If someone had asked me three years ago which I thought was harder: getting into veterinary school or getting through veterinary school, I would have gone with the first choice in a heartbeat.
I’m sure any now-veterinary student remembers how anxiety ridden and discouraging the pre-veterinary road was. Any time you spoke about your aspirations to a friend or family member, they would recall the time in their life when they wanted to be a veterinarian, but then realized the road ahead seemed too hard. Any time you spoke to a career advisor, they spewed the daunting statistics of the low acceptance rate veterinary schools have (roughly 10 to 15 percent according to VetPrep), as if we didn’t already know it. Pre-veterinary club meetings always seemed to cause tension because whether you liked it or not, those students would become your competition at the time you applied to vet school.
It takes a lot of determination and hard work to block out the distractions, focus on yourself, and successfully get the acceptance it seemed as though you waited your whole life for. But unfortunately, in my case, that was not the most difficult part of this journey.
The transition from an undergraduate student to a professional student is a difficult adjustment for anyone to make, simply because of the amount of change. To demonstrate this, a lot of students say the information you are provided with in veterinary school feels like you are drinking out of a fire hose, forcing you to change the way you used to study to accommodate for the massive volume of material. Your mindset switches from studying to pass the next test to learning the material for your future career. Because of that, it is very easy to get sucked into the vet school world where you don’t have much of a life outside of it.
It was during my second year of vet school where I could literally feel myself drowning. As a result, my defense mechanism was to completely hyper-focus on school, no breaks, no going out with friends, no fun, all because I felt if I wasn’t doing so great in the classroom, I didn’t deserve the time off, right? WRONG approach! The more I hyper-focused on classes and isolated myself, the more I struggled. My stress levels began to increase because I was not where I wanted to be academically and I began to feel incompetent and question my ability to succeed.
During second semester, I ended up in the ER with a painful condition I had been suffering with for months because I failed to realize once you let yourself go mentally, your physical health could possibly take a toll as well. Due to the whirlwind of events, I ended up failing a class, which led me to repeating my entire second year of veterinary school to make it up.
Reflecting on the emotion rollercoaster of this past year, I always preach to students that my number one advice when going through veterinary school or any demanding program is to remember to take care of themselves. Sure, I wish it did not take “failure” for me to finally realize this, but I took it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a student and future doctor. It was obvious that something I was doing wasn’t working and repeating a year gave me extra time to figure out a better way to learn the material, take an exam, and take care of myself at the same time. What happened does not define my journey because you WILL see me on the other end as I walk across the stage at graduation celebrating the fact that I did not give up, in hopes to inspire others who come across my story.
If you find yourself struggling, identify what is impacting your life in a negative way and remove it. Cling to your support system, whether it is friends and family back home, your study group, or even a therapist, and go seek help before you find yourself in a hole you can’t crawl out of.
Above all, put yourself first in the healthiest of ways. I hope to show others that the path to success is not linear no matter how it is portrayed on social media or to the public, so never allow the roadblocks and difficulties to discourage you. Lastly, failing does not make you a failure. It is those moments that will ultimately make you a stronger person. Learn how to flex your fail, because you are only human after all.