Q&A: Single Parent with a Job — Struggling with a Low Science GPA

Hi Sharon,

I’m a non-traditional student (30 years old) and I have about 4 (possibly 5) more pre-requisites to take before I’ll qualify to apply. Can I ask you what your thoughts are on me getting into vet school given my situation? Obviously there are things that every entrance committee will like/not like and everyone’s situation is different but your thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated! Here’s my background:

I’m a single mother (my daughter is 10 so by the time I get into vet school, if all goes according to plan, she’ll be 13 and it won’t be as difficult to juggle with childcare and whatnot.)

I’ve been working full time at an investment firm for the last 7.5 years and part-time at an ER vet clinic as a receptionist for a year. I worked at another vet clinic (small animal practice) as an assistant/receptionist for close to 3 years but that was about 12 years ago now. In high school I was part of a program that allowed students to shadow veterinarians so that shows how my interest in the veterinary field hasn’t just come out of nowhere.

I go to school full-time, I don’t have an undergraduate degree, but I’m working towards a BS in psych as I do my pre-requisites. My GPA is 3.53 but my science courses aren’t strong: C in chem I, B in chem II, C in physics I, B in physics II, B in general bio. A in all of my labs thus far. A in stats, A in all of my psych classes except for 1, all of my general course reqs are A’s as well- in fact I had a 4.0 until I took that chem I class :(. I think I could have A’s or at least B’s in these science courses if I didn’t have 2 jobs to contend with in addition to being a single parent. I don’t have a whole lot of extra time to do any volunteering or to really take on other extracurricular activities, although I am a member of a running club & a snowboarding club, both of which I’m rarely ever able to participate in anymore. My veterinary interest is wildlife, ER, surgery, and large animal. Going overseas and helping in countries where veterinary care is limited is what my heart truly desires. Unfortunately I don’t have many opportunities for exposure to more exotics and wildlife- the closest zoo is ~1.5hrs from Charlotte.

I plan on taking the GRE this coming summer then applying in the fall in hopes of matriculating in 2013. I’m not concerned about the personal statement, the interview, or the financial burden (they are all nerve wracking to some degree, but that’s assuming I’ll even make it to that point!) I’m just concerned about the GPA situation, especially since I’m truly petrified of organic chem that I’ll be taking this spring. I plan to apply at NC State (of course) as well as UCDavis, Tufts, Cornell, Michigan State, OSU, & Georgia State. I’m trying to stay on the east coast as most of my family is here but UCDavis is the only school I’d move across the country for with my daughter- the campus looks gorgeous and the community looks like it would be a good fit for us.

So given my [brief] background, any thoughts/suggestions/advice??

Anyhow, thanks for your time Sharon and keep up the blogging!!


Date: 10/10/2011


Hi AVB –

Thanks for writing! You sound like you’ve been thinking out this transition to vet school pretty well and I commend you for that! It sounds like you are attempting to manage a lot of work and schooling at the same time. I understand being a full-time parent on top of being a full-time student and employee that you are not exactly able to just quit your job and devote time to your schooling.

That being said, if I were you, I would do my best to find resources out there (perhaps resources that your school provides) to get you some extra attention in your science classes. Some schools offer free tutoring from peers who have taken the courses and know the material well. I would say that your biggest obstacle with that low science GPA will be convincing veterinary school admissions committees that you are able to handle the intense science-based curriculum that vet school entails.

I would always recommend students facing unusual challenges, such as being a parent or having a job to disclose this in the explanation section of the VMCAS application. In that section you can do your best to convince the schools why your grades suffered and why you don’t believe they should worry about that in the future (i.e. what is going to change in vet school that will allow you to devote the necessary time and energy into succeeding in such a rigorous field).

Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

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