Now that you have a roadmap to vet school admissions requirements, what should you keep in mind as you are fulfilling those requirements? I thought I’d share some insights that I’ve discovered over my four-year journey, things I wish somebody had told me when I first started.
YOU have to be the expert. Even the best mentor or academic advisor isn’t going to know everything that’s involved in applying to vet school. That part is up to you. This was the hardest thing for me to grasp, that only I was responsible for adhering to deadline timetables, researching the prerequisite courses needed for the six different colleges to which I applied, and making sure I knew exactly what to expect.
But I also had to be the expert on what type of animal experience I needed, and what exactly I should be getting out of each internship. Being knowledgeable about what I needed from an experience and being able to communicate that need turned out to be incredibly important, because I ended up arranging all my experiences and internships myself, rather than going through my undergraduate college or other program. As I mentioned previously, I’ll definitely give you the low-down on animal and veterinary experience later on, because not only is it a crucial aspect of your application, but it’s also the most fun part of the application process!
Use your prerequisite courses to perfect your skills. If writing effectively is difficult for you, use your prerequisite English courses to learn writing strategies that work for you. If you put in a little time with a tutor now, during your undergraduate career, your hard work will pay off once you get to vet school. If your basic math skills need a refresher, consider taking an algebra or calculus class—not only will it help you prepare for the GRE, but the academic rigor of a calculus course adds extra points to your application. If your study habits are poor or nonexistent, use your prerequisite coursework to help get you in the habit of reviewing material daily. And don’t underestimate the benefits of group studying—especially with difficult subjects like anatomy and physiology or genetics.
Be your own advocate. If you don’t understand a chemistry concept, raise your hand. Yes, even if there are 200 other people in the room. I don’t care how shy you are. You need to understand this information, and chances are, if you don’t understand something, someone else in the class doesn’t either. If you’d like to learn how to hold off a vein for a blood draw at a clinic, just ask. Most people love to teach you things, as long as your request comes at a good time. If you’ve been working with a large animal vet and you have yet to learn how to listen to heart and respiratory sounds, remind the veterinarian that you’re there to learn (and eventually, be useful!). Your animal experience is only as good as you make it, so you have to make opportunities for yourself; don’t wait for someone else to make them for you.
Diversify. If you’re an undergraduate, take classes and join clubs that don’t have anything to do with veterinary medicine. Try joining a club sport, volunteer with Greek life, or take a cheese-making class. These activities will not only keep you sane, but can also help you cultivate a life outside of veterinary medicine. If you’ve taken a few years off from school, consider volunteering at a local library or homeless shelter, or joining a church choir. If you’re gaining animal experience, be sure to volunteer or work at more than just a small animal clinic. Volunteer at a humane society or kennel, work with a large animal vet, or get a job milking cows. This diversity will help you cope with the stress of prerequisite courses and help you become a competitive candidate.
And finally, ask questions. This was my motto during internships and classes, and it served me well. Ask questions to clarify concepts. Ask questions about why a vet chose this treatment over that one. Ask what more you can do to help out when you’re interning or observing. Asking questions illustrates your curiosity, and gives you the chance to discuss medical proceedings on a more intellectual level. Asking questions also helps you pay attention and makes you think as you learn.