Sometimes I narrate my life in my head, as if I’m on my own television show presenting a monologue in the opening scenes setting up the story. I think it’s a way of dissociating a little bit. I think it helps remove myself from my body when I’m feeling stress; it lets me float outside of my head and watch the way I interact with the world without actually having to interact with the world. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. When I would talk to a counselor about stress management in my undergrad, she said it was great that I was so observant of myself and my emotions, but I think it leads me down a wormhole sometimes. Especially late at night when I’d rather be sleeping than analyzing myself, or narrating my day again.
Today was the first day back to vet school for OSU. I’m a second year now and I felt extremely organized – I prepared my notes, packed a lunch, got a gift organized for my little. I paid attention in class and was feeling good until my boyfriend picked me up from school. The traffic was horrible with it being the first day of class and 4:15pm, so naturally he was agitated and swerving between and around slower cars. I started getting nervous as he approached other people’s tail lights more quickly than I am comfortable with and with every quick breaking of the car, my heart rate increased. I began thinking about the seven classes I sat through today and how much material there was to review already. I thought about the fact that I had to get to the barn to clean stalls and ride my horse because we have a show this weekend that I naively registered for while agreeing to work my regular full summer schedule through the first week of classes. I already felt behind and it wasn’t even day two yet.
So how can I fix this? Exercise helps. Pushing my body so that I feel tired enough to relax has always helped. But then I start making excuses. Well, they aren’t excuses really, to me they are legitimate concerns, but to the rest of the world they might sound like excuses. It’s 11:00pm right now, so my plan is to wake up at 6:00am and hit the gym prior to my 9:00am class. But I dyed my hair yesterday and specifically avoided washing it again tonight because it has a blue hue and it will fade quickly with too frequent washing. But if I don’t run, I’ll be anxious all day. But if I run, I’ll have to shower, because I didn’t wash my hair after riding tonight and elected to use dry shampoo instead which can only be used so many times before your hair feels glued on. But I need to run. But if I shower, my hair will fade to a dingy color and I used bleach this last time so another dye job could do some serious damage. This sounds all so shallow and insignificant, but as I write about it, I can feel this tension in my chest like my life depends on making this decision right now and making the wrong decision would ruin me.
I haven’t felt like this in a long time and I guess it’s to be expected as I head back to school after a summer of hard physical work in a low-stress environment. I didn’t think the anxiety would hit quite so soon. The logical answer is to forget my hair and run because I know it will help. Blogging helps too, in its own way. I guess that’s kind of odd when it’s just more narration. But maybe putting it down in a permanent place where I can come back to it and read it, even edit it, will help loosen that tightness in my chest tonight.
Since I graduated a year early, the class that I started undergrad with just recently graduated this past May. Many of them were accepted into veterinary school and a few are even looking forward to attending The Ohio State University with me. While they’re very nervous for what they’re about to embark on, no one seems to be as nervous as those who are only just applying to veterinary school.
I’ve had many friends reach out to me asking about my GRE test scores, my GPA, my experience hours, my research hours, the interview, from what the questions were down to what I wore. I remember being as nervous as they are. I remember taking the GRE twice because I didn’t think that my first scores were impressive enough. Yet when I received the exact same scores the second time, I decided it was a risk I was willing to take because I wasn’t willing to spend the money again or stare at a screen for that long again. Now that I’ve gotten so many questions and finished out my first year, I’ve decided to put a few tips together on how I would recommend preparing yourself for the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
- Grades don’t define you. They’re very very important, don’t get me wrong, and vet schools are pretty unlikely to look at a candidate who has lived their years of undergrad on academic probation. However, a “B” is not going to ruin your chances. A “C” won’t get you declined either. Remember, applications and interviews are designed to give you opportunities to present yourself to the best of your abilities so use them! Take these chances to explain potential dips in grades if you have them. If you just had a tough time, accept it and realize that there is much more to the application than your GPA.
- Take the GRE seriously, but not too seriously. This is much more easily said than done. There are certain questions on the GRE that you will not be prepared for, even if you study constantly. You are not meant to know every single question on that exam. Study as much as you can before it, but don’t let it consume your life, especially if you’re still finishing undergrad.
- Don’t do things just to put them on your resume. I completed an internship at a local zoo to “round out my resume” and add a few exotic species to the list. The only thing that I gained from that internship is that I did not want to work with exotic species. While this is important to know, you don’t want to spend a huge chunk of your time doing something you hate just so you can write it down.
- Use things you like to find opportunities that can help fill your resume. I was very involved in my undergrad career with different opportunities from Colleges Against Cancer and Relay for Life to Student Government Board. If you have a club you like, consider being an officer to gain leadership experience. These are also great opportunities to network with people throughout the nation through retreats and seminars.
- Be honest in your interview. When interviewing at Mizzou, OSU, and U of Florida, I was asked what I would do if I were not accepted to veterinary school, or some variation of that. At first, I wanted to say that I would apply again, but anyone who knows the process knows the amount of energy and money required to complete it. I honestly could not imagine how I would feel if I were not accepted, and for some reason all that came to mind were cupcakes. I love baking cupcakes. They make me feel good and artistic and creative. So I told each school that I would open a bakery. Each interviewer was shocked with the response, some laughed and others asked for samples if I got accepted. Other times I was asked questions that I did not know the answer to, so I told them I did not know and hoped to learn that while in veterinary school. The panelists all appreciated my honesty and got to know me in the process.
- Ask your interviewers questions. They want to know that you’re prepared for veterinary school, but you need to make sure that this school is right for you, too. I made a point to ask about mental health practices that the school takes part in. This is a growing concern throughout the profession and it is important to me, so I wanted to go to a school that had a good program in place.
- Start early and take breaks often. This process is long and tedious, especially if you are applying to a bunch of schools like I did. Many of the supplemental applications will have questions you’ve already had on the common app. Take it slow, but keep in mind your deadlines!
- Remember that this huge event is only a small part in your life. Everyone who applies to veterinary school has felt the same anxiety that you’re feeling, but it won’t last. It’s certainly not something that haunts me at night, nor any of my friends. I have lots of friends who weren’t accepted their first time and either reapplied or chose different paths. I have quite a few friends who did get accepted and decided they didn’t want to be veterinarians after all. Right now, I know, all you can see is vet school. This doesn’t feel like an option, you might not have a back-up plan, this might be the only egg in your basket, but there is so much more out there. Keep pushing through and remembering that there is more to life than vet school. Remember your friends and family and lean on them for support. Remember your teams, professors, pets, and hobbies. It is so easy to get wrapped up in this world, but remember that you’re more than just a potential vet student.