So after many years of talking myself out of vet school, I’ve finally decided to follow my dreams. I can hardly wait for next fall to come so that I can send in my applications.
In the meantime, I’m wondering what vet school will be like. So, veterinary dopers, what was your school experience? Would you have had time for a job? Was your curriculum set or are there electives/specialties? Was there anything about school that really surprised you? Any advice for someone just starting this pursuit?
Several of my friends and neighbors were in vet school while I was at Auburn. Their curriculum was very demanding. I don’t know of any of them who tried to hold a part time job while school was in session.
I think you need to apply about a year in advance. Getting admitted to vet school is difficult. There are lots of highly qualified applicants, and not all that many slots available.
Most of those I knew already had a four-year degree when they started vet school.
Hi! I’m applying next year, once all my prerequisite courses are out of the way. I’m not sure how they treat applicants down there, but up here, the schools won’t even consider you unless you have a healthy amount of animal experience in a variety of environments. As for school itself, all the info I have is second-hand and Canadian, so I’m not sure it helps. There are, however, a healthy number of future veterinarian communities on the internet and at least one on LiveJournal.
Yes, be aware that being admitted to vet school is very competititve because there aren’t that many vet schools in the United States. It’s harder to get into vet school than it is to get into medical school for human medicine (and I’m admitting that as a human medicine student myself). If you haven’t already done so, be sure you dedicate this next year to getting some good hands-on expeirence with animals and vet medicine.
You’ll probably have to live off student loans during vet school. Based on the vet students I know, the workload seems at least as intense as human med school, so I would definitely not count on having the time or energy to do much outside work.
I was kinda hoping that a few other veterinarians would step up before I give my two cents, but I guess they’re tending to their patients and clients right now.
Vet school was the best decision I’ve ever made. The most irreplacable 4 years of my life.
Yes, it was demanding. I think time has made me forget how hard the classes actually were, but I do remember plenty of all night cram-a-thons, the trials and tribulations of 1st year gross anatomy (dog, pig, cow, horse…this is where med school has it the easiest, I think); standing out in the cold doing pregnancy checks on cows that like to swish their shit-covered tails in your face and break your legs with their well-aimed kicks; doing surgery in 3rd year and sweating from the stress of trying to keep sweet little dogs from bleeding to death under my shaking, nervous hands; performing treatments at 2 in the morning after a strenuous night of studying; and yes, having to keep track of all those species and their idiosyncratic differences, some of which are trivial (rats and horses lack gall bladders!) and some which are most definitely not (bad things happen when you give acepromazine to horses!). The hardest part is getting in, though. After that, just plain ole hard work and determination will get you through to the end.
Three years out of school, it’s the good times that I remember the most. My disappointments were bad, but they were outweighed by my victories. Vet school made me a more down-to-earth person, I think. Our work is not glamourous and it’s difficult, so you really need to like animals and like medicine in order to do well. I wouldn’t advise trying to juggle a real job at the same time. I worked as tutor for the underclassmen, but that required very little of my time.
To be honest, I think the main reason I had a good vet school experience is because of my classmates. I went to Tuskegee and there’s a culture of family there that you probably won’t find everywhere. My class was about half white and half black and latino, and we came from all over the country. We had the large animal types, the small animal types, and the nontraditional types (like me). I can honestly say that vet school would not have been the same if I hadn’t bonded with my peers. Your schoolmates are the ones who will help get you through the rough patches and scary times, which will be aplenty. Only they can understand what you are going through, so be sure to find people in your class to connect with. Make friends with the faculty, too.
That said, most of the time the drug is fine. You just need to be aware of this particular side effect in stallions, unless you want to get sued for malpractice. It’s one of those particulars that got drummed into my head in vet school.
Thank you all for your responses. I’m quite aware of how difficult it is to get into vet school. I’ve been planning for this for the past 15 years, I’ve just always been persuaded by the practicality of other choices (fellowships, grad school, even a tenure track assistant professorship). But, I’ve realized that I haven’t been following my heart, I’ve been following my head (and other people’s opinions). So, now it’s my turn to follow my heart.
You with the face , thank you for the input. One thing I am concerned about is the effect of vet school on my finances. I would like to not end up too far in the hole, thus I would really like to pick up some work. I’m hoping maybe a TA position (which I’m obviously qualified for) or a research position. Perhaps that isn’t realistic.
Also, I’m glad to hear of your experience at Tuskeegee, as that’s one of my possibilities. And I agree that the class can make all of the difference. I wouldn’t have made it through grad school without the friends I made there. They are still my best friends.
One thing I’m concerned about is my vet experience. I worked for a vet in high school (over ten years ago), have an ag degree from undergrad with accompanying animal experience and have had some lab animal experience since then, but that’s it for formal experience. I ultimately want to specialize in lab animal medicine. I’m not sure if that will make a difference.
Current vet school student here (third year, a few more weeks this year and the next, and I’ll hit clinics!!!)
I like it, so far. Right now I’m a bit tired after a full week and a test this morning (if someone dismisses veterinary medicine and animal ophthalmology problems, I’ll… do something). In general… no matter how hard or demanding it is, after all this I like it.
The thing is… different schools follow different schedules, different electives, different structures… LSU (my school) structure is very different from UF (where I did my undergrad, and my first choice) and they both are different from UMinneapolis (I made a friend this summer from there, we compared curriculums).
In general, unlike undergrad, where you can make your own schedule each semester, the schedule in vet school is generally set in stone, with only a few credits here and there available as electives (that is during the first phase, the theorical one, not the clinics). The clinical phase of the curriculums can range from 2 years (UF), 15 months (UMinn and LSU), or even less, a year (I have no idea, but I’m sure there are some).
As for a job… depends on the job, depends on what you want, depends on how applied you are. Will it affect your study time? Depends… I know that if I hadn’t been working the two years in vet school that I did (I’m currently unemployed), I would probably had wasted my time lazying instead of studying. The reason I quit working was that this semester my class schedule conflicted with my work schedule ( I worked at the school), and I had no desire to spend my evenings at the school (more than I had to). My roomate works Fridays and weekends at GAP, but each year she has to take less and less hours, at least during the school semester (as classes/academic demands increase).
What most surprised me was not academic (although I definitely study more now than I did in undergrad, but I think the change was gradual, so I’ve adapted)… it was the social aspect of it. It felt in a way that I was back in high school… 80 something students (mostly females) taking all the classes together in the same room for 5 days a week. Heavy contrast with my undergrad experience of big classes, walking around campus, free periods, not getting to know many classmates better.
My advice? Make sure this is what you want to do. Veterinary medicine is just not being a small animal private practitioner (or equine, or food animal). There are different career options available to you after you get this degree. Explore them, know them.
Veterinary medicine is very very expensive, especially if you go to an out-of state school that doesn’t let you change residency status (said with much much bitterness). Many times when asked about what I do I said I selected an expensive career, I didn’t have any idea it would cost this much when I got into it. Which I can say is good, since otherwise that would have discouraged me (and they wonder why there are not a lot of minorities… bitterness rising). So yes, if you opt this route, make sure it is something you desire.
Oh yea, Red… I had research lab experience before vet school (got my on-vet school job). It will look favorable. Plus you can mention that on your interviews and letters, and get perhaps more attention than the usual “I like to attend fluffy cute little doggies and kitties”. Nothing about fluffy cuteness (my own is sleeping next to me right now), but veterinary medicine needs all kinds of people, and people interested in lab animal, research, pathology, are wanted and needed in our profession.
Whatever job you get that will be school-compatible most likely won’t pay you enough to make any significant dent in your debt. My little work-study tutoring gig only provided me with about $1000 a semester, and I still had to take out the maximum in loans. Going to vet school inevitably means going into debt. It’s a part of the process.
Your experience doesn’t sound all that limited to me. How many actual contact hours do you have? Your agriculture background is a plus (there’s a shortage of large animal vets) and not too many people have lab animal experience, so that’ll make you stand out. Some volunteer work between now and when you apply might make you feel less insecure. When I was in undergrad I volunteered at the humane society every other Saturday and I did a little volunteer work at a petting zoo. There’s always something you can do to help you pick up more hours.
I’m definitely not in the “I want to play with puppies” camp (not that there’s anything wrong with puppies). I want to stay more on the research side. My focus now is microbiology and infectious disease, so I want to include that interest. I’ll either go lab animal medicine and shoot for a job at a university/med school or I’ll go large animal/avian and work for the government. I don’t see a private practice in my future.
As for the job, I had a hunch that it was probably unrealistic. I’ll just have to get there and see if I can make it work.
I’ve been told that general animal experience isn’t really what they are looking for; they want veterinary experience. Unfortunately, there’s not much chance of me getting more contact time before June. I’m hoping to pick up some time in a lab animal facility or large animal clinic this summer. Sort of a last ditch effort to pump up my application.
I’m counting on the PhD and research experience to make me stand out. Not sure that’s the best approach, but it’s all I’ve got right now.
It’ll make you stand out, definitely. And the applications are not due until October. A good summer experience with a letter of recommendation will help. Unless you mean you’ve just applied now, in October, and will then have to wait it out until they tell if you’re in or not by March/April.
One of my better friends is a long-haired, hippie veterinarian from here in Austin.
Texas A &M has a well-regarded veterinary school, but being a left-leaning hippie, he was daman about not going to A & M. He applied at practically every other veterinary school on the continent, and at each school, the admissions office asked him, “Why don’t you just go to Texas A & M? Their veterinary school is at least as good as ours, and you’d be paying in-state tuition rates. That’s a barghain. You’d be ill advised to go anywhere else.”
It drove him crazy that EVERYBODY (including competing schools) was trying to steer him to A & M. But at long last, he gave in, applied to A & M and was accepted.
And wouldn’t you know… he absolutely LOVED it! Turned out the dang Aggies just wouldn’t live up to his notions of them.