lizlemon

Wisconsin c/o 2019!!
5+ Year Member
Dec 1, 2012
18
27
Status
Veterinary Student
Hi Everybody!

I have a fun story: I was a multiple-liberal-arts major, moved across the country and got an M.S. in Psych, realized that wasn't for me, worked at a software firm for a year to gain residency (for tuition purposes) in my state, and now I'm going back to school to get all the post-baccing done for pre-vet!

This is going to be HARD.
Like, super crazy. I have from January to application time to get a lot of hard science done. Call me crackers, but I'm DOING IT. Full time. On loans. It's gonna be a rough 9-10 months.

And what I need during that time is to get actual veterinary experience, as much as possible.
(I have loads of animal experience, mostly equine, but plenty with other animals too--I just hear that I need hours with actual vets before application season, and I have none of that.)

Question one: Does volunteering at a wildlife center count as vet experience? Volunteers do help out with simple procedures on sick/injured animals (sub-q, euth, intake exams, med administration, etc), so it seems very vet-y to me, definitely not your typical animal experience, but we are not under direct supervision of a vet. So where will this go on my apps?

Question two: I know I need clinic hours, but my class schedule is going to be wacky. Do you all have any thoughts on how to work around that? I can't find any vets who work on the weekend in my immediate area. Would an emergency facility allow shadowing on nights/weekends?

Question three: What kind of work in the clinic is preferred in the admissions process--i.e., what will get the biggest "bang for the buck," veterinary volunteering-wise? Surgery shadowing? Client visits? Do they even let you participate in client visits usually? (More generally: What to expect?)

Question four: What's the best way to approach vets that don't already know you for such opportunties? (e.g., my vet cats' vet isn't available for shadowing during times I would be available, so I would have to look elsewhere in the community)

Question five: What would you ballpark as a reasonable number of documented vet experience hours for applying to a good vet school? (Let's say, for the sake of this example, that your GRE scores and grades and such are fine and dandy, and that you've got animal experience, shelter experience, etc)

Thanks so much, folks. Really excited for this paradigm shift in my life. I'm going to do what I always WANTED to do! What I'm good at! What I'm thrilled by!

Huzzah!

I just have to...get there.
 

JaynaAli

Need it STAT or want it STAT? They're different.
5+ Year Member
Apr 22, 2013
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Veterinarian
1: I've always been told vet experience is when it's supervised by a vet. I'm fairly certain that would go under animal experience, not vet experience.

2: You never know until you ask. It will vary from clinic to clinic.

3: I think it's better to have varied experiences in vet med rather than just thousands of hours exclusively watching surgery or something. I believe they want to see you with as much experience as possible so you fully understand what's involved in the profession. If you have spent time in small animal clinics only, do you best to find a mixed animal, food animal, or equine vet to shadow, even if it's only a few hours.

4: I'd start with a phone call, personally. If you get stonewalled, maybe dress nicely and make an appearance at the clinic. It's harder to say no to someone's face. Ask to shadow for one day, then after that day ask to come back for another. Sometimes people are hesitant to take on someone for a long term commitment before they get to know you. Be polite. Don't rule out shelters that allow volunteers, my most valuable experience was handed to me because I volunteered walking dogs regularly and the vet got to know my face and invited me to help her.

5: Go look at the "What are my Chances" thread pinned at the top of the forum to see how you compare to other applicants. The search function of SDN is your friend.


Unsolicited advice so ignore it if you want, but you say you're taking a bunch of hardcore science courses in the next little bit, but I'd definitely make sure you're not setting yourself up for failure. I'm sure you're smart like most vet students, but don't get in such a hurry to get all the prereqs done that you get less than stellar grades in them. Personally, I think it's better in the long run to take longer but get better grades and experience.

Good luck!
 

sarah1029

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Dec 28, 2008
64
5
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Pre-Veterinary
1. If you're not working with a vet at the wildlife center it does not count as vet experience no matter what you're doing. I used to work at one and the only veterinary hours that counted are the ones where I was actually doing things with the vet, or watching her perform procedures.

2. Wacky schedule -- you can always apply for jobs at veterinary clinics and see if they would be willing to work around your class schedule. When I first started out, I basically went to every single veterinary practice in my area, handed them my resume, and told them that I really wanted to go to veterinary school and gain experience working in a clinic. When I wanted to get experience in other areas of the field I either applied for jobs or asked if I could be taken on an as a volunteer.

3. I think that it's great to get experience in a little bit of everything rather than focus on one main area. Most applicants are going to have tons of experience working in small animal veterinary clinics. You want to stand out! Get experience in as many different areas as you can, but don't compromise your grades over getting vet experience.

4. You can always give different clinics a call, but I think that it's more difficult to say no to someone when they're standing in front of you.

5. There are a lot of applicants who have been gaining veterinary experience for years and have thousands of hours. I've always heard 1000+ hours is competitive, but given that you're trying to complete all of your prereqs + experience in 9-10 months I don't know if that's even doable. Just see what works best for you :)
 

jerseyshoregirl

c/o 2018 hopeful!
Aug 8, 2013
180
107
Status
Pre-Veterinary
Hey! Fellow post-bac student here. Liberal arts major, worked in finance for 2 years, did post-bac/worked as a vet tech. First year applying now! How many pre-req courses do you have to take? Hopefully you are ahead of where I was... I had to take 50+ credits. I would recommended taking an extra year (or two) and getting paid vet experience personally. I did my first 32 credits full time while working as a tech 23 hours a week. Then I did the remaining ones taking 6 - 8 credits a semester and working 40 hours a week. Not only will you be able to earn some money (and save your sanity) but getting paid experience is really the best way to get hands on experience. I've been at my job almost 2 years (with no prior vet experience) and I am already doing everything from iv caths to surgery monitoring. I am not sure what state you are from and if they would let you do this stuff without being a "registered" technician but I am from NJ where there isn't such legislation. How I went about finding experience is I called every vet in about a 30 mile range from my house asking if they took shadows or volunteers. Not many around here would - concerns about liabilities. However, finally I found one that let me start as a volunteer. I busted my butt for 3 weeks as a volunteer scrubbing every floor corner, folding every towel, and scooping every poop and when a job opening as a tech popped up, they approached me! Working as a tech for 2 years truly gave me exposure and understanding of the vet profession that I would not have had if I had just shadowed for a few months. It gave me such an understanding that I actually went back and forth on whether I wanted to become a vet for the last 2 years until I TRULY decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. As for a variety of experience, everyone told me to get experience with large animals or equine but I truly did not have the time. I literally have 10 hours of milking cows - that's it. Not saying this will work for everyone (and obviously haven't been accepted to vet school yet) but so far I've gotten 4 interviews so I'm hoping my hands on small animal experience will make up for my lack of large animal. UPenn is the only school that told me to get Depth of experience in one area as opposed to breadth. Anyway, enough about me... Ultimately you have to do what will work for you and what opportunities you are able to come by in your state... If you want to discuss more feel free to PM me! :)
 

that redhead

7+ Year Member
Feb 26, 2010
10,357
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Question one: Does volunteering at a wildlife center count as vet experience? Volunteers do help out with simple procedures on sick/injured animals (sub-q, euth, intake exams, med administration, etc), so it seems very vet-y to me, definitely not your typical animal experience, but we are not under direct supervision of a vet. So where will this go on my apps?
If you aren't supervised by a vet (read: if a vet isn't at the center while you're there working), it does not count as veterinary experience. Even if the stuff you're doing is veterinary in nature. This would go under animal experience in your application.

Question two: I know I need clinic hours, but my class schedule is going to be wacky. Do you all have any thoughts on how to work around that? I can't find any vets who work on the weekend in my immediate area. Would an emergency facility allow shadowing on nights/weekends?
Depending on the facility, an emergency clinic may allow you to shadow and it would have the most flexible schedule. However, as you will likely find, it isn't as simple as saying, "I want to shadow here." Many veterinary clinics (of any type) don't want to take shadows or volunteers for liability reasons. I would have a bunch of different places marked down to stop by and give your resume.

Question three: What kind of work in the clinic is preferred in the admissions process--i.e., what will get the biggest "bang for the buck," veterinary volunteering-wise? Surgery shadowing? Client visits? Do they even let you participate in client visits usually? (More generally: What to expect?)
There isn't one experience that is valued more than another. I would suggest you go where you're able to get hours - if you then have a choice between facilities, go to the one that emphasizes things that interest you. The more you enjoy the work, the better you will be able to talk about it come interview time. As for client visits - it depends entirely on the clinic. Some don't mind you tagging along in the exam room while others won't let you at all.

Question four: What's the best way to approach vets that don't already know you for such opportunties? (e.g., my vet cats' vet isn't available for shadowing during times I would be available, so I would have to look elsewhere in the community)
The best way to approach potential shadow clinics is in a business casual outfit, a resume in hand and a good attitude. Explain to them that you're applying to veterinary school and would like to get a feel for the field. Be understanding if they don't accept shadows, but persistent if they do take your resume (such as calling to follow up a week later).

Question five: What would you ballpark as a reasonable number of documented vet experience hours for applying to a good vet school? (Let's say, for the sake of this example, that your GRE scores and grades and such are fine and dandy, and that you've got animal experience, shelter experience, etc)
If you search the forum for "successful applicant" threads, you'll see that there is a huge range of values. Most people tend to aim for 500, but many people easily have into the thousands. In your situation, I'd just get as many hours as you can manage with such a full schedule.

In general, I know it must be exciting to be making a change in the direction you want to go, but it would likely benefit you to wait a cycle before applying. I can't imagine attempting to get all of the pre-requisite courses crammed into essentially nine months while attempting to accumulate your only veterinary hours while building meaningful relationships with potential letter writers while studying for the GRE while writing your explanation statement and filling out your application. Factor in your mental health through all of this and waiting would be my personal advice. Either way, good luck!
 
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lizlemon

lizlemon

Wisconsin c/o 2019!!
5+ Year Member
Dec 1, 2012
18
27
Status
Veterinary Student
Hey, thanks a ton, everybody!
Look at how smart and thorough this online community is. Love it. You all touched on each of my questions and then some--much appreciated.

I know, I know, I'm going to drive myself crazy trying to get everything needed to apply next year :) But I'm used to academic-crazy (been a working grad student once already, I can do something similar again). I definitely will drop everything in favor of grades, if anything starts to slide; thank you all for that unanimous tip.
It's hard for me to wrap my mind around grades mattering so much--in my former field of study, grades were very much secondary to productivity/skill-building.
Fortunately, I'm not going to have to hold down an actual job during the post-bacc period (thanks, loans!). So I figure in place of regular student job, I will volunteer at clinics.

Fellow post-baccer jerseyshore: I'm not starting quite that far back, but, well...it's not a PRETTY picture, really... 31 credits of physics, chem, o-chem, bio, and some extras. And labs for nearly everything, of course.
I know most of you see it as batty to try to cram that in to just 3 semesters, but, well, federal aid only helps you out for 12 consecutive months of post-bacc work (which is 3 semesters). After that, you're on your own, so I gotta do what I gotta do. Not feasible to pay for it myself, unless I were to do it one night class at a time while keeping my regular job. Then I could be a vet within a couple decades... Why oh why didn't I take these classes when I did undergrad the first time? Sigh.

So, anyways, here is a plan of which I think most would approve: Work my butt off in classes, try to get some considerable vet expereicne -- and if I don't happen to fit in enough vet experience to get in next year, then I will have a year off to build experience (hopefully via a job) and try, try again.

Bummer that wildlife experience probably won't count. It's so vet-like in nature. I'll contact admissions departments and ask, but unfortunately, I bet you all are right.

Thanks a ton.
 

LetItSnow

Skipping the light fandango
7+ Year Member
Jan 13, 2011
19,171
18,047
Plymouth, MN, USA
animaltracks.wordpress.com
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Veterinarian
There's no right answer to "what experience is more valuable" because it depends on the rest of your application. Two points that may seem opposing, but really aren't: first, a lot of applications people seem to like to see *some* degree of variety in experience. Second, your application as a whole should be internally consistent. Your PS should dovetail with your background, and both of those should mesh with your experience, your LORS, and what you're saying you want to do in the future, etc. It should be one nice, consistent package. So if you're saying you want to go into equine practice (for example), it behooves you to have an application that supports that assertion, which would mean equine-heavy experience with at least one super good LOR from an equine doc.

So the short answer is: get a little experience in a few disciplines (wildlife, food animal, equine, small animal, exotics, whatever), and get a lot of experience in your area of interest.

Last comment.... If you can get it all done and be ready to apply by then, more power to you. But my gut feeling from reading your post is that you may want to be prepared to not quite be there by next fall. Hope for the best, to be sure, but ... it will be difficult to line up all those classes, get them done with a very solid GPA, <and> manage to rack up the 400-500 hours of experience you're going to want.

I don't really see anything "wrong" with your plan, but don't shoot yourself in the foot by being too aggressive, getting poor grades, and then having to make up for it. You'd be better off getting straight As, working full time to keep making money, building up experience, and having a *really* solid app for Fall 2015. So. If you can do it sooner, great, but.... I guess I'd be cautious.
 
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Nov 6, 2013
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Like others have said be very careful about taking on too much. In fact you might want to look ahead and pick schools you want to apply to since not all the pre-reqs match up. Pick a cluster of schools where all of your classes will count. For example a class in animal nutrition is only suggested by a lot of schools, but there are a few schools that do require it.

As far as experience goes, an emergency hospital might be your best bet. Their hours would work well for you: evenings, weekends, holidays. The busiest time is usually between 6pm to midnight, so as a bonus you might end up seeing some pretty neat stuff at a reasonable hour. The only downside is that emergency hospitals tend to be less tolerant of people standing around and in the way, so be prepared to make a case for yourself. Ideally you should end up at a hospital that lets you come in whenever you want so you don't cut into study time.
 

jerseyshoregirl

c/o 2018 hopeful!
Aug 8, 2013
180
107
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Pre-Veterinary
I second what anesthtc just said.. Make sure you do your research early on as to which pre-req classes you are going to have to take IN ADDITION to your basic 2 semesters of gen physics, gen chem, gen bio, orgo <--- These courses (at least at my schools, including labs) totaled 32 - 34 credits right there. It's not like med school though where you are done there. Most of the vet schools now require several additional pre-reqs. Most require or strongly recommend Biochemistry. And remember, most schools won't let you take Biochemistry until you are finished with Orgo 1 and 2. A lot of school require Genetics and Microbiology is a pretty common requirement too. And then depending where you want to apply, you may have to take another 4 to 8 credits of "upper division biology courses" or some other requirements like Animal Nutrition, Physiology or Anatomy. Some schools even require public speaking and 1 or 2 semesters of English composition and 2 semesters of Math. If you don't have these b/c your undergrad institution let you place out with AP credit or for instance only make you take 1 semester of Calculus and 1 semester of English composition, then be prepared to take additional non-science courses or make a case for yourself to see if the vet schools will waive it for you. I ended up having to take statistics (another 3 credits) and I had to bend over backwards getting some of the schools to accept only 1 instead of 2 semesters of English composition (I had to have my undergrad institution send an official letter to some of the schools, yada yada). Be prepared for these snags and start working on them now, since you will be so crunched for time later. I recommend making an excel sheet mapping out the pre-requisites for each vet school and then do your initial "narrowing down" based on where you simply cannot apply because you will not have time to complete the pre-reqs. And then keep checking the school's website for any changes, for example UPenn decided to require Microbiology and Biochemistry this year which nearly put me out of the running. I applied to a slew of schools since I am OOS and went all out, but all of the 13 schools I applied to require a "common" 40 or so credits, including Biochemistry. And then I had to take Animal nutrition, genetics, anatomy, and physiology (another 12 to 15 credits) in order to satisfy specific requirements for several of the schools. Not saying it isn't doable and not trying to sound hostile or discouraging. I just want to make sure you don't get blindsided when you go to apply because initially I thought I would only have to take 32 credits since this is what my Post-Bacc advisor told me because he was used to advising pre-med and not pre-vet students. He had no idea pre-vet requirements were so rigorous and neither did I until I made my excel sheet. :) There is an official one posted on the AVMA website somewhere, but since things are always changing and it is kind of hard to read, you are probably better to make one yourself. If you need any help with sorting through pre-requisite requirements (which can be very overwhelming when you are starting from scratch), let me know. On an encouraging note, you don't have to be entirely finished with your pre-reqs by the time that you apply, but most schools have requirements on how many science courses you are allowed to take in the fall and spring semester the year you apply, so you want to be sure to research that as well. It may behoove you to take any random pre-req courses you need at the end online (i.e Animal nutrition, etc), but you will also have to check with each school you apply to make sure they will accept online courses. Okay, sorry for ranting, there are just so many facets to consider, and since you really don't have time for any snags or setbacks, I just wanted to make sure you are totally in-the-know now! It sounds like you have a lot of faith in yourself (which is a great quality and one that will indubitably help you succeed). Power to you!!
 
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EngrSC

7+ Year Member
Jul 25, 2012
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Pre-Veterinary
Fortunately, I'm not going to have to hold down an actual job during the post-bacc period (thanks, loans!). So I figure in place of regular student job, I will volunteer at clinics.
What's the rush and why put yourself in more debt if you don't need to? Just food for thought ...

I work full time in an unrelated field, take 6 units/semester, and work part time in a vet hospital (plus volunteer work here and there). Yes, it's taking me longer that I'd like to be ready to apply BUT I'm able to put money away and not accrue any student loan debt. Financially I would think about your options, especially how they will affect you in the long run since vet school is extremely expensive. Obviously you need to do whatever is best for you but just thought I'd throw that out there :)
 
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lizlemon

lizlemon

Wisconsin c/o 2019!!
5+ Year Member
Dec 1, 2012
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27
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Veterinary Student
Jerseyshore--oh man, I am the queen of spreadsheets! I like how you think! :) I did find the official AVMA one a while back (I've been researching this giant career-/life-changing idea for a couple years now). I plan to translate it into something more reasonable to read, narrow it down, etc. But I love that they have that spreadsheet available, it's fantastic. I am definitely tailoring my post-bacc coursework to the few schools I'm most interested in (and yes, it looks like most require you to have all but 6 req'd hours completed by time of admission--that does make things more tricky). I'm hoping to get into my state school, since (of course) the acceptance rate is way higher for residents than for non-residents, and it's a great school. I'm actually totally shocked at how high the admission rates are for in-state students at many vet schools, including this one. 20-30% seems to be the norm?! (In my former field, it didn't matter whether you were resident or not, and for a top 10 program you were fighting odds more like 1/500+!).

I guess I didn't include the full details regarding coursework--I will definitely be taking orgo, biochem, and some other more random req'd science courses (genetics? anatomy? etc). And as for the rest of the usual suspects, I do have more than enough credits in from undergrad (and grad school), actually. But I sure do appreciate all the pointers, and I'll be on the lookout for potential snags like you mentioned (since yeah, for example maybe I don't have multiple "English composition" courses...I don't remember...but I've got theses and published papers, I should hope I'm pretty good at English composition!).

EngrSC, It's a good thought, and I definitely have thought about it--and it sounds like the best decision, financially, for sure! But with my current job (which would allow me to pay some tuition for some credits), my schedule wouldn't allow for any classes (so it's a bit pointless). If I switch jobs to one that would allow me time for classes, I'd take a big enough pay hit that I wouldn't be able to afford tuition--so I feel like jumping back in with both feet now will behoove me in the end. Sure, I could try putting away the money to support myself without loans through the post-bacc time, but that would take several years. And, honestly, with all the vet school debt...a few semesters of undergrad will kind of just be a drop in the bucket.
If I had a job that allowed me to work AND school at the same time at a reasonable rate, like you're doing, I probably absolutely would do that, at least for a little bit to whittle away at the post-bacc hours; but I don't think I will find that, at least not for another few years in this field.
But I do appreciate the thought. There's always many roads to Rome.
 
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ChittyBang

c/o 2018 hopeful
May 18, 2013
609
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Westchester County, NY
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Pre-Veterinary
Right on, JSGirl :) I took the usual prereq suspects - Gen Bio, Gen Chem, Orgo, Micro, Biochem, Calc, Physics, etc - and then some. I researched what courses my top-choice schools *recommended* and took a bunch of those as well. When all was said and done I took over 64 post-bac credits to apply. And you do want to get a good amount of quality veterinary hours to get those LORs...Don't rush.
 
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jerseyshoregirl

c/o 2018 hopeful!
Aug 8, 2013
180
107
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Pre-Veterinary
boy do i wish i made some better decisions in undergrad the first time around :) would have saved some major $$$ and time. and yes, you can only imagine my frustration when I was almost disqualified from LSU based on the fact that I did not have a 2nd semester of english composition. as an art history and history double major i have more writing courses than i know what to do with..... despite the fact that they repeatedly told me there was no way around this composition requirement, I went ahead and had my undergrad institution send LSU a letter anyway stating that i had satisfied the english requirement at my school and listing all of the writing courses that I took. and guess what? they accepted it. moral of the story: be pesky and don't take NO for an answer. :)
 

equineconstant

Purple & Gold 2017
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May 16, 2012
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boy do i wish i made some better decisions in undergrad the first time around :) would have saved some major $$$ and time. and yes, you can only imagine my frustration when I was almost disqualified from LSU based on the fact that I did not have a 2nd semester of english composition. as an art history and history double major i have more writing courses than i know what to do with..... despite the fact that they repeatedly told me there was no way around this composition requirement, I went ahead and had my undergrad institution send LSU a letter anyway stating that i had satisfied the english requirement at my school and listing all of the writing courses that I took. and guess what? they accepted it. moral of the story: be pesky and don't take NO for an answer. :)
Similar story: I had to take psych stats for my major, and Penn's site says that they will only accept bio stats or math stats. I even had an email confirming that. But I applied anyway, putting a sentence about how psych stats was necessary for my major so I didn't want to (basically) waste time taking the same course twice and copy-pasting in the course description to my explanation section. I got in. :)
 
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