Chris, Class of 2021
When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
Growing up, I had always dreamed of being a veterinarian. However, as I got older, I started to doubt if pursuing a career in veterinary medicine was really something I wanted to do. My passion was (and still is) in marine biology, but I didn’t realize that a career in aquatic veterinary medicine was possible. Thankfully, during my junior year of undergrad, I met a vet student who was going into the field of marine mammal medicine, which was a dream of mine. That conversation reignited my determination to go to vet school, and I decided that semester to apply for veterinary school.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
Before applying to veterinary schools, I prepared by working hard to succeed academically, involving myself in extracurricular activities that I was interested in, and trying to get some kind of experience with animals. Thankfully, my undergraduate program provided some research/animal experience as part of our requirements, and I pursued even more by volunteering at veterinary clinics at home and while studying abroad. After being accepted (but before starting), the main way I prepared was by taking a deep breath and trying to relax. I have loved every second of vet school, but it isn’t always easy, and having that summer in between finishing undergrad and starting at Cornell really helped reset my motivation for schoolwork. I also got as much aquatic and aquatic animal experience as I could as an undergraduate, to set myself up for programs like AQUAVET®.
What advice to you have for high school or college pre-vets students who are interested in becoming a veterinarian?
My number one piece of advice is find a quality veterinarian to work with, and be the best employee/volunteer they have ever had. Veterinarians notice much more than you think they do. If you’ve found a practice to volunteer at, and all they ask you to do is wash dishes and bathe dogs, then make sure that those dishes are spotless and the dogs go home smelling better than when they arrived. I promise you that if you show up with a good attitude, take initiative, and offer to help even when you don’t have to, the vets will notice, and that’s how you get more experience, those crucial letters of recommendation, and most importantly-mentoring.
I would also recommend getting exposure to as many different fields/aspects of veterinary medicine as you can early on. You will get even more in vet school, but that exposure can really help you start narrowing down which fields you might be interested in pursuing. Not only that, but it can also provide networking opportunities, which can help point you toward other opportunities in veterinary medicine.