A blog about one girl tackling her dream.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vivified- I am more than just my GPA

As I was preparing to apply to vet school for a second time, I was quite certain I would not get in. Why? My undergraduate cumulative GPA was only 3.5. Now, most people would be happy with a 3.5, they even put a fancy description on it. However, the first time I had applied, my cumulative GPA has been 3.35 and I did not even qualify for an interview.

DISCLAIMER: The interview process varies between schools, so I am only going to describe what my college does. It is one of the top American veterinary colleges, so I assume many other colleges do it the same way. Always look into the process before you apply and be prepared, some schools don’t even interview.

My school gets about 800 applicants each year (of the approximately 6,000 applicants nationwide). The school only interviews the 300-400 applicants with the highest GPA. In my first application round, the lowest GPA they interviewed was a 3.6. If I remember right, the average acceptant GPA was 3.75. I got a nice little note stating how sorry they were that my academics were basically not up to snuff (my words, not theirs). So I spent my senior year of college working my butt off to get a 4.0, and I did. But still, I was worried it would not be good enough since it only pulled my overall GPA up to 3.5. The point here is- you need to have a good GPA to get an interview. The next stories I am going to tell have this point: a good GPA does not guarantee you admittance.

This following story is from a large dairy vet I shadowed, who has been asked in the past to help with the interview process:
There was a boy applying to vet school with a 4.0 GPA. In the interview, after asking all the veterinary-related questions, his interviewers asked him what he did in his spare time. He answered: Study. The interviewers then asked him what he did when he was caught up with school work. The boy answered: I study the information again. Thinking the boy might be confused, the interviewers asked him what he did during the summer. He responded: I buy the books for fall semester and study them. Exasperated, the interviewers asked him what he did when he was not studying. The boy answered: I listen to classical music.

He was not accepted.

At the end of my interview, I asked my interviewers what they were looking for in an interviewee, just in case (God forbid!) I did not get in this time. This is a story they told me about a girl they had interviewed earlier that day,
The girl had a 4.0 GPA, but the interviewers noted no extracurricular activities other than research. They asked her all the necessary questions and only got short answers (like one to five words) spoken in a quiet tone. When they asked about what she did outside of school work, she said she liked to read. When they asked about a time she had failed, she replied that she never failed.

They did not accept her.

Vet schools want someone who is well rounded, adaptable, and who can talk to people. Even though we want to work with animals, we also have to work with their owners. My interviewers told me at the end of my interview that I could expect my acceptance letter soon. Why? They said it was because I had no problem talking to them about my successes, failures, and everything in between. They said they knew I was book smart because of my grades, but it wasn’t until they talked to me that they realized I was comfortable laying my fears and stress out on the table and using obstacles to better myself. People who claim they never fail will take it to heart when they do. And I was guaranteed that every student fails at something during the four years of vet school.

Rule to live by: Good grades can get you places, but it is your personality that determines whether or not you get to stay in those places.

In View

When I was in high school, I thought I was taking huge steps to prepare myself for vet school. And.... they were more like teeny tiny baby steps. You know what they say about hindsight being 20/20 and all. When should I have started preparing for a veterinary school application and what should I have been doing?

Let’s start with junior year of high school.

By junior year, it is definitely a plus to have an idea of what you want to do with your life. Are you pretty sure you want to be a vet? At this point it is a good idea to talk to a veterinarian about the career. Many high schools have shadowing programs. In these, students can shadow a job they are interested for several days instead of taking classes on those days. High schools like mine, however, don't do that.

So I simply took my dog to the animal hospital for her annual checkup and sneak attacked my vet with some basic questions after she finished examining my dog. She was more than willing to help me out. However, throwing questions suddenly at a vet might not be the best idea, so call your local animal hospital to check what would be best for the veterinarian in question.

Also this year, make sure you are getting decent grades, participating in an extracurricular activity or two, and make sure to prepare to take the ACT or SAT . I actually took both exams. Many people say the SAT is easier, but I had an easier time with the ACT. I would suggest taking practice tests to see which one is better for you if you don't have the time or money for both. The better your grades and test scores, the easier it will be to be accepted to the undergraduate college of your choice. Also, the higher your scores, the better scholarships you may be qualified for. $ Chaching $.

You may wonder why I suggest taking part in some extracurricular activities. Vet schools want students who are well rounded, can socialize, and don’t spend all their time hitting the books. They want more than just a good GPA. It is actually better to be a part of a couple extracurriculars and get a 3.5 GPA than doing nothing but studying and getting a 4.0. Check out my next post for more on that.

Rule to live by: It is never too early to start preparing. Period. Get it? Got it? Good.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The 4 Things You Need for Vet School

Is veterinary medicine for you? In other words, do you have what it takes to get into and through vet school? (Personal characteristics such as motivation and dedication not included in this list)
EDUCATION: Veterinary medicine requires a lot of education. Typically, the education path goes from high school to undergrad to veterinary medicine. That is 8 straight years of college for most vet students.
TIME: You have to be willing to find time to shadow and gain animal experience in addition to your every day life. I went to undergrad full time, worked on weekends and found time to shadow on school breaks. It does dig into your personal time so you have to be dedicated. The minimum amount of experience for most vet schools is 80 hours, but plenty of applicants have 2000 hours or more. Don't be intimidated, a lot of these people grew up with a family member who was a vet. Vet school itself is like a 60+ hour a week job due to classes, homework and studying.
MONEY AND/OR LOANS: The average veterinary student is now graduating from vet school with around $200,000 in debt, which is basically what eight years of college amounts to. (I will cover this in a later post in more detail.) The point here is that you can get through veterinary school on loans alone, but you must be prepared to start paying it off as soon as you get a job.
SUPPORT: Arguably, this is the most important aspect of your life when you are in vet school. You need to have a family and friends that understand that vet school isn't just school, it will become your life. I spend, on average, five to eight hours a day in class and five hours studying at night. It is definitely possible to have a social life, but don't make plans to see friends and go home every weekend. Make sure you surround yourself with people who understand that the four years in vet school will impact your success for the rest of your life.
I know there is a lot more to vet school that meets the eye, but I plan on going over as much as possible on this blog to help make it easier. The path to veterinary medicine is long and very difficult. Unfortunately, not everyone has what it takes to be a vet. The best thing to do is be prepared, know what is expected, and meet it head on knowing what you have to do.
Rule to live by: Always try and be prepared, it will make everything run a bit more smoothly.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Who: My name is Nichole. Well technically, but I like being called Nikki. But you can call me Nichole, I'm pretty laid back like that. In a couple of years you will have to call me Dr. though.

What: A blog about my challenges, set backs, and triumphs while attempting to fulfill my dream of becoming a veterinarian. I will start off with some help on how to prepare to apply to vet school, which is a process that typically takes place over several years.

When: I am a part of the veterinary class of 2015. Therefore, my information and tips are pretty valid and up to date. Unless you are reading this from the distant future. If you are, by any chance, reading this from the distant future- I apologize for any outdated information.

Why: My path to vet school was bumpy because I did not have much guidance as to what exactly was required. I'm hoping that by sharing my experiences, any readers with the same dream of being a vet can skip over experiencing anything the hard way.

If you are reading this and are planning on applying to vet school, feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments section.

Rule to live by: Ask for help whenever you can, the worst you can get is a "no."