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Veterinarians- how did you do college? Did you take a break between? What school did you go to? How did you pay for it?

I am a senior in high school trying to plan out my college path. I want to be a veterinarian and am looking at ways it can work and cam be planned out. I would like to hear from someone who has been down the path I am looking at taking.

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Sarah’s Answer

Personally, I went right from undergraduate college into veterinary school the following year as I felt that if I had taken time off from the "school mindset", I might not have wanted to go back! However, everyone is different and everyone's situation is different. For choosing an undergraduate college/university, the school does not need to have a set pre-veterinary program, especially since it is not required to major in anything specific in order to get into veterinary school. With that being said though, there are definitely prerequisites needed in order to apply, including many science and math courses. Financially, going to veterinary school can definitely be a burden. The majority of veterinarians do need to take out loans in order to make it through school. Depending on your state of residency and if there is a veterinary school located there, you might qualify for in-state tuition that can possibly help with the overall expense.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Sarah! Brianna
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Jacob’s Answer

As someone who is not a veterinarian but can offer general advice, I understand your enthusiasm for becoming one. Planning your college path towards becoming a veterinarian requires careful consideration and preparation. Here are some tips based on the experiences of others who have pursued this path:

1. **College Planning**: Research colleges and universities that offer strong pre-veterinary programs. Look for institutions with accredited veterinary schools or programs that can provide a solid foundation for your career.

2. **Major and Prerequisites**: Consider majoring in a relevant field, such as biology, animal science, or a related discipline. Ensure you complete the necessary prerequisites for veterinary school during your undergraduate studies.

3. **Extracurricular Activities**: Engage in extracurricular activities related to veterinary medicine, such as volunteering at animal shelters, interning at veterinary clinics, or participating in research projects. These experiences can strengthen your application and provide valuable insights into the profession.

4. **Taking a Gap Year**: Some aspiring veterinarians choose to take a gap year between their undergraduate studies and veterinary school. During this time, they may gain more experience in the field, study for standardized tests (like the GRE), or explore other interests.

5. **Financial Planning**: Veterinary school can be expensive, so it's essential to consider how you'll pay for it. Explore scholarship opportunities, grants, and financial aid options to ease the financial burden. Some students also work part-time during their undergraduate years to save money.

6. **Mentorship and Networking**: Seek mentorship from practicing veterinarians or faculty members in your chosen field. Networking with professionals can provide valuable advice and guidance throughout your journey.

7. **Stay Focused and Resilient**: The path to becoming a veterinarian can be challenging, requiring dedication and perseverance. Stay focused on your goals and be resilient in the face of obstacles.

8. **Explore Different Specializations**: Veterinary medicine offers various specializations like small animal, equine, exotic, and wildlife medicine. As you progress, explore these options to find your passion within the field.

Remember that each person's journey to becoming a veterinarian is unique, and there are multiple paths to achieve your goal. Stay proactive in seeking advice, exploring opportunities, and making informed decisions. With dedication and hard work, you can pave the way to a rewarding career as a veterinarian. Good luck on your college planning and pursuit of your dreams!
Thank you comment icon Your advice was so helpful! Brianna
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Daniel’s Answer

Let's start with a reality check.. The overwhelming number of people who want to become Veterinarians and the majority of people with the academic ability and discipline to become Veterinarians do not survive the rigor and pace of Vet school. Anyone pursing a Veterinary career needs to have a Plan B. Taking time between college and Vet school reduces your chance of getting into Vet School, which is more competitive than Medical School. The only exception to that likelihood is if your are practicing Veterinary Medicine as a four year Veterinary professional or two-year Vet Tech with a bachelors degree in a related field like Animal Science or Biochemistry.

My daughter and her good friend both proceeded directly from high school (near the top of their class) to college (where both graduated with highest honors) and from college to Vet school (Kansas State University), where they were average students. It was a very long haul, and especially in Vet school, there is a lot of pressure to keep up with the very fast pace of lecture, lab, test, repeat (over 200 exams in three years). The fourth year was very different, with internships (which the school organized at their large and busy hospital), externships (which the students had to organize and pay for), and a bit easier exams at the end of each internship. My daughter was 26 years old before she began her working career, and her friend was 27, both carrying over $200K in debt after parents paid for the Bachelor degrees.

The two young women I am referring to both said that if they had to do it all over again, they would have gotten a two year Veterinary Technician/Associates degree, then continued or transferred to a four year institution to complete a bachelor degree in Veterinary Technology (graduating as certified/licensed Vet Nurses/Technologists), rather than what they both studied, Animal Science. From there they would have considered whether to proceed to Vet School. They would have lost no time, but would have been able to go into industry with good paying jobs after two years and four years if Vet School didn't seem to be worth the Herculean effort and eye-watering cost. Believe it or not, the largest group of Veterinarians who leave practice do so in the first few years of their career, because they were so wrapped up in getting the degree, they didn't focus on what it would mean to practice general and emergency medicine for 50+ hours a week, one day after finishing school. Giving yourself an avenue to a good paying career after two years and four years will allow you to reassess your career goals and willingness to go deeper into debt. If you practice medicine at the two year level and then decide to become a Vet Nurse/Technologist, you will be able to make money while in school and have an advantage over your peers. If you decide to practice Vet Nursing for a year or two before going to Vet School, then you have a chance to make excellent money and gain experience before applying to Vet School, where you will have another advantage over your peers. Should Vet School prove to be to costly in money or sanity while pushing through the four years, you will be able to go back to being a Vet Nurse/Technologist with more experience than any of your peers, which makes your more valuable to any Vet practice.

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

If it is not too late, you need to take all of the biology and chemistry classes your school offers, at an honors or AP level if possible.
Plan to take additional college level courses that will transfer to your chosen college in the summer after high school
Join FFA, 4H, or some other extracurricular activity that will give you experience working with animals. It doesn't matter what kind of Veterinary medicine you want to practice, you need more than personal pet experience to prepare you to work with animals for a career.
Look into Universities (in state is best) that offer offer a dual Associates degree and two year Vet Tech certification, as well as transferring credits to a four year Veterinary Nursing/Technologist program
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Doctorate Student’s Answer

Hello there! This is a great career choice, by the way. The most important thing is to follow your passion, and everything else will naturally align. To save both time and money, consider starting with General Education courses at a Community College, which are usually tuition-free. This will also give you a taste of what subjects truly captivate you. Don't hesitate to consult with a college or career counselor, as their guidance can be incredibly beneficial. Here's to your success! Best of luck and warm wishes on your journey!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Brianna
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