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Suggestions for Application to Internships and Residencies


Staff member
Feb 6, 2009
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Germany Small Animal Veterinarian
Suggestions for Application to Internships and Residencies

Carefully read the instructions for application to the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program, www.VIRMP.org
Read the instructions again. Follow all instructions. Fulfill all requirements on the application form. Incomplete applications are discarded.

Completed applications are due at each institution early in December. Be sure your completed application arrives before this date. Do not wait too long to request transcripts or letters of recommendation (see below for more details).

Rank lists are confidential. Do not ask faculty or contact people at various institutions where you might be ranked by their institution.

Be certain to highlight activities that distinguish you from other candidates vying for your internship slot. Include research experience, extra-curricular activities, leadership roles, and professional experiences that have provided or required unique skill sets that other students might lack. Veterinary work experiences are particularly important for most internship committees.

Be certain to review the article by Dr. Harriet Davidson: Selection methods and criteria for choosing veterinary interns. JAVMA 227:55-60; 2005.

Factors which negatively impact your application:

  • Letters of recommendation stating the candidate is “below average” or even “average”
  • Failure to include a letter from a professor at your University
  • Failure to include a letter from a Diplomate of a specialty college
  • Poorly written letter of intent
  • Low GPA.

Factors judged to hold high importance for evaluation of your application:

  • Favorable letters of recommendation (most important factor!)
  • Class rank, CV, and GPA.

Letter of Intent – This portion of your application will be evaluated to determine if you can construct a well-written and well-structured, professional letter. This is not a creative writing exercise. Do not include a metaphor; you are not a flower or a seed. This is not the time to share inspirational lyrics from your favorite alternative rock band, nor should you catalog your expertise as a dog/horse/cattle rider, trainer, breeder. Be succinct. Your letter should fit on a single sheet of paper. Ask at least one (or more) other people to read your letter to provide feedback and recommendations for revision.

Three paragraphs are often sufficient:
1) Who you are: You may wonder whether it is wise to state your career goals in your letter of intent (i.e. general practice, residency training, specialty practice, advanced degree program (MS or PhD), public practice, or academic medicine). It is in everyone’s best interest for you to state your goals from the onset to determine whether the program of interest is a good fit to meet your goals. If you intend to use the first 5 months of the program to determine your career goals, it is okay to state that too.

2) Your skills and interests: Use this paragraph to outline unique and formative experiences that have prepared you for advanced training. Be sure to highlight experiences that separate you from other applicants (leadership, communication, business management). Consider including a statement indicating that your experiences have given you the opportunity to recognize the demands of internship (or residency) training and that you are dedicated/prepared/eager to fulfill these requirements.

3) What you will bring to the practice: In the VIRMP, a single letter is delivered to every institution. It is important to be creative about the attributes you bring that will support your candidacy. Nonspecific statements (I am a hard worker) and stretching the truth (I have a charming personality) tend to backfire. It is more beneficial to give a specific example of hard work, perseverance, or unique understanding of the task of advanced training to gain credibility in this paragraph. Outside the VIRMP, you have the latitude to tailor each letter regarding your unique knowledge or ability to contribute to the institution or practice. Feel free to reorganize topics from this suggested format, but limit the length to one page.

Letters of Recommendation - Letters of recommendation are the single most important component of your application. Do not be afraid to ask the potential reference whether they feel sufficiently comfortable with your performance and abilities to write a good (excellent) letter of recommendation that strongly supports your application.

Letters of recommendation which include statements that the candidate has had difficulties working with technicians, classmates, colleagues or staff are often cause for a “low rank” or “no rank” decision. Interpersonal skills will be the single most important factor that prospective mentors are interested in learning about when they have a conversation with references from your institution.

Be certain to give your references at least 1 month to construct your letter – late requests for letters of recommendation may be interpreted as poor planning by the applicant and might negatively impact letter quality. Some references may have committed to other students, and may not be able to provide late requests for letters of recommendation. Give your references your CV, letter of intent, GPA, and class rank, and any additional supplemental information. This will allow your references to add detail to the letter, which will strengthen letter quality.

The strength of the letter is almost as important as who writes the letter. Ideal letter writers are well-known, well-respected veterinarians, active in the specialty of interest, and known by selection committee members. A junior faculty member with less name recognition can be a good choice, but letters from faculty members who are board-certified generally carry greater strength than letters from individuals who have not yet attained board certification.
Letters from residents, interns, and veterinarians in general practice may be strong letters in content; however, intern/residency selection committees generally attribute less weight to these letters. Selection committee members prefer writers with name recognition to gauge the credibility of the information. Three letters of recommendation are required at each institution. There is little to no advantage in submitting more than 3 letters per institution. The VIRMP allows you to submit 4 letters. More than 4 letters submitted to a non-VIRMP program may have a negative impact.
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