By: Simone McCluney
Most people think that you have to go to school with a pre-veterinary track to be competitive for veterinary school. Consider that myth busted, as it is possible and even advantageous to be a pre-vet student at UNC.
1. The Pre-Veterinary Club of UNC-CH
College is a place to make connections, and there’s no better place to connect with other Pre-vet students than in the pre-vet club here at Chapel Hill. According to President Caroline Bowers, the goal of the pre-vet club is to provide prospective veterinary students with a place to gather resources and meet people with similar passions. At every meeting, the club hosts guest speakers from a variety of veterinary fields. They’ve had everyone from a wildlife vet from the Duke Lemur Center, to a representative from the Wild Horse Foundation. The fact that many of the speakers who visit the club are also on the admissions boards at their respective veterinary medical schools is an added bonus. Students have the chance to meet professionals from all fields of veterinary medicine. The club also offers off-campus events and trips to places such as the North Carolina Zoo, Duke Lemur Center, and several out-of-state vet schools. With all these opportunities and experiences, a pre-vet student would be well on their way to getting in to the vet school of their choice. President Caroline Bowers notes that the main purpose of the club is to “basically give [students] an avenue to get to vet school while they’re still in undergrad.” Being a member of this club will not only connect students to other hopeful pre-vets, the opportunism it creates will give student a competitive edge.
2. Go the extra mile with extracurriculars
Just choosing to come to Carolina guarantees a world-class, competitive education. The best thing that any student can do is supplement their education with extracurricular activities. This is especially important for pre-vet students. Academic clubs are a great way to find people in your field and to make connections, but Bowers stresses that students that have a diverse resume are the best looking candidates. Social clubs and fraternities can be crucial not only in helping to find a home away from home in college, but also as a way to network and find volunteer opportunities. Admissions officers are interested in students who have a good balance between academics and extracurriculars. There are boundless opportunities for pre-vet students in the Research Triangle.
3. Research, research, research
Research is a key component of any education, and having research experience under your belt will be an asset. There are plenty of research opportunities here in the Triangle. Email, call, or even go visit professors whose research you’re interested in. Finding a place in a lab can help students gain hands on research experience, and maybe even discover a passion for research. Research isn’t limited to UNC. N.C. State’s School of Veterinary Medicine offers an undergraduate research program during the year. The program gives students the chance to work side by side with researchers and get first hand research experience. President Bower’s advice was to get involved in research by sophomore year, so you’ll have several years under your belt when it’s time to apply for vet school.
4. And of course, the courses
Carolina offers a wide variety of courses that would make any student competitive, and every student is encouraged take course that challenge and broaden their horizons. Pre-vet hopefuls should check out the required courses for any vet school they’re interested in. Generally, most vet schools require standard biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and math courses. These credits will most likely be earned while completing a B.S. in Biology. However, there are some courses that some vet schools require that are not offered at UNC. An example is Animal Nutrition. But this is no roadblock, the course can be taken at a neighboring school or at online at another institution. When it’s time to take this course, a visit to your academic advisor is crucial. Get to know your advisor; they’re invaluable in keeping students on track and prepared for applying to vet school.
5. School’s out for the summer
Summer may mean sun and fun, but it is also a time to earn those much needed hands on experience or shadowing hours. Summer is the perfect time for students to experience different fields of veterinary medicine and to see the life and times of real veterinarians. Setting up an internship or shadowing opportunity isn’t as scary as it may seem either. Generally, vets are glad to mentor undergraduate students. Contact the office and tell them know what you’re interested in and you are well on the way! If you’re staying in the Chapel Hill area for the summer, there are plenty of veterinary doctors’ offices around to find an internship. Farms, zoos, conservation centers, and any other place that can give you hands-on experience are great places to get experience. Summer is the time build up the non-academic portion of your resume. Another important thing to remember is to keep good records of shadowing and internship hours; these will be very helpful when applying for vet school.
This guide is by no means comprehensive, but these tips and tricks can help hopeful veterinarians get the best undergraduate education that they can here at Carolina. The best advice that I or anyone else could give is to find your passion and follow it. As Bower says, “If you are truly happy with what you’re doing, then that’s all that matters.” Helping animals is a vet’s passion, and getting your undergraduate education here, at on of the best universities in the country, is a brilliant first step.