Should I take a gap year before vet school?

Yes. Actually, I’m kidding but I did so I can shed some light on the pros and cons. Gap years get a bad rap because they have become synonymous with backpacking across Europe on daddy’s dime. Here, I’m defining gap year as time between undergrad and vet school that can be filled in a variety of ways. My gap years (plural) involve working, getting my masters degree and obtaining clinical experience.

My gap year was less intentional than it sounds. I have friends who have known since sophomore year that they wanted to take a gap year to make money and take a breather before medical school. I was not so sure. I had many competing interests throughout undergrad and generally thought professional experience would be the best game plan to try the adult world on for size and figure out what I wanted to go back to school for.

Instead, I saw an advertisement outside my lab (learn about my undergraduate research life here) for a master’s program that combined business and Ph.D. level biology courses and I applied. In April. One month before graduation. Once I was accepted I almost immediately found a full time job as an editor at a think tank on campus, the stars aligned and I found myself with both a job and a graduate plan. Not my original plan, but so far so good. Here are the pros.

As someone who was nervous about my science background (even though I’m a biology major) and who could definitely beef up here science GPA, taking more graduate level science courses was a really good call. I am much more confident in my classes and know it means I will have a stronger application and will feel more comfortable in the heavy hitting veterinary courses.

By now I have had several internships and a full time job. Most of my professional experience has been in writing, social media, marketing and biology research. See something missing? Nonetheless, it has really helped me determine what I don’t want to do and given me a lot of conviction heading in a very challenging direction. I also have those adult skills like networking, navigating office politics, and getting up and showing up every morning, which will certainly be helpful in the professional vet world.

Ok, let’s talk about money for a second. I had no sense of how much the real world cost as a senior in college. I worked three jobs in college and saved money for things like food and plane tickets, but I was clueless. Let’s be honest. I know you can rely heavily on student loans to cover living expenses in veterinary school, but as a graduate student with similar loans, I can tell you – it would be tight. I didn’t expect I would be so grateful to have a nest egg going into five more years of school. It may just save me a few nights of eating Ramen.

I’m gently dipping my toes into adulthood rather than plunging head on into the real world and the most difficult educational years of my life.

I have learned things like how to pay rent, taxes, maintain a decent standard of living, manage stress, and begin to build a social life beyond the confines of a dorm room. And I think that practice will make the transition easier when I’m pulling my first series of all-nighters.

I have time to devote to clinical hours. Like I’ve said before, I don’t know how people find the time to get clinical experience in undergrad. I wasn’t lucky enough to find a vet to work with my schedule (believe me, I tried) and I now have a full year carved out where I have more time to dedicate to clinical experience than I did in undergrad. Not to mention, I can catch my breath before starting in on my application.

Though I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish I had greased the tracks to head straight into vet school, I am living proof of the benefit of taking time to get to know yourself, learn to adult, and make a little money before starting my DVM program.

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