Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Billie Ciotti, Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine, started August 2018.
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with, while in veterinary school at Midwestern University?
My boyfriend and I live in a house with our 1-year-old Pitbull Maisie, 7-year-old Boxer Kira, and our 10-year-old cat Kanoa.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
I attended Arizona Western Community College (2014-2016) and majored in “Arizona General Education Curriculum: Science.” This is a transfer degree offered by my community college for students who plan to transfer to any Arizona public university. I then transferred to Arizona State University (2017-2018) where I was a Biological Sciences major.
Did you apply for vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
During, I applied during my Bachelor’s education when I was in the middle of finishing up pre-requisites at ASU (Organic Chemistry 1 & 2 and Biochemistry). So, it was between my Sophomore and Junior year of undergrad.
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
I sent in my application when I was 19, received my acceptance at 20, and the next thing I knew I was turning 21 during the finals week of my first year!
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted to Midwestern University?
I applied to two schools (Midwestern University and Ross University) during my first cycle. Both colleges sent me an acceptance letter.
Were you waitlisted at any school?
Yes, after my interview at Midwestern University, I was placed on their alternate list; I was called and offered a seat around mid-late May.
How many schools invited you for an interview?
Both of the schools I applied to, Midwestern University and Ross University, offered interviews.
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
I received an acceptance from Ross initially, and then Midwestern offered me a seat at a later date in the cycle.
If you were accepted to more than one school, what were some reasons for your choice of school?
A huge reason for applying to and picking Midwestern University was the proximity to my family, friends… my support system. I was definitely prepared to move to the island and adjust to the new life there, I’d spoken to several Ross graduates to get some insight preparing me for the move. While I have no doubt that I would’ve found a support system at Ross University, especially among classmates, Staying in Arizona was most important to me. So when the acceptance for Midwestern came, I couldn’t turn it down! Further down my list was the perks Midwestern also had of newer facilities and an evolving program with opportunities in Shelter medicine, Zoo and Aquatic Medicine, Emergency and Critical Care, among others. I was especially glad I made this decision when my grandma became sick during my first year. She was diagnosed with clear cell renal carcinoma and her surgery and after-care were done in Phoenix, AZ. So while in school I was able to make frequent visits to the hospital, rehab facility, and have the comfort of seeing her recover with my own eyes.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
3.89 cumulative, 3.86 science, 3.91 last 45
What was your GRE score?
155 (68th) verbal, 150 (37th) quantitative, 5.0 (92nd) analytical writing
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
One: Hair & Makeup Board position for my High School theatre department for 3 years.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to Midwestern University veterinary school?
This answer will combine jobs and my veterinary experience. I was extremely lucky with the experiences I gathered up to my application cycle. My first job was a paid internship at the Humane Society of Yuma, (shout out to the former Executive Director Shawn Smith) where I got the hands-on experience that lead me to my first clinic job. I worked at Desert Veterinary Clinic as a receptionist and eventually was trained to be an assistant; here we saw small animals and exotics… Dr. Haugo, the clinic owner, often did work with Arizona Game and Fish, so we definitely had some neat critters come through! I also did some work as a vet assistant/receptionist at Ironwood Veterinary Clinic with Dr. Polosetski, where we saw small animals only. I received large animal experience with Dr. Carney at Affordable Veterinary Services, a mobile clinic that travels to feed stores in Phoenix and does some work for large animal owners in Yuma, Arizona. I was lucky to be an assistant with him for a few years.
I was worried when moving from Yuma, AZ to Chandler, AZ that I’d struggle with finding job opportunities and was pleasantly surprised to find quite the opposite! I instead had plenty of opportunities available and was lucky to become a team member at VCA Animal Referral and Emergency Center of Arizona where I worked swing/mid-shift as an ER assistant (some time in ICU and with Oncology as well) with an exceptional team of veterinarians. This is actually where I met 2018 Midwestern graduates for the first time and had an opportunity to ask about the program, facilities, etc.
Whenever I have the opportunity to return home, I make certain to try and stop at each clinic to see everyone; offer my services to the team if they need any help while I’m in town. I’m extremely grateful for all the time I’ve spent at each job, they all had something different to teach me.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
I volunteered at the Humane Society of Yuma starting at 12 years old. My responsibilities grew over the years I was there from walking dogs, cuddling cats to being a camp counselor, assisting in the clinic, foster parent; eventually lead volunteer to help teach the orientation classes.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program at Midwestern University? If so, which ones? Were they helpful?
I joined several! I do think I was a bit in over my head when I made the decision, but it’s managed out well since then! The clubs and opportunities they offer are especially helpful for reminding me why I’m here, which can get lost in the busy-life that is vet school. Each club has speakers that come and talk about a specific topic, hosts hands-on events, and participates in community service. I’m currently active in Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (SVECCS) where we host the hands-on portion of RECOVER CPR Certification, and give students the opportunity to shadow in our teaching hospital ER/ICU along with an emergency clinic in Phoenix. I’m also active in Shelter Medicine club where we participate in Mobile TNR clinics within the community and help facilitate the Mega TNR event that occurs twice a school year. During these clinics 1st-year students are given the opportunity to implement a variety of skills including: physical exams, surgical prep, feline neuters, surgical recovery, etc. and 2nd/3rd years get the opportunity for more surgical experiences (like spays).
There are also opportunities outside of DVM programs, on national levels! I’m the current Educational Director for National SVECCS and had the amazing opportunity to attend 2019 IVECCS (in Washington DC) to meet the outgoing/incoming board members. I’ll be going again this year, assuming all is back to normal by then, and have to say the conference is wonderful. It offers a great chance to network with clinics and future colleagues from all over the US/world!
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
I often find myself thinking I’d much rather repeat the craziness of second-year than go through the application process again. Applying seemed like a lot of rushing to get your transcripts, scores, electronic LORs together, and writing your essay responses followed by a very long waiting game. During this time I was obsessively checking my emails, had family and friends asking if I heard anything yet, and was stressing over whether I was good enough (did I say the right things? Have I received the right grades? Were my GRE scores enough?). Looking back, I wish I spent more of that time doing things outside of school (that wasn’t compulsively refreshing my email) and relax with loved ones.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
I know we are all eager to start as soon as we receive the acceptance, and we want to get ahead of the curve… But, take a deep breath, relax, and spend your summer making memories you’ll never forget! You have the next 4+ years to study so there will be enough of that. Instead, maybe even look at moving early, meeting up with classmates, getting to know where you’ll be living because you’ll be there for the next 4 years. For example, I think Arizona is a beautiful state and there are so many things that we can do and see, so I always recommend taking advantage of those opportunities when students first move here. Or travel to a different country! Of course, while I’m writing this, COVID-19 is amidst us, so traveling may not be the most ideal scenario but hopefully things will settle and give you the opportunity to.
Any study tips?
Be prepared to switch your technique up for different classes, and even for different professors within one class. I came into vet school and had never really studied prior to this so it was a definite shock when I failed an exam for the first time. But, I was lucky with a great support group who helped me kick butt on the next one! My friends and I play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so I make a point to study with them the day of the exam, or reach out via our FB messenger group if I need anything.
Remember C = DVM, what do they call the vet who graduated at the bottom of his class? DVM, it’s a marathon not a race, and all the other things you’ll definitely be hearing throughout your vet student career. During my first few weeks of vet school I remember a faculty member saying that vet school is like drinking from a firehose, so it’s okay to take time to yourself; it really is, I’ve never forgotten this statement since and I remember it on those days where I feel guilty for taking a break. You deserve that break from lectures. It’s important to learn early in your career that you cannot efficiently serve from an empty vessel; not only do your patients but YOU deserve to be at your best. This applies to vet school just as much.
Above all? Remember to have fun and be silly!
Does your school offer study/review sessions held by upper-class students?
We do! I’ve attended several sessions and found them extremely helpful; one of my littles (1st year student that a 2nd year is paired with) has found the ones my classmates host helpful as well! I think it’s a good opportunity for us to keep the information fresh and to get to mingle with some of the younger classes. We take the opportunity to ask questions that are unrelated to the subject itself as well whether it be about the rest of the quarter, the exams, upcoming professors, etc.
At this point do you think you will have a specialty?
I have a pretty set plan to specialize in Emergency and Critical Care, but I’m definitely open to other specialties and plan to use clinics to help rule things in/out.
Do you work a paid job during vet school at Midwestern University? If not did you know of anyone who does?
I don’t work during vet school but I definitely do during my summers. I have plenty of friends that take advantage of Federal Work Study and work on campus and others that work jobs outside of school whether as an assistant or unrelated jobs.
How can people find you?
I can be found on Facebook or Instagram (@billie_ciotti) and am always more than happy to respond to any questions. You can also feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com.