Starting Veterinary School As A Non-Traditional Student

By Amanda M. ’27, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Student

A young woman with a cute gold-furred puppy.

Unlike most veterinary students, before applying to veterinary school, I served as a veterinary practice manager at Tabor Road Veterinary Hospital here in Bryan, Texas, working alongside an Aggie veterinarian for a total of nine years.

Each day consisted of surgical procedures, vaccinations, and caring for sick animals. On top of that, I handled day to-day-operations that included managing other employees, ordering supplies, and ensuring top-notch patient care and customer service. This meant working long days and sometimes having few breaks.

I loved many parts of being a veterinary practice manager. I enjoyed working with owners and their pets, mentoring my coworkers, and seeing veterinary medicine through a business perspective. I also enjoyed communicating with the Spanish-speaking community and bridging the language barrier that many of these clients face. The biggest challenges I faced were client financial constraints and staff shortages. I think those were my least favorite parts of the job.

I know many undergraduate students are worried about not being accepted into veterinary school right away. However, I waited 10 years, got married, and had kids and a career before deciding to re-apply, and I would not change a thing.

I am so thankful for the time I had to be able to gain clinical and business experience while working in a veterinary hospital. Now, as a veterinary student, I use a lot of the time management, organization, and communication skills that I acquired during my time as a practice manager. Once I graduate, I can continue using those skills along with what I’ve learned in the veterinary program to hopefully open my own clinic one day.

Balancing Life As A Veterinary Student

By Makayla R. ’27, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Student

A photo of a sunset.

My biggest fear before starting veterinary school was not having enough time to enjoy my hobbies and talk with friends and family. When I first glanced at my class schedule, I remember wondering if all I would have time for was studying!

I spent the first month of veterinary school solely studying all day and night, feeling horrible in the process. I decided to make a change and started including my hobbies into my schedule and immediately felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders.

After taking time to reflect on my first month of veterinary school, I figured out that having a balance in my life between school and my hobbies actually helped me perform better on tests and avoid burn out.

Making Time For Your Hobbies

It’s easy to become engulfed in the thought that you must spend all day and all weekend studying, but it’s simply not true. One of my favorite things to do during school breaks and on the weekends is reading fantasy novels. With proper schedule planning, I can read my favorite books at least five hours a week!

Allowing my myself to take time to still do the things that I love gives me a morale boost before studying.

A young man standing beside a young woman on a basketball court.

Staying Active

Blocking out time every week to remain physically active is very important in maintaining physical health. I do this by scheduling time every week to take outdoor walks, go to Orange Theory workout classes, or take rowing classes. One of my favorite parts of the weekend is going on long walks during the sunset.

Spending Time With Loved Ones

Another way to avoid burn out and balance your life as a veterinary student is staying connected with your family, friends, and significant others. For example, I make time to watch my boyfriend’s college basketball games every Wednesday and Saturday night. I even drove to watch him play in Houston last semester!

Sometimes it can be hard to avoid thinking about the studying you could be doing in place of enjoying your hobbies or spending time with loved ones but the sense of satisfaction I get from these activities is critical to maintaining my mental health.

If I could give two pieces of advice to any professional student, it would be to not lose yourself in studying and to live in the moment! Life is about balance, and maintaining this balance resulted in a better performance in the classroom and being happier in my free time.

A Puppy Before Veterinary School

Allie stands in a doorway holding her puppy Mack
Allie and Mack on the first day of veterinary school

I always wanted a dog I could call my own.

Growing up, I had family dogs that I loved but none that were actually mine. During my undergraduate years, I thought about getting a dog but was never able to because I lived in homes that did not allow pets.

However, after graduating in December, I stayed in College Station, and while I was working at a local veterinary clinic, I began constantly looking at shelters’ websites for dogs available for adoption, excited for the opportunity to adopt one once I moved.

Toward the end of May, a stray puppy was brought into my clinic by a client who thought the puppy had been hit by a car. Luckily, he was perfectly fine and was not actually injured but instead was just in shock.

The person who brought him in was unable to keep him, so we planned to have him stay at the clinic until we were able to find a home for him. After spending a few days with the puppy, though, I absolutely fell in love and knew I had to take him home with me.

Mack wears a graduation cap and blue bandana that says "Puppy Grad!"
Mack graduates from puppy class

It felt like it was fate—he had come to me right before I had to move and was needing a good, loving home. I decided to take him and I ended up naming him Mack, like the truck, because I thought it was funny that the way he came to me was because he was thought to have been hit by a car or truck.

But then I became nervous about starting my first semester of veterinary school with a young puppy. I knew I could handle it and that, in the end, it would work out, so, I worked with Mack all summer, potty training him, getting him used to what my school schedule would be, and doing puppy training classes. He quickly picked up a lot of tricks, including sit, lay down, wait, shake, spin, pray, weave, and kiss.

Once school rolled around, he was about 6 months old and, thankfully, was potty and crate trained by that time.

I was still worried about leaving him during school, but he has done fantastic and is used to our schedule now—getting out of bed when I’m done getting ready for class and sleeping in with me on the weekends. Sometimes it can be stressful having such a young dog that needs attention, but in the end, I think adopting Mack was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

Mack sits in grass wearing an American flag bow tie
Mack on the 4th of July

It makes me really happy to come home to a wagging tail and to be able to de-stress by playing with him and walking him in the evenings. It also helps that my roommates have dogs that he can play with, too, if I am busy with studying that day and don’t have a lot of time to play with him.

I don’t think having a young dog when starting veterinary school is a good idea for everyone, but I don’t at all regret taking him home, and I would recommend to those going to veterinary school to have a furry friend; it really is so nice having a dog there to cuddle with and lift your spirits after a long, hard day at school.

Mack is such a sweet puppy with an attitude and mind of his own that makes me both laugh and occasionally be mad at the same time. Not only do I now have a patient I can practice on, but I have a furry friend to help me emotionally survive veterinary school and beyond.

Feeling Like an Aggie

It’s hard to believe classes started a month ago. It almost feels like it was only yesterday that I was on Lake Erie, enjoying the nice weather.

The transition from Michigan to Texas was rough, but I feel I am handling it well. I have at Constance V.least one day a week that I devote to calling my family or friends from my hometown.

I’m still trying to perfect it, but I feel that, overall, I’m handling it well.

Helping with that have been the many amazing people I’ve met and the routine I have established with some friends. To take a break from school, for example, we have a list of local restaurants that we are interested in eating at, and every Sunday, we go to a different one.

I’m also trying to get involved in some of the different clubs the college has to offer. Currently, I am signed up for the Student Veterinary Response Team (SVRT) and the internal medicine and theriology clubs.

I’m still working on the right balance for school and social life, but so far it seems I’ve been doing well.

I’m very grateful to all of the second-year veterinary students (2VMs) whom I have meet so far. They have all been so willing to answer any of my questions, no matter how small.

I’m really starting to feel a part of the Aggie family, and I happy about my choice of school. Now it’s time to go to studying for the upcoming anatomy test.

Wrapping up my First Year

Janelle M.Summer is here, and I can proudly say that I have finished one year of veterinary school! The first two semesters have flown by and, yet, they feel as if they took forever, as well.

After my friends and fellow classmates finished our last final on May 3, it finally hit us that we have completed our hardest school year. What felt “endless” had finally come to a finality, and we were in shock that our life-altering education had reached a moment of pause and rest.

Now, we have reached the months during which we can fully gel and absorb all that we learned.

I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience, and I didn’t do it alone. My class of 2022 has always felt like a unit, and I feel a bit sad about not seeing my unit day-to-day during these couple of months.

We did wish each other a wonderful and, more importantly, restful summer, but a few of us are working, myself included, while others are pursuing internships or going home to relax with family. Nonetheless, College Station will not be the same once everyone leaves this week.

My personal plans include working in the Small Animal Hospital and I’m so thrilled to apply all that I learned into a clinical setting. Being able to perform blood draws and catheters and take fluid rates and dosages hardly touches the number of skills I’ve gained this year, but it brings me closer to the professional that I aim to be after these couple of years.

My confidence level has soared further than I could have believed possible and I’m pumped to be working in the animal hospital.

Besides that, I will do more relaxing activities, too, this summer!

Two weekends of Schlitterbahn with the family may just do the trick with this Texas summer heat. Maybe going to a few reunions with some of my old friends who pulled through with me during our undergraduate years. It’s hard to believe I haven’t seen some of my friends since 2016.

This August, I plan having some me time and focusing on replenishing my energy for fall semester. It’s sort of crazy for me to already be considering my plans with next semester but I am honestly pumped to start as a second year.

It will come sooner than expected, but I’ll be ready for it, after, of course, I enjoy a little vacation time.

A Well-Deserved Summer

Ashlee A.As I write this entry, I am learning how it feels to make my own schedule after finishing my first year of veterinary school!

This year I have learned so much about veterinary medicine and, especially, myself.

This summer I plan to enjoy time with family, visit different veterinary practices, and help with a few research projects while applying all of the knowledge that I’ve gained this year.

In first year, we have taken almost 50 exams over many hours of lectures and labs, so it’s very easy to feel lost, defeated, and exhausted.

However, we have learned much more than we ever thought we could, and we know how to apply it.

Looking back on this quick year I am so proud of myself and my classmates for the things we have accomplished.

We’ve learned how important it is to learn and retain base veterinary information, we are a network of support for each other, and we are one-fourth of the way to being doctors!

I am excited to return as a 2VM and build on this foundation, but I’m thankful for a well-deserved summer.

Looking Forward to Summer

Katelyn K.As my first year in veterinary school is drawing to a close, I am looking forward to the summer!

Before I started vet school last semester, my mentors back home told me to explore as many aspects of veterinary medicine as possible to not only realize the vastness of the fields in veterinary medicine, but also to confirm where my interests truly lie.

And that is exactly what I’ll be spending my summer doing—exploring the different fields of this profession.

This summer, I’ll be participating in three externships—all different from one another. One will be working only with horses in a specialty practice; one will be working with food animals, such as cattle, pigs, and goats in a rural environment; and the last one will be exploring the world of veterinary pathology.

In addition, I get to travel to Savannah, Georgia, to give an oral presentation on at the Society for Theriogenology conference this July!

So although this isn’t necessarily a typical summer “vacation,” it’s one that certainly offers a lot of opportunities!

In the Home Stretch

Anna J.I am finally in the home stretch of my first year of veterinary school, with only three weeks to go, and I can’t believe it! I will soon be one-fourth of a veterinarian. This year has gone by much faster than I ever thought it would, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

I thought my first year would only be about anatomy and physiology and more broad concepts, but I’ve gained so much clinical knowledge, as well.

Because of the new curriculum that began last year, first years get to practice exams and animal handling. We are even learning how to do ultrasounds.

I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and use it in a clinical setting this summer!

I have also learned the importance of taking breaks. It can be easy to get caught up in studying, especially when you have two tests a week.

However, sometimes taking time out of your day to hang out with friends or go out to eat or even take a walk can be much more beneficial for your brain than just staring at a book.

Finally, I learned that your classmates are your greatest allies. There is no competition in veterinary school; everyone is working toward the common goal of getting that DVM degree.

If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure how I would have made it through the year.

Though I’m excited for break, I can’t wait to come back and continue by journey toward being a vet.

Trying Something New

Hayley M.Everyone in veterinary school, and even most who are not, knows that vet school requires an abundance of study time.

However, the piece of advice that I heard the most from veterinarians, current students, and professors before and during my first year in vet school was to always make time for myself and do something that I wanted to do at least once a week, no matter how much studying I needed to do or what test was coming up.

That sounded fine and all, but during my first semester, I found myself wondering how in the world I was going to make time to do that when we have two tests a week for the majority of the semester!

As an undergraduate, I was the person who was able to study the night before a test and still get a great grade on it. I knew that was definitely not going to be the case when I got into vet school and that I would have to make some major adjustments.

So, I thought there was no way that I was going to be able to take their advice and make time for myself between studying, taking care of my pets, going to the gym, and making time for my family and boyfriend. I thought it was a lost cause and I didn’t even attempt to plan something out for myself each week, instead burying myself in my notes and study guides, because after all, school has to be my priority for the next three and a half years.

But this past week, my friends and I decided to actually take that advice and try it out to see if it might affect our grade on our upcoming anatomy test. Instead of vigorously studying the entire week, every single chance we got like we had originally planned, we took a break one afternoon and decided to go out and eat at one of our favorite restaurants and not talk about school.

We talked, we laughed, and we had a great time while eating our favorite meal—chips and queso of course—and finally took a breather and a moment for ourselves. It was definitely a needed moment, and I instantly understood why so many people had given me that advice before I started vet school.

For the remainder of the week, I felt like I had a second wind. I was able to retain more while studying and I didn’t feel so burnt out. I found myself legitimately enjoying my week instead of stressing about what to study next.

Now, I think it’s safe to say that even if my grade goes down a point or two, I will definitely begin to plan and set aside time each week to do something for myself.

For the rest of my vet school career, I will put value on self-care to make sure I make the most out of my time in school; by trying to thoroughly enjoy vet school instead of thinking about it as the time I had to study for four straight years, I know I will look back on the experience as I time I really did enjoy and remember how appreciative I am that I’ve had this awesome opportunity.

Spring Break, Indeed

Let’s be honest—veterinary school is no walk in the park. It’s designed to push, challenge, and shape you into the best possible veterinarian you can be, all while learning all of the factors that affect every species of patient you could possibly encounter.

Kelsi and her friends in CaboOne thing I have come to appreciate more than I ever could have imagined prior to starting veterinary school is the value of a break.

In the past, I have always spent my Spring Break working either for money or to better my veterinary school application; returning to school tended to be more relaxing than the week outside of class. I never imagined I would be able to afford to vacation somewhere for the break, so I always booked something else that week in order to have a reason other than a lack of funds to decline invitations.

This year, for the first time ever, I made the decision to ACTUALLY give myself a break, and it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. Ever the money-conscious veterinary students, my roommate and I shopped around for deals and opportunities for mini-vacations and stumbled an affordable, all-inclusive adventure.

At 5 p.m. on March 8, my two roommates, a friend, and I headed out of College Station to go drop off our dogs and make our way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

My fellow first-year veterinary student roommate and I had made a pact to truly give ourselves a break, meaning there would be no school work or conversation on our trip. For the next week we laid in the sun, rode jet skis in the ocean waves, napped, ate and drank as we pleased at an all-inclusive resort with not a single textbook or alarm in sight.

It was glorious.

I returned to school this week feeling completely refreshed and ready to tackle these last seven weeks of my first year of veterinary school.

While it was an adjustment to go back to being in class all day instead of taking midday naps by the pool, the 15 exams I have left in this semester does not fill me with dread like they did on March 8.

I can honestly say that choosing to allow myself to take a break was the best thing I could have ever done.