St. George’s University, (AVMA accredited) on the island of Grenada has a great veterinary program where you can take veterinary courses towards your DVM degree. The average cumulative GPA for SGU students is a 3.2 and the average Science GPA is a 3.1.
In this interview, we feature Colleen, who had a GPA of 3.7, went on 4 interviews and got accepted to St. George’s. What Colleen has to say about following her dream career: “I feel lucky to be a part of a field that reduces suffering in the most vulnerable creatures. Although we heal animals directly, we also indirectly heal their owners by giving them the peace of mind that their pet is happy and healthy. And that convinces me that I am in THE best field.”.
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Name, the school where you take your veterinary courses, and year that you started.
Colleen McArdle, St. George’s University, began in Fall of 2015
Who are the animals that you currently share your life with?
I have two terrible terriers at home: Fergus, an Airedale, and Quinn, a Westie.
Where did you attend undergrad and what was your major?
I attended DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana, where I majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry and Spanish.
At what age did you first apply to veterinary school?
I was 22 years old.
How many schools/application cycles did you apply to before being accepted?
I applied to six schools during one application cycle.
Were you waitlisted at any schools?
Yes, I was waitlisted at Michigan State University, Purdue University, and Tufts University.
How many schools invited you for an interview?
Four schools invited me to interview.
How many of those gave you an acceptance letter?
One (St. George’s!)
Do you remember any specifically challenging interview questions?
At Michigan State, they utilize the multiple mini interview system, which enables them to evaluate how students think on their feet. They throw you into various scenarios where you have about eight minutes to complete a task, and you have no idea what you’re in for. Some of the tasks included playing a game to showcase your communication skills, role-playing with someone who was pretending to be your aunt who has a shopping addiction and arguing your opinion on gay marriage. It was an intense interview process!
What was your GPA (in undergraduate)?
What was your GRE score?
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I can’t recall the score, but I think it fell in the average range for people trying to get into veterinary school at the time.
Did you attend grad school prior to starting your veterinary courses at St. George’s University?
No, I did not.
How many extracurricular activities did you list on your application?
Quite a few! I was heavily involved on my college campus with leadership positions in my sorority and various clubs.
Did you have exotic, large and small animal experience prior to applying to veterinary school?
I had only small animal experience prior to beginning my veterinary courses at St. George’s Univerisity.
What types of paying jobs did you have before moving to Grenada to start your veterinary courses?
The only paid jobs that I had prior to veterinary school were non-veterinary related. I worked in my college admissions office as a tour guide and later as an intern. Then during my summers in college, I worked for a plant nursery and landscaping company.
Did you volunteer? If so, where?
Yes, during the summers I volunteered at an animal shelter and during the school year I tutored and mentored at the middle school in my college town. My sorority and Greek honors society also participated in numerous service projects throughout my time at DePauw.
How many people read your personal statement before submitting it?
I think four people read it.
When did you decide to become a veterinarian?
I decided at a very early age…when I was three years old.
Were you a member of any clubs at DePauw University? If so, which ones?
Yes, I was a member of Alpha Phi Women’s Fraternity, Student Government, Order of Omega Greek Honors Society, and Ultimate Frisbee.
Did you join student clubs in your DVM program at SGU? If so, which ones? Were they helpful?
Yes, I have been involved in the Veterinary Business Management Association, Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, Large Animal Society, Feral Cat Club, Exotics and Wildlife Society, Integrative Medicine Club, Mini Vets, and Student AVMA. These clubs have given me diverse opportunities to learn new skills in veterinary medicine.
Did you apply to vet school after, or during your Bachelor’s education?
I applied during the summer before my senior year of college.
Who gave you your letters of recommendation? Did you know them well?
Vets with whom I had worked closely, my college advisor, and my boss at my plant nursery job.
Did you find the application process stressful? Why or why not?
I felt that it was long and tedious at times. Ideally, try to find a stretch of time where your application can be your only focus. I completed my application when I was recovering from a knee surgery over the summer and literally had nothing else to do.
Are you happy that you chose this career? What makes you most happy about this career choice?
Yes! I feel lucky to be a part of a field that reduces suffering in the most vulnerable creatures. Although we heal animals directly, we also indirectly heal their owners by giving them the peace of mind that their pet is happy and healthy. And that convinces me that I am in THE best field.
Do you have any advice for students, once accepted?
Take advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom that gives you more hands-on experience! These experiences will enhance your education, motivate you to study, look good on the CV and are just fun reminders of why you’re in vet school.
Any study tips for people already taking veterinary courses?
Yes – TAKE A NIGHT OFF! I try to take one night off from studying each week, and if I don’t, then I start to go insane. You’re more likely to stay focused if you’re feeling rejuvenated from taking a break than if you’re feeling exhausted from constantly pounding information into your brain.
So far what have been some of your favorite veterinary courses, within your DVM program at SGU?
I have loved the veterinary courses that give you hands-on experience and teach you to “think like a doctor,” especially my clinical orientation courses, surgery courses, and medicine courses.
What has been the most challenging class, in your DVM program so far?
I would say either Pharmacology or Anesthesia have been my toughest courses so far. Probably because I didn’t have much experience in either prior to taking them, unlike other courses that I had some exposure to back in college.
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?
YES to both – it’s always something in the back of my mind, and while I try to live fairly frugally, I don’t let it rule me. But I believe that the debt to income ratio for veterinarians is an issue we need to address.
Is there anything in particular about the SGU DVM program or the school itself that you like?
Here at SGU, you get LOADS of hands-on experience within the veterinary courses, due to our clinical orientation classes, interactive labs, and opportunities to participate in clubs that hold wet-labs. I love our international faculty and the diverse experiences they bring to the classroom.
Since we live amongst a different culture, that presents challenges and opportunities. For instance, when SGU holds free One Health-One Medicine clinics, it gives us an opportunity to interact with our community and educate them about animals while learning more about their culture.
Additionally, I enjoy the fact that we are here for three years and then get to experience a different school for clinical rotations. I wonder if I’d grow tired of being at the same school and taking all of my veterinary courses for four years! While I’m going to miss the island, I’m excited to return to the states in less than a year.
Are there any differences in the education at SGU as opposed to a stateside university?
Since I haven’t been to a stateside school yet, I don’t feel like I can adequately answer this question. However, I participated in a Rural Area Veterinary Services trip this summer and met some incredible students from other schools. Turns out vet school is hard no matter where you go!
Do you have any advice for students thinking about attending your SGU?
If you’re considering it, you already must be somewhat of an adventurous person. I love Grenada and SGU, but it’s not for everyone. Having the opportunity to live on an island for three years is incredible, but it doesn’t come without some sacrifices. Try to participate in the See SGU program. I didn’t, but I think that coming to the island and seeing campus before moving here would have eased some of my concerns regarding the transition.
What do you like about the island of Grenada?
The island is gorgeous. You are surrounded by insane scenery, sunsets that will blow your mind, and avocados the size of your face. I truly believe that this helps my mental health. School is rigorous, and if I’m having a bad day I remind myself that I live on an ISLAND and really don’t have too much to complain about haha. When I need a break, I go outside.
It’s amazing to be able to interact with and learn from a different community than what I’m surrounded by back home. It has taught me how to live a simpler, yet more fulfilling life – filled with fewer things but more memories.
At this point do you think you will have a specialty?
At this point, I am leaning towards working in general small animal practice and someday starting a non-profit organization to bring high-quality veterinary care to low-income communities.
As a student have you had any challenging cases yet?
Once I was assisting with a euthanasia case, where the dog was in end-stage heartworm disease. I don’t think I have ever seen an animal in worse condition than this poor, sweet dog. We had to transport him to the hospital on a gurney, and there was blood coming out of practically every one of his orifices. My job was to clean him up prior to the euthanasia, while the vet discussed the procedure with the owner. I desperately wanted to make this dog comfortable and make him look dignified in his final moments. I did not know this dog at all, yet this was one of my hardest days in vet med. It tore me up that he was in such bad shape, and while it gave me comfort knowing his suffering was soon coming to an end, I had a really hard time keeping it together.
Have you read or listened to anything worth sharing?
Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr. Nick Trout is one of my favorite veterinary-related books.
I’m a big fan of Instagram, and some of my favorite veterinary accounts are Jungle_Doctor, veterinarymeme, vetgirlontherun, vetpracticevahs, and of course dr.evanantin (not only does he provide educational posts…he’s just fun to look at).
Do you have any last words of wisdom?
People who are drawn to veterinary medicine have the tendency to put others first, whether that’s people or animals. And while that’s commendable, you need to look out for yourself, especially during vet school. There’s no way that you can adequately care for others if you don’t take care of yourself first.
How can people find you?
Find me on Instagram: collthevet
Find me on email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE INTERVIEWS WITH ST. GEORGE’S STUDENTS CAN BE FOUND BELOW
- Lauren applied to 8 schools and discusses why she chose SGU over Ross.
- Rachel was unique in that she only applied to SGU!