Have you ever heard, “A DVM is a DVM, so go where you can get the cheapest tuition”? There is some validity to this… an extra $50,000+ dollars of tuition can be an onerous load. However, vet school encompasses a period of great emotional and psychological stress (yes, I said psychological, depression and suicide studies in vet students are scarier than a Stephen King novel), and chances are you’ll be far away from the support of family and friends. Talks about rising debt to income ratios, types of malpractice insurance to buy (I’m afraid to touch a horse I don’t own in case it’s worth more than my education), and the constant battle of learning and retaining information, instead of learn-and-purge, all factor into the things weighing on our minds. Add to that rising animal rights issues, battles with Dr. Google, and the knowledge that someday, an animal is likely to die while I’m working on it, simply because there was nothing more I could do, and it should be easy to understand why we’re not always chipper.
That is where a careful selection of location can come into play. If you cannot stand the sound and lights of a city at night, don’t live in the middle of downtown. (Maybe don’t live downtown anyway, undergrads will party the Sunday before finals week when you’re cramming the innervation of the pelvic limb of the horse into your sleep-deprived brain). If you want to go hiking every weekend (which will be more like once a month, honestly), make sure the school you go to has opportunities for that. The school I chose has a thriving arts community (relatively, it’s not Seattle), moderate hiking, and a bike trail system that runs across the state. Concerts in the park and downtown happen on almost a weekly basis. I have more adventures now that I don’t have time for them than I ever had in undergrad, and I would not change my school for anything.
Of course, the school itself also matters. What opportunities exist for hands-on learning? Can you get involved in clubs that work with exotic animals, if you plan on entering zoo medicine? If equine is more your thing, is there an active equine club? What is being done to increase health and well-being in the student body? How many scholarships are available?
Most importantly, regardless of where you end up, find people who share your passions. Vet school is, oddly enough, full of nerds who aren’t afraid to be nerds. Something about spending twelve hours a week in the formalin-fog of anatomy lab, making up pneumonics to memorize cranial nerves (Some Say Money Matters, But My Brother Says Big Brains Matter More) might be to blame. Vet school is not forever, but sometimes it feels like it. Find people who make it bearable.