Updated: Mar 30, 2021
As prospective vet students, this tends to be a burning question that many of you want to ask us - what is vet school really like? As a 2017 graduate from the Royal Veterinary College, I can tell you all about my experiences there (spoiler: I loved it). Each vet school is slightly different - see our Universities Guide for further information on this - but vet students tend to have a great experience wherever they go.
Life as a Vet Student
Your first year at vet school will likely pass in a bit of a whirl! The first few weeks are spent establishing your friendship groups, joining societies (I recommend as many as possible and then decide further down the line which ones you plan to continue), getting used to independent living and last but not least starting your studies. It’s a big step up from A Levels, and particularly in the first year you’ll feel like you’re learning a new language with all the anatomy and physiology. Imposter syndrome is common - I certainly felt it - but most students find they adapt to a new way of learning and studying very quickly and you’ll soon get into the swing of things. If you don’t, there is loads of support available at university, all you have to do is ask! Year groups at vet school also tend to be really close-knit, so people are very happy to support you and work collaboratively in study groups. You’ll find that your hours at vet school are longer than for many other courses, but it’s all worth it when you’re studying a course that you love, like I did at the Royal Veterinary College! You will also spend a significant part of your holidays doing AHEMS (animal husbandry extra mural studies) and EMS (clinical extramural studies), which is unpaid work but incredibly beneficial to your learning and overall experience. Even students that aren’t particularly farm-orientated often find that they really enjoy placements such as lambing in the Easter holidays.
The Best Parts of Vet School
For me, the best part of vet school was being part of such a supportive community of like-minded students - you really will make friends for life here. At the RVC I also had the opportunity to learn from true leaders in their field, which was very inspiring and motivated me a lot towards my goals. Vets are well known for working hard and playing hard, so expect some great parties along the way! There’s also a lot of fancy dress for whatever reason, the pinnacle of which being the infamous AVS (Association of Veterinary Students) Sports Weekend - this is where all the vet schools visit a chosen university and play ‘sports’ but mainly just have a great time.
The Challenges of Vet School
Life at vet school certainly doesn’t come without its challenges - it is an extremely academically demanding course, and it can feel overwhelming. Many vet students go from being the very top of their year at school to ‘average’ at vet school, and this can be a really tricky adjustment as many of us are perfectionists. Veterinary Medicine is a long course at 5yrs+ and so the end-goal can feel quite far away at the start too, but my best advice here is to enjoy the process. Vet school will have lows as well as highs, but overall I can truly say it was the best experience of my life.
Advice for Future/Current Vet Students
Keep your friends close - when the going gets tough (and it will every now and then), it’s so important to have a strong friendship group to help you along.
Get involved in societies at vet school - they’re a great way of making friends and expanding your horizons.
Don’t leave all your studying to the last minute - I definitely did this in my first year, and unfortunately it led to a rather stressful exam season of cramming in the summer! It’s much better to spend time after each lecture to make sure you definitely understand the content, and make summary notes as you go along rather than relying on thousands of printed powerpoint slides when it comes to revision.
Stop comparing yourself to others - this is easier said than done, but other vet students will have different ways of approaching their studies so you mustn't feel like you’re doing everything ‘wrong’ if you’re not doing quite the same thing. The important thing is that whatever you’re doing is working for you.
Make sure you’re looking after yourself - don’t neglect self-care at the expense of studying (or partying!) too hard. Figure out what really makes you feel good and relaxes you, whatever that may be, and regularly incorporate that into your week.
Stay open-minded - Veterinary Medicine is such a varied course, there may be elements you really enjoy that surprise you.
Enjoy every moment - I promise you those five years will absolutely fly by!
Written by Dr. Rebecca & the BecomeAVet Team