5 Tips for Surviving Vet School Finals

By Blake O. ’26, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

Finals week is scary. No matter what stage of education you are in, a week of high-value exams is not for the faint of heart.

In vet school, it can understandably be quite daunting with the volume of material you are learning. However, just because finals week is scary doesn’t mean students need to be afraid of it. I have found that with the right mindset and a few key perspective changes, I have learned to survive (and dare I say, even enjoy) finals week.

Here are five of the tips I follow to help me get through finals week each semester.

No.1 – Set Reasonable Goals

Vet school finals are challenging enough! There is no need to set goals that make it even harder. Before the exams start, sit down, grab a calculator, and figure out where you stand. Set your final grade goal and figure out what you need to score to make that grade. The only difference between a 100% and that minimum score is that the 100% is going to require a lot more stress and work on your part.

    No. 2 – Get Into A Routine

    Once the week starts, it’s time to get into your marathon mindset. Come up with a schedule that is sustainable and leaves room for self-care. Set a sleep schedule, mealtimes, and time to relax. Then, protect that time! No matter how stressed you are about studying, you will be better off with a balanced schedule instead of cramming.

    No. 3 – Take It One Day At A Time

    Effective goal setting requires short and long term goals. Finals week is a time to focus on the short-term. While looking ahead is great, don’t let the exam on Friday stress you out all week to the point where Monday through Thursday’s exam grades suffer. I try to dedicate as much of my study time as possible to the immediate next test, and if I feel confident, only then do I start looking ahead.

    No. 4 – Don’t Be Afraid To Switch Your Study Style

    The part about finals week that trips a lot of people up is that you have to switch mental gears much more quickly than usual. So, if you want to avoid the pitfalls of finals, be flexible! This is especially true when it comes to study techniques. Reading radiographs and performing surgery are very different skills, so why would studying for classes like Diagnostic Imaging and Principles of Surgery look the same? If you feel like you are hitting a wall, try a different approach.

    No. 5 – Remember Your Self-Care

    Yes, finals are important. They hold a lot of weight and can even make or break your success in certain classes. But, ultimately, your well-being is more important. In the long run, staying up all night, chugging coffee 24/7, and rewatching every lecture in the entire course will cause more harm than a bad grade on one test. So, don’t hesitate to take breaks when you need it, and don’t feel guilty about studying less than you feel you should.

    Finals week is scary. But it is just a week. It will happen, and then it will be over. So, don’t let stress take control of your life. Hopefully these tips help you. Happy studying!

    Making Time For Ballroom Dancing

    By Hailey D. ’26, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student

    Two young women in ballroom dancing dresses posing for a photo in a school gym.

    Howdy everyone! My name is Hailey and I am a second-year veterinary student at Texas A&M University. A big hobby that I’ve had since I was a teenager is ballroom dancing. Dancing has been a big part of my life for about 10 years now and has helped me meet new people, learn tons of new dances/moves, and get some good exercise in!

    Both my parents were avid country dancers and taught my brothers and I how to two-step and line dance. This quickly led to me finding a group of friends that went to swing dancing halls and getting more immersed in the culture of dancing and expanding my understanding of all the different styles of dance out there.

    Once I came to Texas A&M University for undergrad, I was able to join the Texas A&M Ballroom Dance Association (TAMBDA) and continue to learn new styles of dancing.

    Within this group, I was able to learn that there are two overarching categories that most dances fall within: smooth and Latin dances. Smooth dances include the waltz and foxtrot, while Latin dances include some of the stronger styles of dance like tango, rumba, and bolero.

    Being involved with this organization led me to compete at different universities in Texas and helped my team place in many different categories of dance!

    While I may not get to compete as often while I am in veterinary school, I still enjoy going to the dance halls with my friends and fiancé to dance the night away and get some exercise in.

    How Veterinary Medicine Found Me

    By Kathryn W. ’26, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Student

    For many people in the veterinary field, becoming a vet has been their dream since early childhood and their sights have been set on having “DVM” — Doctor of Veterinary Medicine — after their name ever since. However, my path to becoming a veterinarian was a little more unexpected.

    I started my undergraduate degree here at Texas A&M University in the Fall of 2017 with the plan to become a physical therapist. I knew I loved science, medicine, and health, so physical therapy seemed like a great fit. With that in mind, I began working toward my biomedical sciences degree. After completing my freshman year of college, I found myself looking for a summer job to keep me busy and make some money for the upcoming school year, so I took a position as a kennel technician at a veterinary clinic because of my soft spot for animals.

    That summer at the clinic was filled with learning and experiences that I never expected to have, like scrubbing in on surgeries, filling medications, and learning what information can be obtained through diagnostics like bloodwork or a simple ear swab. As the weeks went by, I found myself drawn more and more into the hustle and bustle of the treatment area and getting involved in as much as I could. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

    I had the realization that this field of medicine was fascinating to me, and I felt like I had found a career that really suited me well. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t rushing into things though, so I did my research, talked with veterinarians, and joined the PreVet Society at the university upon my return for my sophomore year. The more I learned about veterinary medicine, the more I was drawn in. I decided my love for veterinary medicine wasn’t just puppy love (see what I did there?) and I dove into all things pre-vet. Fast forward a few years and two degrees, and I’m now wrapping up my second year of veterinary school! My advice for anyone reading this is to say yes to new experiences and opportunities and don’t be afraid to chase your passions, regardless of when you discover them!

    Spring break this year was anything but normal in all aspects but one, my annual Texas State Park parade.

    Every year, I venture off with my dogs, Luca, Svarta, and Zoey, to three Texas State Parks for a week filled with hiking, exploring, and copious amount of fresh air. In the past, we’ve gone to Lost Maples State Park, Garner State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and a few others. But, by far, our favorites to go to are Enchanted Rock State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, and McKinney Falls State Park, which is exactly where we headed to this last spring break.

    The first park we went to was Enchanted Rock. The park is located right outside of Fredericksburg in the beautiful hill country of Texas and the pink granite and white quartz of the area make hiking around the area breathtaking!

    After a long and fun-filled day at Enchanted Rock, we made our way back home and recouped for day hikes at Pedernales Falls and McKinney Falls. Toward the end of the week, and after getting our fill of sun and nature, we packed up our things and headed back to College Station to prepare for the unknown in the remaining weeks in the semester.

    These past few weeks have been very dynamic, but one thing that is unchanging is the dedication of our professors here at vet school.

    Every day, they send out email updates and meet us via video chat for our lectures. Classes that would have otherwise been impossible to incorporate via an online platform have been rearranged to accommodate us in this trying time.

    Our surgery class is now distance learning from home as we video chat with our professors while performing procedures on the synthetic organs distributed to us. Our anesthesia class is now fully virtual with helpful question and answer sessions to reinforce the subject matter, and our clinical skills course still pushes on with at-home tutorials of how to perform necessary skills like equine dentistry, hoof care, and much more.

    The curriculum was, to say the least, difficult, if not impossible, to adapt to an online format, but the staff and faculty which support our education have done it. One of our professors, while recording a lecture for us, was having mic issues and so aptly said, “we must adapt and overcome”, and that is exactly what we are all doing.

     

    Moving into Surgery, Externships

    It seems as though the further I get into veterinary school, the faster the semesters seem to fly by.  

    As I am writing this post, it is week eight of my second semester as a second-year veterinary student.  It seems like just yesterday that it was week one. 

    Probably the most exciting thing about this semester has been starting surgery.  We have our “Introduction to Surgery” course this semester, and it has been such a great experience.  

    Even the simple things, like learning how to wrap our surgery gowns and instruments and how to get scrubbed and gowned for surgery, have been exciting for me. So far this semester, we have already practiced a liver biopsy and an abdominal exploratory.  

    One of the coolest things about introductory surgery is the extremely realistic models we get to use to practice procedures on. Each model even has its own pump system that simulates blood flow and bleeding.  

    I think that practicing on these realistic models is a great way to gain confidence before having real patients put in front of us; the things we are practicing and learning in our clinical skills and surgery courses are going to make us much more confident when it comes time to perform real procedures.  

    I definitely feel like I leave every semester of veterinary school more and more confident and prepared to help my future patients.  

    Right now, I am focused on going into equine medicine after I graduate, and so in the midst of studying, I am also arranging summer externships.  

    I can say that I am truly lucky to have such an amazing group of professors who have been willing to meet with me outside of class to help me establish connections with clinics that I want to extern at.  

    I am excited to take what I have learned this semester, and past semesters, and apply it during my externships!

    Starting Off the New Year Right

    It’s that time of year again to make New Year’s resolutions and, more importantly, to stick to them.

    I’ve done a commendable job of managing my academic goals and expectations through the first three semesters of veterinary school, but I can’t say the same for my personal health/fitness goals; every semester starts out with good intentions, but 10 weeks in, I start to slip.

    Not this year!

    2020 is going to be the best one yet. And how will I make that happen?

    Community.

    Finding a support system that helps you stay focused and on track is the key to success, especially during transitional times like starting veterinary school.

    In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor describes seven principles that will teach you to lead a happier, more productive life.

    The seventh principle is about social investment—if your life was a football game and you were the quarterback, then your support system would be the offensive line. They are there to protect you, keep you in the game, and celebrate with you when the drive is over.

    People have a tendency to keep to themselves when life gets tough, especially introverts like myself, so it’s important to remember your team.

    My roommates and I have made a commitment to each other to stick to our wellness goals this semester. We cook together, workout together, and hold each other accountable.

    My community has helped me reach the almost halfway point of veterinary school, and I can’t wait to celebrate with them at graduation as my happiest, healthiest self.

    Reflections of a 3/8th-‘Dog-tor’

    Amanda and Evie, over the break

    Last weekend I was able to help with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) interviews for the Class of 2024, and it was amazing to be a part of the process.

    Looking at all of the nervous applicants, I was reminded of how I was in their same position just a year and a half ago. 

    I remember planning to arrive four hours early so I could attend a tour before my interview time and the first time I walked into the beautiful Veterinary & Biomedical Education Complex (VBEC), where I would eventually get to spend the next four years (or three, if I don’t include my clinical year), and getting the chance to walk through the lecture and lab

    Amanda and her mentor group on their last day of DVM orientation

    rooms as other veterinary students explained where things were and how amazing their vet school experience had been.

    But this time, I was that excited veterinary student telling the future generations all about how the desks in our lecture halls have outlets at every seat and how every single professor cares about every student and wants them to become the best veterinarian that they can be.

    Reflecting on how far I’ve come also allows me to see who has supported me through the whole process.

    They say that caring for a veterinary student takes a village and I never realized how true that was until I saw all of the family and friends who came to College Station to support their loved one during this year’s interview process.

    Amanda and friends after their last final of their first year

    I’ve been lucky that my family and friends from other walks of life have stood by me during the past year and a half, and I’m also lucky that I’ve found such great friends here at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

    Amanda and her twin sister, Lauren, in their first pair of scrubs (her sister is currently in her second year of medical school)

    You can only talk about intestinal parasites and how they remind you of certain types of noodles so many times before you’re automatically bonded for life with someone!

    My friends like to say that I’m too much of an optimist at times, but comparing where I am now to where I was during the interview process makes me disagree.

    It’s hard not to be a big believer that everything will be all right when you can see your personal growth so clearly, especially when you’re only 5/8ths away from becoming a “dog-tor!”

    Knowledge is Power

    It’s amazing to say that we’re almost done with this semester and so close to Thanksgiving!

    It’s incredible to me those of us in the Veterinary Class of 2022 have completed our first year and are halfway through our second year.

    Looking back and considering all of the things we’ve studied, I see each skill I have learned in first year gradually increasing in difficulty and bringing me closer to use in a veterinary practice.

    For instance, this semester included the Pharmacology class, which teaches us the study of drugs for therapeutic use in the clinic.

    A few of my friends and I realized that in addition to giving us a good basis for diagnosing conditions, we can now consider treatment options as well!

    How we reached this point when I feel like we’ve just started is something we all joke about, even though we are consistently reminded of the day-to-day activities and classes that stretch our knowledge in the best way.

    I’ll have to admit that it’s so great to reach this point in the year because it allows us to take a breath before finals. I begin to think back and appreciate the tough waves my classmates and I faced and conquered within 15 weeks.

    Plus, with Thanksgiving in sight, I get to enjoy an awesome meal with my family, so how can I resist from saying this is one of my favorite times of the year?!?

    To Be Thankful

    As Thanksgiving approaches, both veterinary and biomedical sciences students can see the tiny break on the horizon and with it, the chance to escape school, eat a free meal (or multiple), and to see family.

    Sometimes, however, we forget that Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have or where we are in life.

    As a veterinary student who is gearing up for the end of the semester, I thought I would share what I am thankful for.

    I am thankful for a small, deaf puppy who strolled into my life unexpectedly. Although having pets in vet school can be difficult (especially an 8-month-old puppy) Jameson has been an amazing stress relief I never knew I needed. From our early morning mediated walks to our Saturday dog park days, he is a small reminder to breathe.

    I am thankful for the support system Texas A&M has brought me. As a student who did not go to A&M as an undergraduate, you could say I was initially worried about making new friends. However, the friends I have made here are ones that will last a lifetime. We support each other through school, remind each other we are human, and bring each other candy every once in a while.

    I am thankful for the opportunities Texas A&M has brought into my life—from the professional skills lab where I can practice skills like ultrasound in order to become a better doctor, to the career fair where I get to network with future employers who said, “I was there once too, you got this!” and even my ambassador role through which I get to meet with students and share the same passion of veterinary medicine and remember why I started veterinary school.

    The list could go on and on.

    As we go home this Thanksgiving to enjoy a free meal or two and our time with family, I hope everyone will think about what you have to be thankful for. It just may surprise you everything that comes to mind.

    Making Connections for My Future

    Last weekend, I attended the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Job & Externship fair, and talking with veterinarians from clinics and hospitals across Texas was a blast!

    As a second-year veterinary student, it is very important for me to see what is out there and where I can have my future externships. Those in attendance included small animal hospitals, mixed animal hospitals, and corporation practices, so it was a good variety of different types of clinics.

    I am interested in small animal medicine, so I talked with small animal emergency hospitals as well as general practice hospitals and even a few small animal clinics that see exotics, which I am also very interested in.

    It was so great to be able to talk with people from these clinics in person, so I can get an idea of which have externships during the summer or even for fourth year. It’s so exciting that so many places are willing to host veterinary students to teach and also hire new graduates in the future.

    We are so fortunate that there are so many jobs in the veterinary market right now, so there is so much choice when it comes to where we might end up after graduation.

    Probably the best part of the fair was getting invited to dinner by one of the clinics I talked to. It was a three-clinic practice in Dallas, which is where I am from. Two of the practice owners hosted a few other veterinary students and me at Napa Flats.

    It was a great opportunity to learn more about their practice and what we can do at their externship. We had great conversations about the future of veterinary medicine and they gave us great career advice on how important mentorship is in your first job after graduation.

    It is so important for us as veterinary students to make connections with current practicing veterinarians.

    These are people who can answer our questions about post-veterinary school life and can give us guidance on how to find jobs. They can also host us for externships and will be great teachers who can influence on how we practice medicine in the real world.

    It was such an honor to talk with so many leaders in our field. I can’t wait to get out into clinics this summer, so I can see what I have learned in school and how it translates to the real world.