The Odds are Against You…

Today was open house at the vet school, and hundreds of interested students, community members, and families came to find out more about veterinary medicine and animal health.  We had Purina dogs strutting their stuff, the mobile clinic parked outside the hospital to let people take a look at shelter medicine on wheels, and presentations by various clubs and organizations, both from the school and the Columbia area, were set up around the school.

I spent a good portion of my time in the lecture hall, where we presented a student panel on life in vet school and a lecture from our admissions councilor on getting into vet school.  It was an odd experience, being on the presenting side of the student panel; I attended many panels and lectures as an undergraduate, and I enjoyed the opportunity to pay it forward a little, and inspire the next generation of vet students.  As I listened to our admissions councilor break down the point system for admissions, however, I found myself wondering – how did I get in to vet school?  My hours working or shadowing under a vet were less than half the average, my GPA and GRE were just above the average for an admitted student, and I know there are students who interview better than I can.  The statistics presented – 10% of applicants to veterinary school are accepted – were daunting, and I couldn’t help but think, some of these students are going to go home and give up.  I felt a little heart-broken for them – at first.  I realized, the students who are going to give up because of this lecture are being spared a difficult and time-consuming struggle with grades, identity, and confidence (and that’s just the application process).  They may go on to work with animals in another capacity – trainer, producer, nutritionist – or they may go on to other jobs entirely.  There may be some brilliant students who choose to pursue other paths, and become leaders in other fields, but there will also be some brilliant students who are just crazy enough to believe that documenting over one thousand work-hours in a vet clinic or volunteering Sundays at the local zoo is more than worth their time.  Students who are told to pursue other careers – by their families, by veterinarians, by professors – and save themselves the time, but decide to apply to vet school anyway.

As a first year veterinary student living in a four-day grace period between two anatomy exams, I can still say that it was worth it.  I am glad I was too obstinate to give up or pursue human medicine instead, and I hope that the students were encouraged (or terrified) by today’s lecture will one day say the same.

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