Greetings, fellow seekers of veterinary school stories. My name is Seth Williams and I am thrilled to be a contributor to the Merck Manuals Vet Student Stories. I hope this first article and those forthcoming will give you some guidance, encouragement, and mind-blowing insight into veterinary school.
Guess what, gang? I did not want to be a veterinarian since I was a little kid. Shocking? Well, I am quite confident that I would not be where I am today, a fourth-year vet student, by not following the path I did. So in this first article, I want to share with you my unorthodox story of how I made it to vet school.
Before college my passion was music. I have been playing drums and classical percussion since I was a young child. I knew I wanted to continue my music studies in college but also knew that being a professional performer was not in the deck of cards I was dealt. As I started college my goal was to go to medical school but double major in music. I grew up in a family of pharmacists and pharmacy owners and really did like healthcare. There were only a handful of colleges that would allow a student to double major in music and something outside the music school, and I was lucky to land at my top choice college: the University of Miami (no, not in Ohio…in Florida!).
After a semester of taking my pre-med and music courses, I was already burnt out and felt I didn’t have that burning passion or drive to make it in medical school. So one day I walked over to the career counseling center to seek some guidance on what the heck I wanted to do with my life. When I walked out of the building we determined that I had passions for three things: music (duh), business, and science. Luckily Miami had a great program that would combine two of those three areas, and better yet, a few of my close friends were already in the program: music business and entertainment industries. This would allow me to get a business degree but with an entertainment industry focus and allow me to continue studying classical percussion.
Fast forward three years later and I graduate with my bachelors and head back home to St. Louis to start my career. I was lucky to find a great opportunity with a small event production company where I would eventually become the event producer for their concerts and leadership conferences. It was a great line of work and most importantly a great place to build my skills in organization, working with people, and time management. Here is where I truly developed my work ethic. Four years later I knew I was hitting a ceiling on my growth in the company and was starting to think about my next step in my professional career. I recognized I didn’t wake up every day thrilled to go to work and I knew there was something out there that would give me that feeling.
I remember the moment I decided to apply to vet school so clearly. My girlfriend, Becca, who would eventually become my wife, and I were sitting on a dock brainstorming what I could do. I still had a spark of interest in the medical field and I knew that I wanted to have a business of my own one day. Becca pointed out that I always had a special connection to animals, and to be honest, I hadn’t ever appreciated that connection. And like a massive lightbulb being turned on, I realized that I could have a career that would allow me to practice medicine, own a business, and work with animals and their owners: a veterinarian. I was 25 years old at the time.
So a few weeks later I gave notice, and at the start of the next fall semester, I enrolled in the local university to complete (and retake) the prerequisites. It would take me about a year and a half to complete the coursework and acquire hundreds of shadowing hours for my vet school applications. I was incredibly fortunate to have been accepted to multiple veterinary schools, and I inevitably chose my in-state school, University of Missouri.
Do I wish I had figured out my love for this career earlier? You bet. Do I feel out of place that I joined the game so late? Sometimes. But the million-dollar-question is: have I ever looked back? The answer to that is no. I can strongly, honestly say that every day of vet school I feel I’m in the right place. Even when the days are awful, stressful, and punishing, I know I’ve chosen the right career. I also know that had I entered vet school right after undergrad, my work ethic would not have been at the level it needed to be for a successful time in vet school.
Here’s what I wish for you to take away from this story: that’s it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Everything happens for a reason, I’m sure. And everything happens on its own time.
Don’t rush life. Have fun. Believe in yourself. Make sure you wake up every morning looking forward to the day ahead.