From 2008 to 2012, I attended veterinary school at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. What’s it like? Well let’s just say it’s like you are really, really thirsty for knowledge. Vet school is like trying to drink from a fire hose.
Year 1 – The first year is all class room work covering “normal:” anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, virology, microanatomy, immunology, genomics, parasitology, pathology, nutrition, and an assortment of other classes. I’ll be honest, the first year is extremely difficult, and about 10% of my class dropped out or failed out during the first year. Just as a note, Mizzou’s classroom curriculum for veterinary students isn’t broken into semesters but instead “instructional periods” Basically 2 instructional periods equals 1 semester in terms of time, but each IP still covers a full semester of material. Vet school classes move much faster than undergrad. It was my observation that students tended to be good at either physiology OR anatomy and not both. I was a physiology-minded student, and I despised anatomy. During this year, I had to constantly remind myself why I was there, and that I chose to be there, and that there were many people who wished they could be in vet school.
Year 2 – The second year of vet school is all about what can go wrong in animals. Classes include clinical pathology, internal medicine, community medicine, exotic animal medicine, public health, epidemiology, pharmacology, surgery, and other classes.
If you’re entering vet school and about to start your first year…here are some thoughts that helped me through the first 2 years:
- Happiness = reality – expectations. You might have been a straight A student in college, but in vet school that goal may not be reasonable. Do the best you can and focus on learning the material for life and not for the test. After school, the test comes first, then the lesson (and sometimes it is a hard lesson indeed).
- Do something fun EVERYDAY! You will likely spend most of every day studying. I used to wake up at 4am and study for a couple of hours before school started. I would come home, walk my greyhound, eat dinner, and then resume studying. For the first 3 instructional periods (1.5 semesters), I didn’t spend much time doing fun things. When I started painting (something I enjoy) again in IP 4, my grades dramatically improved as did my happiness (finishing anatomy might have helped my happiness too).
- Sleep. You will feel like pulling all nighters during your first year, but studies show that sleep is more important. If you don’t know the material by then…it’s probably too late!
- Take care of your body. You will have a hard time focusing and studying if you neglect taking care of yourself. Remember to eat nutritious meals regularly, exercise, brush your teeth every day, and bathe! As a student, you pay for a membership to the student gym and the student health center with your fees. No, you can’t opt out of paying the fees so you might as well use both facilities! If you are sick, go to the doctor!
- Make friends. I made some wonderful friends during vet school. We spent a lot of the 4 years of vet school together: studying, eating, celebrating, and commiserating. They are still very important to me although now they are miles away.
- Be nice to teachers. Contrary to how you might feel about them, teachers really do want you to succeed. Your ultimate goal is to pass your “boards” (federal and state) so you can “practice veterinary medicine.” Your teachers are there to teach you the information you need to know to pass boards and become an excellent veterinarian. Ask them politely for help and how you can do better in their class. They are a treasure trove of information.
- Utilize resources. Did you know the vet school has a counselor employed just to listen to you? He came in a couple days per week when I was a student, and he can help you address little problems before they become big problems. You’re paying for him with your tuition and fees! Get your money’s worth!
- Live frugally. Those loans are no fun to pay back! Talk to a financial planner at least a couple of times to help you! The vet school has one that is very knowledgeable about loans for veterinary students. Your tuition also pays for him! I wish I had lived a little more frugally during vet school, because now I’m paying off my loans. My monthly loan payment is more than (much more actually) than my mortgage and home insurance combined.
Right around fall of your 3rd year of vet school, you have a “white coat ceremony.” This ceremony marks the end of your classroom years, and the start of clinicals. During this ceremony, someone very important to you “coats” you. My husband, Chase, helped me put my white coat on since he supported and encouraged me through the challenging classroom curriculum!
The next blog post will be about surviving clinics in Veterinary School!