I studied biology, chemistry, psychology and economics at A level and I knew I wanted to be a vet when I first applied for sixth form. Everyone seems to think that you need maths or physics to study veterinary science but that is wrong! Universities don't mind what your third subject choice is as long as you have biology and chemistry and you get at least A’s in each subject. Although I am now at the University of Bristol studying to be a vet, I had an ‘interesting’ journey getting here!
When I originally applied to universities during Year 13, I only got one offer of an interview, which was at Bristol. They use a scoring system for students that are interviewed and you need a score of 75 to be made an offer – I scored 73, which was a bit of a killer! I didn’t get an interview at Nottingham, Liverpool told me that I didn’t have enough varied work experience and Edinburgh informed me that they only accept a limited number of English students, which I didn’t know when I first applied.
I was being rejected despite having A grades in my AS exams. From the feedback from the interview at Bristol, I think they thought that I wasn't ready first time round but they did write on the feedback that I should apply again next year which was positive. Also, I think during the first time applying I was in the mind set that I had the grades and the number of hours work experience they wanted so assumed I would get in, but you need much more than that.
Receiving four rejections really was the worst felling. It made it harder that all my friends were getting offers from everywhere and I was the only one getting all rejections. I did get an offer from Nottingham to do any other science course that I wanted instead of veterinary medicine, but I turned the offer down. I decided straight away I would apply again. I did have fleeting thoughts about doing biochemistry or neuroanatomy but it wasn't what I really wanted to do. Instead, I decided to take a gap year and obtain even more work experience to improve my application the next year.
On my gap year I continued to work at the farm I had worked at whilst at sixth form and I also did extra work experience that was missing from my application. I helped at a riding school for the disabled at Moulton College which gave me more work experience with horses. I also did a few more weeks in different veterinary practices that I hadn't been to. I also had six different holidays, one every month from April to September, which was great. My Dad promised to take me to Disney Florida if I got into vet school and after I finally got my offer from Bristol, he did!
The second time round I applied to Surrey instead of Edinburgh, but all the others unis I applied to were the same and this time I got interviews at Surrey and Bristol. I received my first offer from Bristol but still hadn't heard back from Surrey, who don’t give out all their offers until May, so I rejected them and accepted Bristol. I still didn't get an interview from Nottingham or Liverpool, but they won't give you feedback unless you have had an interview, so I'm not sure why.
I think the main reason I got an offer when I applied at the second attempt was because I interviewed much better. I had prepared myself for the disappointment of being rejected again and had even tried to convince myself that I didn't care about getting in, so at my interview I wasn't as worried and much more relaxed which made all the difference. I think it also helped that I knew what to expect in the interview so I could prepare more effectively.
Each uni that offers veterinary science all want different things. Bristol give out interviews based on the content of your personal statement, Liverpool want a wide variety of work experience, Surrey give you eight essay questions on your experience and views on veterinary issues and that determines whether you get an interview and I still have no idea what Nottingham want! Basically, you have to make sure you have everything that all of them want. They definitely won't even look at you if you haven't got the required grades or if you don't have a minimum of 12 weeks work experience. I would suggest trying to get work experience that might make you stand out as a candidate and that is a bit unusual. For example, I went to an alpaca farm and to an abattoir. They also want to see who you are as a person and what you do outside of your life other than work experience and school work.
Now that I’m a veterinary student, a typical day is extremely busy. Lectures are 9-5 almost every day and compared to other students our world load is at least double, if not triple. One day at week we get a trip to Langford which is where we actually get to be hands on with animals, but only for a couple hours of the week and it means we don't finish until 7pm, as lectures still have to be fitted in. It is definitely worth it but it is so much work you really have to be committed to it. It is also difficult being around students who are all extremely clever and also slightly arrogant and all live on their own farm. There are other 'normal' people like me, but not many.
I would definitely recommend veterinary science to anyone that wants it enough. Even though my gap year wasn't a choice I am so, so glad that I had one, it was the best year I've had so far. However, if you are half hearted and undecided if veterinary science is what you want to do then it probably isn't for you. It takes a big commitment and you have to be 100% dedicated. Once I graduate, I definitely want to be a farm vet - I love pigs and sheep. From what I've learned, working in a small animal veterinary practice can get repetitive and I would rather be working outside, although, over the next five years I might change my mind.