Although animal and veterinary experience are not specific requirements, any application will probably be strengthened if the applicant can demonstrate good knowledge of the veterinary profession accompanied by first-hand experience. Applicants without significant animal and veterinary experience are rarely successful in being admitted.
Q. Why is experience with animals important?
Significant animal experience is important because it's assumed that most veterinarians will be working with animals during a significant part of their time. Experiences working with animals not only give applicants some idea as to how well they might enjoy working with animals, but it also gives some indication of their aptitude and compassion.
Q. What do you mean by "significant animal experience"?
"Significant animal experience" goes beyond having a pet. For example, it could include responsibility for the care and husbandry of a food-animal unit or an experimental animal colony.
Q. Why do you encourage experience in veterinary medicine?
The basis for emphasizing veterinary activity has a rationale similar to that for animal experience: the applicant learns about the day-to-day life as a veterinarian. The purpose of the experience is not to learn a basic core of veterinary or animal handling skills. For many, obtaining veterinary experience means spending quality time with a veterinarian, either as an observer or as an employee.
Q. Should I gain experience in one particular area of veterinary medicine?
There is no advantage in having veterinary experience in one given veterinary activity over that of another. For example, experience with a food animal practitioner is not necessarily better than experience in a small animal practice. The main thing is that the applicant's experiences be consistent with their career goals at the time of admission.
Of course, the WCVM admissions committee recognizes that applicants' career goals within the profession may change over the course of their education. During the admissions process, there are no "preferred" career choices: applicants with an interest in one type of practice are not given preferential treatment over those with interests in other areas.
Q. How much animal and veterinary experience should I have?
The amount of animal and veterinary experience will vary from one applicant to another, because some individuals are more perceptive than others and some experiences might be more useful than others. For example, a student might gain more experience as an employee at a veterinary clinic versus being an observer at a veterinary practice.
Gaining a range of insights is the prime reason for emphasizing experience. Some applicants will be able to obtain these insights after minimal exposure, while other applicants may need more time and exposure.
Q. Is it better to try and gain a variety of experiences?
A variety of experiences is also an asset, so long as experience in different areas is not so superficial as to be meaningless. Breadth of veterinary experience gives an applicant a better overall view of what the profession has to offer.
From an admissions point of view, the major benefit of animal and veterinary experience is to help ensure that applicants "know what they are getting into." However, the WCVM admissions committee may also consider an applicant's efforts to gain experience as an indication of his or her motivation to become a veterinarian.