Below are my answers to the most frequently asked questions that I receive. I hope that my answers can offer some guidance on your journey to becoming a veterinarian.
Note: I am not able to answer medical questions about your pet's health. It is illegal in most countries for vets to offer veterinary advice to your pets over social media.
If your pet requires medical attention, it is in the best interest of your pet to be assessed in person. If you have questions about you pet, you may call your local veterinarian to discuss your concerns during business hours.
Vet School FAQ
1. What did you do in high school to prepare for/get into vet school?
Many people love animals, but do not realize that they need to have a passion for science as well to become a veterinarian. The road to becoming a vet is not easy and you need to have a genuine passion for both science and animals to get through. In my opinion, the best thing you can do in high school to prepare for college, and later vet school, would be to 1) take some science classes in high school (especially biology) and see if you like the material and 2) shadow veterinarians to see if you like the daily duties of the job.
There are several volunteer opportunities you can seek in high school that will give you animal handling experience. Such opportunities include working at a horse stables, shadowing a veterinarian, and volunteering at animal shelters, zoos, and wildlife sanctuaries. Veterinarians are part of a very supportive community, every vet that I have reached out to shadow has been very helpful, and shelters are always in dire need of volunteers.
Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy high school. I know that you may be nervous about grades, SATs, getting into college, etc., but you have many years of studying ahead of you and it's important to enjoy your high school years and not burn yourself out too early.
2. What did you do while obtaining your bachelor’s degree to prepare for/get into vet school?
Before starting the DVM program I completed a zoology degree in California. A degree in zoology, pre-veterinary medicine, animal science, and even general biology will all prepare you well for vet school.
To get more exposure/experience in animal handling I would recommend that you volunteer or get a position as a vet nurse. Most applicants have a lot of clinical volunteer/work hours to list on their application, I think what made me stand out as an applicant was my extensive research experience.
I completed two research projects while obtaining my undergraduate degree; one was a two-year project under the supervision of a professor at my university and the other was a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer internship that I completed in my last year (see next question for more details). I could show on my vet school applications that these research experiences have led to me to think critically, analytically and creatively, allowing me to uniquely contribute to and advance my program, school and profession.
Communication is an important skill to have in vet school (and the veterinary profession). The communication skills I developed while presenting my research include the ability to speak before large groups, convey complex information in plain language, as well as propose and persuade ideas to others.
3. How can I get myself connected with internships as an undergrad student and is there any specific types of internships that you think give us a better chance in the pool for graduate school?
Internships are a wonderful way to gain more animal handling or research experience meanwhile also boosting your resume and making you stand out as an applicant! There are many summer internships available so that you can ideally work at a vet clinic while taking classes, and then complete an internship, such as a zoo or research internship, while you’re on break from university.
I completed an REU during my last summer of my undergraduate degree, and I know that this internship strengthened my graduate school applications and contributed to my acceptance into some of the best universities in the world.
What is an REU? REU stands for Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and they are paid internships, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). My program in particular was also supported by Duke University and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP). These programs occur during the summer and are aimed at students who are interested in conducting scientific research at a graduate level.
REU Programs are offered around the United States, and in some cases (like mine) institutions will fund research outside the country. Each institution that hosts an REU program has the freedom to make the experience unique, however, there are many similarities across all of them. Each student works under the guidance of an advisor on a project that can be finished by the end of the summer (most programs last about 10 weeks).
My Experience: My REU project was titled Social organization in day and night roosts of the Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso). I was given the opportunity to spend a summer in the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica studying Bat behavior. Leaving the city of Los Angeles where buildings and cement surrounded me, and spending the summer in the forests of Costa Rica where you can see beautiful animals and plants everywhere you look made this a dream internship for a young zoologist like myself. This internship taught me so much about how to be a successful researcher and carry out a scientific experiment.
Benefits of an REU: Not only do REU Programs give you the chance to get to know students with similar interests from across the nation while living in a new city for a couple of months, they also give you insight into the life of graduate school. You will strengthen your research, team working, writing, and presentation skills. After completing the project, I presented our research at four national and regional conferences, providing me with further networking opportunities.
In summary, participating in a summer research program was a blast! I made memories and friendships with my fellow interns that I will forever cherish. Plus, I strengthened my academic and research skills, as well as my resume and graduate school application. For anyone looking for research experience in the field of ecology, I would highly recommend the REU through the Organisation for Tropical Studies at La Selva Biological Station. Field projects cover a wide range of topics including botany, invertebrate and vertebrate zoology, and behavioural ecology. The program is run incredibly well with mentors and a coordinator whom are passionate about helping students reach their full potential within the program.
Here is the link to a listing of REU’s in different fields of science: https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.jsp
Below is a list of some zoo Internships:
Paid Internships: https://www.thebalance.com/find-a-paid-zoo-internship-125701
San Diego Zoo, CA:
Oregon Zoo, OR: http://www.oregonzoo.org/get-involved/internships
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, OH: https://www.columbuszoo.org/home/about/internships
Cape May County Zoo, NJ: https://www.cmczoo.com/internship-23.php
4. Why did you choose to complete Vet School in Australia?
I chose to study internationally because as a US citizen, unless I went to an in-state public school, going out of the country would cost the same as attending school in another state or a private university within my state. Coming from California, I only had two in-state schools to choose from and I wasn't interested in either. Thus, I decided to consider schools elsewhere.
When applying to international schools my # 1 recommendation would be to apply to schools that are AVMA accredited if you plan to practice in the USA. I only applied to schools that were AVMA accredited because I did not want my options for jobs and/or internships to be limited after graduation.
Here is a list of AVMA accredited schools:
Some of the things that I considered about going international were the additional costs (cost of living, travelling to and from home, etc.). Australia had a slightly higher cost of living, however the US dollar is about 30% stronger then the Australian dollar and it is predicted to stay that way for a while, so I think of everything (including my tuition) as being about 30% off. HOWEVER, I implore you to investigate the total costs of tuition for the course as I felt very deceived by the university I attended. Only the first year tuition cost was advertised when I accepted the offer and I was told by administration that the following years would be around the same cost, but each year there were tuition raises. My first year tuition was approximately $53k AUD and by the time I got to final year my tuition was approximately $72k AUD which is a MASSIVE and unjust tuition increase, which I do not think a university could've gotten away with this activity in the USA.
I worried that I would feel homesick being away, especially because vet school can be very tough, but I have some family friends here in Australia whom I visit on the holidays, and I decided to have roommates for company (having roommates also keeps housing costs down).
5. What is the admissions process like for Australian Vet Schools?
The universities in Australia have both a 6-year and a 4-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. If you have not completed an undergraduate degree, then you can apply to start it here and they offer an accelerated program where you can complete your DVM and undergrad degree in 6 years (rather than 8 like in the US). If you are already working on your undergrad, then you can apply just to the 4-year post graduate program.
I didn’t apply for any U.S. schools; however, I did work on an application and it seemed to mainly focus on detailing the classes you have taken and animal related work experience. Australian applications were very straight forward, each school varied a bit, but in general you submitted your undergraduate course work transcript, and a personal statement/what you have learned from your veterinary work experience that has prepared you for the program.
6. Can you offer any tips for my vet school application?
For your veterinary school application, I would suggest that you really play up to your strengths. What makes you unique? Nearly every pre-vet student has wanted to become a vet since they were kids because they love animals, and while that may be the case for you (as it was for me as well) the admissions office hears this same story all of the time and it doesn't make you stand out from the crowd. When applying to schools, I took a different approach to it; my personal statement focused on my biological research background because I knew that is something that many other applicants don't have, I described that veterinary medicine combines both my love for animals and passion for science. Find a unique story or angle to your application to make you stand out.
7. What are your study habits/tips?
My study habits have changed drastically from undergrad to vet school. In my undergrad, I had time to rewrite notes, make pretty flashcards, and revise, revise, revise. Now in vet school, there is so much material that I had to adjust my study habits. However, what works for me may not necessarily work for you, everyone studies a bit differently based on their learning style.
Above is a link to different learning styles; understanding how you learn will help guide you as to what study tips would be most helpful to you. I am a kinaesthetic learner; I benefit most from hands on learning. Understanding this has helped me use my time most proficiently. For example, I take a lot more away from labs than I do for lectures, so I make sure to be fully prepared before each dissection or lab session so that I can get the most out of it.
Also, I need to take frequent short breaks while studying to keep me motivated and focused. I use the app Pomodoro or Tomato One to take a 5 min break every 25 minutes of study. I have attached the link to the app below, it's free to download: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/tomato-one-free-focus-timer/id907364780?mt=12
8. What inspires you to pursue a veterinary career?
Pets are invaluable members of the family; however, providing the appropriate level of health care for them becomes a challenge when resources and funding are limited. Coming from a socio-economically disadvantaged household, I personally understand the challenge of providing quality healthcare to your pets.
Taking care of a pet can nurture kindness, compassion, and personal responsibility in children. Having pets in our household enhanced my childhood; however, my family struggled with costs of vet bills. My local veterinarian had a passion for educating clients on the importance of animal health and inspired me to develop my communication skills to serve as a public health educator. I have experienced the impact that a veterinarian can make on a family’s well-being, and this has inspired me to pursue a career in veterinary medicine so that I can educate pet owners while saving their animal companions.
9. After graduation, what do you want to specialize in?
While I am passionate about conservation and wildlife, I am also interested in equine medicine and small animal welfare. I believe that my generation will play a pivotal role in rectifying some of the damage that climate change has had on the planet and I want to contribute to that cause.
Most veterinary students change their field of interest at least once throughout vet school, thus I am keeping my mind open to whatever prospects may come. The world is full of opportunities and I want to try as many as I possibly can.
10. What has been your favorite subject so far in vet school?
Anatomy has been my favorite subject so far in vet school. I am a kinesthetic learner, I learn best when I can touch and feel something so dissections and anatomy are subjects that are very tangible for me.