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Gap year?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by thelarson, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. thelarson

    thelarson MSU Pre-Vet Class of 2010
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    I posted a while ago about how I am considering the Peace Corps between undergrad and vet school, which would require taking a total of 3 years off. Recently, I've been wondering if I'd rather volunteer for an African-based NGO (rather than the U.S. government) for about 6 months, travel for 3 to 6 months, then work a job in the U.S. while applying to vet school, taking a total of 2 years off after undergrad.

    My mom, who is a physician, seems to think that admissions officers will see this gap year situation as being not dedicated or unsure about my path in veterinary medicine, which is not true in the least - I feel like a gap year will allow me to do things I really want to do but won't be able to once I am in vet school or have a job (like living abroad or traveling for months at a time), and that it will help me to avoid any burnout, which I feel could be a distinct possibility after 8 years of post-high school education.

    What do you think? Would admissions officers see it as a pro or con that I took the time to either do Peace Corps or volunteer and travel? If you do think they'd see it as a negative, especially if I don't do a formal program like Peace Corps, do you think an explanation of my gap year decision in my personal statement/interview would be sufficient?

    I'm currently a junior in undergrad, so I'd be going overseas starting summer of 2010. Thanks!
     
  2. Pomona2006

    Pomona2006 UC Davis SVM c/o 2013
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    I absolutely disagree with your mother (sorry!) :D

    I think your logic and reasoning is perfectly sound! I took a year off to work and then started grad school in a field that I had grown to hate...and I know if I had started grad school immediately after I graduated from undergrad I wouldn't have realized my poor choice until much, much later. I see that year as a time to try out a field (but in vet met, most of us have been "trying out the field" for a long time) or do something different. I think that as long as you can explain it (like in the explanation statement on VMCAS) you will not be seen as lacking focus or commitment. On the contrary, if you spend a year out of the field, and come back, I think that shows a very strong commitment to the field! It's all how you explain it! Just don't spend the year sitting on your couch and watching TV - schools won't be as understanding about that :)

    I've spent a great deal of my life traveling abroad and I have to say that those have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Living in foreign cultures can give you a great perspective and you can tell vet schools how adaptable you are. And remember, so many applicants are going straight through - do something to make yourself be seen as different - your experiences might make for a killer personal statement opening paragraph! I see no negatives - only positives! Go for it :woot:...like you said, when will you have this opportunity again?
     
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  3. Emio

    Emio Fudge Bane
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    i also disagree with your mother.

    provided it is a well thought out, deliberate chunk of time spent learning and not a wishy-washy 'oh what EVER will i do with my life??' right before vet school, i think that's a great idea, to be honest.

    i'd make a pretty big deal about it in your application so that they know it wasn't some whim that distracted you from being a vet, making them doubt your dedication. you know exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it, and i think that's fantastic.

    and of course, it doesn't hurt to give a call to your top choice schools to see what they think. who knows, they might even remember you several years down the road as 'that kid that went to Africa'!
     
  4. pixel

    pixel Pre-vet
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    i agree with everyone else in saying that taking a year off is a great idea if you are doing some volunteering and travelling. i worked in the tourism industry for a few years before coming back to science and all the doctors and lawyers and engineers and professors i would take diving or on safari all say what a great idea it was for me to take a break from education/career and live a wild life abroad and how much they wish they had done it. you have a whole life ahead of you to have a career as a vet and once you are encumbered by loans and starting a career you will have less freedom to do these things for long amounts of time. while i was doing it, i was constantly enriching my life - learning languages, natural history and culture of other countries, becoming a diving instructor- and not only were these things fulfulling for me but they can be made into great resume builders. Since you are only planning on doing this for a year, i doubt it would be translated into flakiness or lack of commitment skills, which after years of bouncing around is something i often have to justify to employers.

    one caveat - are you going to be able to fund your gap year, or is your mother disagreeing partially because she will be footing the bill?
     
  5. pupsforseeing

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    disclaimer: it's been a rough day, so i apologize if this is emotionally charged :)

    but i am ALL for the gap year idea. i am 6 months into one as we speak. i am teaching deaf kids in mexico. the challenges i am facing here are unlike anything i experienced in undergrad or through working in a vet clinic. but, i am learning lessons that i am 100% confident will make me a much better doctor.

    my classroom is for the newly arrived older kids--kids, for the most part, without a language. i am having to learn how to teach them to communicate (through mexican sign language), and once they learn how to communicate, work through the issues they've faced that they've never been able to express (one boy watched his brother be murdered in an incident related to the drug violence in tijuana, one was abandoned as a toddler, etc, etc). it's a rough road and it's not always pretty. but, i am learning SO much every day about communication (with the kids, but also with the other staff and the kids' families), taking initiative, creativity (did i mention that i was a molecular biology major who had never done the kid thing?), dedication, resourcefulness, and working independently.

    on the other hand, i cannot wait to start vet school next year. i will SO miss these kids, this place, and this country, but i know without a shadow of a doubt that veterinary medicine is for me and cannot wait to get started on that road.
     
  6. VAgirl

    VAgirl UC Davis SVM c/o 2012
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    I disagree so much with your mom's concerns, I'd go the opposite way. I'd say it could be a huge plus. You could gain maturity, perspective, unique experiences, all of which could help you stand out from the masses of vet school applicants.

    On a side note, my parents felt this same way about my gap years (5). I think all parents do because they're afraid we won't get "back on track." Life's a journey. Live it!

    Good luck with your decision!
     
  7. starlene45

    starlene45 UC Davis SVM c/o 2013
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    All my friends who went to school in the UK took a gap year before getting jobs or going to University... It seems to be a more common and accepted practice over there than it does here. I think had I had the option to do a gap year before starting my undergrad, I would have been on the road to vet med a lot earlier in life. As it was, I felt rushed into undergrad after a REALLY demanding Jr and Sr high school years, and while I did really well academically in college, I did pick a major that I could get through FAST, and I think I might have made a different decision if I'd had some time to breathe in between the two.

    Obviously this is a slightly different situation, gap between college and vet school, but I still think you should go for it. Learn, grow, experience, and enjoy it!
     
  8. canis13

    canis13 Tufts V'15
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    hey, just wanted to say that i'm another current junior who is planning to take 2 years off before vet school (assuming i get in on my first shot). for me, the reason is because i will still need to finish 2 pre-req classes after graduating, and because i won't have enough animal experience done by the time i graduate to be a viable candidate.

    however, even if i could've applied to vet school next year, i don't think i would want to. there are many cool things that i am planning to do, in addition to getting more animal experience and taking organic chemistry. the list may or may not include: biking across the United States, hiking part or all of the Pacific Crest Trail and/or Appalachian Trail, volunteering in an African/South American/Asian country for an NGO like you mentioned, doing more travelling in general, and being able to save up a bigger chunk of change than people who go straight into grad school. if you think about it, we'll have 2 full academic years and 3 full summers before we start vet school (assuming we get in), and that is a lot of time to do some amazing things in your life. you will not have the same opportunities after you graduate vet school, because then you will have a lot of student debt to pay off (presumably), and will want to get into the workforce right away.

    i talked to a veterinarian who graduated from Penn about 5 years ago, and she said that, in her opinion, taking time off probably gives you more of an advantage than people applying straight out of undergrad, because it makes you stand out, and shows more maturity.

    i do have to say that it is hard to think that i will be potentially starting vet school in 4 years, because i am really excited about vet school and kind of feel the "but i want to go now!" feeling. in the end, though, i can't see any reason that i would regret taking time off.
     
  9. pupsforseeing

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    i forgot to mention in my other post that my parents, too, were *strongly* against the idea of me not going to vet school this year. my dad told me it would be the biggest mistake of my life. they didn't really talk to me for almost 3 months after i officially made the decision (and when i lived in the states it was uncommon for me to go 2 or 3 days without talking to one of them). but, once they understood exactly what i am doing and my motivations for doing it, their perspective TOTALLY changed. they are now *totally* for it and are so happy i made the decision i did.
     
  10. Pomona2006

    Pomona2006 UC Davis SVM c/o 2013
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    I know being the youngest, I was fortunate enough that my older sibling changed my parents perspectives about the whole gap year and study abroad in developing countries as they (like pupsforseeing's parents) were WAY against it. Once they saw how much it added to my sister's college experience and post-college experience, they were all for me taking my own unusual path. Not to mention how it gives them something to brag to their friends/family members about :p
     
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  11. NittanyKitty

    NittanyKitty NCSU CVM c/o 2014
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    YOUR mother sounds like MY mother! :D I'm taking at least next year off, and am working on my final interview for Teach for America (which is also a two year commitment if I'm accepted). Mine said the exact same thing to me about it -- that schools would see it as lack of commitment/confidence/planning/etc. and it made me seem "fragmented". I told her that I had researched this WAY more than she had, and I knew what I was doing. That conversation went over reeeeal well. :rolleyes:

    Vet schools will definitely not look down on getting new experiences like that. You have a plan, and you're smart to be looking into continuing your education and broadening your horizons before settling in for another four years of schooling. If it's what you want, go for it! I think a gap year (or two or three or whatever it takes) is good for a lot of people. The vet that I've worked with was totally for it when I asked her opinion about my "break"; it'll help refresh, recharge, and remotivate you for your goal. And that is never a bad thing.
     
  12. BodhiBird

    BodhiBird TCSVM c/o 2013
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    I agree. As long as you are doing something productive it cannot hurt. I kind of took a non-traditional gap year. I applied to vet schools as a senior in undergrad but got rejected. So I kept working in the field and took a science course at a local college just to do something, but when it came time to re apply I decided to skip a year to gain some more experience. Applying this year and I got an interview at numero uno - Tufts. All in all I don't regret my year off. It would be nice to be finishing my first semester as a vet student, but I learned a lot about vet medicine and life during my extra time in the "real world."
     
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  13. thesonofdarwin

    thesonofdarwin UPenn 2012
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    I guess I'm glad my mother fully supports any decision I make regarding my life. Mistake or no she recognizes it's my choice and if it doesn't work out, I'll learn some lesson from it, recover, and be better for it.

    Nothing wrong with taking a year off. After H.S. I took half a year off before undergrad then worked overtime to graduate early (this was awesome prep for the schedule you'll be faced with after undergrad!). After undergrad I took a year off even after being accepted and reapplied the following year to different schools (they DID ask why I did that, though!). It gave me time to look into other things. I worked at my local shelter, volunteered my time being trained to train dogs and subsequently rehabilitizing 'problem' dogs, with success, so they could be adopted rather than... I learned so much about community relations with veterinarians. Before my time off to think and explore I just wanted to be a Vet. Afterwards I knew what I wanted to do with my career and how I could affect communities.

    One could argue life experience is even more important than your education. I may be that 'One,' but still ;) You'll likely be asked why you took time off, so have a good reason for doing it and take as much time as you need!
     

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