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Monday, June 8, 2015


I received this email last month and wanted to share it in my blog because I think it can give some perspective to those going through similar circumstances. 
My daughter finished her second year of vet school. She missed a "C" in a Large Animal GI class by 0.5.  With that, and because her other grades are "B"s and "C"s, they told her she must repeat the whole year.

We are all sick over this. My daughter was hoping she could just repeat this class or do something over summer to earn the half of a point.  Interestingly, we know for a fact some professors round up as much as two points in various classes, so she was hoping. But this Large Animal prof said she doesn't round up. So here's where we are.

Now, home for the summer, my daughter is devastated, depressed and sick. She and I can hardly make it through the day. Perhaps we are in shock.

At any rate, what should she do? Repeat a year and eat more debt, or step out and use it as a chance to do something else?

Vet school is tough.  Heck, saying "tough" is an understatement of epic proportions.  Going through a veterinary education was the hardest thing I've done in my life, including writing a Master's thesis.  The amount of material you have to learn in four years is overwhelming, and it's difficult for even the most intelligent and studious person to do well.  Yes, there are people who make straight-A's in vet school, but they are certainly the minority.  Even though the students accepted into school are the best and brightest available, it goes beyond even their abilities at times.  In a way it's surprising that more people don't end up doing poorly.

I was not the smartest or best in my class.  I graduated with barely a 3.0 GPA and was right at the 50th percentile in my class.  I had friend who made straight-As, but that wasn't me.  I got mostly Bs with occasional As and a few Cs.  For us driven over-achievers, these grades are difficult to accept, but they're quite acceptable. 

One of my classmates was in a similar situation to the young woman mentioned above.  He received a couple of Ds and was given the choice of dropping out or repeating a year.  He decided on the latter and joined the class coming up behind us.  Several years after graduating I ran into him at a conference and learned that he did graduate and had become a successful and well-respected vet in Las Vegas.  While I'm sure it was difficult for him to go through that year again and join people that he didn't know as well, he pushed through it and came out fine on the other end.

Here's a secret that I don't think many professors will tell you.  When you're interviewing for a job, nobody is going to ask you what your grades were.  I did in-person interviews at about a dozen clinics when I graduated, and not one of them inquired about my GPA.  Once you receive your degree, your grades simply don't matter!  You do have to worry about them in school, but low grades are not a stigma in your career. 

There are a couple of sayings that I've heard and used over the years.

"C = DVM" 
Yep, many vets graduate with healthy C averages.  And that's okay!  A vet student could get nothing but Cs and graduate, pass their board exams, and go on to great success.

"Q:  What do you call the person with the lowest GPA in the graduating class?
A:  Doctor."
Somebody has to have the lowest GPA, just as somebody has to have the highest.  But the person with the lowest GPA is just as much a doctor as the Valedictorian. 

Let me take a moment here and assure clients that just because someone received a C average in vet school doesn't mean that they're a second-rate doctor.  School is hard!  And it's filled with many things in which we may have little interest, or cases we may rarely see.  Fully half of my training was on anatomy, physiology, and diseases in large animals and livestock, yet I haven't dealt with any of these animals or cases in 18 years.  Even back then I knew I wasn't going to go into that aspect of medicine, so those courses and rotations were more difficult for me.  There are also disorders and surgeries I learned that I will never see or do in my career, chosing to refer those cases to specialists who are far more capable in those areas than am I. 

Practice is also the great equalizer.  After just a couple of years in practice I understood my cases far better than I ever did in school.  My first spay in school took me over two hours, my first few in practice were 45-60 minutes, and now I can do one in about 15 minutes.  I can diagram and describe the causes and treatments of Cushing's disease without hesitation, yet I barely understood it during my classes.  Getting out and seeing the patients in real-world settings cements the knowledge in your head and makes you far better at your job. 

Those are the reasons why your grades in school really don't matter one tiny bit after you graduate.

If financially feasible (and it may not be), repeating a year isn't the end of the world, and when you graduate and interview for jobs, nobody will ask or care.  They will only care that you have your degree and your license, and then will look at your personality and other merits.  And if you do end up repeating, at least this time you'll have a better idea of what to expect.