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Apr 26, 2014
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I've gotten myself into a bit of a sticky situation. I'm going into my final year as an undergrad at my university, however I have pretty bad grades and quite frankly hate my school. My GPA is below a 3.0. I've basically come to associate my school with overwhelming anxiety and depression that I've had since starting my freshman year, and have reached a new low this past spring semester and am now on academic warning. I had the opportunity to transfer in the past, but was afraid to start over and abandon the school I was already in, since it was a really good school. In hindsight, I should have left. Now I'm stuck going into my senior year with bad grades and I don't even want to go back. I sometimes dread the thought of going back. I don't know what to do now. I've spent three years at this school with not much to show for it. I would give an arm and a leg to go to vet school. I am absolutely positive that's what I want to do. But with senior standing and terrible grades, I feel like I have nowhere to turn. The only redeeming part of an application I would have is that I have a ton of vet/animal experience. So now what?

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Well. You said you would give an arm and a leg.

Surely sucking it up and putting in the time and effort to get straight A's pales in comparison to an arm and a leg.

It is just one more year of school. Time to do better. Get straight A's and you would know you did the very best you could.
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If you're depressed and having anxiety issues that are interfering with your ability to perform well, you need to see someone about it. If that means taking some time off to get your mental health together, then do that. You can still transfer schools if you think that is best, too. At the same time you need to figure out what led to those poor grades - was it the anxiety/depression alone? Poor study habits? Just not getting the material but not seeking help when you needed it? I would search for not just mental health counseling but academic counseling as well so that you can make the most out of your senior year. If you have the means to do so, you can also retake classes that you did poorly in, especially any classes that you got below a C in. Plenty of people take more than 4 years to finish undergrad so if that is what it takes then don't be afraid to do that. Most, if not all, vet schools require a C or above in prerequisite courses anyway. And then when you are ready to apply, look for schools that put a lot of weight on last 45 credit GPA (assuming you improve), weigh GPA less heavily than other factors, or do grade replacement.
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The only redeeming part of an application I would have is that I have a ton of vet/animal experience. So now what?
Speaking as someone who was in a very similar situation, a lot of veterinary experience will not overcome a sub-3.0 GPA on its own for a traditional student.

In my opinion, you have essentially two options:
  1. Take a semester (or more) off to begin to address any mental health problems you're dealing with and learn how to study appropriately.
  2. Graduate with the appropriate requirements and do your own post-bac a couple years down the line when you can regain some perspective and put distance between yourself and these grades.
Vet school is harder than undergrad and it is more soul-sucking than undergrad. Your grades are telling you that you aren't ready for that at this point in your life. If you can learn to study well (and study hard), that should be reflected at least somewhat in stronger grades. If depression and anxiety are a part of the problem, take the time to address those as they will only be closer to the surface in vet school.
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I was a non-traditional student at the university that I transferred to from the community college. I chose the school because of its reputation (along with offering the degree I wanted and being in the city I am from and was already living in). I was unhappy there beginning my first semester. I cried every time a new semester started and I returned to campus. I dreaded going so much that I non-academic dropped a whole semester (except the research credit I was getting because I loved doing that). It had also been suggested to me to move to a smaller (private/more expensive) university in town.

I decided I needed to take some time off and left for a year. Fortunately I was able to figure out how to travel pretty cheaply and went to live in another country for 5 months and then traveled Europe for another 4 after that. It gave me a kick in the pants and realize I just had to go back and get it done and move on with my life.

Also while I was out there I saw where I wanted to be which helped me move forward. I came back and finished up my degree... Yes it took me longer and I cut myself a little extra slack. I took a C in biochem. I was actually surprised I passed. I went half time my last two semesters instead of forcing myself through one full time semester. I also took extra classes one of the semesters because I just wanted to take them for fun and they were relevant to my degree even though I didn't need them.

Ok it took me longer than most people to graduate but who cares at this point. Everybody gets there in their own way and maybe you need to go somewhere else in order to meet your goal or maybe you need a break like I did to gain some perspective.
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I've basically come to associate my school with overwhelming anxiety and depression that I've had since starting my freshman year

I can empathize with how hard anxiety/depression can be during school. My biggest regret for my undergrad years was that I didn't accept help early on. I agree with the poster above--you essentially either need to take time off from school to care for yourself and put yourself in a healthier mindset, or you need to graduate knowing you'll likely need to repeat a lot, if not all, of your pre-req coursework. I'm in favor for the former, because it will save you money (you're not spending money on classes you know you likely won't do well in) and sanity. If vet school is your dream, remember that as veterinarians we serve the community, our clients, and our patients, but as the saying goes, you can't serve from an empty vessel. In other words, you have to be solid in your own skin before tackling vet school and what lies beyond. Taking care of yourself is not a side issue, and it is not a thing to be ignored or postponed. Schools usually have free/cheap counseling available--take them up on it. Today. I know it can be super scary to talk to someone. Remember why you're there--to get help, get better, get back on track, to get into vet school, to be a doctor. If you need a friend to go with you, do it. If you need someone else to make the appointment for you, that's what friends/family/partners are for. If it helps, think of anxiety/depression as brain diabetes. Diabetics need insulin. We need serotonin/norepinephrine/dopamine/GABA...etc. Therapy can also help reset your thinking patterns so you're not so trapped in your thoughts. Remember, it's a medical condition, not a sign of weakness, not a personality fault. It's probably the best kept secret in every family I've ever known, the high-functioning depressive. We're usually very good at hiding it, until we fall apart for "no apparent reason." :) Don't be afraid to transfer, too. A girlfriend of mine went to four undergrad colleges as she struggled with depression and other medical issues. She dropped out of a top-notch school to go to a city college for a little while until things straightened out for her, then transferred to another good school. It can be done.