As a student who established goals of attending vet school early, I quickly became aware of the seemingly endless number of requirements to gain admission. These include the need for hundreds to thousands of intern/volunteer/work hours, research experience, flawless grades in science and non-science courses, a rainbow of extracurriculars to make it seem like you have a life outside your O Chem textbook… OH, and a kick-ass personal statement. No big deal.
Now, to those reading this who are wondering how in hell to complete this list without going gray at age 20, I assure you that if I can do it so can you. Haven’t counted the gray hairs yet, though.
Lets start with Animal Experience!
I made sure to involve myself in both of my interests, small animal and zoo/wildlife medicine
Wildlife: I began working at the gift store and front desk of a wildlife rehabilitation museum at the age of 16 (I was too young to work in the hospital but dammit that wouldn’t stop me). I basically answered questions, got loving glances from the bald eagle who lived across the room from my post, and restocked the store. In order to restock I needed to go to the stock room and forage for GIANTmicrobe toys and the like. And the four-foot taxidermy beaver was always waiting in a new place as I turned on the light in the stock room. It always scared the crap out of me: I hated the damn beaver.
After a matter of time I graduated into the hospital where I worked as a member of the baby bird feed team, the bird move team as fledglings grew out of incubators, and migrated in and out of the treatment room as I grew comfortable perch-grabbing raptors and the like.
This is about when I fell in love with red-tailed hawks.
Back from my tangent…Definitely find some volunteer position you love. There was nothing more rewarding than watching an injured hawk progress from intake to release and knowing that I helped along the way. Very, very cool. This feeling fuels my passion for vet med. 🙂
Small Animal: I also worked at various veterinary hospitals as a boarding kennel assistant, hospital assistant, grooming assistant, surgery cheerleader, and personal pastry chef for vets (more on this to come ;)). Although I performed many chores that seem unhelpful to my goal of becoming a fledgling vet, I learned a lot about patience and responsibility in a hospital setting.
One time at the groomers this little gem came in… Over the course of two hours she lost 15 pounds of pure matted fur after we had to sedate her with a double dose. This was after she tried to maul her owners, the groomer, and the veterinarian. I’d be bitchy too with all that extra hair… ouch.
Overall, I think I learned a lot by taking part in a variety of experiences and I definitely recommend that you start early (be it with public health, equine, wildlife, small animal, therapy dogs, etc…). As long as your plate is not too overloaded (which mine definitely was on occasion) the opportunities that await an eager pre-vet student are endless! Most of them will involve folding a lot of laundry and cleaning up poop, but I can proudly say I have mastered both of these titillating jobs.
Best of luck! 🙂