When I was 6 years old, I woke up one day and decided that when I got older, I wanted to be a veterinarian.
I had no idea what I needed to do to get the letters DVM behind my name, but I liked puppies, and at the time, that seemed to be enough.
As the years went on, I started researching vet schools, began building my resume and I created a plan on how to get into the veterinary program. After many years of hard work, I got an acceptance letter from the Ontario Veterinary College, and my journey to a DVM began.
Despite the countless hours I had spent preparing and planning out every little detail of my vet school application, I realized that my plan didn’t prepare me for what came after my acceptance. So, when I walked through the doors of school on my very first day, it became pretty clear that I had no idea what to expect next.
Now don’t get me wrong, I knew there would be plenty of class time, I figured there would be lots of animals, and I was almost positive this program would challenge me more than anything I had previously done. But if I’m honest, I had no idea what being a vet student was really like until I was a vet student.
I remember sitting in class during the first week of the program, wishing there was a vet school survival guide I could have read to help me prepare for the next four years. Unfortunately, there was no blueprint to help me navigate life as a veterinary student, and I had to figure it out one day at a time.
Although I still don’t have it all figured out, I’ve realized the most important lessons I’ve learned in vet school haven’t been taught in a classroom. Sometimes it feels like my vet school survival guide is never-ending, but there are three things I think every student should know before getting into the program.
Vet School Survival Guide
One, Imposter Syndrome Is A Real Thing.
I had never heard about imposter syndrome until vet school orientation week, and at the time, I was pretty sure it was something I didn’t have to worry about. Well, let me tell you, I was very wrong. Not only did I experience imposter syndrome, but I also experienced it more times than I would care to admit.
Every time I looked around the classroom, I found a reason to doubt myself and my acceptance. I felt like my classmates were smarter than me, had more experience than I did, and ultimately like I didn’t deserve my spot in the program. And you know what, there are people in my program that are smarter than me and more experienced, but at the end of the day, we’re all going to be doctors. Their strengths don’t diminish my accomplishments or the hard work I put in to get to this point.
The craziest thing about imposter syndrome is that everyone, and I really do mean everyone, experiences it at one point or another. So, my advice to incoming students is it’s okay if you feel like an imposter in the program- I promise you’re not the only one having doubts. The most important thing to remember is that these feelings are far from the truth. Don’t doubt your abilities and your accomplishments- you deserve to be in the program, and you will make a fantastic vet!
Second, Finding A Work-Life Balance Is So Important.
One of my mentors told me that ‘you won’t be able to provide the best care for your patients if you don’t take time to care for yourself first.’ I did not realize how true that statement was until I experienced burnout in my first year of the program.
In vet school, you could study for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and still feel like you have content to study. Because of this, you need to check in with yourself, set your boundaries and figure out a study schedule that works best for you.
It took me a while to stop feeling guilty for taking breaks from studying, but we are all humans, and it is okay to take time to recharge and enjoy life outside of the program. I’ve come to realize, that even if I spend an afternoon watching Netflix, I will still be a vet at the end of the day and I think that’s something everyone should try and remember. Your mental health should be your number one priority.
Finally, We Are All In This Together.
I used to think I was the only one feeling anxious about an upcoming test or feeling overwhelmed by the information being thrown at me.
It is so easy to feel like you are taking on this rollercoaster of a program on your own. But that is far from the truth. You have an entire community of people who have been in your shoes and an entire class on this ride with you. You may look at your peers and think they have everything figured out, but in reality, they are probably looking at you and thinking the same thing.
Reach out to your classmates and find a support system that understands how crazy vet school can be. Somehow, stressing with friends is always better than stressing alone. This program seems a lot less daunting when you realize you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.
So, there you have it, a couple of pages out of my vet school survival guide. This guide is far from complete, and there are many days where I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. But then I remember that we are all going to get through it – even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
I may not be the first one to go through the DVM program, and I know I definitely won’t be the last. So, in 2020 I decided to start a YouTube channel where I could candidly document my journey through the veterinary program. I wanted to share every part of this experience, including the milestones and accomplishments, the stress, and sometimes even the tears.
I wanted my channel to be a place where future students could see what vet school was like and a place where current students could find something they related to. It’s a work in progress, but every video is just another addition to my vet school blueprint.
My time in vet school has been stressful, exciting, exhausting, and rewarding. But most importantly, this experience has helped me fall in love with the veterinary profession even more … especially in moments when I have no idea what to expect next.
I didn’t have a vet school survival guide – so I decided to make my own.
If you enjoyed this vet school survival guide, check out fellow Youtuber Jess Cliffe on why life as a vet student is all worth it. If You would like to feature on our blog (check out how we rank here) email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.