Advice > Question

Should I forget about applying because of my age, or should I go for it?


I am a 38–year-old that is interested in applying to veterinary school. I am a licensed veterinary technician with over 20 years of experience and I am only a few classes short for the prerequisites. Should I forget about applying because of my age, or should I go for it?

About seventy-five percent of my veterinary school class fit the typical profile of a vet student—fresh out of college with lifelong dreams of being a veterinarian. The rest of us were a mélange of ages and backgrounds. We had a stockbroker, a couple of PhDs in genetics and neuroscience, and me. I was in my thirties and had worked at teaching writing, studying primates, on a fishing boat in Alaska, and in a lot of clerical jobs. I had honestly never thought about veterinary medicine until about six months before I applied to vet school.

Being an older student or having an unconventional background certainly has some advantages. Such students have practical life experiences, often a more established sense of self, and motivations beyond their childhood dreams. Being older and married when I started vet school, and becoming a father during my fourth year, all insulated me from a lot of the interpersonal drama in my class and helped me remember that my life was more than my classes or my professional aspirations. This can be sustaining during the inevitable struggles and setbacks of vet school, and younger students who have built much of their life and identity around becoming veterinarians may lack such balance and perspective.

In your case, your practical experience as a technician will help you enormously in clinics. You may have to unlearn some ideas or habits, but overall your technical skills and practical experience in the field are a huge asset, and many of the best vets I have worked with were technicians before they went to vet school. (Hint: Make friends with the nurses at your school, because they can be some of your best teachers and can make clinics a much better experience!)

Of course, there are challenges to being an older student. I found sitting in classrooms and studying for hours on end physically and mentally harder than it had been in my twenties. You mights be a little outside and apart from your classmates socially, which changes the experience of vet school. And yes, you will have less time to pay off any student loans (I’m in my fifties now and nowhere close!).

After almost twenty years as a vet, I certainly have no regrets about going back to vet school when I did. And I think I’ve managed to build a satisfying and productive career even if I started a decade later than my classmates. Only you can decide if vet school is right for you, and there are many pros and cons to consider, but I don’t believe your age alone should be a reason not to do it.



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