As the semester winds down and winter break approaches, many of us vet students (except 4th years—sorry) will be catching up on sleep, Netflix, and spending time with friends and family. We’ll be doing the least in order to preserve our energy for the spring semester. As SAVMA president of my school, I’ve been preparing our student body to help with our upcoming interview days for the class of 2023. Preparing for these days reminded me of how I felt around winter break when I was waiting to hear back from schools about my application. Stressed. Anxious. Excited. Impatient. We are now at the time frame where schools are sending out interview invitations and everyone is frantically checking their mail or email.
In combination with a post I wrote about acing your vet school interview, I also thought it would be important to write a piece on questions you should ask when you are at an interview. When I was at mine, I literally thought every program was magical and would be a good fit for me. I never really stopped to think about things I should seriously ask my interviewers, current students, or the faculty. Since I am three years into vet school, I’ve come to see that everyone handles the veterinary curriculum and journey differently. Therefore, it’s important to really get to know the schools you’re interviewing. Below are some questions starters you may want to use!
Ask about the different wellness initiatives at the school. You learn very fast that vet school is like drinking out of a fire hose and for most people it becomes overwhelming at some point. Ask what services the school provides to relieve stress off students. One thing I absolutely love about my school is that we have an onsite psychologist just for the vet school. She literally has been my savior from my very first semester up until today. Not all vet schools have the same services so make sure you ask what they offer.
I’ve gotten to know so many vet students from around the world and it’s always awesome comparing our vet schools. There will always be things you wish your school did that another does and vice versa. I recommend you ask the school(s) you’re interviewing at about the learning environment/lecture structure. Some schools do not require you to be in lecture everyday (you can watch it online) whereas other schools make it mandatory to be in lectures. Some school’s curriculum is case-based learning meaning you are responsible for teaching yourself the material. Other schools have traditional lecture-based courses where professors teach daily. Make sure to clarify any questions you have about the structure of the curriculum. This is something I asked about at my interviews. Some vet schools have their students enter clinics during their second or third-year and others have students in clinics only in fourth-year. These are little things you can keep in the back of you’re mind when you receive information about the structure of the curriculum.
Aside from asking questions about the learning environment, I also encourage you to ask about the overall environment of the college. This is something you may be able to feel out when you are at the interview. Is the environment for students inclusive? Are students competitive with one another (believe it or not I was at a school and I asked this question and a student did reply that the students are highly competitive—I was shocked but at least she was honest?). Ask any questions to learn about the culture of the college and ask students about their experiences too!
Everyone has different interests going into vet school and a lot of students (like myself) end up changing their career interests somewhere along the way. For me, I went from wanting to work with small animals to wanting to focus more on public health and global medicine. A lot of my interests are now centered around working with wildlife which limited in most US vet school curricula. It’s crucial to ask schools about the different opportunities they offer students. For example, are study abroad experiences easily accessible and encouraged? Are there opportunities for students to go off campus to obtain experience during clinical year? What happens if there aren’t any courses or clinic rotations that align with your career goals?
I saved the best and most dreaded for last. Majority of students will be in a large sum of debt when they leave vet school, so you’ll want to ask about scholarships and job opportunities. My school offers jobs for interested students to make a little money while still being a student. Some schools also have paid company rep positions for students!