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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Picking A Vet School

Lauren emailed me with the following...

I currently live in Phoenix (worst place ever for a vet major since CSU is beyond difficult to get into). I have about 1.5 years left in undergrad work and was applying to schools out of state as a transfer to finish up. I am looking into schools that already have vet programs to increase my odds (I’ve done a lot of research on this and have figured out my odds of being instate for each school in the US). I have eliminated several schools based on location and difficulty as I don’t want to set myself up for failure. I have currently applied to Iowa State, Oregon State, and Louisiana State. I know I’ve already been accepted into Iowa State and am waiting to hear from the other 2. With that said, there were also 3 other schools I was looking at (Purdue, UT, and Washington State). Those applications are not even available until August 1st.  My questions are – in your opinion, is it a smart move for me to do this? I am basically putting all my eggs in one basket, but staying in AZ makes it nearly impossible. Also, if I decide to apply to the other 3 schools I won’t even hear back until mid October and I’ll be mid way through a semester at school. Should I just decide on one of the 3 I have already applied to so I can make a plan for my move for January and start looking into housing options, loans, scholarships, jobs etc now while I’m not in school and not stress about that during a very difficult semester to come? I feel a strong pull toward Iowa State. I’ve had many signs from God telling me that is where I’m needed, but I also want to be as smart about this as possible and do as much research as I can to benefit my end result. I don’t know anyone at that school so I’d be leaving everything I’ve ever know in AZ which is terrifying. I’d really love to hear from someone who has gone through this stress and decision making process to know if I am being smart and reasonable about this. I have good grades, I volunteer with a no-kill rescue, I have worked as a tech at a specialty and emergency hospital, so I feel pretty confident about those areas, just unsure of taking the final leap.

Definitely looks like you're planning ahead!  I do have a few bits of advice that may help your decision.

First of all, be VERY certain that you know what each school requires to get in-state status.  I went to the University of Tennessee for my Master's degree, and planned on going to UT for vet school since I was already there.  However, much to my dismay I learned that the admissions department still considered me an out-of-state student because I had come to Tennessee to attend school.  It didn't matter to them that I had lived in the state for two years, paid taxes, had my car and driver's license in the state, and was by all other definitions considered a Tennessee resident.  They told me that I would have to live in the state for at least nine months without attending classes before they would consider me an in-state resident for school purposes.  It is much harder to get accepted into a veterinary school as an out-of-state student, so this will need to weigh in your decision.  Additionally be aware of which credits will transfer.  You may go to a different school and discover that you have to take many classes over again because the new university doesn't accept the grades and credits from Arizona.  Before saying a final "yes" be very, very certain of how all of this will affect your credits, residency, and future chances for veterinary school.

It's never a bad idea to apply to multiple schools, as you may be declined at one and accepted at another.  But it's unrealistic to apply to a dozen or so, especially with moving costs.  It's great that you've already been accepted at Iowa!  This really helps, as you have something to fall back on if the others don't work out.  But if you have to accept Iowa's offer before you are able to apply the others or would hear back from them, I would go ahead and say yes to them so that you don't miss out on that chance.

If you're uncertain about which school to choose, especially if you are accepted at multiple ones, sit down and make a list of all of the pros and cons of each one.  Look at what you might want to do once you graduate (realizing that many people change their minds several times during vet school), and see which college might give you the best training or edge in this area.  Don't forget to list the pros and cons of non-collegiate aspects such as weather, local activities, people you know, etc.  Honestly, these "fuzzy" factors can be just as important as the actual education since you'll be living there for at least four years.

Here's another hint that might be a bit scandalous.  Don't worry about the school's national ranking!  Seriously.  When I'm looking at a new graduate I really don't care what school they've been at, and most employers are the same way.  If you've graduated and been licensed, then you're a veterinarian.  I've seen good and bad vets from most of the schools, so the college on the diploma really doesn't matter to me much.  Pick a school for reasons other than ranking.

I also wanted to address another thing that you feel that God is directing you to Iowa.  I don't often mention religion in this blog, but I'm a conservative Christian, active in church and ministries, and the will of God is very important to me.  If you feel through prayer and meditation that God wants you in Iowa, then to me that's the single most important factor.  If that's His desire and plan for you and you try to go somewhere else you will have a harder time.  God gives us intelligence and reason and we shouldn't ignore these, but He wants us to listen to Him even more.  Pray about it and listen closely to Him and you will find your answer.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Best of luck to you, Lauren!