Getting into vet school in Scandinavia vs the UK

Exactly one year ago, to the date, I was finishing up my applications for 4 different schools in the UK. Two of my applications were for veterinary medicine degrees, and the other two were for veterinary science degrees. Although I saw these as my “safety net” schools, I learned a lot from the application process. Therefore I’ve compiled a list with the different requirements for getting into vet school in Northern Europe, and have included a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. I’ll be writing about how I modified my online presence before applying, and how studying literature worked to my advantage during the interviews. I’ve also gone ahead and translated all the different grade and subject requirements to their American and British equivalents, in case some of you are considering studying veterinary medicine in Europe.

Subject requirements:

-          In Scandinavia: The subjects required differ from country to country. In Norway, you’re only required to take advanced level chemistry and intermediate level maths. In Denmark and Sweden however, there are far more subject requirements. In Denmark for instance, you’re expected to have high grade scores in advanced level chemistry, English, physics and maths. In Sweden they expect the same level of competency in maths and physics, but only an intermediate understanding of biology and chemistry.

-          In the UK the subject requirements vary between the different schools and degree types. The schools I applied to for instance, being Edinburgh, Liverpool, Aberystwyth and Lincoln, where the two former were veterinary medicine degrees, and the latter were vet science, had everything from requirements for biology, chemistry, maths and several other science and language subjects, to none at all. A reoccurring pattern I noticed was you were expected to at least have intermediate level biology and maths, and an advanced understanding of chemistry and English. There were some schools that didn’t specify which types of science subjects you were expected to have taken, only that you needed a certain number of STEM-related A-levels, and other that required even more advanced knowledge in physics and biology. However, what separates the UK from the Scandinavian schools is that there is some leeway, which I’ll get back to in the second and third subsection.

 

Grade point average requirements:

-          In Scandinavia: Norway: 6.27, Denmark: 10.9, Sweden: 21.3. These are all above what is considered a 4.0 GPA in the US, but these numbers vary a great deal based on nationality, age, sex, and many other factors. You can even get extra point for taking difficult STEM or language courses during high school.

-          In the UK: There are no specific grade requirements, but you are expected to have high marks in the subjects specified by each university, whether it’s science or language related.

 

Prerequisites:

-          In Scandinavia: The only requirement across the board in all the Scandinavian countries is that you’ve graduated from high school.

-          In the UK: In the UK however, there are usually a ton of prerequisites. As part of my application process, I did regular volunteer work at a cattery for 4 months and worked at a small and large animal clinic from December to January. In some ways, I got away with a lot less practical experience than many other applicants. The University of Liverpool however required way more work experience than what I had, such as at least a week of either equine or farm animal husbandry, in addition to several months’ worth of clinical and volunteer work. Some applications required the clinic you worked at to have blood laboratories, and that you had assisted on at least one lambing or calving. All this had to be recent of course. Other than that the applications usually ask what other kinds of animal experience you have, and this is where you can mention that you grew up on a farm, or that your family has chickens in the backyard, or that you’ve had cats and dogs your whole life. Any kind of experience is relevant, and should be mentioned when applying.

One of the loveliest parts of working at a shelter <3

One of the loveliest parts of working at a shelter <3

Application process:

-          In Scandinavia: In all three Scandinavian countries, you apply through a dedicated website. For info how to apply in Norway, click here: http://www.samordnaopptak.no

For info how to apply in Sweden, click here: https://www.antagning.se/se/start

For info how to apply in Denmark, click here: http://www.optagelse.dk/

I would however recommend that you visit a counsellor at your local school or university and apply through a site like “Across the Pond” or the “Erasmus Programme”, because applying for university in a different country is a long, and sometimes tedious process. 

-          In the UK: When I first started thinking about applying for vet school in the UK, the deadline was already fast approaching. You have to apply almost a year in advance, where you have to send in documentation on everything from grades to where you’ve had work placements. You also have to get a letter of recommendation from a teacher and write a motivational letter on why you should be accepted by the university. This should be heartfelt, and should highlight what sets you apart from the rest of the applicants. Bear in mind that these people read thousands of motivational letters per year, and a lot of them are probably really similar.

Here are UCAS’s own tips on how to write a first class personal statement: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/getting-started/when-apply/writing-ucas-undergraduate-personal-statement

If all goes well you’ll most likely be invited to an interview. Sometimes it can be done by phone or skype, but usually it’ll happen in person. I was invited to Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, and before arrival I was informed that there would be seven mini-interviews of ten minutes each. I was only allowed to know the subject of the interview, but I was not allowed to ask my student contact what kinds of questions would be asked. There was an interview on my work placements, one on ethics, one on animal rights, three different task-based interviews, with medical calculation assignments, analysing statistics and a dexterity challenge. The last one was on the veterinary profession, different organisations that we should be aware of, and common practices in the UK, like what the vaccination programme is for puppies and kittens, and that kind of stuff. The one thing I found particularly unclear before the interview was the dexterity task. They had not specified what it was about in the slightest, and the briefing was so ambiguously written that I was almost thinking that I would have to preform CPR on a dog dummy, or something of the sort. It was actually a test to see how steady your hands were under pressure, using stickers(!). Other applicants I met, who had been to other interviews, told me that they had built with Legos, folded origami, and other completely unexpected elements you would expect for a veterinary interview. In other words, this is something that you can’t really prepare for other than reading up on the school you’ve applied for, the countries views on animal rights, and generally think about why YOU should be chosen, and why YOU want it more than the rest of the applicants.

 

Accepting your offer:

-          In Scandinavia: if all goes well, you’ll get an offer! I can only speak from my experience as a native, but here in Norway we receive an offer, and have to press either yes or no on the same website we applied through, and wait for the school to send us an email with important information before school starts. By accepting your offer, all other offers are declined unless you’ve been wait-listed for other degrees.

-          In the UK: I was so lucky to be accepted by three out of the four schools I applied for. The one I wasn’t accepted for was because I didn’t have enough relevant work experience, so bear that in mind, and read up on your desired schools policies before applying. The norm in the UK seems to be an email stating that you’ve been accepted, and then you have to wait for the application website to process your either conditional or unconditional offer in order for you to accept. What is meant by conditional is that you’ve been accepted, but on specific terms. This could either be that you have to send additional documentation on grades you’ve received after applying, or work placement done after the application process. It could also be a deposit fee, as the UK, as many other nations, have tuition fees for higher education.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this process is that it pays off to read up on both the school and the country you want to be studying in. Are there stipends or scholarships you can qualify for? What are the requirements for getting into school? Will your degree be recognised by your home nation’s veterinary legislation, and will you have a valid medical license upon graduation? All this and more has to be taken into consideration before accepting an offer. And before you can even think about accepting an offer, you have to think about how YOU will be able to stand apart in a crowd of people. In my case the interviewers loved that I came from such a different academic background, with my previous literature studies, and actually pointed it out during the interview. They also mentioned my old study blog, which I’d written about in my personal statement. It had given them an insight into what kind of person I was, which is an advantage when you only have ten minutes to get to know each interviewer. Do you have a particular skill or passion? Make a website dedicated to that interest, show the interviewers how you work, and how dedicated you are! It can be everything from a fitness blog documenting your journey to improve race times, or how much you can lift, to an arts and crafts site, where you teach people how to create fun and imaginative things. What the interviewer will focus on is not how well you do in the sport you’ve chosen, or how great your drawing skills are, but your aim to constantly improve, and your learning- and teaching skills. These are characteristics of a great student!

If you have any other questions, or are thinking about applying for school abroad, feel free to contact me! @ me on twitter (@benevettobe) or Instagram (@vettobe), or leave a comment below!