When applying to vet school, you’re asked repeatedly why you want to be a veterinarian. You fill out essays, surveys, and timelines. You attend interviews and meet with existing students. All to help the school understand why you are suited to be a veterinarian. When I applied to veterinary school, I had no singular reason why I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I had no one turning point or “lightbulb” moment. I had a set of diverse experiences, and I knew I wanted to help animals live healthier lives, increase human wellbeing, and contribute to medical advancements. These hundreds of little moments led to a cumulative decision: I need to become a veterinarian.
I quickly learned in vet school that having a variety of experiences gives you an adaptability necessary for practicing veterinary medicine. There’s no telling what will walk through your door on any given day, and in some practices, it may actually be whatever can physically walk through your door. Fortunately, adaptability is a skill you can build through lots of different means, and transfer to your career in veterinary medicine. By taking advantage of whatever opportunities are around you, no matter where you are, you can build your own unique path to vet school. If you live in a big city, maybe there’s a zoo where you can start volunteering. If you have a FFA or 4H program, you can gain experience working with large animals. If you only have a small animal clinic in your city, you can gain experience with dogs, cats, and exotics. Really, any experience with animals is invaluable, no matter where it is found.
There also seems to be a notion that the only valuable experience you gain before veterinary school is from working with animals. However, working in other industries can help build numerous skills. One of the most impactful being the ability to communicate. As a veterinarian, you communicate with clients, other veterinarians, and your veterinary team. Working in retail can teach you to speak with clients of all backgrounds. Spending summers working at camps can give you the ability to reach kids. These experiences don’t seem to blatantly add to your ability to be the best veterinarian possible but seen in the light of all that is asked of veterinarians, the skills are vital.
In school, I am surrounded by students who come from all different backgrounds. Interacting with my peers has allowed me to learn from their unique perspectives. While their experiences are varied, they have each found ways to harness their past to carve out a career path in veterinary medicine. Whether you’ve known you wanted to be a veterinarian since kindergarten, or you figured it out much later in life, it’s not a matter of if your life prepared you for a career in veterinary medicine but how.