So you happen be in the envious position of having to decide between multiple schools that graciously accepted you into their program. Now what?
For some, deciding between schools is an easy decision. For others, multiple factors weigh in on deciding which school is the best choice. Some of us have an in-state school, which might be a less expensive option when compared to out-of-state schools. However, sometimes the benefits that are reaped from saving a few pennies on an in-state school do not outweigh the benefits of an out-of-state school that will be a better fit for your interests.
My advice (on what to consider before ultimately deciding where to attend veterinary school):
- Cost – As much as we’d like to think that money doesn’t matter, it does for many of us. For some, the difference between in-state and out-of-state might not be that much, but for others it can be 10’s of thousands of dollars per year. For some this may be the only factor to consider, but it is my opinion, that there are a few other factors (below) that should be taken into consideration that should outweigh cost when considering which veterinary school to attend:
- Location – Sure you will be busy and have very little time on your hands while in school to enjoy the location you will be living in, but keep in mind that you will be living in this place for 4 years of your life. You want to be in a location that makes you feel safe, comfortable, and happy. The more you feel at home, the better a time you will have during school (see Happiness below). Also, you will have breaks and weekends that will be free at times. Be sure to find out what is in the area that is of interest. For me – being near Sacramento isn’t that appealing, but I have San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Napa/Sonoma Valley all within a few hours of where I live – – all of which make for excellent day or weekend trips!
- Weather – Similar to location you need to know what kind of weather you will be living with for the next 4 years. When I visited Davis, it was 70s and sunny in the middle of February! I thought that was fantastic! But what I didn’t know was that it could get below freezing and I would have to spend a few days during finals week hastily de-icing my windshield before an exam. Being from New York, I’ve lived in much worse, but it was something I wish I knew about before moving here, not that I would have changed my decision.
- Fit – Whether or not you will end up in the field that you are currently interested in is uncertain, but you should, nevertheless, choose to attend the school that is better suited to your interests when at all possible. For instance, my background is in shelter medicine and Davis has, I believe, the only Shelter Medicine residency program in the country. That was exciting news for me! Although shelter medicine is quite specific, if you are choosing to be a small animal vet and have to choose between a school that is known for their work in equine medicine and a school that is known for their work in small animal medicine, you should be inclined to choose the latter. You can get an idea for fit by asking about the caseloads at the hospitals for each of the schools to see if they are getting sufficient and diverse caseloads.
- Happiness – In the end, it is you and no one else (unless you’re married or have dependents that will be joining you) that must be content with your decision. You will attend this school for 4 years, and it will be your home. I urge you to choose the school that makes you feel happy and excited when you walk through the doors or around campus. Happiness, for me, far outweighs the other factors, particularly money, but is greatly influenced by location and fit.