Nothing catches you off-guard. You prepare for every situation by doing plenty of research and asking the proper questions. This strategy has always helped you make smart decisions in the past.
Your natural tendency to gather information is proving useful now as you complete your veterinary school requirements and begin applications. You’ve done enough research to know that you want to apply to some Caribbean vet schools, but you also feel a little concerned when you come across the occasional negative comment online. Is it possible such statements are true, or are they based on misinformation?
To make your life a little easier, we looked into some of the most commonly voiced concerns regarding Caribbean vet schools. You might be surprised to learn just how untrue some statements are. Keep reading to learn more about what you should really expect from a Caribbean doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program.
5 Myths about Caribbean vet schools you shouldn’t believe
What’s the truth about Caribbean vet schools, anyway? We’re helping you separate fact from fiction by busting five of the most common misconceptions about Caribbean vet schools.
1. Caribbean vet schools are way too expensive
The rumor that Caribbean vet schools are outlandishly expensive has been around for years. You might be tempted to accept it as fact, but not so fast. Dr. Neil Olson, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), suggests taking a closer look at tuition. One thing many pre-vet students fail to recognize is that they may end up attending a school outside their home state.
“If you’re an in-state student, the tuition is substantially subsidized by the taxpayer,” Dr. Olson explains. “But when a student in the US goes out of that state, they pay full out-of-state tuition. That out-of-state tuition can actually be higher than coming to SGU.”
You can easily confirm this by evaluating nonresident tuition data from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and comparing it to the first year of tuition and fees at a Caribbean program.
If you’re still feeling intimidated by the cost of veterinary school, you should remember that veterinarians are capable of securing employment with a full salary immediately upon graduating and obtaining their license.
"A starting salary of $75,000 or $80,000 is certainly not uncommon."
“A starting salary of $75,000 or $80,000 is certainly not uncommon,” Dr. Olson notes. You can absolutely pursue additional training and specialization if you choose, but it’s optional.
2. You’ll be receiving a second-rate education
Some pre-vet students are wary of attending a Caribbean vet school for fear that they’ll be receiving a subpar education. This worry doesn’t actually make much sense if you’re looking into programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education (COE).
“That is the gold standard worldwide,” Dr. Olson explains. “We are held to the same standards as any vet school in the United States.”
You can gain a better understanding of just how much accreditation matters by taking a look at the requirements. The COE critically evaluates a vet school’s facilities, faculty, and student performance.
One particularly important thing to note is that a school cannot maintain accreditation unless at least 80 percent of its students pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) at the time of graduation. Furthermore, a stronger NAVLE pass rate indicates a top-notch program. Comparing a Caribbean vet schools’ NAVLE performance data to the average performance of all vet students who completed the exam will easily show you whether those students received a good education.
Don’t forget about researching who will be teaching you as well. You want to see a lot of qualified DVMs, but it’s also worth looking into the amount of time they spend working with students. Dr. Olson points out that the pressure to create a robust research institution in the US can be a distraction.
“Sometimes, those researchers have very little to do with the teaching of veterinary students,” he says. “And I’m speaking from decades of experience—this is not just hearsay.” He also adds some of these instructors actually prefer research to teaching.
3. Caribbean vet schools will accept anyone
While it’s true Caribbean vet schools typically accept more students, that doesn’t equate to lower standards. Most DVM programs, including those in the US and Canada, are moving toward a more holistic approach to reviewing applicants. They certainly consider your GPA and GRE score, but they also look closely at non-academic factors like animal experience and leadership skills.
In the end, Caribbean vet schools are pretty selective. “I would say we probably accept about one out of every four applicants,” Dr. Olson says.
4. The environment is sink or swim
This myth is sort of a continuation of the last. Online forums are filled with pre-vet students worrying that a Caribbean program might accept a ton of students, and then just let them flounder. It’s just not true to say this is unique to schools in the Caribbean.
"First of all, there’s a bit of a sink-or-swim mentality at most US schools"
“First of all, there’s a bit of a sink-or-swim mentality at most US schools,” Dr. Olson notes.
Looking into individual programs is probably the best way to assess whether students receive all the assistance they need. No program with a dedicated department for helping students with everything from developing test-taking skills to becoming more technologically literate is going to abandon you.
But what about attrition rate? You may point to the fact that Caribbean schools tend to have a higher percentage of students who don’t complete the programs. But citing that as proof students are on their own isn’t a fair assessment. Individuals may choose to leave a program for numerous reasons.
“Some students get very homesick, and they may choose to transfer,” Dr. Olson explains. “It has nothing to do with the quality of the student. It has nothing to do with the quality of the school.”
5. You have to jump through a million hoops to practice back home
Accreditation makes a huge difference for students who attend international programs with the intention of returning home. Those who receive their education at a non-accredited program will face additional hurdles. They’ll either need to complete the Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE) or obtain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG). Both pathways require additional tests and fees.
Students who obtain their degree from an accredited international program, on the other hand, follow the same procedures as any US veterinary student. In that sense, the only real obstacle is moving to a new location to complete a DVM program. Also consider that the clinical training portion at some veterinary programs, like the one at St. George’s University, is completed at top veterinary programs in the US and a number of other countries. After studying abroad for three years, students then complete their final year of veterinary school at AVMA-accredited veterinary schools.
"It does mean that students come here for three years and then have to relocate to someplace in the US"
“It does mean that students come here for three years and then have to relocate to someplace in the US,” Dr. Olson acknowledges. But you would also have to move simply by attending a veterinary school that isn’t in your immediate vicinity. For many vet students, relocating is simply part of the process.
Start your adventure
It’s easy to see that negative comments about Caribbean vet schools are mostly based on assumptions. The truth is you’re just as likely to obtain a solid education at a great program outside of the US. For some students, attending a school in the Caribbean might actually be the better fit.
Now that you’ve learned more about Caribbean vet schools in a general sense, you might be interested in gathering some specific information about the School of Veterinary Medicine at St. George’s University. Find out how the program can help you work toward your dream career by reading our article, “10 Things You May Not Know About the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine.”
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