Back to School Advice from Dr. Alaina
September 17, 2019
I hope this note finds you well rested, ambitious and confident about achieving your career dreams.
...who am I kidding, right?
Honestly, I don’t expect you to be feeling rested, ambitious or confident. It’s early September, classes just started, and you probably feel like the deadlines, exams and sheer volume of material are looking pretty ridiculous.
I’ve been there.
I’m still there.
I am a new graduate, and I’m here to offer a few tips about surviving courses, extra-curriculars, and the emotional roller coaster that comes with striving for a very difficult (but not impossible!) goal.
Quickly, about me: I graduated OVC in June 2019 and started mixed animal practice in Walkerton, Ontario. New grad life is great, but with lots of challenges (the learning curve is unreal!). I attended the University of Guelph for undergrad, and toured a few different areas of interest on the way. Highlights included stints in neuroscience, beef cattle physiology, playwriting and regenerative biology.
So, see below for my few hints to undergrads (and high school students) on your way to becoming a DVM. I’m always happy to chat, so feel free to reach out to the FVC exec for my contact info!
Average is excellent
I’m a super average student. I’m an average friend, average girlfriend and probably an average veterinarian. I have the odd moment of brilliance, and I make a lot of mistakes too. But darn it, I try really hard. This year, I encourage you to do your best, but allow yourself to make mistakes. Please do not aim for perfect, and PLEASE do not compare yourself to your classmates (hint: they are not perfect either, even though it seems like it). When I was a student, I had this crazy idea that there was a “type” of student who would get into vet school. I tried to characterize that “type”, and wondered if I could ever be that type. Since then, I have discovered there is no type. Each of my classmates is a unique individual with strengths, fallbacks, and wacky little quirks just like any “average” person. Please, be your awesome, quirky, flawed self. Vet school and the world need imperfect people.
Marks are important…but failing is critical
Yes, I know. The admission average is climbing, and I feel for all of you chasing those high 80s-90s. I want to remind you, though, that marks are not everything. Your university friends, clubs, volunteering activities and home life will teach you so much about yourself and the world around you. Also, you probably will have some bad grades. I had some spectacular fails (lookin’ at you, Calculus). Failing is more useful than you think. Failed the Physics quiz? Study with a friend this time and gain some teamwork skills. Stats wasn’t your thing? Take the next course and find your statistical niche. Also, you NEED to learn how to fail. Students who never fail have a deeply difficult experience when faced for the first time with subpar results – whether that’s in undergrad, vet school, or later in life. To build emotional resiliency, please learn to re-evaluate those obstacles and be ready to take them on again. Ask for help if you need some new perspective! Embrace failing, because no matter where you go in life, being able to fail will make you a braver and happier person. You are not your grades, and your grades are not you.
[Note: I’m totally on my soapbox here, but I still get upset when I fail. Being okay with failing is HARD, and I’m working on it too.]