As many as half of the animal science majors in any school, as well as some biology and chemistry majors, start out their college careers wanting to go to vet school. Most of those students want to go to vet school because they want to become veterinarians, although a few have aspirations of research involving veterinary medicine.
Everyone Has a Story
Most students decide they want to become a vet at a very young age when they fall in love with puppies and kitties or, if they grew up on a farm, loved working with and caring for the animals. Students that I speak with relate stories of a time when a veterinarian came to the farm and saved a horse with difficulty giving birth or saved a cow with a displaced abomasum or just did something that the student found so amazing that it was decided in their mind right then and there that they would get to vet school. As your story is unfolding, remember the details. If you want to go to vet school, one of the best things you can do is to write your story down and work on the details. The vet school application always asks for some type of personal statement and the sooner you begin to refine that, the better.
I wanted to go to vet school because I loved animals and I thought that if you loved animals you either farmed or you became a veterinarian. My eyes were opened when I discovered there was a big world of animal-related jobs out there, in agriculture as well as zoo and companion animals. I worked hard to get into vet school, both in high school and throughout college. I worked for a veterinarian and got a good letter of recommendation and was accepted my junior year in college. I deferred for a year and eventually ended up deciding not to go (I know, crazy, right?), but rather I pursued graduate school instead. If I had known then how much I would love graduate school, I probably would have done both. We all live and learn.
Key Points for Vet School Applicants
There are a few things that are standard when thinking about vet school and other things that might not be so obvious. One of the standards is having good grades in the core science courses required by vet schools. There will be at least one biology course, including a laboratory, genetics or animal breeding, general physics, statistics, and a whole lot of chemistry. Many students are surprised by the amount of chemistry required compared to biology so the sooner you are aware of the hard work ahead of you, the better. Most schools require a rather high level of math before you can even start in the chemistry courses, so be prepared for that if you are weak in math.
Besides the standard good grades and required courses, more and more vet schools are requiring a certain number of hours getting real-world vet experience. Often this involves shadowing a number of different types of vets as they do their daily work. It is good to get as diverse an experience as possible and write down all of your observations from the beginning. The more it becomes obvious that this is your passion, the better chance you will have in the application process.
The last thing I will mention here is something that most students don’t think about until it is too late, partly because they never were aware that it was important. The vet schools are looking for not only stellar students with previous experience to help them figure out if this is the right direction for them, but they want a diverse pool of applicants. I don’t mean diverse in the sense of race or ethnicity, although those certainly count. I mean diversity in terms of the things that make you different from the person sitting next to you.
Have you followed passions that are not related to school? Or have you been a bookworm your whole life? Have you been deeply involved in your community or activities that make you a true individual? One of the things that I believe set me apart was the fact that I kept up with my passions for music and art while still maintaining really good grades. I set myself apart not only academically but also in other areas. The application reviewers are looking for that to some extent, I guarantee it.