Below is an interview with Carli Williams, a 2016 Graduate of Virginia Tech, who is currently attending the VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, VA. She plans to graduate in 2020. This is the first part of her interview.
What led to your interest in Veterinary medicine?
Like most who pursue the profession of veterinary medicine, I had an unwavering affection for animals from a young age. I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported this affection and allowed me to participate in Equine activities from the spry age of 8. After my first pony summer camp, I was hooked.
Who or what inspired you to pursue Veterinary medicine?
My Dad served as a Corpsman (a medic) in the United States Navy, and so my original interest in medicine came from knowing how he was able to take care of Marines. I loved animals, loved being a military kid, and loved science. Put them all together, and I knew from early on that I wanted to serve my country as an Army Veterinarian.
What experiences did you have that confirmed Veterinary Medicine was the right career for you?
During high school in North Carolina, I completed a senior project in which I shadowed an Equine Veterinarian. During my time spent with her, I saw how trying but truly rewarding her area of work was. This experience confirmed in my young adult years that I was headed in the right direction by pursuing my childhood dreams.
What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
I majored in Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech with an emphasis in Beef and Sheep Production under the Pre-Vet Category. I purposefully studied species I had never had experience with because I knew that my future as an Army Veterinarian could include responsibilities to realistically treat any species, plus I was interested in understanding more about the agriculture industry.
What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for Veterinary school?
I was a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and Scholarship Army ROTC cadet. Being in both organizations taught me the importance of many skills that prepared me for the rigors of veterinary school. I learned the importance of teamwork, followership, leadership, and respect for those above me as well as my peers. I have found all experiences helped shape who I am today as a person and helped me feel prepared enough to take on the responsibility of being Class President for my Class as well as confident in my ability to lead soldiers as an Army Officer in the Army Veterinary Corps upon graduation from my program. I also learned how to appropriately manage time under stress in all things Veterinary related both academic and applied. Now in my third year and starting to perform surgeries, the saying that sticks with me the most is “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”.
How did you prepare for the Veterinary school application process?
I maintained a journal, logging all veterinary and animal experiences (date, hours, contact information, and summary of experience) so that I could reference this information while filling out the VMCAS application in the future. I found it extremely helpful.
Were you successful on your first attempt at application and would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
I received rejection letters before receiving any interview invitations. I was immediately crushed but took comfort in knowing I would serve my country as an Army Officer, regardless of whether or not it was as a veterinarian or a Medical Officer. I would suggest anyone applying for the first time have a Plan A, B, and C, so when and if they receive rejection, they are fully prepared to do something else, whether that be working and reapplying or starting their careers doing something else. Luckily, a few weeks after rejections came, I received interview invitations to both Purdue and VA-MD and was accepted to both on my first try.
What are some words of wisdom about the application process? What would you have liked to know ahead of time? What do you wish someone would have told you before you began applying?
The application process is not cheap. You should appropriately research the cost of the VMCAS application, ordering GRE scores, ordering transcripts, and submitting supplemental applications for those schools that require them. Also know for those schools that require an interview that you will have travel costs that can easily add up. Know this is a huge financial undertaking that might not even result in acceptance to a school of veterinary medicine. Understand this and prepare adequately.
How do you balance the demands of Veterinary school with additional obligations and challenges?
I treat school like it is my job. I expect to be in classes or labs 8-5, Monday through Friday. On the days this does not hold true, I make best use of those hours to study and or prepare for upcoming classes. Outside of class, I use my time to take care of my physical well-being by working out and getting outside, spending time with friends, and staying connected with family. Weekends before exams are pretty much strictly reserved for studying while non-exam weekends I often go hiking, or make a trip home to visit family or do something else to enrich my life. I believe by practicing these wellness habits now, I am best preparing myself for leading a healthy lifestyle once immersed in the profession of veterinary medicine.
Do you feel that you were prepared for the veterinary school interview? What preparation advice would you give? What type of Interview did you have, MMI, traditional, etc?
I participated in a mock Multi-mini Iinterview (MMI) through the Virginia Tech Pre-Vet Club. By doing so, I felt completely prepared for the VA-MD MMI interview. The Purdue interview was different, being it was two faculty members and myself basically having an open discussion about myself. In both situations, I felt fairly comfortable sinceI am a social person and am comfortable conversing with anyone. For those who are naturally shy, I would encourage you make even small efforts to step outside your comfort zone, talk with a stranger, and practice your elevator pitch to friends, family, and co-workers. Practice appropriate, confident body language. Research and watch TED talks on this topic if you know it is something you are not comfortable with.
What obstacles did you overcome in your Veterinary school journey?
During my first year of veterinary school, I was in the process of applying and competing for the Army’s HPSP scholarship. This was not an easy task to take on while adjusting to the rigors of the veterinary program and I was relying heavily on receiving the scholarship in order to avoid having to take out three more years of loans. It was stressful juggling the two, but it was a valuable experience because it taught me you can not waste time worrying and stressing about things that are outside of your control. You can only put in your best effort, hope for the best, and see what happens.
What surprised you the most about Veterinary school?
I was not prepared for how exhausting an entire day of non-stop learning could be. Especially during the first year, when everything was so new, I remember getting home after a day of classes and feeling completely exhausted. I since have acclimated and found ways to keep my energy up during this highly mentally stimulating time in my life by getting plenty of sleep (at least 8 hours), and getting outside as much as possible, in the mornings, on lunch breaks, and in the afternoons. Getting a dog during my second year has been the best decision thus far to increase my physical and mental well-being.