Getting into a veterinary college, especially your top choice is not an easy task. Tobi dedicated a lot of time and hours into volunteering, researching an undergrad thesis paper on canine heartworm disease, and paying jobs in the veterinary field. She also remained a diverse applicant by listing some of her other interests such as painting and piano.
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
My name is Tobi, and I just finished my first semester (2017) at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
I have three cats: Musket, Spooky, and Sierra. I am also particularly fond of my parents’ standard poodle, Casper.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
I completed my Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Mississippi.
Did you attend grad school?
Did you apply to MSU veterinary college, after or during your Bachelor’s education?
At what age did you first apply to Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine?
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted to you MSU veterinary college?
1 school – 1 application cycle
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions for your veterinary college interview?
During my interview, I was asked to describe a time when I overcame a conflict while working with a team. It took me a while to think of a specific instance! I definitely recommend brainstorming some examples beforehand. Many of the interview questions I received were regarding experiences pulled directly from my application, such as organizations I worked with and how my extracurricular activities would be beneficial for my veterinary college education.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
What was your GRE score?
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your veterinary college application?
I’m not sure of the exact number, but I included my experiences sketching, painting, playing piano, playing guitar, and practicing Thai kickboxing & Krav Maga.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to MSU veterinary college?
Growing up, I had experiences with many different small and exotic animals through pet ownership and volunteering at the local animal shelter. I also spent time with my friend’s horses. However, most of my veterinary experience was with small animals. In college, I expanded my experiences to include horses and farm animals. I also had experience researching canine heartworm disease as part of my undergrad honor’s college thesis project.
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary college?
My first job in high school was as an animal care assistant at my local animal hospital, a small-animal private practice. I also worked as a veterinarian’s assistant at a mixed-animal clinic during my undergrad.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
Before college, I volunteered actively with my church and various community organizations. I had a long-term commitment volunteering with an animal rescue that specialized in cats and rabbits. During college, I also committed to volunteering with a no-kill cat rescue and a Trap-Neuter-Return organization on campus. I served as a volunteer for several months before becoming a paid employee at both of the veterinary practices in which I worked.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
When did you decide to become a vet?
Like many other vet students, becoming a veterinarian was my childhood dream. However, I strayed apart from it for many years because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to perform surgeries or euthanize animals. In high school, I thought I would become an artist or an architect! Eventually, my love for animals and my interest in biological sciences won me over. I started volunteering at my local animal hospital, where I chose to pursue a career as a vet.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
I was fortunate to work with very supportive and encouraging veterinarians. I didn’t so much interview them as become the willing recipient of the knowledge they poured out! They tried their best to build my medical knowledge and also gave me insight into their business and personal perspectives.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
In college, I served as president of our university’s feral cat Trap-Neuter-Return organization for three years. I also helped co-found the Pre-Vet Club and served as vice president during my senior year.
Have you joined any student clubs in your veterinary college DVM program? If so, which ones? Are they helpful?
This year, I joined SAVMA (Student AVMA; we are required to join SAVMA in order to join other student organizations), VBMA (Veterinary Business Management Association), AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners), SVECCS (Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society), CVF (Christian Veterinary Fellowship), WEZAAM (Wildlife, Exotics, Zoo, Avian and Aquatic Medicine) and SRSP (Small Ruminant, Swine, and Poultry). I definitely enjoyed having some hands-on experiences through AAFP, SVECCS, WEZAAM, and SRSP, especially after a long day in the classroom!
However, I highly recommend any student considering working as a private practitioner become a member of VBMA. Even if you don’t plan on owning a practice, you will learn about everything from how veterinarians get paid to how to pay back your loans. It’ll certainly ease your mind about your future during a time when veterinary medicine has a bad reputation for financial troubles.
Ultimately, I believe that student organizations are an extremely beneficial and fun supplement to your veterinary education, although your exact experiences will vary from school to school!
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
Two of my LoRs came from veterinarians I worked with in practice at the time. One of them was the practice owner. We had known each other for a year and a half, and I would say that they knew me pretty well, especially my work with patients and clients in practice.
One of my LoRs came from a veterinarian and professor emeritus from North Carolina State University CVM for whom I had served as a research assistant. Although I had only known him for a year, I would say that he was most familiar with my methods of problem-solving and communication.
Did you find the veterinary college application process stressful? Why or why not?
I found the personal statement to be the most stressful part of the application. It’s always a struggle to find a balance between boasting about your accomplishments and abilities and remaining humble and appealing to your reader! However, I found the VMCAS to be quite bearable because we had a long period to complete it, and once it was done, I just had to let it go and focus on finishing my undergrad.
To prepare for interviews, I took a career skills course and attended many mock interview workshops, which definitely paid off! I was far less nervous on interview day.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
Although I am not yet a veterinarian, I have found vet school to be a wonderful experience so far and I am very happy with it. I love working with animals and learning about all the things that make them tick, but most of all, I love working alongside brilliant and inspiring veterinarians, especially my professors. They always astound me with how much they know!
I’ve heard that recent veterinary college graduates have expressed disillusionment with the career due to lack of pay and overwhelming debt. These fears haunt vet students and pre-vet students alike, but I believe that taking the time to educate yourself beforehand about loans, repayment programs, and living frugally during vet school is essential to feeling secure and satisfied in our profession.
There are many resources, such as VIN and various veterinarian-focused financial institutions, that are ready and willing to help us find a way! I don’t think we should give up on our dreams just because the money part is scary.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Stress happens – take care of yourself! That includes diet, exercise, sleep, and most importantly, having a good support system. I have been blessed with making some wonderful friends who have been my go-to whenever I need to spill my frustrations or anxieties about whatever’s going on in vet school. However, after we get it all out, it’s always time to either buckle down and tackle whatever problem we’re facing, or let it go when there’s nothing else we can do about a less-than-ideal grade we just received.
Don’t get consumed by the fear and anxiety.
The academic rigor of vet school is a necessary evil not only because we need to know so much to become doctors, but because it also helps us develop the coping skills that we will need when we inevitably face difficult circumstances in practice. We need to start learning to develop a work-life balance now.
Don’t be ashamed to see the school psychologist when you are having difficulty with stress or emotions. In fact, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, because almost everyone in vet school wants to see you do well and is willing to give up their time and resources to help you. And always, always try your best to be a friend to your fellow classmates. After all, they will be your colleagues someday!
Any study tips? What was your favorite method for studying?
Quizlet has saved my life! My usual method of studying this semester usually involved organizing each section of information into an outline or table in order to better understand the concept, and then putting any information that needed memorizing into Quizlet.
However, everyone works differently. Be warned, you will probably need a few weeks or months to find the method that works best for you. Be patient with yourself and don’t get discouraged if things aren’t going smoothly at first – you’ll learn!
What was the most challenging class, in your DVM program?
I have just completed my first semester, so I’m sure there are many more challenging courses to come! So far, I have completed Physiology, Anatomy I, Immunology, Histology, Neurology, and Infectious Agents.
I think most students would agree that Physiology is the hardest class. While there is a lot of material that is a review of concepts we may have been exposed to during undergrad, the sheer amount of information that we were responsible for learning made the class a challenge!
As a student, did you have to take out loans for your education? If so, are you concerned about the amount of debt or how to pay it back?
Although I did not have to take out undergrad loans, I will be paying for most of vet school with loans. I have always been concerned about paying back these loans, but I purposely chose to attend my in-state vet school and did my best to save money during undergrad so that I could minimize the amount of loans I will need to take out.
I have also spent a lot of time learning about how loans compound their interest, developing a budget, and reviewing the loan repayment programs that are currently in place so that I’ll be prepared!
Was there anything in particular about your DVM program or the school itself that you liked?
My favorite part about attending Mississippi State University is the respect that professors show to students. Not only are they all brilliant and experienced veterinarians, I always feel like they see as as future colleagues and put so much time into helping us succeed. I like being a part of our little family here. As far as the program, MSU-CVM has a 2+2 program, with two years of classroom work and two years of clinical rotations. I am certainly excited to have that extra year of clinical experience under my belt!
We also started our first semester 6-8 weeks earlier than the typical program. While that made for quite a long semester, I’m actually very glad we did so because it really eased us into rigorous pace of vet school and allowed us to learn more during our first year.
Do you have a specialty or are you working towards one?
I don’t currently have a specialty, but I’m very open-minded to learning about them right now as a vet student.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
I highly recommend the podcast Vet School Unleashed, produced by a University of Missouri CVM student!
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
When the going gets tough, remember why you do it!
How can people find you? (Social media, website, or email)
Please feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to ask me anything!
FOR MORE MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY VETERINARY COLLEGE INTERVIEWS CHECK OUT THESE
- Dr. Buisson graduated in 2000 and is a world-renowned speaker for the veterinary community. She helps vets find a path that is right for them.
- After 5 interviews and 2 application cycles, Maria got into MSU.