How much time did you wait before applying to vet school and was it helpful to you?

Sep 17, 2020
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I’m currently a pre-vet student, and finding a vet clinic to gain experience for is pretty difficult during the pandemic. So I’m considering a gap year after my undergraduate. How long did you wait before applying to vet school? Did you have a family in mind? How did that work out?
Jan 13, 2020
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I graduated with a bachelor's in May 2019 and had originally planned on applying during the 2019 application cycle, but I waited because 1. I had some classes I wanted to retake for a grade boost 2. I wasn't sure who to ask for an academic eLOR and 3. My SO and I were figuring out our willingness to move out of state and away from both of our families.

In my gap year I retook a few courses (and boosted my last 30/45 GPA), got my letter figured out, and got an additional 1,000+ hours of experience. Honestly, I'm happy I did it. Yeah, it would've been nice to get feedback from some schools and have a better idea of what to expect during this application cycle, but I didn't feel prepared so I didn't force it.

As for the family thing, my SO and I already know that we would be engaged and married while I'm in school, but we are waiting to start a family until after I'm out of school and in a career (whether that's 2025 or a later year). Neither one of us is in a hurry to have kids (we are 23 and 25) so that played a role in the decision since I don't feel like I need to plan around having them as soon as possible. (Does this answer your second question at all?)
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2+ Year Member
Apr 4, 2017
I’m a non-traditional applicant who changed careers in my early 20s. I considered vet school as a high school student, but I wasn’t naturally gifted in math/science, and was much better at writing/languages/history. I graduated 9 years ago with a degree in international relations, hoping to do non-profit international aid work or public policy. Spent a year in politics, and not only did I hate it, I wasn’t overly good at the grassroots organizer thing. After I left my first job, I took up part-time jobs as a barn hand and a dog trainer, since I’d done a ton of work with horses and dogs as a teenager and college student. Both of those led me further into the animal industry, and I realized I wanted the animal life long term as a career. I decided being a veterinarian was a good balance of time spent helping animals and people with a good amount of intellectual stimulation, along with a (maybe) reasonable eventual earning potential.

Going back to school has been really hard, jumping into a job as a vet assistant and now a CVT was hard, moving back in with my parents has been humbling, justifying waiting this long to “start” my life has been incredibly hard. I’ll be, at minimum, 36 by the time I graduate - not the oldest by any means, but on the older side for someone in my stage of life (no partner, no kids, no house, no savings, no established career). So that might be a drawback to taking a huge amount of time off before school.

However, I would absolutely NOT have been ready to go to vet school straight out of undergrad. I didn’t have the discipline or maturity to understand the investment that going to professional school would be. I’m not a perfect student by any means, but I have developed SO much more discipline and dedication having to study while working the last 4 years. I’ve also come way out of my shell in dealing with the public, and I’ve been able to learn a ton about the technical and realistic aspects of this industry.

Only you can decide how much time you want to take before school, but I’m a big proponent of getting a LITTLE life experience beforehand. I think a gap year or two is almost always a solid choice - it allows you to relax a little your senior year & before applying, it allows you to earn a little money or work on paying down loans/debt, and it allows you to spend some real time in the industry. It also allows you to build some independent life and professional skills - don’t downplay the importance of being able to feed yourself healthy, affordable meals or be able to have really meaningful conversations with clients! While I wish I would have figured out my career trajectory during college, I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned over the past 9 years for anything.
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U of I c/o 2021
7+ Year Member
Nov 22, 2013
Perpetual state of disarray
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  1. Veterinary Student
Didn't have gap years by choice, but two application cycles of rejections and waitlists will do that to you.

How long did you wait before applying to vet school?

I ended up being accepted during my third application cycle by one school out of the 8 I applied to. I originally wanted to go from undergrad directly into vet school. I spent the first gap year working in various small animal clinics and at a doggie day care, while simultaneously taking a fifth year of school as a non-degree seaking student. The first year I applied, I did a poor job of matching my school list to what I could offer as an applicant on paper. My second cycle, I only applied to my IS and the OOS that had waitlisted me. Even during my third cycle, 2-3 of the schools I applied to were poor choices I should never have applied to.

So I commend your self-awareness that you need more veterinary experience for your application to be set up for success.

Did you have a family in mind?

Yes! I was at the time in a 5 year long, 80% long distance relationship. The original plan was vet school right out of undergrad, graduate at 26, and establish my career/family in 2018. Did not happen. I left my ex during my 3rd application cycle due to a growing rift between us that stemmed from vet school plans.

How did that work out?

I still have plans for a family! I am currently engaged to my best friend of 15 years. We're eloping sometime between now and next August, just not quite sure when. Graduate in May. Moving out of our friend's house around September/October of next year. As soon as we are established in our new home, it's baby time! I'll graduate at 29 years old. Definitely starting a family later than I wanted (my parents were 20 and 23 when I was born and I wanted to try to have kids younger; oh well). Being a student now and for so long has definitely lead to a moderate to significant level of burn out to the point I have re-evaluated my career plans to not try to specialize immediately post graduation, if at all.

But a lot of that has to do with life changes in general, you know? I started vet school single and I had all these different ideas of what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, etc. No longer single and life losses over the last few years have cause a re-evaluation of priorities. That can happen no matter when you go through vet school.

A single gap year won't make or break your life if you consider it actively as part of your plan. I am *not* someone who feels "everything happens for a reason". But life happens. If you're not sure about a gap year, then plan on it happening and you'll just be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't. You lose nothing by preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.
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SA Rotating Intern
5+ Year Member
Nov 15, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA
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  1. Veterinarian
I had three years between undergrad and vet school, and am so glad I did. It was strategic in order to gain work experience, take a few more classes, and move to a state to gain residency for school. It was also the only time I've had so far where I felt like an adult, with a non-academic life, and allowed me to return refreshed and more mature for school.
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that redhead

10+ Year Member
Feb 26, 2010
Not exactly a gap year, but I took an extra year in undergrad to muddle through if this was really what I wanted to pursue or not. I took two classes each semester and worked as a lab animal tech the rest of the time. Still a fairly traditional path but my point is it’s absolutely OK if you need or want to take time to build your application, take a breather from school or focus on family.

As a first time mom to little kids (they’re nearing 9 months now!) I don’t think there’s ever going to be an easy time to start a family but I think it would be easier before school so you get through the whole pregnant thing and maternity leave and trying to figure out how to take care of a kid (or kids as the case may be!) at least somewhat established.
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omg idk
7+ Year Member
Jan 11, 2013
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  1. Veterinary Student
I feel like gap year(s) are not only valuable to build your application, but they're also valuable maturing and growing up years. I'm finding the mindsets between older students and "traditional" students in my class are quite different. Nothing wrong with going to vet school out of undergrad. But it's nice to have a perspective of "real life" and the professional world before going in.
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Jun 30, 2020
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I'm currently taking a gap year. My main motivation for doing so was because I was on track to graduate a year early and I felt I was not prepared to apply to vet school after only completing my second year in undergrad.

Holding a full time job in the interim is helping me start to pay off my debt, give my mind a break, and also acclimate to the "real world." Needless to say I'm also getting a TON of experience working full time at a vet hospital and just absorbing all the knowledge and skills I can.
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LMU-CVM C/O 2025
2+ Year Member
Jan 12, 2018
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I graduated 2019, and I am currently applying for c/o 2025. I will have a grand total of 2 gap years, and I do not regret it in the slightest. I gained valuable experiences (both real world experience and veterinary experience) as well as built solid relationships with multiple veterinarians which have really helped me this cycle with this being my first time applying.
If you’re considering a gap year, I say to definitely do it!


UW-Madison c/o 2024
Nov 21, 2019
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  1. Pre-Veterinary
I’m currently a pre-vet student, and finding a vet clinic to gain experience for is pretty difficult during the pandemic. So I’m considering a gap year after my undergraduate. How long did you wait before applying to vet school? Did you have a family in mind? How did that work out?

I graduated undergrad in 2016 and began applying in the 2018-2019 cycle. Didn't get in, but got accepted in the 2019-2020 cycle. I didn't have family in mind when I took my gap years. It was more so I needed time to retake some classes I didn't do well in while working full time as well as get vet experience. I was originally bummed out at taking so long to apply and start vet school, but looking back, I'm really glad that I did. The four gap years was important for me in taking time to myself to grow and mature as a person. I truly think it was because of that times that I took for myself that I am able to adjust well to vet school. I think that if I personally started vet school right out of undergrad, I'm not sure if I would've had the experiences and abilities to take care of my mental health and well-being the way that I do now. I'm sure lots of people can succeed straight out of undergrad, but I don't think that I would've been one of them. I worked in a research lab too during my gap years and I learned a lot of valuable skills in research and analysis that is helping me a lot currently in vet school and I wouldn't have those experiences if I didn't take gap years.

Take your gap years if you need to. Honestly this is such a good time to explore areas of interest outside of vet med or just to do whatever the heck you want! There's no real rush to get to school straight out of undergrad unless you have some extenuating family or personal circumstances that put you on a strict timeline. When you're 60 years old, it's not going to matter whether you started vet school at 21 or 31. The best timeline to follow is the one that works for you!

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