My Top Ten Tips for Getting Into Veterinary School

Happy Tuesday everyone!

(I wrote this in December, but am posting it now! Enjoy!)

It is almost the end of my first semester of veterinary school – time flies when you are studying your life away!  But to be honest, I enjoy school so much more than working full time.  It is kind of like being your own boss because you can decide when and how much to study.  Your success is truly in your own hands.  There are deadlines to meet (exams) and sometimes difficult people to deal with, but at the end of the day you carve your own path.  I recently spoke with a friend who is in the middle of her interviews for veterinary school and it got me thinking about my own journey and how stressful the application process is.  So I decided to compile a list of my ten, slightly unusual, tips for getting into veterinary school!

Obviously you must have a decent GPA, GRE scores, animal experience, etc to be admitted.  So let’s talk about some other concepts that often fly under the radar.

1. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.  Do not limit yourself by self doubt.  Do not allow any one to tell you whether or not you will be accepted.  Do not let people come into your life with warnings of how challenging veterinary school is, of how difficult it is to be accepted.  People are accepted every year!  Why not you?  My best advice for this is to take a piece of paper and write affirmations of what you want from your life.  For example:

(This was on my personal instagram account, but if you would like to follow along on my veterinary journey you can follow @traveling_dogtor)

Although I have not accomplished everything on this list, I have accomplished SO MUCH. To be able to look back and check so many things off my list at 26 years old is an enormous blessing.

2. Going off on the first one, do not allow people to give you their opinions about which veterinary school you are applying to – the truth is that most people have NO IDEA what they are talking about.  Tip number two is LISTEN TO YOUR GUT.  Haven’t listened in a while to that nagging instinct?  Is it overshadowed by other people’s opinions and beliefs?  I felt (and feel) the same way!  In order for me to find that gut feeling, I have to be completely alone.  I will meditate, journal, take long walks through the woods, go on a run, or just put my legs up the wall and think.  I do most of this to music depending on the mood I am in.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes, maybe a few days or even a few weeks, but eventually that gut feeling hits me and I know what I am supposed to do.  Listening to your gut will never let you down, but listening to other’s opinions often will.

3. FIND GOOD MENTORS AND BE KIND TO THEM.  I am surrounded by amazing individuals who have shaped me into who I am today, especially my mentors in the veterinary field.  When the admission’s committee from UGA called my boss to talk to one of my references, my boss said “I have had a lot of proteges over the years, and I will be honest with you when I tell you that she is one of the best I have ever had.”  This man graduated veterinary school in 1981, he donates to the college of veterinary medicine yearly and is well known for being one of the best veterinarians in Georgia.  The impact of what he said during that conversation was so enormous that none of my other references were called.  I spent 1.5 years building a foundation with him before that phone call that changed everything.  My best advice is to never forget who helped you achieve your goals and keep in touch with them.  You never know where life will lead you and it is so important to maintain good relationships in every aspect of life.

4.  For heaven’s sake, LEARN HOW TO DRAW BLOOD AND PLACE AN IV CATHETER.  Simply put, find someone who will teach you if you live in a state that doesn’t allow veterinary assistants to do this.  We just do not have the opportunity to learn this effectively in veterinary school.  There are too many other things to learn.

5.  Going off of #4, I would highly recommend people to TAKE A GAP YEAR AND WORK AS A VETERINARY ASSISTANT FULL TIME. This has made the veterinary school transition so much easier for me.  I am competent in venipuncture, IV catheter placement, radiology, anesthesia, microscopy, RESTRAINT, client relationships, etc because I worked a 9-5 job at a busy small animal practice for two years.  Many times this past semester, I would take an exam and know the answer not because I learned it in school, but because I learned it at work.  Obviously, some people might disagree with me here, but it just seems like summers aren’t always enough to build up the knowledge base that I have taken with me into school.

6. HAVE PLENTY TO TALK ABOUT IN AN INTERVIEW. Again, I would say take advantage of the opportunities presented to you before you start school.  When I graduated college, I moved to France and it was one of the best experiences of my life.  I became fluent in French, met the love of my life and traveled all over Europe.  I had such a wealth of experience that I always had something to pull from while interviewing.

7. DIVERSITY IN ANIMAL EXPERIENCE.  This was huge for me during my interviews.  Even though I only had two days worth of shadowing an equine veterinarian, the fact that I sought out large animal experience really appealed to the various admission’s committees.  I also had exotic animal experience, but I think my work with large animals really made a difference in my applications.

8. FIGURE OUT WAYS OF COPING BEFORE YOU START SCHOOL. Admission’s committees want to know that you can handle the rigors of a professional program.  Find something that works for you and then talk about it, either in your interview or in your personal statement.  It could be exercising, meditating, yoga, journaling, reading, painting – whatever helps you de-stress.

9. SET UP A MEETING WITH THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF ADMISSIONS. There is always one at every school who will be willing to meet with you.  Send them an e-mail and ask to meet.  If you can’t meet in person, see if they will skype with you.  It can go a long way towards your acceptance if they know you are dedicated to the program and want to know more.

10. USE YOUR SUMMERS WISELY. If you are still in undergrad, work at a veterinary clinic during the summer, volunteer at spay and neuter clinics, take an international veterinary trip, work on a farm, etc.  The opportunities are limitless.  Embrace them.  Take the opportunity to learn more about yourself, the veterinary industry and the world as a whole.  You won’t regret it.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.  Hopefully this is helpful to someone out there!

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