This Non Traditional Student Got into 3 Vet Schools on Her First Try!
Amy is a non traditional student and began her undergrad studies at age 29. She maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout undergrad and is now a vet student at Washington State University and Utah State University. This is a regional program called WIMU, which is a partnership between the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Idaho Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Montana State University, and Utah State University School of Veterinary Medicine.
If you are a non traditional student just starting out then this interview will definitely provide you with some encouragement that you can do it!
If you want to see what the requirements are for each of the veterinary medical colleges then purchase this book: Check out this book: Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR)
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Name, veterinary school attended, and year that you started.
Washington State University/Utah State University (Enrolled at WSU but attend courses at USU through the WIMU regional veterinary program)
2017 (non traditional student)
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
Two dogs, Guinness and Olive. Both are Boston Terrier/Pug mixes.
Guinness is my 10-year-old boy and Olive is my 9-year-old girl.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
I first attended Salt Lake Community College and got my Associates Degree in Biology. I then transferred to Utah State University and majored in Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Science with an emphasis in Bioveterinary Science. I also minored in Chemistry.
As a non traditional student during undergrad, did you find any specific challenges related to being a non traditional student?
Being in school while my husband was not, was difficult. It was hard to find a balance between working, studying enough, gaining veterinary experience, and spending time with each other.
Also, it was awkward for me to seek out opportunities to get involved at school and to get experience in veterinary clinics. I felt silly applying to be Secretary of the Pre-Vet Club and accepting unpaid internships at my age, but ultimately I knew it was an insecurity that I needed to get over if I really wanted to be taken seriously as a vet school applicant.
Did you attend grad school?
At what age did you first apply to vet school?
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
I applied to three schools in one cycle: Washington State, Iowa State, and Colorado State.
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
I was waited listed at one of them, Colorado State University.
How many schools invited you for an interview?
All three schools invited me to interview.
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
I received acceptance letters from all three, however, the acceptance from CSU was off the waitlist and so came after the deadline to accept my other two options.
*****Check out this other interview with Dr. Gardner, who was also a non traditional student. She started Lap of Love.*****
As a non traditional student, what were some reasons in your choice of school?
I chose Washington State because I can do the first two years of vet school at Utah State University and receive resident tuition. I also live apart from my husband during vet school and this option is only a 90-mile distance.
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
In one interview, I was asked to provide an example of a time when I came up with a creative solution to a problem. It was difficult to think of one on the spot and the interviewers patiently waited while I thought of one.
What was your GPA (in undergraduate), as a non traditional student?
While in undergrad and maintaining a 4.0 did you also work a paying job?
Yes, I worked a part-time job (20 hours per week) doing marketing for a commercial real estate investment team. When I took a lighter course load over the summer or took the summer off, I still worked part-time and used the extra time to work on my animal/veterinary experience.
What was your GRE score?
Note from author: If you need help studying for the GRE, consider Magoosh test prep! They also have a free app for vocabulary.
Verbal Reasoning: 163 (93rd percentile)
Quantitative Reasoning: 148 (30th percentile – not my finest performance)
Analytical Writing: 4.0 (60th percentile)
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
Three – tennis team, dance instructor, and Secretary of the pre-vet club.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school as a non traditional student?
Yes. I was raised with small animals as pets and interned in a mixed small animal/exotics practice for a summer where I got more comfortable handling rodents, birds, and lizards. I also worked as a vet tech at my county animal shelter and was exposed to a lot of cats, dogs, and rabbits, but we also got an occasional cow, pig, and horse that required medical treatment.
I also took a few classes in my undergrad that offered hands-on labs with large animals. These courses include Sheep Day (a one-day, off-site lab performing breeding soundness exams on a flock of sheep), Animal Health and Hygiene (got experience drawing blood from cows, rectal palpation, and performing physical exams on horses, cows and sheep), Physiology of Reproduction and Lactation (more rectal palpation experience on cows, as well as watching several transrectal ultrasounds on cows to determine pregnancy status), and Applied Equine Reproduction (learned how to prepare a mare for and perform artificial insemination, interpreted ovulation or pregnancy status via transrectal ultrasounds).
What types of paying jobs did you have before going to veterinary school?
I worked in the commercial real estate field for 16 years, the last 5 years were part-time because I decided to go to college. In the year between graduating and starting vet school, I held a 2nd part-time job at the county animal shelter as a veterinary technician.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
Yes, I volunteered with Best Friends Animal Society and at my county animal shelter. My volunteer work at the county animal shelter is what led to my employment there.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
Just me! I wrote a lot for my job in real estate so I’m accustomed to editing my own writing.
When did you decide to become a vet?
When I was 29. It was a childhood dream job of mine but I lost sight of it during my teenage years. When I turned 29, I realized I had spent 10 years working in a field I didn’t enjoy so I decided to start college with the veterinary goal in mind. I wasn’t sure if I had what it took but I didn’t want to regret never trying.
Did you interview any vets before starting the application process? If so how did you approach them?
The Pre-Vet Club at my school would have veterinarians come in and talk about their practices or career paths. I also would ask the veterinarians I worked with about their experiences in vet school and if they were happy with their choice, ask about their debt load and how they paid for school, etc. It was much easier asking those questions of the vets I worked/interned with.
Were you a member of any clubs at your undergraduate school? If so, which ones?
I was a member of the Non Traditional Student Association, and I was the Secretary for the Pre-Vet Club.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program? Were they helpful?
I have joined a few clubs, the only one that has been helpful so far is the Emergency Medicine Club. They had a fun wet lab where we got to practice ultrasounds.
Did you apply to vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
After. I didn’t feel I had accumulated enough experience working underneath a veterinarian during my Bachelor’s education so I used the summer and fall after graduating to bulk up those experiences.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
I had six letters of recommendation. Two of which were from my bosses that I had worked for in real estate for eight years. They knew me extremely well both professionally and personally.
Two of them were from veterinarians I had interned/volunteered for. The vet I interned for knew me fairly well, I interned for him four mornings per week for a summer. The one I volunteered for knew me enough to speak to my dependability and professionalism but she really only worked with me one morning a week for a summer.
The other two came from professors I had higher-level classes with. They didn’t know me on a personal level but I was always sat in the front row so they knew I was an active participant in class and that I performed well on assignments and exams.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
Yes. It was time-consuming, expensive, and each school required supplemental essays in addition to my personal statement. I also worried whether my personal statement, essays, experiences, GRE scores, etc. were going to be good enough and whether they were enough to make me stand out. I felt like there was a lot riding on getting it right.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
So far I am but I just finished my first semester of vet school. It is very challenging but also very refreshing to study only the things I’m interested in and that apply to my future career.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Remember that you aren’t just studying for a grade on an exam, you’re learning and practicing to become the best veterinarian you can be. Keeping the big picture in mind will help you push through the daily minutia of lectures and exams, and will also be comforting when your exam scores don’t always reflect your level of knowledge (if you overthink questions and therefore make dumb mistakes on tests like I do!)
Have you come across any challenges related to being a non traditional student in vet school?
I think they are mostly age-related challenges. It’s a ton of material to keep up on and I can’t pull the long hours that some of my classmates do. I just get too tired and my brain stops retaining info. And I don’t know if this is perception or reality but I feel like I learn the material at a slower pace than my younger peers, and that I spend more hours studying only to get the same (or worse) grades.
Any study tips?
Study every day (yes, even the first day of school). It is a TON of material being thrown at you and you will not do well if you expect to cram it all in the week before the exam. I spent the first couple of weeks learning how to study for each class and changing methods to see what would help the material to stick. Don’t be afraid to change up your study habits/locations/study groups, etc. if you feel like your performance isn’t where you’d like it to be. Find what works for you and just know that it will probably be different for each class. I make hand-written flashcards for anatomy and draw out the bones and muscles. For Physiology, I make online flashcards, and for Histology, I re-write my lecture notes and look at a ton of microscope images/slides.
What have been some of your favorite classes, within your DVM program?
Principles of Surgery is a fun class. It’s only one day per week but I get to pretend to be a doctor and work on aseptic technique and suturing.
What has been the most challenging class, in your DVM program so far?
Comparative anatomy was the most challenging. The amount of material is overwhelming and I felt like I was constantly behind, even though I studied for that course every day.
As a student, did you have to take out loans for your education? If so, are you concerned about the amount of debt you will have after graduation?
My parents are paying for my tuition but I do have to take out loans to pay my living expenses. I know I won’t have nearly the amount of debt as most veterinary students but it’s still concerning to me. I try to live frugally so I don’t feel guilty about going into debt over frivolous things.
Is there anything in particular about your DVM program or the school itself that you like?
They partner with nearby states who don’t have their own vet schools, so I am able to get resident tuition. I also like the regional Utah campus because there are only 30 students in my class, as opposed to 130. We are a very close-knit group, we are able to get to know our professors very well, and our questions never go unanswered.
Do you have any advice for students thinking about attending your University?
Weigh the pros and cons. I like the small class size at the Utah State campus for Washington State and we do have a farm where we get hands-on experience with animals and are invited to attend several surgeries per week. However, we do not have a vet teaching hospital so most of the stuff we see is all large animal.
At this point do you think you will have a specialty?
No. I think I will do general practice for small animals and exotics.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
I really like the book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed (yes, it was turned into a movie that doesn’t do it justice). I found her perseverance throughout the story to be inspiring.
There are also some books, Ted Talks and Youtube videos by the author, Dave Logan, about rewriting your default future. He was a guest speaker on a national real state sales call that I was on and his “default future” talk is what made me realize I needed to go back to school.
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
Keep your goals and the big picture in mind when it gets tough or when you’re feeling defeated. Write down your short and long-term goals, make a plan to help you achieve them, and hold yourself accountable. Find a mentor, be it a professor, a veterinarian, or anyone that can give you honest constructive criticism and feedback. Be sure this person believes in your goals and dreams and wants to help you succeed.
And lastly, surround yourself with smart, hard-working, and supportive people who push you and challenge you to become better.
How can people find you?