Veterinary School: Turning the Dream into a Reality

By Dr. Megan Knauer

I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was about four years old, before I even knew what a veterinarian really was, or what they did. All I knew at the time was that they made sick animals feel better, and that’s what I wanted to do. As a current veterinary student looking back, the field of veterinary medicine is so much more extensive and profound than my four-year-old self could have ever imagined.

My personal journey to get to where I’m at today has been crazy, just like every other student who decided to pursue veterinary medicine as a career. Getting into veterinary school is hard. It often requires good grades, extensive animal handling experience, countless hours spent shadowing or working with a veterinarian, good standardized test scores (GRE most commonly) and strong verbal and written communication skills.

This might sound like you must be the “perfect” applicant to get into vet school, but this is not the case. While it helps to be well-rounded and strong in as many areas of the application as possible, getting into vet school is not impossible and not just for the perfectionists of the world.

For me, I believe I had two things that really set me apart and convinced the admissions committee that my dream to get into veterinary school went beyond just a love for animals.

First was my passion for service and making a difference on a personal level. Yes, I know, this may sound super cheesy, but I really do thrive and have a strong desire for helping others and their pets, it is just in my nature. Veterinary medicine is all about service, to both our patients and our clients.

The second thing is something that I think most veterinary students possess, but are not always aware of. That very important “something” is an internal motivation, a strong desire to succeed and excel. This motivation is what gets you through the long days of classes and the late nights of studying that seem to drag on for months. While it is still important to take breaks, and take care of yourself, being in veterinary school makes you realize that this information that you are attempting to cram into your head is not just for the next exam. It’s for the patient you’ll have four or five years from now that is relying on you to use your knowledge to treat them and potentially save their life. It’s important to be able to get through those tough times, and push through to the next challenge.

So while working in a veterinary clinic, volunteering at a local animal shelter, and shadowing a veterinarian were all essential parts of my acceptance to veterinary school, there were other aspects of myself that went beyond my application to show that veterinary medicine is truly where I’m meant to be. And that’s where you, or your friend, or any potential vet school applicant needs to tap into in your application and interview. Why are you passionate about veterinary medicine? What’s your unique story?

Everyone’s journey to vet school is different, there’s no doubt about that. It may take you three or four times applying to get in; it may take you just one. Maybe you decided to change careers at forty years old. Perhaps you decide first to get a Master’s degree or PhD before pursuing a DVM. There is no “right” way to get to vet school, as long as you keep pursuing your dream and just go for it!