Olivia, Class of 2020
When did you decide to pursue veterinary medicine?
My route to veterinary medicine was fairly circuitous and I did not know for sure that I wanted to attend vet school until about a year and a half before I applied. I began seriously considering veterinary medicine while I was working full-time in research, watching quite a few talented scientists leave science due to the funding situation. During this time, I was reading "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston, which details the discovery and characterization of Ebola. Two of the researchers leading the effort were veterinarians! As someone who grew up in a family full of human doctors, this was the first real time I remember learning about how involved veterinarians were in basic research. I was - and still am - very interested in pursuing research, so this revelation kick started my vet school admissions efforts.
What did you do to prepare for veterinary school?
Fortunately enough, I graduated from undergrad with a degree in neuroscience. I made a habit of taking as many science classes as possible, so I had already fulfilled many of the admissions requirements. However, I completed the last few requirements while I was working full-time in a lab at my alma mater, which meant I could use my tuition benefits from the university to pay for these classes. I also began volunteering at my local animal shelter to increase my experience hours. After about six months of dedicated volunteering and making sure the shelter administration and vets knew I was interested in going to vet school, I applied to be a vet tech and got the job (I know this is not possible in all states). I typically worked at the shelter on the weekends, worked in my lab during the week, and studied at night. Although I jumped through all the hoops (courses, experience hours, GRE, letters, etc.), I think the one thing that really helped me get into vet school was research. I had done five years of research, given talks at conferences, and published several papers by the time I applied. It is *definitely* not necessary to do this much research (especially if you don't like it!), but some cohesive project or experience in a research capacity will be valuable both to you and an admissions committee.
What advice to you have for high school or college pre-vets students who are interested in becoming a veterinarian?
Do not listen to what anyone says about the admissions process being difficult or impossible. Be confident in the experiences that you have and leverage them to create your story of why you need to go to vet school and why you will be a great vet. If you have the will power to take the required classes, take the GRE, get the necessary experience hours, write the essays, and deal with VMCAS, then you likely have what it takes to get into the veterinary profession. Make a to-do list and start checking off boxes. It is hard, but totally doable and very empowering to really dig into the process.
I think that people who come "late" to the veterinary profession often bring highly valuable skills with them. Having jobs and experiences and a life outside of veterinary medicine gives you insight to bring into the profession; these also make the work you do in vet school, and your eventual success, that much more meaningful. Personally, I had to flounder and struggle and figure out my own path into veterinary medicine. I know that my process of getting to vet school makes the work I do here much more valuable.