A tip for getting into vet school

March 31, 2010
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Want an edge to get into veterinary school? Tell the committee (hopefully with some honesty) that you want to work with large animals, particularly cattle, hogs and other future entrees. Your chances increase slightly because you’ll actually be considered a plus for diversity.

Large animals have lost their luster—to the point where some experts are becoming uneasy about the future safety of the national food supply.

Areas of Kansas, Nebraska and other outposts already are struggling with shortages of large-animal vets, says Dr. W. Mark Hilton, an associate professor in Purdue University’s veterinary school.

Hilton hasn’t heard of shortages in Indiana’s major food-producing regions—beef cattle in the south, and dairies and hogs in the north. But shortages are possible if trends continue at Purdue and other schools.

“Do you want a safe food supply?” Hilton asks. “If we don’t have people who are as trained in large-animal, that makes it much worse.”

A couple of decades ago, the vast majority of vet students wanted to work with large animals. Not anymore. Now, most want to work with dogs, cats and other small creatures.

Only about 20 percent of the 72 incoming vet students at Purdue are moving toward large-animal practices. Hilton thinks the pipeline would be adequate if the number were closer to 30 percent.

Many of the Millennials coming into vet schools would rather push buttons of high-tech equipment than slog through mud and manure on farms, endure extreme seasonal heat and cold, and dodge flying hoofs.

Those all come with the territory, Hilton acknowledges. (It’s easier to “read” whether a cow will kick, Hilton advises, but horses are unpredictable.)

However, he says the perception that small-animal vets make more money isn’t necessarily true. Studies have shown their incomes to be roughly equivalent. Purdue grads started out at an average of $64,000 last year, and the number usually marches to about $80,000 within five years. Farms will spend money on veterinarians if vets in effect become consultants who tell them how to avoid medical expenses, Hilton says.

Purdue is getting so many prospects wanting to move into small-animal practices that the school now looks harder for large-animal prospects if for no other reason than to avoid homogenous classes, he says. If you’re in a tight contest with a small-animal aspirant and you like large animals? You’re probably in.

What do you think? For someone teetering on the edge of getting into vet school, would it be worth going with large animals?

  • I don't believe this is true
    As a person that has tried to become part of Purdue's Veterinary class in the past I had made it very apparent that I wanted to practice large animal medicine. This is a fact and I put it on my application because it was the truth. Unfortunatly, even with a decent GPA that was very competetive I wasn't awarded the opportunity. I believe that Purdue does still take a majority of small animal tracked students even though there is a majority that want to still practice large. Did I eventually get into vet school? Yes. I am very happy with the choice I made to study abroad at St. Matthew's University in Grand Cayman. Even being a first semester student I am getting a large amount of clinical and animal husbandry experience both large and small. The small class sizes are advantageous because everyone gets to participate. Would I have liked to stay in Indiana? Yes. I am glad that I came here and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Yes, I will have to take additional boards unless IN decides to accept PAVE which they should follow suit with some of our fellow states because we still participate in a year of clinicals in the US at an AVMA accredited veterinary school after our basic science classes are completed. To the people who still really want to be veterinarians, don't give up hope just because you don't get into one school. If there is a will there is a way!

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