By Emily Altkorn
The road to becoming a veterinarian can seem long and daunting, and there’s no doubt that there’s more than one way to get there. Seeing the different facets of veterinary medicine is a great way to learn about the profession and get a feel for if it’s right for you. For example, when I was a pre-vet student, I shadowed large and small animal vets, volunteered at a cat shelter, and worked in an animal research lab. I’m now a 3rd-year vet student and what I’ve seen and done both before and during school has shaped my desire to become a small animal general practitioner. Experiences like these might be helpful to you in your pre-vet journey, or there might be other things that spark your interests and passions more.
Whatever your pre-vet journey looks like, there’s one thing you can do that will make any experience more valuable: take notes. Before I applied to vet school, I kept a journal of all of my animal experiences, and it was incredibly helpful when it came time for me to apply. Here’s why:
- Keeping track: When the exciting day comes when you begin your vet school applications, you’re going to get a lot of questions thrown at you. Having a journal of your experiences is an invaluable tool for answering these questions accurately, without having to spend too much time or stress on it (because we know that filling out vet school applications isn’t the only thing you have going on!). The application will want details about all of your pre-vet experiences. It will ask what type of experience (with a vet, animal-related but no vet, or not animal related), if it’s paid or volunteer, when you participated, how many hours per week, how many hours total, who supervised you, where it was, and of course what you did. Start keeping track now! You won’t regret it.
- Getting more out of your experiences: It’s so easy to, after we’ve seen or done something, just go home and forget it. Or even if we don’t forget it, to forget the details. Taking time each night to write about what I did that day really helped me internalize what I’d learned. Even though I didn’t understand everything that was going on, journaling forced me to think about things and try to understand the process as much as I could. And while to be honest I don’t really enjoy journaling, I can’t deny how useful it was to take a little extra time to think through what I saw and did each day. Instead of writing “I observed a dog vaccine appointment,” I tried to write which vaccines and why they were important. Instead of writing “I assisted in a cat spay,” I tried to remember the steps that the vet did in the surgery and the techniques that were used. I may not have been spot on all of the time in my interpretation, but now that I’m in vet school, I go back and look at my journal and I can’t deny that it helped me learn things that are still useful to me today – and becoming more useful every day as I get closer to being a vet!
- Setting yourself up to write a best-selling series of charming memoirs once you’re old: Well, maybe that one won’t happen for me, but who knows! You just might have some James Herriot inside of you waiting to come out.