When Jessica Palmer enrolled in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, she knew that she wanted to go to veterinary school upon graduation and, as with most pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences students, she knew that an arduous application process and difficult workload awaited.
Palmer spent a month and a half of one summer filling out applications and when it was all over, she had been accepted into not one but eight veterinary schools, providing a range of choices.
Ultimately Palmer chose to study in the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After finishing her first year there, she is participating in the college’s summer scholars research program and working in a laboratory, and will begin her second year of studies in mid-August.
Palmer, who graduated from UD in 2014 with a dual degree in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences and Latin, said she loves the college, the professors and the location in Raleigh.
Palmer isn’t studying one specific type of veterinary practice, as she doesn’t have to pick a track until her third year. While she is keeping an open mind, she said she will probably pursue a career that features work with small animals, such as cats and dogs – part of the reason she wanted to become a veterinarian.
“It’s that typical story. I just loved animals, and I looked more into it. I enjoyed the medicine aspect, too, so I went into UD and did the pre-vet program,” Palmer said. “I ended up saying, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go for it,’ and applied everywhere.”
As for the application process, Palmer admitted that it was tough. To get through it, she set goals for herself during the day and did a little bit at a time.
“I worked at Empowered Yoga in the Newark Shopping Center on Main Street and during the classes, when I had down time, I would log in and do a little bit of the application process at a time and try to get that done. So it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t fun either,” said Palmer.
When the process was over, Palmer found that she was accepted into eight different veterinary schools and ended up at North Carolina State, which was her first choice.
UD education valuable
As to how the pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences program at UD helped prepare her for vet school, Palmer said that a big plus was that the University allows students to get all of the course prerequisites required for vet school. She also said that the anatomy and physiology classes were very helpful, and that being able to get hands-on experience during her freshman year was a big plus.
“Freshman year, we got to go to the farm and raise some calves and chart their growth. That was a really good opportunity,” Palmer said. “I hadn’t worked with farm animals before so it was great that we have this farm and we were able to go have those labs, see the beef cattle, the horses, the poultry.”
Hands-on work with the animals “was helpful, even when it was rainy out or really early and you didn’t want to go,” Palmer said. “It was a really good thing to do. The farm is one of the program’s biggest assets.”
Palmer singled out Robert Dyer, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, as being especially helpful.
“He is so enthusiastic. You can tell he loves what he’s doing and he loves being a vet. He is funny and encouraging,” said Palmer.
Advice for students
Palmer said students applying or thinking about applying to veterinary school shouldn’t be afraid to pursue their other passions at the undergraduate level.
“Don’t worry too much about timing – your advisers will work with you,” she said. “Take the weird, fun classes that you want to take. I was actually a dual degree. I got a degree in Latin, as well, and I did that because I enjoyed it and I figured, ‘I’m about to go to vet school and I want to have experiences with a variety of other subject areas and classes before I devote my life to veterinary medicine.’”
Palmer said that while getting good grades is important, being well-rounded might be even more important and that it is crucial to log veterinary and animal experience hours as an undergrad — one thing that she learned the hard way.
“That was one thing that I had to play catch-up on and it was a little bit stressful. North Carolina State doesn’t even consider your application if you have less than 400 hours at a veterinary clinic, so if you have 200 hours and you feel like you’ve been doing it for a while, it still doesn’t cut it. Get the vet hours early,” said Palmer who did her work at Nonantum Veterinary Clinic in Pennsylvania.
The biggest piece of advice she offered, though, is that while the process is tough and can seem insurmountable at times, students shouldn’t be afraid to apply.
“You look at it and it’s pretty daunting at first, but you can do it,” said Palmer. “Just take it day by day and the professors at UD and the different clinics around Newark can be really helpful if you just reach out and ask and see what sort of opportunities there are. If you want to do it, there are always ways to pursue it.”
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo courtesy of Jessica Palmer
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