Applying to veterinary school is absolutely terrifying. There are only 49 veterinary schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in the entire world. For perspective, there are 126 human medical schools (not including 26 osteopathic medical schools) in the United States alone. Veterinary schools are extremely competitive. They require excellent academic achievement, hundreds of hours of experience in the field (though to be competitive, it’s more like an unwritten thousands), as well as well-rounded extracurriculars. It is far more difficult to get into veterinary school than it is to get into human medical school. The way I described applying to vet school to my loved ones was simply: “Setting myself up for rejection.”
“But you have all this experience!” many tried to encourage.
“So does everyone else,” I would reply.
“And your grades were good right?”
“So are those of everyone else.”
Really. One of my mentors who helped me with a practice interview told me simply: “Your resume is perfect for vet school.” Being a veterinarian herself, she then wryly added: “So what makes you special?”
Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get in. Though I knew I was strong with my experience (nearly 10 years in the field, including general practice, exotic pet practice, and zoo medicine), my grades were on the lower side of average, and my interview left me feeling extra cautious. Not that I thought that I had bombed, I just didn’t close my laptop (it was held over Skype) feeling as it had gone spectacularly. So between the positive (experience), the negative (grades), and the neutral (interview), on a scale of -1 to 1 I was sitting at a dubious 0.
And then, against all of my trepidation, I got a phone call. On March 29, around 6:00PM, I was informed that I had been accepted to Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Classes start May 8th. Last day to move into the dormitory is April 30th.
For those of you who haven’t already done the math, I’ll make it simple: 32 days. Kind of. I don’t really count March 29, because I was informed so late in the evening. April 30, I have a 5:30AM flight from New York to St. Kitts. So I’ve narrowed it down to 30 days.
Talk about pressure. However, things are moving along. I’ve made doctor’s visits and received my letter of conduct from the local police department, I’ve gone shopping for the dorm and sent in an application for an island bank account, and I set my last day at work. Now comes the packing and the shipping and the studying. Yes, studying. I’ve been out of undergrad for nearly 8 months now, so there are subjects (anatomy and physiology, morphology, microbiology, etc…) that I must review. All while still working at my full time job and spending as much time as I can with family and friends.
Everyone keeps asking me how I feel. The answer is simple: Still terrified, but in a good way.
I’m not scared of living away from home. I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve lived away from home for most of my undergraduate career. I voyaged with Semester at Sea and lived on a ship with limited contact to my friends and family for four months. I lived by myself for four years. Sure, I was just getting comfortable living back at home, but I’m never comfortable for long, anyway.
The scariest part of going to veterinary school is not the fact that I am going to be a few thousand miles away from home. It’s the fact that this is actually my life now. Veterinary school had always been a topic of conversation or a subject of thought. It never seemed real.
Time for a reality check.
Veterinary school is here. It’s happening. As long as I work hard (harder than I’ve ever worked in my life), I’m going to be a veterinarian. The broad picture of my future is set. Now, the finer details will have to be worked out (where I wind up for clinical year, where I get a job, any specialties), but the picture has been painted. That is an enormous step forward in my life. Though I know I have lived so much already, this feels like the start of everything. Or rather, the culmination of everything I’ve ever done before. From here on out, my life will be divided by “before”, “during, and “after” veterinary school. This isn’t just the start of a new chapter, it’s the start of a new book in a series.
I didn’t always want to be a veterinarian. But I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place. I feel the urge to help, protect, and serve wildlife and wild places way deep down in my bones. Though I’m hardly a fatalist, I know that’s what I was put on this planet to do. It’s my mission, it always has been. By being accepted into veterinary school, I have been given the opportunity to make a difference. No longer will I be the bystander or the faceless supporter. I’ll be able to take charge, engage and collaborate, and perhaps even one day take a lead.
The future is scary, and I know it won’t necessarily get easier or any less scary as the finer details of that broad painting are filled in. I know the next four years are going to be perhaps the hardest four years of my life thus-far, but I’m ready.
It’s scary, but in a good way.