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Thinking about dropping out after 2 years...

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confused_vet

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Hi fellow DVMs and future DVMs,

I recently finished my 2nd year of veterinary school. I am not failing, in fact I'm doing quite well. I don't currently have any debt either but I will if I continue. I am seriously considering leaving and have been for the past year or so (started having doubts last summer, decided to tough it out for another year). When I decided to go for this career I was 20, and nearly 6 years later I have changed and matured a lot and have lost (or have realized that I never had) my passion for vet med. While I enjoy working at a vet hospital to a degree (1.5y experience prior to vet school and now currently working at a vet hospital over the summer), every day I think to myself how miserable I will probably be if I have to do this for the rest of my life. I love dogs and think they're cute, and I do like to see animals get proper care and help them be healthy, but it doesn't ignite a fire in me or bring me a sense of satisfaction. I am relieved at the end of the day when I get to go home and do something else.

In the past year I have done some soul-searching and I have realized I am a more artistic and social person than I used to be, and I think I've really suppressed my true self by forcing myself to go into the sciences. I switched to pre-vet in my 2nd year of undergrad (I'm seeing a trend here!) because I was unhappy in economics and wanted to work with animals. I'm really good at academics, essays, and interviews, and got into vet school the first time I applied. First year was very challenging, but I felt accomplished because I pulled a 4.0 and seemed to be good at vet med. However, I think after completing my second year and realizing just how much work and debt goes into this career, and how little financial return you get when you graduate, it just doesn't seem worth it to me anymore. We always say "we don't do it for the money", and now, I hate to admit it but being a veterinarian is not financially or emotionally rewarding enough for me. I hate the idea of potentially being injured every time I examine a patient, the long hours, the lack of gratitude from clients....

Although it seems I am pretty sure of my decision here, I still am having trouble committing to it. It's extra difficult for me because I'm pretty good at my job as a vet assistant and I'm pretty good at vet school (grade-wise, at least). So it's not like I'm incompetent or failing. I am also worried about the social stigma of being a drop-out, and of my parents being disappointed in me. However, I want to do something that makes me happy and fulfilled. I don't want to be 35-40 and regretting my choices when I was 25, when I was young and single and still had the freedom to do something else.

I think I want to pursue something like PR, Marketing, social media management, event management, etc. I love working with people to create something that provides an experience for other people or for a company. I love photography (pets, portraits, events, fashion), makeup, travel, and other creatively-minded things, and I'd love to find a career that could help me combine those. However, given that my past experience involves nearly only vet-med related jobs, internships, etc., I'm really not sure where to even begin.

Any advice, personal anecdotes, or anything you have that might be useful to me would be appreciated. I am pretty terrified of this whole situation and it would be a huge leap for me if I decided to leave. I've never been a failure or a quitter before, and I know if I were born in my parents' generation this would never be a possibility. But as a millennial, I want to do what I love, not do something to support what I love. Of course I still love animals, especially dogs, but I think that owning my own dogs would be enough. I don't think I need to be surrounded by them every day to be happy.

Thoughts!?!? I'm honestly filled with self-loathing for even considering this, but after a year of having second thoughts every day...I think I need to face this head-on.
 
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WhtsThFrequency

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Any advice, personal anecdotes, or anything you have that might be useful to me would be appreciated. I am pretty terrified of this whole situation and it would be a huge leap for me if I decided to leave. I've never been a failure or a quitter before, and I know if I were born in my parents' generation this would never be a possibility. But as a millennial, I want to do what I love, not do something to support what I love. Of course I still love animals, especially dogs, but I think that owning my own dogs would be enough. I don't think I need to be surrounded by them every day to be happy.

First off, moving from one career path to another is not quitting and not failing. It's changing.

I went through a similar state when I was realizing I needed to leave the toxic environment of the first lab I started my PhD in. I tried to justify it to myself to stay for two years because part of me felt like switching labs would be "quitting." In the end? God, I wish I had gotten my head out of my ass and done it sooner.

Again, it is changing one direction or another. Quitting would be giving up and going to live in your parent's basement and be an unemployed hobo. I think a lot of high achieving people, including veterinary students, are terrified at the concept of failure. Some people have never failed at anything in their lives before - you know, the straight A kids who lose their minds the first time they get a C. It's all a part of conditioning, and we start thinking of anything that diverts from this imaginary path to somehow be quitting or failing.

Honestly? I'm kinda proud of you. You seem to have a lot of good introspection here and have thought this through logically. It's a really brave thing to go against that conditioning and realize that you have a better choice for what you want to be. Yup yup, you heard me. Brave. It sounds like you have made your decision, you just need to come to terms with how you label it in your own mind.
 
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confused_vet

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First off, moving from one career path to another is not quitting and not failing. It's changing.

I went through a similar state when I was realizing I needed to leave the toxic environment of the first lab I started my PhD in. I tried to justify it to myself to stay for two years because part of me felt like switching labs would be "quitting." In the end? God, I wish I had gotten my head out of my ass and done it sooner.

Again, it is changing one direction or another. Quitting would be giving up and going to live in your parent's basement and be an unemployed hobo. I think a lot of high achieving people, including veterinary students, are terrified at the concept of failure. Some people have never failed at anything in their lives before - you know, the straight A kids who lose their minds the first time they get a C. It's all a part of conditioning, and we start thinking of anything that diverts from this imaginary path to somehow be quitting or failing.

Honestly? I'm kinda proud of you. You seem to have a lot of good introspection here and have thought this through logically. It's a really brave thing to go against that conditioning and realize that you have a better choice for what you want to be. Yup yup, you heard me. Brave. It sounds like you have made your decision, you just need to come to terms with how you label it in your own mind.

Thank you so much for your response, especially the last paragraph. I think for so long I have been terrified of the failure and the stigma that comes with being a "drop-out" that hearing someone out there was proud of me for facing this issue was the affirmation I needed. I just sent my family a link to this forum post and am waiting to Facetime my mom so we can discuss it. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond!
 

meningealworm

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I think that many people do themselves a disservice by pursuing vet (or other professional school) immediately after undergrad. You start on this path when you're what, 20? And by the time you get in and get going and realize you don't want it anymore, you're too far in to turn back. This is how I think we end up with people who graduate and get into the field, then realize they aren't happy. But they're too far in debt to turn back, so they keep at it and stay miserable.

Don't be that person.

If you aren't all in, don't keep going. If you aren't ready to commit one way or another, maybe see if your school will allow you to take a leave of absence (I know people who took a year off for similar reasons). You can explore other things and decide if a permanent change is the right choice for you.
 
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CalliopeDVM

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Better to change now than end up doing something you don't like (and be even more in debt while you do it). There's no shame in saying that you're not the person you were at 20 and you're making changes to suit the person you are at 26.......Those are prime years for growth and changes in personal ideas, goals, and plans. It sounds like you've thought long and hard about this and the only thing holding you back is the fear of some sort of stigma, but there's no stigma in admitting that you've found something that works better for you.
 
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Minnerbelle

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Obviously you want to be sure before you get out, but man I give you mad props for your self awareness and clarity. I will echo the others. It's not failure to change paths. It's realizing what is best for you and pursuing new opportunities that will make you happy.

Vet med is something similar to a cult. You almost have to drink this koolaid, to become a part of this odd passion driven industry where the finances aren't great, labor practices almost get sketchy under the best of circumstances, and you deal with wtf situations on a day to day basis with people and their pets. Even the people who have drank the koolaid are sometimes (often) miserable. So if you've realized this about the profession, there's nothing forcing you to drink that koolaid. It's smart to get out while you can and not tied to student loans. Yes, maybe it was an expensive venture to have invested in thus far, but if you can afford to leave, now is the time. Perhaps you can tie some of your vet school background to your future adventures . Who knows. Not sure it matters. You're still young, and the whole world is still open to you. That door gets narrower and narrower the longer you stay the path.

Just because you are good at something doesn't mean you have to pursue it either! Some people are just talented, and often that talent will also transfer elsewhere. You're not "wasting" that talent by leaving. You're repurposing it to something that you're actually passionate about, which in the end will be better for everyone.

The one thing I tell people in your position usually is to realize whether it's vet school or their experience as technical staff and not as a doctor that is making them not like the profession. Because there's a big difference there. But it seems like you've thought that through already.

I guess the tough part is to take that leap without knowing where you are ending up. Good thing is that you are on summer break so you have time to contemplate it. Even better because you just finished a year. Can you take a leave of absence for a year rather than commit to leaving entirely to soul search?
 
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twelvetigers

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If you can leave without debt, and you think you want to leave, and you've been thinking of leaving for a year now... well...

If you stay, you WILL have debt. Less than most, I reckon, but still.
The classes won't magically change and all of a sudden be super interesting and amazing and different - they'll just be more focused versions of the same stuff.
Clinics will be taking a lot of bullcrap - it always is - and if you aren't even interested in the bullcrap to begin with, it will be the most loathful drudgery that you can imagine. Like, the most ambitious students that are the most sure of their path will seriously start to drag/question.
Studying for NAVLE is no fun. Taking it is no fun.
And then having a degree, finished, that you really aren't sure at all that you'd want to use? Why?

Man, I say you should go and never look back. Set yourself free. If you have any hesitations, examine them, but seriously... don't let "what others might think" even factor into your choice. Not one tiny bit. Just don't.

First off, moving from one career path to another is not quitting and not failing. It's changing.

BitterSecondEeve-size_restricted.gif


Make this a sticky note and put it up on your bathroom mirror!
 
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chickenlittle

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I don't want to be 35-40 and regretting my choices when I was 25, when I was young and single and still had the freedom to do something else.

As a veterinarian who's 39 years old and was never super-passionate about the profession (went to vet school intending to pursue wildlife conservation medicine but then life happened and I've been tolerating small animalville ever since), I wish I could go back and tell 25 yr old me to do exactly what you're thinking of doing. Trust your gut. Leave veterinary medicine for the people who love it (many of whom will eventually end up hating/regretting their choice, but at least they have slightly better odds than you) and get out. That isn't being a quitter.... it's being a brave, insightful adult who is taking charge of their future.

If you aren't into veterinary medicine now (and, as someone mentioned upthread, I think it's important to note that it's the actual 'working in a vet clinic' that you dislike - not vet school itself), you're probably not going to magically fall in love with it later down the road. Sure, you might be able to make a tolerable career out of it.... but why do that, given the huge opportunity costs you've already mentioned? Find something you're really passionate about, even if it doesn't make major financial sense.. Find something that's tolerable, but that pays super-duper well. Either way is fine, really... but don't go into a tolerable career for mediocre pay. That doesn't make sense, any way that you look at it.

Yes, you've already spent money on two years of school. Spending two more years of tuition on school isn't going to fix that, though.... there's no sense in throwing good money after bad.
 
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Lab Vet

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Hey OP. Just wanted to chime in here and echo what others have been saying. I left my PhD in the eighth year of my program with a Master's degree. I was very unhappy, and the three letters next to my name simply weren't worth putting up with being miserable (especially in the long term). I had always wanted to go to vet school, but had decided to pursue the graduate route for a number of different reasons .(all were good and well thought out, and grad school seemed to me the best course of action at the time I made it- hindsight is always 20/20). After bailing on the PhD, I worked in industry/academia for a number of years and started vet school in my mid-thirties. I just graduated this year, and will be starting an awesome residency in my dream field in just a few weeks. It worked out :)

I can sympathize with the 'sunk costs' associated with a degree you're lukewarm about- or even loathe. I knew I wanted out of my PhD following advancement to candidacy in year 3, but there was so much negative inertia associated with the decision (i.e. time already invested, what will people think of me, am I a quitter, can I be successful in another career for which I'm better suited?), that I just couldn't get there until 5 years later. Leaving was the best thing I could have done- for myself, and for those who were investing time in me.

My advice to you is go with you're gut. If you're truly unhappy, veterinary medicine won't take a magical turn for the better post-graduation. You're still young, and have plenty of time to explore your other options. Don't burn any bridges at your current institution. It's truly a small world. You have no idea when these folks may once again reappear in your life. Also, I encourage you to reflect on your vet school years and to remember the good. Even in my darkest moments in graduate school, there were still wonderful aspects to the experience- the people I met, the cool science I did, and finally, the introduction to my current career (laboratory animal medicine), that I never would have known about had I not pursued graduate school in the first place. Life is a funny thing- fully of many twists and turns that you can never predict. In choosing to leave for different pastures, you can honor the experience you've had (and the people you've met), in remembering the good times with fondness. Wish your classmates well, and embark on your new start.

Best of success! I wish you happiness wherever your new road takes you :)
 
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britzen

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You may also want to take some time to think about non-traditional careers. Only you can decide if leaving is what's best for you, but there are jobs outside of small animal clinics. If your vet school has a career counselor, maybe start there?

As for finding a different career, I've worked in some of the industries you mentioned and I think you may struggle to find an entry level career in PR, marketing, or social media management without pursuing education related to it. If you do manage to land a gig, your starting salary will probably be about 40K. Many creatively minded pursuits are contract work, so keep those things in mind - those careers dont come with debt, but they may not be financially rewarding.

If you decide to pursue something else, you might have better luck getting started with a animal related industry. Most big corporations have PR, marketing, social media and event staff. Your background on the science side of things may help get your foot in the door at a company like Purina, Banfield, etc.

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britzen

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Another quick thought- if your school will allow it you can try taking a year off to pursue other interests.

If you are happier out in the world, don't go back. If you feel like you've made a horrible mistake by leaving, you've only delayed your career by a year

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slvb

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Hey OP, I am in the opposite of your shoes. Started pursuing social media management, PR, etc, but got a bit burnt out. It is hard to really move your way up the latter in a career like that. Now I am pursuing vet med. I have been on and off about it for years but after an internship at a wildlife rehab place and all that I have learned and enjoyed about canine ortho and rehab after my dogs injury, it inspired me to go down this path yet again. Even though I am in the opposite shoes as you, go with what will make you happy without the social stigma- don't worry about what your parents think. Just know all of your options before hand- not all vetmed is working in a small animal hospital. Infact, check out @jungle_doctor on instagram- a vet who travels the world doing wildlife med and having some fun on social media while at it. Maybe there is a way you could do both if you do decide to stay in vet school?
 

EB73674

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OP, have you considered an animal career outside of veterinary medicine? You might find that, without the stress and sometimes monotonous routine of a small animal GP office, you like working with animals professionally more than you think. I started off on my current pre-vet career path as a dog trainer at 24, and I have never fallen so intensely in love with a career as I did canine behavior and training. Maybe something a little more creative, like pet portraits/photography or even nature photography? You can definitely translate your love of animals into something OTHER than "veterinarian" - maybe that wouldn't feel like such a huge leap, and might keep you from starting completely from the bottom of a brand new field?
 
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1103

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Thank-You for your post! I can understand how challenging this decision must be. I am in a somewhat opposing position. I am 39 years old and did not continue to vet school after undergraduate. I finished with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration in 2003 and spent many years seeking to figure out what I preferred to do. I am one of those individuals that aspired to be a vet since I was young, but since my father owned a business; I achieved a degree in business intending to work for him. My father closed his business in 2005 owing to insufficient backing. After working for my father, I worked in many industries until I volunteered at a vet clinic in Montana. I loved serving the hospital and decided to pursue vet school.


I took about 8 years to gain lots of experience and finish the pre-requites for vet school. I struggled at first and so I ended up needing to earn a graduate degree to bring my grades up to be competitive. The road to veterinary school has not been comfortable, and I survived on a meager income for the last 8 years but I love what I do. I explored many sectors of vet med to confirm if vet school if what I wanted. I got into school and started at Iowa State University last fall. Unfortunately, I had some significant health complications and missed class so I am now on medical leave until next fall. I am unhappy I had to choose medical leave and again repeat my 1st semester but I recognize it was the appropriate decision. With that said, I would suggest self-reflection. Create a list of why you aren’t happy and if this feeling is temporary. Think about aspects of what you are looking for as the ideal role. Volunteer and probe different sectors of vet med and maybe join the clubs. The decision is tough but once you withdraw, it may be problematic to reenter vet school. I hope this advice helps and good luck with your pursuits!
 

Adogloveralways

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I wanted to bring this conversation up again to get some help and advice. I am going through a very fragile time right now. How do you make the decision of coming back to vet school or not? I have finished a year and a half, but have to make a big decision whether or not I can handle coming back. How have any of you gotten through vet school? I am out of state no where near my family, friends, or significant other, and it has been extremely difficult from days one being here. This is also not something I have always wanted to do, and also do not want to be a vet full time because I have so many other passions that far outweigh this. Unfortunately, those other passions are also not easy to do. For those of you who are vets already, was it worth it to you? Was going though the hell of vet school being miserable worth it because you are now so happy you finished and became a vet? What about the debt? Would you have been happier paying off a small amount by quitting earlier, or are you ok with the fact you have to pay more but you are happy with the choice you made so it is ok? I am really at a crossroads, so any help is appreciated. Also any help of actually HOW to get through vet school academically with the volume, etc. is helpful.
 

MixedAnimals77

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I wanted to bring this conversation up again to get some help and advice. I am going through a very fragile time right now. How do you make the decision of coming back to vet school or not? I have finished a year and a half, but have to make a big decision whether or not I can handle coming back. How have any of you gotten through vet school? I am out of state no where near my family, friends, or significant other, and it has been extremely difficult from days one being here. This is also not something I have always wanted to do, and also do not want to be a vet full time because I have so many other passions that far outweigh this. Unfortunately, those other passions are also not easy to do. For those of you who are vets already, was it worth it to you? Was going though the hell of vet school being miserable worth it because you are now so happy you finished and became a vet? What about the debt? Would you have been happier paying off a small amount by quitting earlier, or are you ok with the fact you have to pay more but you are happy with the choice you made so it is ok? I am really at a crossroads, so any help is appreciated. Also any help of actually HOW to get through vet school academically with the volume, etc. is helpful.

I don't have much advice but merely questions to maybe help guide you to the correct answer for you. Why did you come to vet med in the first place? Is it this particular moment that is making you feel this way? Are your other passions feesable to pursue with your current debt load? Will you be able to pursue these other passions in your free time when you graduate vet school?

I think as far as happiness after it really is dependent on an individual level- debt load, job situation, etc. You'll get a variety of opinions and I think that's a good thing.

From my mere semester experience this is how I get through the academic portion. I make study material during lectures if I can and then use my evenings to study those. Try and make sure you have a balance in your life-Are you working out? Making time for yourself even if it's only 1 hour a day or 1 day a week? Are you involved in extracurriculars to help remind you why you are there? I solo study but I also group study with my friends and we all help each other out because we all struggle at times. Most of all if you aren't already-be ok with not being average or above the curve. Below the curve is ok too-did you pass? Because in the end that's all that really matters especially when you're struggling.

Aside from those, I hope your school has counselling and that you are going to. They are trained professionals and are super helpful in these situations. I hope your school or class has an environment in which you feel comfortable reaching out to classmates or professors for help. I'm OOS as well, but I have formed friendships that will last a last time and I know if I was ever having serious problems I could reach out to any of my classmates or professors, really anyone within our CVM and they would move heaven and earth as much as they could to get me the help I need.

If @Elkhart feels comfortable sharing her journey I think she would be real valuable in this conversation.

I wish you all the luck and my pm box is always open if you need to talk more.
 
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Adogloveralways

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I don't have much advice but merely questions to maybe help guide you to the correct answer for you. Why did you come to vet med in the first place? Is it this particular moment that is making you feel this way? Are your other passions feesable to pursue with your current debt load? Will you be able to pursue these other passions in your free time when you graduate vet school?

I think as far as happiness after it really is dependent on an individual level- debt load, job situation, etc. You'll get a variety of opinions and I think that's a good thing.

From my mere semester experience this is how I get through the academic portion. I make study material during lectures if I can and then use my evenings to study those. Try and make sure you have a balance in your life-Are you working out? Making time for yourself even if it's only 1 hour a day or 1 day a week? Are you involved in extracurriculars to help remind you why you are there? I solo study but I also group study with my friends and we all help each other out because we all struggle at times. Most of all if you aren't already-be ok with not being average or above the curve. Below the curve is ok too-did you pass? Because in the end that's all that really matters especially when you're struggling.

Aside from those, I hope your school has counselling and that you are going to. They are trained professionals and are super helpful in these situations. I hope your school or class has an environment in which you feel comfortable reaching out to classmates or professors for help. I'm OOS as well, but I have formed friendships that will last a last time and I know if I was ever having serious problems I could reach out to any of my classmates or professors, really anyone within our CVM and they would move heaven and earth as much as they could to get me the help I need.

If @Elkhart feels comfortable sharing her journey I think she would be real valuable in this conversation.

I wish you all the luck and my pm box is always open if you need to talk more.


Thank you for your reply, I will PM you!
 

Squeaksmom

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I'm in Canada, so some things are different, but I wanted to share a bit of my story in case it might help you.

I had a two year medical leave between first and second years. I have a chronic condition that flared up really badly. I had to decide not only whether I wanted to come back, but whether I'd medically be up to it. I chose to fight, and I'm in third year now. I'm also going to school 3 hours away from my husband and son, parents and siblings, and I get to see them one weekend most months.

I chose to keep fighting. For me, the sacrifices are worth it, and I'm so close to being done. There are times I really hate vet school, especially in second year, but I know that I love veterinary medicine.

I don't study after school on Fridays, and that includes the ones where we've had the afternoon off. Once I'm done class for the day I'm not looking at anything until Saturday morning. Even during finals. I work out at least once a week to blow off steam. I try for more, but with our schedule that's not always realistic. I've been trying to get over to spend time with the teaching animals at least once a week for furry therapy. I still read non-textbooks sometimes. I keep up with friends from home as much as I'm able - email and Facebook are great for this, since I'm not always able to call at normal-people hours. And I've definitely taken advantage of counselling, both when I was deciding whether to come back and when I've been struggling since then. My condition flared again this year, badly enough that I should probably have been hospitalized in the first semester, but my coping mechanisms kept me going and I'm still in the game. But it has to be worth it for you.

I don't have answers for you, but I wanted to share what's been helping me in case any of it could be useful for you. I wish you luck with whatever you decide, and always feel free to PM me.
 
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Adogloveralways

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I'm in Canada, so some things are different, but I wanted to share a bit of my story in case it might help you.

I had a two year medical leave between first and second years. I have a chronic condition that flared up really badly. I had to decide not only whether I wanted to come back, but whether I'd medically be up to it. I chose to fight, and I'm in third year now. I'm also going to school 3 hours away from my husband and son, parents and siblings, and I get to see them one weekend most months.

I chose to keep fighting. For me, the sacrifices are worth it, and I'm so close to being done. There are times I really hate vet school, especially in second year, but I know that I love veterinary medicine.

I don't study after school on Fridays, and that includes the ones where we've had the afternoon off. Once I'm done class for the day I'm not looking at anything until Saturday morning. Even during finals. I work out at least once a week to blow off steam. I try for more, but with our schedule that's not always realistic. I've been trying to get over to spend time with the teaching animals at least once a week for furry therapy. I still read non-textbooks sometimes. I keep up with friends from home as much as I'm able - email and Facebook are great for this, since I'm not always able to call at normal-people hours. And I've definitely taken advantage of counselling, both when I was deciding whether to come back and when I've been struggling since then. My condition flared again this year, badly enough that I should probably have been hospitalized in the first semester, but my coping mechanisms kept me going and I'm still in the game. But it has to be worth it for you.

I don't have answers for you, but I wanted to share what's been helping me in case any of it could be useful for you. I wish you luck with whatever you decide, and always feel free to PM me.



Thank you so much for your reply. It is helpful to know that other people are also struggling because I definitely do not think it is talked about enough. It really shows great courage and determination on your part coming back to vet school after taking two years off. It shows that you really wanted it. I don’t have any children, so I can’t imagine how hard that must be being so far away from your child. My bf lives 3,000 miles away, because of this, we only see each other every two months while in vet school. Now at least I will be spending the entire spring and summer with him every day since I will not be in school.

I definitely did not take time out for myself to do anything except study. I constantly studied and my grades never really showed that. I defineilty think it is important to do that, and if I do come back, I will definitely do that. Yes, working out always makes me feel better, but I never made the time during vet school. I also would see the school counselor, they have a veterinary school specific counselor which helps. I am so sorry you are struggling with medical issues, because vet school is already so hard enough on its own. There is really no time to do poorly on even one exam in vet school, so it is so hard to have anything go wrong in your life!

Thank you so much for your response and support. It is truly amazing that you came back to school after having a two year break, which I am sure was not easy because you were dealing with your medical issues. I am sure that was a very hard decision, but it sounds like you are happy with the decision you made in going back. It is helpful talking this through with others who have dealt with difficulties in vet school. I feel like no one talks about if they are not doing well in school, or having depression, so people just keep going when maybe they should stop. Thank you for your response. I wish you good luck in finishing, you are almost done!
 
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Adogloveralways

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Sure. It's painful, but if it can help someone, then it's worth it.

I was about halfway through vet school when I left, albeit not by choice. I "failed" out (not really, because I didn't actually receive any failing grades, but my GPA fell too low to remain enrolled) after the fall of my second year, and I attended one of those schools that doesn't offer much in the way of second chances. To get back in, I was told in my dismissal letter that I would have to take master's classes, reapply, and, if accepted, start completely over from first year. It just wasn't going to be worth it, and I was already in a very bad place mentally, anyway; I was dealing with undiagnosed-at-the-time bipolar II disorder and struggled mightily in several of my classes, especially anatomy, even with tutoring and extra help from professors. Although everything that happened to me in vet school ultimately was my own fault, and I acknowledge that, I can't help but still feel slightly bitter knowing that if I had just attended a different school where there would have been more support and/or even the chance to repeat a semester or year, I might still be in school. I might still be on that journey towards a DVM.

It's been over a year since it happened now, and even still I have to admit that it hurts a lot... especially when I think about the fact that I would be starting clinics this summer or that I would have been a doctor next year. When I think about how maybe 1-2% of all vet students don't make it through, and how it feels to actually be in that minuscule minority, especially for academic reasons. When I start telling myself that I must have been admitted by mistake; that I am a failure of a person and student who was too inept to actually make it through. When I see classmates and friends posting on social media about wetlabs and surgeries and clinical experiences. When I think about the spay and neuters that I did, or the case report that I wrote that, while it did end up being published with me as second author, will no longer really serve me any sort of purpose other than being a "kinda cool thing".

The time since then has been rough, to say the least. I lost both of the jobs that I had at the vet school because they wouldn't allow me to continue working as a non-student, I got a job working at an animal nutrition company only to lose it due to various health issues, I had my car stolen, I was absolutely effing broke, I had to move back in with my parents all while still paying rent for the apartment I was living in during school because they refused (even with threat of legal action by a lawyer) to let me out of the lease... and, actually, I am STILL paying it. I recently started a job at a human hospital in the critical care unit which I actually rather enjoy, but the pay is garbage. I have over $107,000 in debt from both undergrad and vet school and am currently making under $12/hour; I've just been scraping by on PAYE, and even then the balance keeps climbing because I can't even touch the interest, let alone the principal. If I were to be paying on a standard repayment plan, I would be putting almost 90% of what I make towards student loans. I don't have health insurance because despite working 60+ hours per week, I'm still technically considered a PRN employee, so I can't really afford my therapy or medications anymore. I try to stay positive, but everything feels so hopeless, even now when I'm comparatively doing a little bit better. I have no idea what direction to keep moving in because I don't want to be here long-term---I'm not in the financial nor mental state to be considering more schooling---or even if I want to keep moving at all. At this point, I'm just sort of floundering through life one day at a time.

But enough of my self-pity. That doesn't really help you. You're not in danger of being kicked out; you're just unsure if you want to continue (or, at least, that's what I can gleam from what you wrote).

If your vet school allows for you to take a leave of absence for a year, perhaps consider doing that. I know a least a couple of vet students both in real life and from these forums who did just that: took a year to explore other fields and/or take a mental health break so that you can reevaluate how you feel about vet school and whether or not you think that it will be worth it for you in the long run. I think most of them ended up returning to school in the end. In regards to dealing with the debt, I think that that it something that is going to be a function of and very dependent on how much money you will be making whereever you decide to go should you leave and exactly how much in loans you currently have under your belt. I was considered IS where I went to school, so I had about $60k out in loans about halfway through the program, but I also had a good chunk of undergrad debt that inflated that number to six figures. If you have a more reasonable amount of debt at this point, then your situation will likely be better than mine. If you feel that it would benefit you, this may provide an apt opportunity to get somewhat involved in those other passions and weigh them alongside your passion for vet med.

I also would definitely urge you to seriously look into counseling, if you haven't already. When I was attending school, the hours for counseling were not at all conducive to a vet student schedule (the only option iirc was on main campus), but looking back on it, knowing what has happened, in retrospect, I would have made the time for it if it would have helped. Even if it meant missing class. As I understand it, in the time since I left, my school has hired dedicated counseling staff specifically for vet students, which is good. If your school also offers that, I would absolutely take advantage.

Other than that, no matter what you choose to do, do ensure that you make time for yourself to unwind and decompress. Vet school is so incredibly hard; you're not going to be performing optimally if your brain is constantly being bombarded with information from every which way without time to recoup and recover. When I was in vet school, I studied more or less all day every day and did almost nothing else, but it sure did not show in my grades. For all I know, if I had just pulled back on the pedal a bit and made time for self-care and making certain that I was in a healthy place both physically and mentally, I might still be there. Instead, I put my head down and tried doggedly, in vain, to push through in silence despite the fact that something was very wrong because that’s what everyone around me seemed to be doing. And it ended in disaster.

Please, please, please do not allow yourself to get into the position that I was in; if you ultimately do leave vet school, then it is always better for you to do so on your own accord because you came to an informed decision after evaluating your priorities in life and your own unique situation versus being forced out, with no idea where to go or what to do or how to manage your debt, because you allowed yourself to slip past the point of no return.

Best of luck, no matter what you choose to do. It's a difficult decision to make, no two ways about it.

ETA: If you or anyone else in this situation wants more detailed information about how I handled things, feel free to shoot me a PM. Even if you just want to vent/talk about things privately to an open ear, I’m willing to be that outlet. There is virtually zero support out there for people who leave vet school, voluntarily or not, either from the governing bodies at large (vet schools, AAVMC, AVMA, etc.) or in general, and no one seems really interested at all in studying/exploring how the debt and other issues impact us, which I think is sad.




Thank you so much for your reply. Sorry I took a few days to respond, I did not get any alerts to my email that anyone wrote back! I have to figure out how to change this setting..

I am in a similar position currently as you were. I finished first year of vet school, and just finished my fall semester of second year but I failed one course (only by 4 points!!) so I was not allowed to continue into this spring semester because of that failure. They are giving me the opportunity to come back this fall as a second year again and retake that course. We have other courses starting this fall (which I passed), but I still would have to pay for the whole semester. I would not have to attend all of the other classes I passed, just this one that I failed. So I am technically a year behind because of it, and would be starting with a new class with students I don’t know (they are the current first year class). So I am not in the exact same position as you, I would not have to start again as a first year, or reapply. I know I am very fortunate to be given this chance to repeat. I just have to decide if I want to do it again. I am so so sorry what happened to you did. I find it very surprising that they would still kick someone out even when they passed all of their classes. That is so disheartening, and I am so sorry you had to go through that and are still going through that. I am also sorry about what you are currently dealing with regarding living situation and paying for your apartment, not having health insurance, and working a job that does not pay a decent wage.

So, because of my current situation, I have from now until the end of August off. So that is about 6.5 months in total. So that would be my “leave of absence” without taking a whole year off. It is not at all what I wanted, and because of some certain situations that happened this fall, I failed one of my exams in that course which caused me to fail that course overall. We have a counselor at my vet school specifically for us, and I have seen them since I started first year. It helps, but like you said, the timing is not always the best. However, there have been times in first year when I skipped class and went to see my counselor instead.

I, like you, also studied all day every day, and my grades did not show it. I did poorly on every exam (except for the occasional one). I have always felt so frustrated being in vet school because I would study so so much for hours on end, and never do well on exams and I could never understand why. Other students who had part time jobs, and who I know studied SO much less than I did would perform so much better than me on exams, and would know so much more information that I did. I never understood why, and still kind of don’t. I have a learning disability which makes my learning slower than others to begin with, so that is a hiccup for me. I never made time to do anything for myself because I wanted that time to study, but I agree with you that if I had just stopped and did something fun every week, I probably would have done so much better.

I know how hard it must have been for you to respond to me, so I really really appreciate you taking the time to write back and tell me your story. It honestly 100% helps me. It helps to know that there are others out there who have been through this, and who are currently dealing with hard times. I do not want to look back and regret any decision I make regarding vet school. It is difficult to see my friends and classmates post photos of them as well considering I was so close to passing! I know for me, I NEEDED this break. I would have probably lost it or failed again this semester because I was so burnt out. I think this happened for a reason, and maybe this is why. It is a lot of money I am losing because I am now behind, but I have to think about the entire picture. If I were you at your school you attended, had to reapply, get accepted again, and then start again at first year, I wouldn’t do it either. I don’t blame you for not going back, that is SO hard to do and to deal with. I can’t imagine that, so I am so sorry your school did not offer any other options to you. Things happen in our lives sometimes that we cannot control (like what happened with me), so it is really hard to try and understand that someone would only be given one chance like that. What you said really struck me because I had NO idea this even occurred at other schools. I am very lucky I guess to be given this opportunity and not have to start again. It makes me feel a lot better about coming back if I do, because that would not have been an option for me maybe at another school. I do not know what each school does when a person fails, but now I realize each school has their own rules. It makes me feel better because I now feel at least it is an opportunity that I would not have had otherwise. So I am grateful for you and your writing to me, and even though it was so hard I am sure, it really gave me a lot of perspective. I think having these next 6 months off with my bf will be amazing and help me so much to get through this hard time. I never got to see him during vet school because he lives 3,000 miles away, so I only saw him every 2-2.5 months. I think this will be so good for me mentally and physically to give me the time off and the break I needed. I am now thinking more towards coming back because I think I will be so much more clear headed. Also, this course I would be repeating I have already taken, so I know it would be so much easier this second time. So the fall semester would be very easy to me since I would not have to attend any other classes.

I agree with you on your last statement. I definitely think there is not enough talk about being in vet school, and how hard it is, and why people leave, or fail. It is never discussed, and people are afraid I think to talk about it. It was hard for me even to talk about it with my friends in vet school because they always did well on exams.

Thank you again so much for your response, and I really hope things get better for you. I wish you the best in whatever you choose to do, and that may take time, but that’s ok! Thank you again.
 
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Adogloveralways

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No problem at all. Like I said, if anything good came out of this whole rigamarole, it's that I now have a pretty unique perspective as someone who got into vet school and was dismissed, and I am able to share that experience and provide support to others in a similar spot. Interestingly, since I made that initial post, I've actually received a couple of PMs from people who went through more or less the same thing that I did... so clearly we aren't alone in this. I suspect that you're correct on that it's something that happens more often than we may think that it does but generally just doesn't get acknowledged, and is kind of a taboo or hush-hush topic.

I'm really sorry that you're having difficulties with your grades, too. That makes it sting so much more. It's difficult enough to be in vet school constantly dealing with the demon that is impostor syndrome, but it's another thing entirely to deal with it while actually being on the edge academically. I am, at least, glad to hear that your vet school is much more forgiving of these transgressions than mine was and that they are offering you the opportunity to repeat the year. Thankfully, it also sounds like you've got a good deal of time to think things over and perhaps explore those other passions that you mentioned in an earlier post. I know that that doesn't make it any easier, or less painful, but it's awesome that your school appears to be more supportive of its students than mine and a few others I've heard of where the policies are very cut-and-dry. The fact is that no one in vet school is too stupid or lazy to be there; we all go through the same highly selective, rigorous admissions process and you just don't get accepted unless you're very intelligent and hard-working. I know that not everyone believes in second chances, but when the material is of vet school difficulty and volume and so much as one really poor test grade can be the nail in the coffin, I think that they're fair; I truly think that you would be hard-pressed to find a vet student who truly intends on just coasting through without giving it their all.

My vet school actually will allow for a student to repeat or drop to the class below if they end up leaving for health issues or other extenuating circumstances; unfortunately, this doesn't seem to apply for students who are just struggling academically like I was but don't have much in the way of "life reasons" for it. Even if a student does have those circumstances and ends up dismissed, they have to petition to be readmitted and, honestly, I have no idea as to the success rate of that. Part of me wishes I had tried to fight it since I was dealing with a severe, unmedicated mental illness, but I felt so incredibly defeated at the time and another part of me knows that, deep down, it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome. In my case, I passed all of the semesters that I was there, but my GPA was low enough after spring of first year (damn you, large animal anatomy) that I was placed on academic probation. At my school, if you receive a failing grade in a class or rotation, you're out immediately; being placed on probation, on the other hand, means that the student must pass the next semester with a certain GPA or they are dismissed. I was just under that GPA at the end of my fall semester of second year. I went home for winter break, fully expecting to not go back, and the day after Christmas, I received my official dismissal letter. It didn't really hit me until school started back up and I wasn't able to return that I realized all of what that fully entailed for my future. Oh, and I still had to drive up there after the new semester began in order to turn in my ID cards and things, which... yeah, that was fun emotionally.

My former vet school has really started pushing for mental wellness in its students as of late, which I think is extremely admirable and I'm glad that more attention is being given to staying healthy when in vet school because vet students genuinely are a highly at-risk population for depression and suicide. It is, however, frustrating that this is the same school that will outright dismiss a student going through a difficult time mentally, and who has technically passed all of their classes, without thinking of how being kicked out will impact them when that student has sought out and attempted to take advantage of many resources offered by the school, including tutoring, extra study sessions, professor meetings, Jeopardy sessions, etc. Or, especially, how dismissing a student halfway through the program is more or less a financial death sentence for that student if they do not have a very good backup plan or a family or SO to support them. My dismissal ultimately was my own fault; perhaps I could have done more to prevent it, I don't know and I never will, but I have to admit that I still do feel bitter about the entire vet school experience.

I just wish that the school would reconsider their current policies. From what I've seen, many vet schools have started to become more open to students repeating a semester or year, and while I'm not sure that I would have jumped at the opportunity (more realistically, I would have likely struggled with deciding whether or not to go for it as you currently are), I would have at least appreciated the school giving me the benefit of the doubt. Yes, the dismissal letter did technically detail a path for me to be readmitted, but it was such a long and convoluted path that it is almost comical and would have involved me taking out considerable additional debt (seriously, masters classes, reapplying to get in as a "vet med special student", then maybe getting to start over from first year?). Understandably, from what I've been told, few students go for it. It just wasn't going to be worth it. I would say that the loss of a student in a vet school class means less tuition money for the school, so there is financial incentive for them to keep us in, but my school also accepts a decent number of transfer students who, presumably, take the place of those of us who leave for whatever reason. Oddly, too, my class in particular has lost more students than the other recent classes at my school---I truthfully couldn't tell you why the c/o 2020 seems to be an anomaly, but I think it's interesting nonetheless.

Am I being unnecessarily critical of my former school? Maybe. I don't blame the school for what happened; that fault lies entirely with me and I know that. I know that I could have perhaps done more. I know that I should have been more adaptable and maybe I could have worked harder... but I already felt like I was operating 110% and taking advantage of the majority of the additional opportunities that I was afforded in order to save myself. I know that I should have gone to counseling and sought psychiatric help sooner. Ultimately, it is my fault and my fault only; that said, I do think that, based upon what I've heard from students at other vet schools, that there probably are some opportunities for my school to improve things in this regard and offer more support to struggling students. I attended lunch lectures and meetings covering mental wellness topics and stressing just how critical being healthy, in all aspects, is to vet school success, but then I also once had a professor tell me, in a roundabout way, that, if I was truly attending my tutoring sessions and studying as much as I said that I was but was still bordering on a failing grade, then there just either must be something wrong with me or I'm not trying hard enough and didn't offer much more in the way of advice outside of that.

I don't know. I just think about the thousands of hours of free work I put in in order to get vet experience, the seven years of education, the substantial amount of money and time and effort I put into applications, let alone vet school itself, and the sheer staggering debt that I'm in... and it really hurts to know that it was all for nothing in the end and that, even if I wanted to try for vet school again---or even another professional school---in the future, I imagine that it would be borderline impossible to get back in anywhere with that dismissal on my record. At least for a very long time. I feel like my life has been completely ruined and I have no idea where to go from here. I think about everything I'm up against in terms of health issues, student loan debt, relative inability to go back for more schooling for another career... it's hard to not feel despondent and angry at myself for even trying and thinking that I could make it in the first place. For fooling myself into believing that I was ever smart enough or strong enough or hardworking enough to actually become a doctor.

Anyway. I apologize, I went off on quite the ramble there. I just wanted to clarify what exactly transpired to get me dismissed and how the policies at my school work so that there is no confusion about that. I am, at the very least, glad to hear that wellness is getting much more emphasis in the curriculum and that there is now dedicated vet school counseling staff available. It's too late for me, obviously, but it's a step in the right direction.

As for you, trust me when I say that I do completely empathize with your struggle. As I've alluded to already, vet school is difficult enough even when you're not struggling. I am happy to hear that you've taken advantage of counseling a few times and that it has helped somewhat! I'm afraid that availability is always going to be a bit of an issue with the typical vet student schedule being what it is, most likely, but I'm glad that that is an option for you.

Like I said previously, I think that this leave of absence, though it was unplanned and certainly undesired, could act as a golden opportunity for you to explore those other areas of interest and see how those stack up against your passion for vet med. Hopefully, after taking some time to do that and candidly reflect over things, your decision becomes clear. But, of course, I know that it is never that easy, as there is always that human element of doubt and fear of the unknown that comes into play.

Again, I wish you the best of things no matter what you choose to do.





I’m so glad to hear that other students reached out to you! I am not surprised there are more people who have been going through hard times as well. Vet school is the hardest thing I have dealt with thus far in my life.

I am so sorry again for what happened to you because of the vet school you attended. It is such a shame they don’t consider academic issues the same as any health issues. It really isn’t fair, especially when they know how much money vet school costs! Here in lies the problem is so many people go to vet school with a ‘animal science’ or ‘pre-vet’ degree just to get into vet school. So what happens when something happens and they for some reason have to leave school? Then they have to fall back on their degree, and what career/job are they supposed to do/have with that degree? It is supposed to be so hard to get into vet school, but what about once you get into vet school? It is so much harder in my opinion to actually stay in vet school than it is to get into vet school.

I definitely think you ARE smart enough to become whatever you would like. You got into veterinary school in the first place, which is so so difficult to do, so clearly you are very smart to have been accepted. You also got through vet school! It is only because of a horrible technicality that the school has that you are not there currently. Having any medical issue, mental issue, physical issue, of course anyone would have difficulty getting though vet school. It is SO hard getting through vet school for someone who is totally healthy. I know you are still deciding what to do, but please don’t think that your experience was a total waste. Your veterinary experience up until now will serve you well if you do want to work with animals still. If you still love animals and love working with them and their pet parents, you definitely can. I know plenty of friends who decided to become RVT’s or LVT’s instead, and love their jobs. In fact, one I know of specialized in dental, and is now a dental technician and a practice manager. So, they make a lot more money because of it. Another specialized working in urgent care with animals, and they make a LOT more money hourly because of it. Also, you can co-own a veterinary practice, and in some states, you can solely own a practice on your own as an RVT. These are all things I considered before applying to veterinary school, because I was taking classes for becoming an RVT instead. The courses overlapped though, so I decided to then apply to vet school and take some additional courses. I am sure with your prerequisite courses you have taken, you can use a lot of those towards an LVT or RVT license. The courses I took were at a community college, so they were free for me, but also super cheap for others who they were not free for. I am just throwing that idea out there to think about since it was something I was doing before deciding to go to vet school.

My time away now will be well spent so I can truly decide what is best for me. I am leaning more now towards coming back to school, but I think I have to take more time to decide for sure. I have a few months to decide, so it will be nice to have that time. I have a lot of time off now in fact, and I am SO excited to not have to study for the next 6 months!! :)

Thank you so much for your help and support. I wish you all the best in whatever you decide to do!
 
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Danny_Lulu

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Hi OP, I am also on the opposite side of the spectrum as I am currently working full time as a marketing strategist for a media agency, preparing to apply to vet med.

This reply might be a little late but please feel free to shoot me a msg if you have any questions on media planning/marketing industry I would love to help you gain some detailed insight. :)
 
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Adogloveralways

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Thanks!
Hi OP, I am also on the opposite side of the spectrum as I am currently working full time as a marketing strategist for a media agency, preparing to apply to vet med.

This reply might be a little late but please feel free to shoot me a msg if you have any questions on media planning/marketing industry I would love to help you gain some detailed insight. :)

Thank you!
 
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