Unfortunately I did not get into veterinary school on my first cycle…nor my second (and now possibly not my third). As depressing as that reality can be, after my first cycle I graduated from Colorado State with an BS in Animal Science; I chose to use that degree.
How would I know vet med is really what I want to do if I didn’t do a little exploring? Not to mention I was quite burnt out on classes. So I worked for a vertically integrated pork producing company. Which was tough work, with long hours (even for management; no one got a cushy job). Even though I could have gone straight into a master’s degree, I’m actually quite happy I didn’t, though maybe I would’ve been that much closer to veterinary school now, working gave me an abundance of perspective. Though while I was at work I wasn’t getting veterinary supervised experience, I was getting a ton of experience. I learned how to castrate, dock tails, when to give certain vaccinations, and relieved many dystocias (breech births). Which the fact that I held up in such a fast paced environment (it was corporate farming) I think was the final push to realize that veterinary medicine was my passion. Even after doing multiple things all day with pigs that were not always cooperative I still wanted to help, I still wanted to somehow make their lives better, easier even.
Before my year between undergrad and beginning my master’s was up I went off to Europe with my very best friend. While overseas I stayed at a family run sheep farm in the county Wicklow on the eastern coast of Ireland. I learned how to tube feed weak lambs and manage dystocias as well as basic herd management, like vaccinate, drench, feed, and monitor pregnant ewes. One night, a ewe failed to deliver her lambs and her uterus became septic. I was able to deliver her lambs and administer antibiotics leading to the ewe’s survival. A few of the lambs had to be tube fed; I quickly learned how to correctly place a stomach tube in order to deliver nutrients to these lambs.
After six weeks of lambing, I then travelled to Bruges, Belgium. While staying in Bruges, I witnessed a cesarean section of a Belgian Blue cow. The cow was not sedated and instead of lidocaine, they used a different local anesthetic. All the calves were delivered by caesarean and then immediately separated from their dams, similar to how dairy calves are managed in the United States. The calves are then fed by a machine and reared in age groups. Later, I was offered a tour of the veterinary college in Gent, Belgium, where students are accepted into the program at 18 years old to start their veterinary training. Interacting with these students and discussing curriculum enlightened me to how differently medical education is approached in other countries.
My experiences in Europe reminded me that veterinary medicine is a career in which global cooperation is vital.
Back to the main topic of this post: why did I chose to pursue an MS?
Well, after my second cycle (during my first I happened to apply to only a couple schools, neither of which did file reviews). I called the schools that did do file reviews and pretty much asked point blank: is this the career I should be pursuing? As I had an inkling what the problem was, my GPA, but I didn’t know how much of the other material was holding me back. Maybe my essays were also horrible, or my evaluators actually didn’t like me, or something to that end. However, I was pleasantly surprised, according to them my application was nearly perfect and the only thing keeping me out was my GPA (which still isn’t great news, but at least I didn’t have to go completely back to the drawing board).
As a result, I started researching potential master’s programs, as I didn’t feel it was necessary to get another Bachelors, and I didn’t know what I’d like to study anyways. Originally I wanted to have a thesis MS in animal reproductive physiology but the schools I was interested in weren’t taking any new students. Finally I decided on a Non-Thesis MS in Biomedical Sciences. I ended up choosing Texas A&M over CSU partially because I didn’t want to get my master’s at the same school I did my undergrad, but also because of anecdotal evidence of students completing a TAMU MS and getting into veterinary school there vs the students I knew who did their MS at CSU and were rejected from CSU. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but that it didn’t happen for the few people I knew (though they did get into other veterinary schools so don’t count it out if you’re considering it). TAMU also has more required credits to receive your MS (which means it’s unlikely you can finish in just 2 semesters like CSU) and we also had to take research Stat which was the bane of my existence; but I survived! I also feel that the rigor of the classes I am taking at TAMU is great, I feel like it is preparing me for veterinary school.
I do miss the beautiful Fort Collins though, but I’m quite content. The other great thing about my MS taking 1 1/2-2 years is that if I don’t get in this cycle at least I will be in class and doing something for the next cycle (I really don’t want to be out of school before vet school but that’s my personal preference).