Veterinary School 101

June 2020

So you got into veterinary school! Over the past months and years, you have been preparing for veterinary school, and it is finally here! One of the proudest moments of my life was reading the email, notifying me of my acceptance into Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. That was two and a half years ago, and veterinary school has been an adventure ever since. I am writing to share some of my experience and tips on what to do (and not do) based on my experience. 

Learn to take breaks. In my first year, I was terrible at taking study breaks, and I still struggle to do this well. In veterinary school, you will need to study a lot. No, a ton. However, I recommend taking breaks from studying to do whatever brings you energy. For me, that list includes hanging with friends and family, swing dancing, prayer, biking, time outside, reading, and grilling. However, your list likely will look very different from mine as the essential part is doing what brings you energy. There will be times you will feel you only have time to study all day, every day, however, setting aside a half-day, a day, or a certain time frame each day where you do things other than studying can help set boundaries and avoid burnout. 

Become financially educated and aware. Many of us do not like the word “budgeting,” but I argue that it is actually very freeing to have a budget in place as it allows you to quantify past spending and estimate future expenditures. This can be critical in determining how much is needed for living expenses for the semester and enabling creative thinking for alternative methods of increasing income, such as getting a roommate, selling crafty projects online, mowing neighbor’s lawns, or donating plasma. Understanding student loans can be crucial for your financial health during school and after graduation, including understanding private vs. federal student loans, unsubsidized vs. subsidized, repayment options, forgiveness programs, etc. The Veterinary Information Network or VIN has an excellent student debt center ( with excellent learning material as well as a ‘Student Loan Repayment Simulator’ which can be used to calculate your loan repayment options. Understanding student loans and budgeting during school will help you maximize your finances while not borrowing more than you need during school. For example, many students default is to accept the maximum loan offered them whether they need the entire amount or not which can end up costing them in the long run.

Get involved in the veterinary school community outside of classes. Iowa State University offers so many extracurricular clubs, conferences, and leadership opportunities. While the curriculum here at ISU is exceptional, there are things the classroom doesn’t teach you that these opportunities will afford you. Getting involved with clubs can be a great way to learn more about different areas of practice within veterinary medicine and gain hands-on experience through wet labs. Conferences have been some of my favorite experiences during veterinary school. I have attended the conferences of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, Christian Veterinary Fellowship, Veterinary Business Management Association, and Academy of Veterinary Consultants. These experiences enabled me to develop relationships with veterinarians and veterinary students across the country while learning about current issues facing the industry in the different sectors of the veterinary field. They have also been an absolute blast traveling with fellow students from ISU to these conferences while enjoying a little break from schoolwork. Through my leadership positions at veterinary school, I am developing my communication skills, time management, team management, and public speaking, etc. and will utilize these critical skills working as a veterinarian. 

Remember why you are here. Through the busy adventure that we call veterinary school, do not forget the reasons why you are here. I encourage you to write them down and remind yourself of these often. Don’t forget to have some fun along the way and make some memories!