Army Veterinarian Part 2: Applying for the Health Professions Scholarship Program

This is the second article in a series about my experiences as a veterinarian in the U.S. Army. You can find everything I’ve written about being an Army veterinarian on this dedicated page.
Casualty evacuation exercise at a military training.

Casualty evacuation exercise at a military training.

I arrived at Tufts for my first year of veterinary school convinced that I would at least apply for the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). I was disappointed to learn that I would be eligible for at most three years of scholarship, but I knew that this was still the best deal out there for me. Medical and dental students can apply for a four year scholarship prior to even starting professional school, but vet students can only get this full ride if they have prior service in the military or were a ROTC cadet as an undergraduate.

At Tufts, I quickly connected with a couple of third and fourth year students who already had HPSP scholarships. They were incredibly helpful in sharing all the ups and downs they had experienced in working with our local Army recruiter. Within a month or two of starting school, they took me and a few other interested first years out for a fancy seafood dinner on the Army’s bill!

Ah, those were the days in the mid-2000s, when the Department of Defense was rolling in money. Don’t worry, though, there are much stricter regulations in place now. Current recruiters have to rely on the benefits of the program itself rather than buying poor vet students’ loyalty with expensive meals.

Do I Really Have to Work Through This Recruiter Guy?

I was pretty turned off by my interactions with our local recruiter. He was a well-intentioned enlisted soldier who had been in the Army for over twenty years, the last three of which had been spent recruiting health professional students in the Boston area. Although he had learned a little bit about interacting with young, driven college graduates, we were clearly not the crowd that he normally hung out with after work.

This negative impression got me thinking, If the Army really wants to recruit the best people to apply as future officers and health professionals, can’t they find someone a little more suited to the job? Now I understand that yes, they probably could, but there are so many moving pieces and so much behind-the-scenes negotiation involved in making assignments that at the end of the day “they” (i.e., the Army) doesn’t always get the right person in the right job. Alas.

I knew that my interactions with Sergeant Recruiter would be limited, and that I needed to swallow my frustrations and make it work. He had been designated my primary gatekeeper into this whole potential world of Army veterinary medicine, and if I wanted any chance at success I needed to do my best to cultivate this relationship over the months ahead.

Operating on a cat in our makeshift clinic in Egypt.

Operating on a cat in our makeshift clinic in Egypt.

So that’s what I did. I continued to do all I could to facilitate a successful application. This meant responding to phone calls and e-mails right away, filling out countless forms once, twice, and three times after they were repeatedly misplaced at the recruiting office, and swallowing my frustrations again and again.

Duck Walking and the Medical Screening Exam

My first exposure to the real Army came when I took a two hour drive out to the nearest Army installation to get the required medical screening (aka, the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS) done for my application. This was a scary experience. I found myself packed into an auditorium with what must have been about a hundred 17 year old guys and girls, all waiting to be poked, prodded, and otherwise physically humiliated in front of a series of Army medics and physicians.

I had arrived expecting a typical medical appointment, but after waiting in line for my first two hours I realized this was going to be anything but ordinary. The highlight was probably stripping down to my boxers, along with ten other guys, to walk, jog, stretch, and even duck walk across an exam room floor in front of a panel of evaluators. Yes, I duck walked.

I honestly felt like I was at one of the sale barns that I grew up going to with my dad, but this time I was the animal being trotted around the ring and auctioned off to the highest bidder!

Much to my relief, the paperwork I collected at the end of the day had a big stamp across the top stating “APPROVED”. One major hurdle down.

This is actually an important thing to understand as you consider your own decision to apply for the HPSP scholarship or join the Army in some other way.  The military is quite strict about their physical requirements. If they accept you now as a 25 year old, they are basically committing to the possibility of paying for your medical care for the rest of your life. This means they want to rule out any pre-existing conditions that could make it difficult for you to function as a soldier or that might be expensive to manage for the military healthcare system.

I don’t want to scare you off with this information, though. There are exemptions for almost everything. If you can find a military physician who will sign off on your paperwork and state that the knee injury you suffered in high school will not affect your service in the Army, you should be good to go. Just be aware that this process will be more tedious and difficult than you could probably imagine.

Endless Paperwork and the Application Itself

At this point in the early second semester of my first year at vet school, I was already deeply into the rest of the HPSP application’s tedious requirements. Can you remember every address you have lived at for the past 10 years? How about every foreign country you have visited, along with the dates and the purpose of the visit?

I had just come off a year between undergrad and vet school in which I traveled all over Europe and the Middle East, so I was a little worried that my months in Lebanon and Jordan might raise some unnecessary red flags on this background check for my secret security clearance.

Adventures in Jordan during the year before vet school.

Adventures in Jordan during the year before vet school.

And then there was the essay, also called the letter of intent. How could paint an honest and inspiring picture of myself as the ideal future Army Veterinary Corps officer?

I knew that the people sitting on the board who would decide on these scholarships were a mix of high ranking officers from a variety of different fields. They wouldn’t all be vets or even medical professionals. I needed to convince them all that I was not only serious about being a good veterinarian, but that I was also motivated to use this education in the selfless service of my country!

I will freely admit that I was a tad generous with myself as I penned these inspiring words. I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, but I also didn’t focus on the fact that I really hadn’t thought about the military much before learning about the HPSP scholarship. There was no reason to share that I sometimes wondered about our leaders’ motivation in committing U.S. military might to various situations around the world.

This was the moment to let all my patriotism and honest interest in a military career shine! I brought in the inspiring stories of my great-grandfather, a Presbyterian minister who enlisted in the Army and was killed in the trenches during World War I, and my grandfather, a plant pathologist who helped lead the Allied charge up through Italy in World War II.

Talking to the Army Vet Corps reps at the SAVMA Symposium during my first year.

Talking to the Army Vet Corps reps at the SAVMA Symposium during my first year.

I also asked a couple of Army veterinarians I had gotten to know through phone and e-mail conversations to take a look at my essay and share their advice about making it stronger and more convincing. This was key, given my complete lack of experience in understanding military culture and expectations. And this is a service I’m happy to provide for any of you! Just get in touch on my contact page (link) and we’ll go from there.

Check back next week to read about one final hurdle before I was faced with a life-changing decision.

Are you considering applying for the HPSP scholarship this year? How can I help you with the process? Leave a comment to let me know!

Make sure you continue on to the third article in the Army Veterinarian series, in which I discuss making the final decision to accept the HPSP scholarship and share the details about my commissioning ceremony. You can also find everything I’ve written about being an Army veterinarian on this dedicated page.

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77 Responses to “Army Veterinarian Part 2: Applying for the Health Professions Scholarship Program”

  1. Kaitlin Mielnicki January 9, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    Dr. Garber,
    I was told by the recruiter yesterday that I must lose a few pounds before I can come in for an interview/continue the application process, and I am now putting more effort to getting into shape than I ever have before.
    I have no doubt that I will lose the weight before the application deadline, but in the meantime I am gathering as much information about the program as I possibly can, trying to get all of my questions answered to make sure this is the right choice for me.
    As I said on your FaceBook page, I have been mulling over applying for the HPSP since my junior year of undergrad. The Army runs in my blood, and as such, I have been drawn to the idea of a military experience.
    My concern, however, is that I have been preparing, and am going to continue preparing, myself for a career in equine medicine. I know opportunities to practice equine medicine in the military are slim to none. At this point in time, however, I have scheduled three summer externships at equine clinics. I am keeping my mind open to anything and everything, but I am wondering…
    Should I put my three years in with the Army, will that make me less marketable when I begin applying for equine internships/residencies? Will clinics/institutions look unfavorably upon three years of small animal/public health/food safety experience?
    It seems that you were raised around horses. Any chance that this thought crossed your mind in veterinary school?
    Thank you so much for any/all help!
    Kaitlin

    • Elliott January 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Hey Kaitlin, thank you for chiming in here! You raise some interesting questions and make me realize I should probably address some more of my own decision-making process in a future post. Briefly, though, yes I was seriously considering going into equine medicine for a while but basically knew by the end of my first year of vet school that I wanted to focus more on public health, wildlife, and research opportunities. There Are some opportunities to work with horses as an Army vet, but these are few and far between so you can’t really count on getting one of those assignments. In terms of your chances of getting back on track to become an equine vet, I honestly don’t think that you would be in any less competitive than someone just graduating from vet school. You will be a much more mature person and better clinician already through your Army experience, so there is no reason you should be able to go right into an internship and then residency program. The only difference, of course, is that you will have very little student debt and probably will have saved a good bit from three years on a captain’s salary! Feel free to e-mail with any more questions!

  2. daninicole14 January 10, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Dr. Garber,
    I am so glad to have found your website (through SDN) earlier today! Currently, I am waiting for my interview for veterinary school, and my goal is to join the Army Vet Corps if I do actually end up getting accepted. The only thing giving me doubts about joining the Vet Corps has been having trouble finding people with personal (and current) experience with the Vet Corps. However, after finding your website, I have enjoyed reading what you have written so far and have found it very informative! I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog and that I look forward to reading your posts in the future!
    Thank you,
    Dani

    • Elliott January 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      Hey Dani, I’m glad I came along at just the right time for you! I’ll have plenty more personal stories to share about my experiences as a vet in the Army, so stay tuned. Overall it has been a really good experience.

  3. Trevor Tenney January 12, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Hi Elliot, I really enjoy this website. I can totally relate to your experiences applying for the HPSP. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions regarding the Army Veterinary Corps. It was helpful to hear directly from someone with 5 years of experience serving in the Army. I look forward to your future posts.

    • Elliott January 13, 2013 at 12:08 am #

      Hey Trevor, great chatting with you as well. I actually only have 3.5 years in the Army so far, but I will be at 5 when my assignment here in Sicily ends. Not that I’m counting…

      Trevor got in touch on my contact page and we just finished talking on Skype for almost an hour about some of his more specific questions about the HPSP and being a vet in the Army. I’m always glad to talk with others in our little community of uncommon veterinarians and vets-to-be!

  4. Laura January 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Elliott! Finding your page was such a relief as it has answered a number of questions for me. I am a mother of girl only entering 9th grade next fall but who is driven and determined to be a veterinarian. I have been doing research to get her on the right track through high school to make college as smooth as possible. During this research I found myself off on many tangents which brought to my attention the bleak outlook for graduating veterinarians regarding average income vs. debt from vet school. The ratio isn’t pretty which lead me to research other avenues. I believe the cliche “where there is a will there is a way” and my daughters will is quite strong. I showed her information on the vet corps and she loved the idea. I realize we have a lot of time to make decisions but have enjoyed reading your blog and getting some of my questions answered. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and I look forward to reading more.

    • Elliott January 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      Hi Laura, thanks for your encouraging words! That’s so cool that your daughter is interested in becoming a vet and that you’re already helping her think realistically about the finances and the different career options that exist for us as veterinarians. You’re right that the current environment of student debt vs average salaries isn’t a great one to start off in, and that was a big factor in my own decision to join the Army. It’s not impossible to make it work as a regular small animal vet (most of my classmates are doing just that!), but it’s a real consideration that all potential vets need to be aware of. Even if she doesn’t want to be a vet in the Army, there are also some other loan repayment programs for different types of government service which I hope to feature here on my site at some point. Thanks again for stopping by!

      • Laura January 31, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

        I will definitely be on the lookout for your information regarding other loan repayment programs. Thank you again!

  5. bgoodl February 15, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    Hi Elliot, I am currently in the process of applying for veterinary school for next year. (I just had my interview with Tufts a couple weeks ago) I am interested in learning more about the HPSP scholarship program. The professional side of the program sounds really appealing, but I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about how you balance your work and your personal life in army. If you don’t mind me asking, does the army allow your wife and daughter to live in Italy with you? If not how often do you get to see her and interact with the rest of your family.

    • Elliott February 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      Good question, and these are some of things I plan to write more about in articles about life as an Army vet post-vet school. The good news is that my family is with me here in Italy now, and we’ll be together here for three years! I’m usually traveling somewhere else in Europe or Africa for at least a week every month, but otherwise my job is a pretty regular schedule so I have lots of time to spend with my family. Feel free to check out my wife’s blog at: http://www.beccagarber.com for her perspective on family and personal life in the Army.

      However, this was kind of a reward after being separated while I was on an unaccompanied assignment in Egypt for a year. I got the news about that deployment just a couple of months after Becca and I got married, so at that point I wasn’t very happy with the work/life balance in the Army.

      We have actually gotten back to the States about every four months or so since we’ve been in Italy, with a combination of training or conferences for me, free military flights, and lots of frequent flier miles. This has made it easier to be so far away from the rest of our family and friends. Being in Sicily, we are also somewhere that people like to visit so we’ve been able to host lots of guests as well!

  6. Caitlin Sullivan February 18, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Hi Elliott,

    I’m a second-year vet student applying for the HPSP program, well, right about now. I found this and saw you’d be willing to critique the “personal statement,” and am wondering if you’d be willing to have a look at mine. I’d sincerely appreciate any input since I’m struggling to effectively put what will be my interview into words without sounding like every other vet student on the planet who has love animals since childhood. Thanks!

    • Elliott February 19, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      Hey Caitlin – I’m definitely happy to take a look at your statement! I’ll shoot you an e-mail and you can just send it to me that way. The most important thing to focus on is remembering to write for your audience. Your audience in this case is a panel of high-ranking military officers: some medical, maybe a vet or two, but coming from all backgrounds. So, although you do need to give them confidence that you’ll be a great Army veterinarian, you need to convince them even more that you will also be a great Army officer (which involves a lot more than just our veterinary training). We’ll be in touch.

  7. Candy February 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Hi!

    Thanks so much for having this blog. As a vet you know what all of us pre-vet students are thinking and what we want to know. I have a few questions if you think you can help me out…
    I am currently waiting to hear from vet schools. If accepted, I am very seriously considering the HPSP so that I can graduate debt free, travel, and have a guaranteed job after graduation.

    My fiance has always said that if I join he is joining the army. He has no schooling past high school, no rotc, and no special skills. I anticipate him scoring very well on the ASVAB however. I am worried that we will be stationed apart, or worse yet that he will be shipped overseas to a war zone. Will our being married and my being an army vet keep us together?

    Also, we have 3 indoor dogs (2 toy poodles and a lab mix) that are our children. One of the poodles is over 15 and has slow growing cancer, serious arthritis, and is going blind. We don’t want to be separated from our animals- and in the case of the oldest dog I really don’t think she would survive a separation. I think we could house them with relatives during boot camp but thats it. Will we be able to have our animals with us post-boot camp? They are very well trained and behaved. I am even working with the lab mix on getting Therapy Dog Certified.

    • Elliott February 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Candy, thanks for your questions!

      That’s exciting to hear that you’re hoping to go to vet school and possibly participate in the HPSP. It’s definitely one of the best deals out there for vet students who want to minimize their student loan debt.

      If you and your husband are both in the Army, you would be called a “dual military” couple. The military has recently improved their efforts to keep couples like this together, and they’ll do all they can to make sure you get your assignments together. However, it’s quite possible and even likely that there would still be periods of months or even a year or two where you had to be separated because there just wasn’t the right kind of job open for both of you at the same time and the same place. Unfortunately this seems to happen to most dual military couples at some point in their careers.

      Regarding a deployment overseas or to a combat zone, your status as a dual military couple would not really have any impact on that. Both of you (there are lots of vets in Afghanistan right now!) would likely be deployed as long as we are still at war, and it’s unlikely that you would be deployed together or at the same time. This would be good for your pets, but not for your relationship!

      Speaking of your pets, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Pretty much every Army veterinarian I know has pets, and we are able to bring them with us all over the world (except on combat deployments or certain short assignments to places like Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia).

      As a vet, you would most likely not attend your officer basic training until after you finish vet school, so unless your old poodle has a miraculously long life you probably won’t need to worry about him. You would have to be okay with the possibility of leaving current and future pets with family, friends, or even a boarding facility if your husband and you were both required in some sort of field training or deployment at the same time, so just be aware of that.

      I hope that helps a little bit! Good luck with everything and stay in touch.

  8. Gretchen Powers February 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Dr. Garber,
    The way you go above and beyond to personally help those of us just on the other side of the profession is fantastic!
    I tried to send an email but I don’t think it went through. I am in the process of applying for the HPSP and have some questions about the motivational statement. Should I try emailing again?
    Thanks!

    • Elliott February 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      Hey Gretchen, I was finally able to respond to your message. Although we love living in Sicily, the inconsistency of our internet connection at home is one of the little annoying things that make life interesting. Thanks for getting in touch and let me know if I can help with any other information.

  9. Matt February 22, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Elliot-

    Thank you for taking the time to do this blog and answering so many questions. Just real quick about me: I’ve wanted to be in the military and/or be a vet for a long time but am still unsure of the blend. Now that I have been accepted into vet school running off to enlist or seeking a commission are off the table. I’ve been accepted at a US, Canadian, and UK school.

    I know if I want to to get the HSPS I have to go to the US school but I am also interested in vets who join up after school. I believe loan forgiveness is about $120,000 for active duty service and $125,000 for reserve (this seems funny but looks like reserves can tap two different programs). I saw someone else asked this question too and I was wondering if you had any updates you could share. This is what the army says about non US, Canadian schools “foreign graduates may apply if they possess a permanent certificate from the Education Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates”. Do you know what this means?

    My main concern about being a vet in the army is feeling that you’re neither fully in the army nor fully a clinician. I have heard that food inspection can be a big part of an army vets life (not something I’m against having to do as part of my work) and I worry about getting enough experience in production animals. I have heard that some vets are working on humanitarian or soft power missions working with cattle, goats, and sheep but I wonder how hard these posts are to obtain? Is this something I can obtain in my first 3 years or do I need to put in my time to get these posts?

    Thanks for your time,
    Matt

    • Elliott February 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      Matt, thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions. You’ve clearly done your homework and are already way ahead of the game in thinking through this big decision.

      Congratulations on your diverse vet school acceptances! You’re right that there have been some good deals for veterinarians to directly commission into the Army post-graduation, and that it’s possible to do this as a non-U.S. school graduate. I’m pretty sure that the statement about the “Education Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates” just means that you have to pass the requirements in order to be able to practice as a veterinarian in the U.S. This means passing the NAVLE and getting your license in one U.S. state. If you go to an AVMA-accredited school this process is a lot easier and more straightforward, but it’s still possible if you don’t.

      I have to recommend going to the U.S. school if you’re serious about the military thing. Over the last few years the percentages for HPSP applicants have been a lot better than for direct commissions. Given our country and military’s financial situation, you might also be best off going with the guaranteed now (HPSP scholarship) rather than the possible four or five years down the road. Of course, it’s also possible that five years from now there will be a huge million dollar bonus for direct veterinary accessions, but I think that’s pretty unlikely!

      I don’t think you need to worry about not feeling as if you’re totally in the Army as a veterinarian. If you really want to go all out hooah Army, you will have the opportunity to do that in a TO&E (deployable) unit, or a Special Forces unit. You will probably need to do one more traditional new captain assignment first, with the combination of MWDs, family pets, and food safety, but within the first couple of years you can usually transfer into a something you’re more interested in.

      If you really want to get large animal and production experience, then the Army may not be the best place for you. Even if you do get into an SF or Civil Affairs job, the large animal work is still limited to basic vaccination campaigns on a pretty irregular basis. These assignments are competitive, but if you have the right combination of motivation and physical ability you should be able to get one.

      Thanks again for writing and feel free to contact me with any more questions.

  10. Kelly March 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Hello!

    I had a few questions about the application process, particularly how competitive it is. How high were your first year grades? Do extracurricular activities like vet med related clubs have any impact? Is military-related experience crucial? If so, is there any way to gain such experience in between now and applying (I will be a first year veterinary student this fall). Like you, I only really ever considered joining the military once I learned about the possibility of this scholarship.

    Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. Though I am overjoyed to have been accepted to veterinary school, the reality of the debt awaiting me has made me second guess the decision to attend. If I thought the HPSP were a viable option, it would make the choice to attend much easier.

    Thank you,

    Kelly

    • Elliott March 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      Hey Kelly, thanks for taking the time to write these questions and comments.

      Congrats on getting accepted to vet school! That’s an awesome first step, but you’re smart to already be thinking about the financial realities involved in designing your dream career. Although the Army isn’t the only program that can help in this regard, it’s definitely the most generous. It also comes with the greatest requirements of time and service and potentially life-altering effects!

      I applied during my first year of vet school so I only had to submit that fall semester’s grades. I was able to make a 4.0 that semester after working incredibly hard mostly for this purpose of my HPSP application. Even though grades don’t always reflect actual learning (and trust me, I couldn’t tell you a whole lot about physiological chemistry now!), they are one of the few ways the evaluation committee has to compare you with your peers. Not everyone who is accepted has a 4.0, though, so don’t let that discourage you if it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this fall.

      I do think it’s important to demonstrate that you’re involved in extracurricular activities, especially in leadership roles if possible. That’s tough to do in your first year, but there are usually some opportunities. I was our SCAVMA first-year rep, which gave me a leadership title and also helped me stand out and get to know some of my professors a little better, which probably helped in their recommendations.

      Military experience is not required or even very common for veterinary HPSP applicants. If you had prior service in the military or are able to swing an internship working with an Army vet prior to starting vet school, that would definitely make you stand out and be to your advantage. I did not have anything like this, and I didn’t have anyone in the military write me letters of recommendation. This does help, though. There are Army vet clinics and research labs all over the U.S. so if you want to make this happen you can start calling around to see if anyone might accept you as a volunteer for some period this summer.

      Thanks again for your comments. Good luck as you keep thinking through this big decision!

      • Kelly April 2, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

        Thanks so much for your detailed answer! Per your advice, I have begun researching Army vet clinics and labs in my area, and look forward to getting some experience!

  11. Stephanie May 15, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    I am currently in the Army and I am working on my bachelors degree now I have completed one year of school so far. I am interested in HPSP so that I will not have 300K in debt once I graduate. I have been trying to find out more info about applying for HPSP once I get my bachelors degree but I can’t seems to find much about people who are currently in the Army and want to do HPSP for Veterinary medicine. Help me please!!!

    • Stephanie May 15, 2013 at 5:58 am #

      Also how likely is it that a person will get accepted into this program?

  12. Rachel June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Hi Dr. Garber,

    I’ve been researching this scholarship after recently being admitted to vet school. I never considered the army route previously. I just have a couple questions for you regarding the actual veterinary medicine practiced and opportunities given.
    As an army vet, what do you actually do? On a day-to-day basis, what are your responsibilities and duties?
    I want to be an ACVS Diplomate focusing in orthopedic and soft tissue sx, is that at all possible with this program?

    • Elliott July 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

      Hey Rachel, thanks for your questions.

      The daily tasks of an Army vet totally depend on the actual job that you are currently in. Most new grads start off by spending 3-5 years in positions where they are doing a combination of small animals medicine/surgery and food safety. It’s definitely possible to become a board-certified surgeon in the Army. After your first couple of assignments, you would apply for Long Term Health Education and Training to do a surgery residency at a civilian vet school. It’s competitive to get a slot, but not nearly as competitive as if you are applying as a regular civilian. After your three years of residency, you would owe another five years of active duty service in which you would be working as a clinical consultant at one of our larger veterinary referral hospitals. For example, we have two veterinary surgeons in the Army assigned at the big vet hospital up in Germany. I’ll be writing more about my actual jobs in the Army in future posts, so keep checking back!

  13. Valerie July 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    Hello Dr. Garber,

    I have recently came across your articles and is fascinated about what really going on being a Vet in the army.
    I have recently graduated high school, so I am currently undecided on either joining the army to become a Veterinary corps officer, or to just go to vet school. I have done a lot of research on benefits joining the service. As in with schooling. But I do not understand how to actually get to the point of being an VET corps officer. Do you have to go to an accredited U.S Vet school and get a degree before singing your term on the dotted line, or can you actually sign your term first and then be on your way becoming a vet corps officer while being on active duty?
    Now with HPSP I understand it requires you to ‘be enrolled in an accredited college of veterinary medicine program in the United States’ I was reading more into this. So what is best?
    Being already enrolled in vet school and then applying for HPSP or joining the service and will I be able to attend school towards becoming a vet?
    Thanks for your time, hope to hear from you soon.

  14. Dominique July 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    is It true that you have to be enrolled in ROTC in undergrad in order to apply for the scholarship. I am a junior in undergrad but I am in a special program where my senior year I have to apply for vet school. When does this scholarship open? and if a requirement is that you have to have an acceptance letter into vet school, when do I apply if acceptance letters don’t come out until april 15th at the vet school I am applying for.

    • Elliott August 3, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      Hey Dominique, good questions. No, you don’t need to be enrolled in ROTC as an undergrad in order to be eligible for the HPSP scholarship. Unless you have some type of prior military service, you would be eligible for at most a three-year scholarship. That’s what I got. For the three-year scholarship, you apply during your first year of vet school.

  15. Ria Landreth August 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Hello Elliott!
    I’m Ria, a senior undergraduate at the University of Missouri. Your site is absolutely amazing!! I’m applying for vet school right now, and I’m very interested in the HPSP and becoming an army vet for the 3 years (+5 reserve), after which I hope to work with wildlife. I found out about it and about army vets in my sophomore year, and have been considering that option ever since. A friend of mine who was interested at the time told me about your website, she said talking with you was very informative! I would love to talk with you more about the program- i.e. how competitive it is, how you prepared for it, etc. I contacted the army asking for more information, and they gave me a quick call not long after, telling me the basics- go to an accredited vet school in the US, apply after I receive acceptance for the school, etc. Would you be able to share more details about the application process, and what’s considered important? For example, in the call, he mentioned that they look at the GRE and GPAs, but when I asked if there was any sort of profile of past recipients against which I could compare my scores, he said that wasn’t available. I took the GRE, and I think I did great, and I think I have a great GPA so far, but how do I know if it’s “good enough”?
    Also, I was wondering- for those who don’t end up getting this scholarship, since I’m assuming it’s pretty competitive, what other options does the army offer in terms of helping with payments? I’ve heard a bit about a loan repayment program, HPLR, do you know more about that? I want to go to NCSU, but it’s a lot more expensive than MU, so assuming I get into both (hopefully), my choice will be largely dependent on how likely I am to have some sort of scholarship/good loan program to pay for it. If you don’t mind taking the time, I’d love to learn a lot more about HPSP and the Veterinary Corps in general!!

    • Ria Landreth August 21, 2013 at 4:37 am #

      Hi Elliot,

      Just wondering if you’d seen my post- sorry it’s so long! I tried sending you an e-mail, but I’m not sure if it went through

      • Elliott August 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        Hey Ria, yes, I finally did and responded by e-mail!

        • Ria Landreth August 26, 2013 at 5:07 am #

          Yup, saw it and replied! Thanks again for your help. =)

  16. Katie W August 13, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    Hey Elliott,
    I sent a facebook message to your webpage yesterday and just wanted to make sure you can receive them etc. Let me know if you can read it. Hope to hear from you soon!

    • Elliott August 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      Hey Katie, got your message and e-mailed you a reply!

  17. Scott C October 10, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    Hi Elliott,
    I am strongly considering applying for the HPSP as a future physician. I am currently a college sophomore studying Biology, Pre-Med. I have a couple questions, mostly about location and length of service: First, will I be able to choose where I attend medical school after I graduate? And after I complete medical school, do I have to do my residency with the Army, or do I do it with a hospital of my choosing? Finally, after residency, do I have any say in where I go, and how long I serve? Will I ever return to my future civilian career and future civilian wife without fear of being uprooted?

    Please take a moment to answer these questions– they’ve been on my mind for weeks!

    • Elliott October 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Scott, thanks for your questions. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of personal knowledge about the HPSP program for physicians. I believe that most people attend the civilian medical school of their choosing, but of course there is also the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences which you could apply to attend for free.

      I think most Army physicians have to do their residencies at military hospitals, but there may be exceptions to that. Once you are finished training, you will be able to express preferences about your assignments, but at the end of the day it is always based on “the needs of the Army.”

      Head over to the forums at the Student Doctor Network and do some searches for the relevant terms there — you’ll probably find some more MD-specific information!

      http://forums.studentdoctor.net/index.php

  18. Jerusha November 5, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    Hi Elliot!

    Wow! I am so glad that I found this. You definitely said tons of things I needed to hear. I recently found out about the HPSP last year and have been seriously considering it. Currently I am a Junior studying Wildlife Biology/ Pre-Veterinary. At some point I know I want to do veterinary work at a zoo or in rehabilitation…do you know of anyways that may fit while working for the military? I know I would have to do some further training outside of vet school to specialize in exotics & thought I could still work for the military during that time if I were to go that route. Also, did you find the physical requirements difficult at all? I’m definitely interested in anything else you have to say as well.

    • Elliott November 5, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      I’m glad you found it too!

      Unfortunately the Army Veterinary Corps is actually not a great place if you want to do mostly zoo or wildlife/conservation work. All of my experiences with these species have come from before I graduated vet school and joined the Army. You probably wouldn’t get the opportunity to work with wildlife or non-traditional species during your first few years. Almost all new vets in the Army have to spend 3-5 years doing the more typical combination of small animal clinical medicine, food safety, and people management.

      The only way to do a residency in zoo/wildlife medicine through the Army would be by getting selected for a Long Term Health Education Program that involves completing an MPH with an “operational track”. The operational track can be almost anything, and in the last few years a couple of Army vets have used this program to do the zoo/wildlife residency. I’m not eligible for this program because I already had my MPH, so that was a big bummer for me. Other options would be a PhD that involves wildlife somehow or a lab animal residency, which involves a whole spectrum of species and is a combination of clinical and research work.

      You could only start one of these educational programs after 4-5 years of regular assignments on active duty, including at least one overseas tour. You would owe another five years of active duty time if you did a residency like this. So, it’s a lot of big commitments and a pretty roundabout route into the field!

      You probably know about the Navy’s marine mammal program. They typically have three Army vets assigned there (working with about 5 civilian vets), and it’s pretty much luck of the draw if you can get the assignment based on timing. Even with my externship there and genuine interest in the field I haven’t been able to get that assignment.

      Personally the physical requirements have not been too difficult, but that’s mostly because I’m lucky to have a relatively athletic body type and can maintain physical fitness without working too hard at it. Some people do struggle to meet the minimum requirements.

  19. Amy December 25, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    Are you still monitoring this page. I’d like to talk to you about the program. Just email.
    Amy

    • Elliott December 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Amy – just sent you an e-mail!

  20. Christi December 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    If you are still monitoring this page, I would like to talk to you about the scholarship! I am working on it now and I am actually in the military now! Please email if you can!

    • Elliott January 7, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

      Just sent you an e-mail!

  21. Haley January 24, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    Hey! Thank you so much for writing this, I found it very intriguing. Ever since I was little I have thought about being a vet or joining the military. I never knew the Army Vet Corp existed until a few weeks ago. I also didn’t know that the Army has a scholarship for vet school.

    My question for you is when do you think would be a good time to start talking to a recruiter?
    I’m actually a senior in high school, but when I graduate I will have almost a full year of college under my belt.

    So even though Vet school is a long way off do you think I should start talking to a recruiter now, or wait until a little later?

    Thanks, and I loved your blog!!

    • Elliott January 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

      Haley, thanks for your comments, and great question. I would wait until you start veterinary school before talking to a recruiter. If you talk to someone now, they will try to convince you to either enlist right away or start an ROTC program, and I don’t think those are the best routes for most people who want to be vets in the Army. I know it seems like a long time to wait!

      • Haley January 27, 2014 at 12:24 am #

        Thanks for the info!

  22. Curerah February 5, 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Hello! I have been researching and researching about this topic and you have finally given some good answers!
    I’m only a junior in high school but I have started college courses. I know that soon it will be time for me to move onto a college or university and many thoughts are going through my heads such as where will I go, how will I pay for it?
    I was looking into applying for an Army ROTC scholarship so that way I can get my schooling paid for, plus it is a way to become an officer. I also have had many friends from my high school JROTC go into the ROTC program in college and they love it.
    Would this be a good idea? I read on the Veterinary Corps website that if I do go into ROTC, then I could apply for an Educational Delay to attend veterinary school.

    Here’s the link,
    http://vetopportunities.amedd.army.mil/forstudents.html

    I definitely won’t be talking to a recruiter anytime soon because of their strong intentions to get young people like me to enlist, but would joining ROTC be a bad idea?

    Thank you!

  23. Anna March 8, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Dr. Garber,

    Please help me, I am interested in applying and actually excited about the idea of serving in the army! I cannot reach the person whose telephone # is listed on the website (http://vetopportunities.amedd.army.mil/hpsp.html) and the email is not working as well. How should I contact them?

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

      Anna, you might try contacting another Health Professions recruiter in a different part of the country, and they should be able to put you in touch with the right person. Or you can talk to your school and they probably have the right contact information.

  24. Anna March 8, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    How to get to the application?

  25. Alex April 7, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi Dr. Garber

    I just sent an email regarding my motivational statement for my current HPSP application (boards on 22 Apr). I wasn’t sure if I needed to comment here first regarding my statement. I just joined your blog and I look forward to catching up on your other posts! Thank you for your service.

    • Elliott April 11, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      Alex, I responded to your e-mail—hope you received it. Good luck!

  26. Ashley April 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    Hello,

    Im really interested in applying for this scholarship but I’m not entirely convinced. What does active duty mean? is it just when you finish med school and residency? am i going to be running around a place like iraq with a gun strapped to my back? will i be able to pay back the time working in a hospital rather than on a battle field? What is the payback requirement? will i be called into action if we go into war?
    -Ashley

    • Elliott April 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Ashley. I’ve written about some of this stuff in my FAQ, so that would be a good place to start to learn more about the active duty commitment. Basically the job really depends on what your assignment is. Some of them are very much like being a civilian, but others are much more operational and could involve real combat.

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  28. Siah June 2, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi! I just wanted to say that I love your blog and all the information you provide. Your positive outlook on veterinary medicine is also really refreshing because I have been hearing lots of negatives lately from people who are not looking at all the great parts of being a veterinarian! I just had a quick question about the HPSP program in regards of going into combat zones. Are women given the same equal chance to end up in combat zones as men? Going to combat zones is the main aspect of the program that is really holding my parents back.
    Thanks!

  29. shehnav June 12, 2014 at 3:54 am #

    Hi, so I am keen on becoming a veterinarian, but like everybody else, I’m worried about paying for vet school. The problem I’m facing is that I joined the Air National Guard recently and just recently started my undergrad as well. As of right now, I would like to become a veterinarian in a zoo. However, I would not mind if I were to work in the vet corps a certain amount of time before I do that. Do you recommend I apply for this program once I almost receive my bachelors or to find a different route in achieving my goals?

  30. Allison June 20, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Hello! I just wanted to say that this article is great. I like many reading this have wanted to be a vet since I was a child. However the cost of vet school made be think twice about setting that as my main goal. After taking some time off of school, which tended to be much longer then anticipated. ( it was about 4 years when i was intending 1 year ) , i got back into school. I have still gone back and forth with vet school. It’s 2014 I have bills and i haven’t been able to return to full-time school yet. I am hoping this is my option but I will need to make sure i really consider it. I also sometimes wonder about the choices of those in charge so that was also a reason i was hesitant about joint the military.

  31. Kendall September 19, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Hi, I am submitting my packet to the Army in 1 month to enter as a direct commission. I was placed on the order of merit list last time most likely because I had only been out a few month. I now have 2 years of emergency medicine and GP behind me. I am working on my statement of motivation and was wondering in your opinion how much time you spent on the medical vs personal side of joining the veterinary corps? Any pointers on structure and length would be great.

    Thanks
    Kendall

  32. Courtney October 23, 2014 at 2:02 am #

    Hi Dr. Garber. I’m a first year vet student who just found your site today. I’m super interested in public health/ wildlife/ exotics so I have been looking a lot at government jobs and plan to do a dual program to earn my MPH relatively at the same time as my DVM. I’ve been looking a lot more into joining the army as I feel it will give me a lot of experience in public health and a chance to travel a bit. Do you know if there’s any public health work beyond food safety? Also, being part of the scholarship program, how exactly does that work with being in school but being part of the military at the same time? Thanks for your help!

  33. Shelby December 1, 2014 at 1:02 am #

    Hi, I’m not sure if you still look through this but if you do I have a couple questions if you have the time to email me. I defiantly want to be a veterinarian and I’m considering joining the military. I was wondering if you recommend doing it together or apart. Would I still be able to go to regular college or should I do that before, or is it part of the military program. I’m pretty ignorant about this so I have a bunch of questions. Thank you for your time.

  34. Carolyn December 6, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Thank you for taking the time to help your fellow vets out so much. I work for FSIS and am 43 years old. I am interested in joining the reserve veterinary corps. What type of security clearance is required usually (I already have a secret level)? How often are top secret clearances required? Do you know of many people my age that enlist? Thank you for your time.

    • Elliott December 7, 2014 at 2:14 am #

      The Reserve would be a great fit for someone in your position already working for the federal government. I think you might be over the standard age limit for commissioning, but you can get a waiver for the age as long as you meet the medical and other requirements. I do know of several people who have come in in their 40s. You only need a secret clearance unless you’re attached to a unit that does more classified types of operations. Good luck!

  35. Erin December 24, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Dr. (Captain?) Garber,

    I’m currently in the Army Reserve, and am ready to apply for the HPSP and graduate school. Do you know how a Reservist can apply for this scholarship?

    Thank you, and Happy Holidays!

  36. Ondraya March 7, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Hi Dr. Garber,
    Is the typical medical examination they do the same for those that are enlisting for active duty?
    I was under the impression that because of my asthma I would not be able to pass the examination. Is this true?
    Also , this is a random question, but my dream is to be a wildlife veterinarian and to travel the world…do think my dream would be fulfilled if I became a army veterinarian.
    Thank you!

  37. Sara May 5, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    Hi Dr Garber,
    Thank you for such informative posts! I am considering joining the army active duty as a vet. Does it help when applying for the HPSP to join the ROTC while in college? Thanks again!

  38. Renee July 12, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    Howdy Dr. Garber!
    Your words were quite helpful! I will be attending Ross University this fall semester. I have started the application process and met with my local recruiter once. I feel the same about these guys as you mentioned above. I am at the point to do the physical exam part in Houston. Thank you for the insight. I did not know you are suppose to write a letter of intent. I am not sure where to start with that since I am just hearing about that part from this article. I noticed my recruiter only gives me so much information at time, which drives me a crazy. I like to know some future details/requirements. But, I will deal with it. Can you give me any pointers on the letter? I can email you more information about myself if that would help.
    Also what do you know about monthly rolling ‘boards’ instead of applications only being processed in April each year??

    Renee

    • Elliott July 12, 2015 at 1:26 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! If you haven’t gotten a chance to read through my FAQ you’ll find the answers to some more of your specific questions about the process. You should also check with your recruiter to ensure that you’re eligible to apply for the scholarship as a Ross student. The last I knew of it, only vet schools in the U.S. were eligible unfortunately. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t join after graduating, though, and get some loan repayment. Good luck!

  39. Jeannie November 2, 2015 at 5:43 am #

    Whoa, this series is awesome! Please keep it up! I plan on becoming a veterinary surgeon, and that requires 3-4 years of residency. I was always planning to be an Army Veterinarian but only recently started thinking about specializing in surgery. Does the Army provide residencies in veterinary surgery that meet ACVS requirements? Please and thank you!

    • Holly March 25, 2016 at 6:22 am #

      Yes and the Army pays for it once you meet the standard requirements.

  40. Megan January 14, 2016 at 6:23 am #

    Hi,
    I am a junior in high school and have always wanted to be a vet. With college getting closer and closer, I’ve tried to get a bit more specific on what it is I want to do. Today I got a letter in the mail about joining the army and my brother suggested being an Army Vet and the suggestion totally caught me off guard but I did a little research and I found out that I’d have to work a minimum of three years. In that three years though, since I will be in my upper twenties, are female Army vets able to be pregnant or have kids in that three year time period? I know I’m really young it’s just something to consider, thanks!

    • Holly March 25, 2016 at 6:21 am #

      Absolutely I work with 2 pregnant female Army Vets right now.

  41. Holly March 25, 2016 at 6:19 am #

    Good Afternoon Sir,

    My name is PFC Jeansonne Im currently stationed at Fort Carson VETCEN as a 68Tango. My question to you sir is that Im pursuing CSU Vet School while AD so Im taking 2 classes a semester to finish up my prerequisites I will be completing my undergrad by the time my EOS aproaches but I want to stay in the Army, I understand I will become a butterbar in Vet school but is there a way around me staying in service while full time in vet school without being in ROTC… Green to Gold perhaps? But Im not pursuing a Bachelors… If you could email me your global email address and we can discuss on there Sir if its more convenient.

    Thank You
    V/R

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  1. Marine Animal Veterinarian: Student Externship at Gulf World Marine Park - October 23, 2013

    […] totally worth it! Fortunately I was able to pay my expenses through my recent acceptance into the Army’s HPSP program and an externship grant from the University of Florida. There is also a scholarship offered by the […]

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