High schooler interested in vet school?

I’m currently in high school and have heard that I should take as many higher classes on biology, math, and chem. Besides from that, what do you recommend I learn to become a veterinary or any basic stuff I should learn about animals during the weekend or when I have time.

I will be taking a veterinary shadow program once I’m 16 in order to get a feel and I have looked at veterinary surgery on YouTube so it is something I feel comfortable with doing.

My son is in his second year of undergraduate school and has been accepted in an early admission to vet school program. In high school the key is to take what you need to get into the college you desire. Pick a college that you can get good grades and no debt! The prestige of the college isn’t a big factor. Pick one that offers the prerequisites vet schools want. I would say AP chem, biology and physics are good. Shadow as many vets as you can. Volunteer or work as a vet assistant, volunteer at animal rescues or shelters. Get hours working with animals any way you can. Make sure you understand the positives and negatives of the career.

I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a veterinarian (and I am currently a 3rd year vet student). Unfortunately, as you are probably learning; the road to earning a DVM is not easy. Most veterinarians spend 7-8 years in college: between undergrad and vet school. As far as high school requirements, I was actually homeschooled and did not have any AP classes. So you will definitely be a leg up coming into college with credits. That is one of the biggest things I regret about homeschooling.

Job opportunities and options for veterinarians are plenty. From private practice, corporate practice, research to government - the job opportunities are basically endless. On the flip side, the amount of student loan debt recent veterinarians have is crushing. This is mainly due to the on going rise in vet school tuition. As an example, in 2000 in-state tuition for vet students at Kansas State University was $5,674 per year. Now in-state tuition at K-state is pushing $25,000. Nearly a 450% increase in 18 years! And K-state is not alone - this is occurring at every vet school in the nation.

The average student loan debt for 2017 graduates was $144,000. And over 25% have debt above $200,000. While the average starting salary for 2017 grads was $73,000. $73k might sound like a lot of money right now, however, recent graduates are finding it difficult to get approval for auto loans and housing mortgages due to their high debt burden.

While I am not trying to discourage you from attending vet school, I want to educate you on the harsh reality of the costs and financial strain most recent veterinarians face.

If you are not aware, vet school admission is based on state residency. More seats are available to in-state residents than non-residents. In addition, it is generally cheaper to go to your in-state vet school. (There are a few caveat to this but I won’t go into them here)

Shadowing a veterinarian is the best way to understand the field and know if it is something you truly want to pursue. While veterinary medicine is treating animals, the majority of the vet’s time is spent with humans. In reality it is a people job not an animal. There is a lot of time spent communicating with owners and explaining treatment options. I would also recommend that you choose a major in college that enables for a back-up plan. I did not get accepted into vet school on my first attempt and I was thankful my major enabled me a great job opportunity outside of vet med.

Best luck to you on the road ahead. It may be a long tough road but hopefully it will be worth it.

Agree with what chestie69 said. My sister is a vet. Vet school is expensive, so minimize your undergraduate expenses and save your money for the veterinary program. It’s like going to med school, except you will never earn anything near what a physician will bring in to pay back loans. My sister went to Rutgers, our state flagship, for undergrad, and majored in animal science.

The state residency aspect is critical. Does your state have a vet school? How many seats does it have? That’s your competition. If your state does not have a vet school it gets complicated. My sister was from NJ which does not have a vet school. NJ has contracts with other states to admit NJ students, but NJ seats are limited. She could only apply to schools that had seats for NJ students. Find out what your state offers for veterinary education.

One other thing I want to mention—veterinary care is expensive. Yes, some people have pet insurance but your human clients will constantly be weighing the cost of veterinary care against what they can reasonably afford to spend on their pet. When a child gets cancer, parents will spare no expense. When a dog gets cancer it’s not so clear cut and you will need to stand by as your human client makes the decision to forego treatment. Make sure you can be comfortable watching these decisions being made.

There is some very good advice above.

You should try to get some experience in animal care / veterinary situations. If there is a veterinary clinic near your home see if you can volunteer there. The people I know who are pre-vet undergraduate students have an enormous amount of experience with animals – big ones and little ones. Also, as @chestie69 said, a lot of veterinary medicine is dealing with the humans (every animal comes with one), so experience dealing with humans is also a very good idea.

Veterinary school is very expensive. A $200,000 debt is back breaking on an income of $75,000 per year. You need to try very hard to avoid taking on any debt at all for undergrad. Find out what your budget is and find out whether your in-state public school and your family finances will allow you to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and no debt.

“a veterinary shadow program” sounds like a great idea.

Elaborating on what @eastcoast101 said regarding veterinary costs.
I think most clients are unaware of true medical costs due to humans having health insurance. They can’t understand why it only costs $20 when they see the doctor but $100 for Fido. In addition, since animals are unable to speak, vets have to perform diagnostics that may not be needed in human medicine. Thus, clients may view these tests as unnecessary and solely for the benefit of bill padding.

I do agree that it can be very difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars on a pet. Personally, the choice for me would be easier if my pet were to have cancer. I know I would not choose to put my own pet through chemo treatments. I just could not justify the stress my cat would have to endure for only gaining a few additional weeks of life. (I guess my point is that I don’t think the most expensive option is always the best option and I think it is human nature to think that the two are equal.)

Kinda railroaded the thread but veterinary costs are a very important aspect of vet med.

Also, for what it’s worth, one of my goals of a vet is to try and keep costs affordable. Growing up, I saw my mother struggle between caring for our cats and not angering my father. My father sees animals as a “here today gone tomorrow” object. And he always has objected to any money spent at the vet. I’m sure he would cringe if he knew I just spent $2000 on my sick cat over x-mas. Not his money though!

Do you have a pet?

You should definitely take as many science oriented classes to build a solid knowledge foundation. However, with that said, don’t limit yourself to a particular focus. You are only in high school so you should learn a bit of everything. You might discover something that you are more passionate about or maybe, you’ll discover the only thing you are passionate about is vet med.

Getting experience is the important thing that you should pay attention to now. Vet schools like to see that you’ve have been at a clinic or hospital. It is very important for you to see the pros and cons of being a vet (emphasis on the cons). Certain people cannot emotionally handle the rigors of being a vet (dealing with death, dealing with unreasonable owners, etc).

If you are still interested in being a vet after all of that, start to look into bio/animal science undergraduate programs. I, personally, went the route of a university that had an animal science program and also a vet school.