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 do/did you enjoy most about Veterinary school?
I have truly enjoyed the science behind animal physiology and how to properly diagnose and treat sick animals. Outside of medicine and animals I have most enjoyed growing and learning alongside classmates who now feel like family. It is so different from undergrad where you are surrounded by people with different interests. Now, we are all working towards the same goal, we have the same passion, and we will forever be colleagues. I find it to be similar to the camaraderie I felt for my fellow cadets in ROTC at Virginia Tech.
What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the Veterinary school prerequisite classes?
Issues in Animal Science. I found it very eye-opening to learn about and discuss the ethical issues in the Animal and Veterinary Industry and think it served me well to learn how to respectfully convey facts without bias, as well as productively discuss arguments and opinions on both sides of highly controversial issues.
How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?
Five. I based my applications off of location, cost of tuition, and the academic requirements that I had been able to fulfill in my undergraduate program.
What made the Veterinary school you chose the right fit for you?
Staying in Blacksburg, where I went to undergrad, helped make for a smooth transition into the rigors of veterinary school but I would not hesitate to go somewhere new if you have the option! I was also excited to be a part of the new curriculum that started with my class at VA-MD that takes an integrative approach to teaching areas of veterinary medicine rather than subject based.
Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to Veterinary school?
My family, friends, and mentors were all supportive and encouraging in my decision to apply to veterinary school. However, at the end of the day, I made this decision on my own, and I would recommend to anyone to only apply if on their own, if they are sure this is what they want.
Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered Veterinary school?
Yes. I do much more preparation for class than I do post-class studying. The sheer volume of information coming at you is so much, that although possible, it is painful to do too much review type work afterward. I find it most helpful to look over material prior to lecture and be hyperfocused during lecture, either by putting my computer away, or typing very little during actual lectures. Most of my learning occurs during a lecture itself. This is the most effective way for me to digest the material along with talking through material with friends as I am very much a verbal learner. I tried numerous other methods before finding this works best for myself and would suggest to anyone going into veterinary school to keep an open mind and be willing to change their study methods until they find exactly what works for them, and understand it will likely be different from their neighbor.
What memory stands out the most from your first few weeks of Veterinary school?
Meeting all of my classmates and hearing everyone’s stories about how and why they were here. My class is extremely diverse in age, life experiences, and desires for the future. In the beginning, it was hard to keep them all straight, but today, I could tell you every single person’s name in my class, what their personality is like, and I love that about my class.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in veterinary medicine?
Be sure. Seek out any and all diverse opportunities to learn more about and experience veterinary medicine. This is a huge financial and lifestyle commitment, make sure this is something you are passionate about, because there will be hard days, and if it’s not something you’re truly passionate about, it won’t be worth it to you.
What is your top tip for applicants preparing to take the GRE exam?
Practice, Practice, Practice. There are numerous prep books with practice questions and practice tests, take the time to work through at least one prior to your test date. Also, I wouldn’t recommend retaking the exam, I scored pretty much the same twice and it is not a cheap test.
What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for veterinary school?
During my first year, I accepted all loans that were offered to me. I now am on the Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program and do not accept any loans.
Did you have any fears going into veterinary school?
Fear of failure, but honestly, so long as you do your best and work hard, failure is not an option.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
Doing things outside of school like getting outside and hiking with my dog and friends all help manage my stress. I stay motivated by the prospects of my future as an Army veterinarian and I keep that at the forefront of my mind.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential veterinary student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?
Expose yourself to the diverse fields within veterinary medicine and do your research. Figure out what interests you and investigate the lifestyle that goes along with the career path you’re interested in. Be sure the two fit and be prepared to hone in on that area once in veterinary school. We live in a generation where letting the wind blow you in whatever direction it takes is common practice, but if you truly want to be successful and prepared, figure out what you’re passionate about today, and develop that passion tomorrow. Otherwise, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the many options you have in the field.