attending my community college and for my application cycle was a 3.47.
What was your GRE score? 155/153/5.0
(Note from editor: Check our our blog post with some free GRE practice tests and tools.)
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
I listed all extracurriculars that I did from my first year of undergrad. The only high school extra-curriculars mentioned on my VMCAS application were because the ISU supplemental does ask about high school activities so I felt it was appropriate for my supplemental and my VMCAS application to match.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to getting into Iowa State University?
I did have exotic and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school. The clinic I had previously worked at did see the occasional pig, goat, and pony, but I did not have any formal large animal experience aside from a few patients.
What types of paying jobs did you have before getting into the dual-degree student (DVM-MPH) within Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine?
I first started working at Cold Stone Creamery in high school when I was 16. I also worked at PetSmart, Inc. for 4 years during my last year of high school through my final semester of undergrad. I also had a veterinary internship the summer between my sophomore and junior year of undergrad. After leaving PetSmart, Inc. I worked as a veterinary technician at a low-cost clinic, a mixed practice clinic, and finally right before I went to Iowa State University I worked in a speciality centre, specifically in their ER. I also have worked as a Graduate TA for the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. I have TA’d two different microbiology laboratories while also being a veterinary technician on the weekends.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
I did volunteer starting my freshman year of undergrad. I volunteered at a dog rescue for a while, then I volunteered at the UA Equine Center for a semester, I helped with an Honors College research project (not mine, a friend’s project), a senior feline rescue/hospice organization as a volunteer/foster, another feline rescue as a foster, and a wildlife 501c3 where non-protected wildlife are cared for until successfully rehabilitated and released.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
No one read my personal statement before I submitted it.
When did you decide to become a vet?
I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was eight-years-old. When I got to UA, I was grossly unprepared for college. I got two Ds my first semester and I thought that my future was over. I remember sitting in an Honors College advisor meeting and crying to my advisor that I wasn’t cut out for college apparently, so how could I be destined to be a doctor if I couldn’t even get through general chemistry and calculus? That advisor changed my life. She told me that my worth was not found in my grades. My worth came from myself. If I wanted to be a veterinarian, it would be worth this brief stress in my life. She was right. I am very happy that I pressed on and persisted, and now get to fulfill 8-year-old Kate’s dream.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
I did talk to several veterinarians before applying, but I didn’t necessarily interview them. Most of them I worked with or was close with because of an academic relationship, so I approached them naturally.
Were you a member of any clubs during undergrad at the University of Arizona? If so, which ones?
I was a member of the veterinary club for a year or so. Their events did not mesh well with my other commitments specifically my job as I worked the most hours on the weekend and most of their events were held on Saturdays. I was also a member of several honours societies (Phi Eta Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa, Alpha Zeta, and Phi Theta Kappa). Omicron Delta Kappa had several volunteer events that I participated in the most.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I had five letters of recommendation. Four of them were veterinarians that I worked with at the mixed animal hospital. I had known them all for over a year at the time of my application. The other veterinarian was an academic professor who I have known since before I graduated from my undergrad, so over two years.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
This process is extremely stressful! Schools gave me responses in December, and some haven’t even given a response. The anticipation of not knowing where you stand or when you will get a response (I’m grateful that Iowa had a specific date for decisions!). I feel that to those people who are unfamiliar with the process and are planning on applying, do your best to not be stuck on SDN threads or APVMA posts. Don’t lose sleep because you’re incessantly checking your emails or school portals. Whether you get in this round or not your well being is imperative for the future.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
I am very happy that I chose this career. I feel that the unique part of veterinary medicine is that we not only help animals, but we educate the public. We have an opportunity to teach and heal, and that is why my passion for veterinary medicine within the lens of public health is my focus.
As a student, did you have to take out loans for your education? If so, are you concerned about the amount of debt you will have after graduation?
I will be taking out loans for whatever my scholarship/financial aid does not cover. I went into this knowing that I will incur debt, and I am not concerned about it.
Is there anything about your DVM program or Iowa State itself that you like?
I am very pleased that ISU is very close to the housing (a mobile home park) that is inhabited by many veterinary students. The privilege to walk to school and not have to drive is incredible. This contributed also to my decision to attend ISU.
I also really like the ISU four-year program and the ability to track mixed-animal my fourth year. I also am happy that I will be able to complete my MPH (even if I started over) within my 4 years. If I were to attend WI, you enter your MPH between your second/third year of veterinary medicine, losing a year, and drop to the class below yours (so I would have dropped to the C/O 2023). This was just less than ideal for me, so I am also happy I don’t have to worry about that at ISU.
At this point do you think you will have a speciality?
I am not sure if I will have a speciality. I am very passionate about public health, so I don’t know if becoming a veterinary specialist will be in my future or not.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
I love the book A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin. I think it is a fantastic book for those looking to read an autobiographical perspective of what a stray dog goes through. I would consider it a very important book in my life.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
For those of you who think you cannot achieve your dreams without a 3.5, you are wrong. For those of you who think you cannot achieve your dream with a few Cs or Ds, you are wrong.
Lastly, I am someone who has battled clinical depression and anxiety. I’ve been on and off medication and in and out of therapy. I’m now in a good place though. If you walk away with one thing after reading this it should be this: you should never have to sacrifice your mental health for school, for a job, for anything. You matter.
Your significance can only be truly felt if you are honest with yourself. It’s not fair to pretend like all of us have everything together. There are going to be trials and tribulations, many of which to come. Some of our battles are internal and other ones are more visible. Our battles may vary in shape, size, or style… But we will make it.
Our stories are what make us unique. Our individuality, what makes us stand out, is what makes us one. Each of our stories and our journeys are different… they all matter. I hope you can start to appreciate who you are. I hope you understand that self-love isn’t selfish.
So, take care of yourself, and shoot for the stars.