Staying focused on long-term goals has always been one of your strengths. As a firm believer that major achievements take time, you’ve worked toward your dream of becoming a veterinarian bit by bit. You started pursuing animal experience years ago and have even completed all your vet school prerequisites.
Now you’re working your way through the application process, and you realize you could be starting school before you know it. As excited as you are, you have more questions than ever. You most frequently ask yourself, “What is vet school like?”
A typical veterinary student’s day will vary depending on their study habits and the program they attend, but you can learn a lot about what to expect by hearing from someone who’s been through it. We reached out to Dr. Sarah Schott, Associate Veterinarian at Green Meadow Veterinary Hospital and St. George’s University (SGU) graduate, to get the inside scoop on what veterinary school is truly like.
Join us as we take an in-depth look at a day in the life of a veterinary student.
What is vet school like? One DVM shares her experience
Your schedule will evolve as you progress further into your education, but this is a pretty good outline of a typical day for a first-year veterinary student.
Start your day
Veterinary school is an all-day affair, so it’s wise to give yourself plenty of time in the morning to get ready. Dr. Schott woke up between 6:30 am and 7:00 am most days. “Veterinary school is pretty tolling, so you have to have a schedule,” she suggests.
"Veterinary school is pretty tolling, so you have to have a schedule."
Even if you don’t need much time to shower or put yourself together, take time to fill your belly. “Eat a good breakfast,” Dr. Schott recommends. “You’re going to be sitting in class all day, and you need something substantial so you can pay attention.”
Head to school in the morning
School typically starts pretty early and lasts until the evening. It’s actually a bit longer than the standard workday many people follow. “A typical day was 8:00 am to 5:00 pm,” Dr. Schott says.
You’ll either go directly to class for morning lectures or to one of your labs — it depends on the term. “Let’s say you go to class first,” Dr. Schott supposes. “We would have four lectures, but we’d get a 10- or 15-minute break between each.”
"Anatomy and physiology are probably your two biggest classes."
Though every school’s curriculum is slightly different, there are a few courses every vet student should expect to encounter during their first year. “Anatomy and physiology are probably your two biggest classes,” Dr. Schott says, adding that anatomy is particularly important since it involves a lot of lab work.
Take a lunch break
When you wrap up your morning session, it’s time to take a break to refuel. You might also have some time to study before heading to your afternoon class or labs. Fitting in some study time is a particularly good idea if you have a few hours before your afternoon session begins. It’s pretty common to have regular quizzes to assess your understanding of the material, and that’s in addition to the regularly scheduled midterms and finals.
Quizzes might be once every few weeks, but they can be more common for certain classes. “I remember that during one term of parasitology, we had one every week,” Dr. Schott recalls.
If you’re involved in any on-campus clubs or organizations, keep your eyes peeled for optional midday meetings. “Sometimes they have lunch lectures,” Dr. Schott says. “A club will have a special lecturer who will Skype in and talk about something.”
Refocus for the afternoon
We’ll stick with the assumption that you had lectures in the morning. This means your afternoon will be spent in labs, where you’ll get to do hands-on work.
"You’ll likely take small-animal anatomy your first semester."
“You’ll likely take small-animal anatomy your first semester,” Dr. Schott explains. “That covers a lot of dissection, so you’re learning about muscles, organs, and how everything works.” You’ll progress to more difficult dissections later in the year.
One of the best things about labs is that you often work in small groups — at least, that’s the case at SGU. “It’s a good way to get to know your classmates,” Dr. Schott says.
Head to extracurriculars or hit the books
You’ll be finished with classes or labs right around 5:00 pm, but that doesn’t mean the day is over. Evening is when study groups and different clubs meet, and a lot of students find these opportunities invaluable.
“I got really involved,” Dr. Schott says. “I was in the Student Government Association, and I was in the Large Animal Society.”
Aside from enjoying the opportunity to pursue your interests, on-campus organizations often provide ways to advance your education. “I feel like the more clubs you join, the more experience you get,” Dr. Schott says. “The clubs are always doing labs and things like that.”
"I feel like the more clubs you join, the more experience you get."
If you’re not headed to a club or organization meeting, it’s pretty likely you’ll be spending some time reviewing class material. Studying with groups is a great way to break up the monotony of solo studying. You might even learn some new study strategies.
Dr. Schott particularly enjoyed study groups led by upperclassmen. “I did a lot of those my first year,” she says. “That helped me develop ways to study and figure out how I needed to learn.”
A few important reminders
Even the most diligent student needs to take a break, so make sure you allow yourself to have fun. Dr. Schott recommends taking a night off every now and then. She participated in intramural volleyball, went to the beach on the weekends, went out to dinner with friends, and more.
“You have to reserve time that’s not spent thinking about school,” Dr. Schott advises. “I think that’s important, because if you’re constantly doing the same thing, you’re not going to get anywhere.”
Interacting with your fellow classmates is especially important for vet students. You’ll likely make fast friends since you all have similar interests and are going through the same thing. And you may be surprised how your professional lives intertwine later on. “They’re going to be your colleagues in the future,” Dr. Schott reminds.
"They’re going to be your colleagues in the future."
Lastly, know that becoming a veterinarian is going to take hard work. Becoming a good vet isn’t just about memorizing terminology or making the most precise incision. You need to take the time to really understand the material.
“You have to make a lot of sacrifices with what you want to do during vet school, because it’s very time consuming,” Dr. Schott says. “But it’s worth it if this is what you want to do.”
Find your path forward
So, what is vet school like? It’s clearly a busy time for all future veterinarians. Not only will you be expected to absorb a lot of material, but you’ll also need to develop practical skills that prepare you to practice veterinary medicine after graduating.
But you need to gain acceptance to a good program first. As you continue working on applications, you’ll need to stay organized and focus on making each component as strong as possible. Make sure you know how to put your best foot forward by checking out our article, “The Vet School Requirements Aspiring Animal Doctors Need to Know About.”
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