Now 15 years out of university, I think the nightmares about vet school exams have finally stopped. No more showing up in a hazy anatomy lab, knowing I studied the wrong bones of the wrong animal. No more struggling beneath heavy blankets to tie surgical knots with leaden hands. Hopefully, the demons won’t come flying back now that I’ve been looking at admission requirements at my old school.
Several high school students have spoken to me recently about becoming veterinarians and I thought I’d take a look at what’s involved in getting into the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) these days. Not much has changed overall. It’s still an obviously difficult path, so if you’re interested in being an animal doctor, the time to start preparing is early in your high school years. Sheer determination will be invaluable.
The statistics that have been collected about applicants to OVC could rival the baseball hall of fame’s best efforts and I won’t bore you with them — much. Suffice to say that roughly one out of four applicants get accepted, less than half get in the first time they apply and 80 per cent of graduates are women.
A lot of emphasis is put on grades and, yes, you do have to be an “A” student, although I certainly was not that in high school before learning how to study effectively. The best advice I can give anyone who wants to work in the veterinary profession is to get as much experience as possible. Work or volunteer at shelters, farms, vet clinics, anywhere there are creatures needing care.
The high school co-op program affords great opportunities and I’ve seen several bright, talented young people gain invaluable experience following that path. The OVC admissions board looks closely at candidates’ exposure to animal care, but there’s another reason I’m pushing experience here. As much as I love my work, it can be a very hard road at times and knowing the good, as well as the bad will help you make the best career choice.
There are many valuable ways to contribute to animal welfare, including following the “nursing” path as a veterinary technician, working in a diagnostics lab, becoming a trainer or pursuing research. But if you think you might want to be a veterinarian, it’s never too early to start getting experience.
Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital