Name: Daisy Rankin
What grades did you get at school?
At GCSE I got 5 A*s and 7As in English, English Literature, Maths, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, German, Geography, Art and ICT. At A level I got ABC in French, Biology and Chemistry and two AS grade Bs in Maths and Critical Thinking. I also did Extended Project and got an A* and the AQA Baccalaureate.
Do these grades meet the entry requirements for someone going straight into vet med?
No unfortunately my C in Chemistry meant I did not meet the entry requirements to go straight into vet school. Due to my high performance at GCSE, it was recommended that I took the AQA Baccalaureate which meant taking an extra AS, Extended Project and undertaking 100 hours of volunteering alongside my A levels. I was also doing my Grade 8 Ballet, Grade 7 Modern Jazz, and Grade 5 Clarinet exams, playing in the school’s hockey team and teaching dance to younger pupils twice a week, as well as doing work experience at a vets every Wednesday afternoon and working at a kennels at the weekend. I think I tried to do too much at once as I believed this would make me stand out when applying to vet school, when really I should have focused on the three A grades I needed.
What degree did you do beforehand?
I did a degree in BSc (Hons) Bioveterinary Science at Hartpury College, University of the West of England (UWE).
Tell us about your degree and how you feel doing a degree has benefited (or not benefited) you before entering vet school.
Although ideally I would have gone straight to vet school, having almost completed my first degree, I am grateful for all the opportunities it has presented me with and all I have learnt during the last three years.
In terms of education, my first degree has provided me with a wide knowledge of biological and animal sciences which I hope will help me as I already have an understanding of some of the subjects I will cover at vet school that I can build on. I understand how learning at university differs to learning at school and I am comfortable with the way universities teach and the standard of work that is expected. I have gained confidence in talking in public and giving presentations as I have been given lots of opportunities to practice this in presentations and oral exams, and I am confident with academic writing and working independently after undertaking my own research projects and my dissertation. Participating in practical lessons and laboratory sessions at my university has also enabled me to improve my practical skills during animal handling sessions and dissections, and allowed me to use equipment that before I was unfamiliar with.
The opportunity to gain more work experience was another benefit of doing a first degree as although I had a large amount of experience before my degree, it has allowed me to do work experience in areas I hadn’t had the chance to before and to also do some long term placements. As a degree student, I was given more responsibility on work experience placements and I felt I understood more of what I saw as I was seeing examples of things I was learning about at university. I had the advantage of having access to facilities at my uni such as the dairy herd, sheep flock, stables, equine therapy centre, dog hydrotherapy centre, reptile house and small animal house, which allowed me to gain valuable experience in farm husbandry, rehabilitative therapies, and animal handling, as well as the opportunity to observe and assist at weekly visits from vets, AI technicians, foot trimmers, physiotherapists and osteopaths. I was also able to use the universities links with local practices and farms to gain work experience outside of the uni. I think my wide variety of work experience was definitely a strength in my vet school application and it gave me a lot to talk about during interviews.
I feel that after doing my first degree I am also much more prepared for the challenge of vet school than I would have been if I had gone straight from school. I believe that I have matured a lot as a person over the last three years and I feel a lot more prepared for vet school at 21 than I did at 18. I have no concerns about going to vet school as I have already been to uni so I feel I will be able to focus on my vet degree as I won’t have worries such as moving away from home for the first time, or living independently.
For me, the last three years have flown by and I have had so many great experiences. I have met lifelong friends and my boyfriend at my first uni and have had the most amazing three years learning about what I am passionate about, gaining valuable work experience and preparing for vet school. Although at first I was devastated at having to do another degree before vet school, now if I could go back I wouldn’t change it for the world and it was the best decision I ever made. Doing a degree has definitely benefited me in the long term.
What work experience did you have before applying to vet school?
I had a total of 687 days of work experience mostly undertaken during sixth form and during my second degree.
- Langford Small Animal Practice- 1 week
- Leahurst Small Animal Teaching Hospital- 1 week
- Highcroft Veterinary Hospital- 1 afternoon a week for 10 months
- Bath Veterinary Centre- 2 days
- AAS Vets- 1 week
- The George Vet Group- 1 morning a week for 5 months
- Wood Veterinary Group- 1 morning a week for 5 months
- Overhill Kennels and Exports- weekend mornings for 3 years
- Sunnyacres Farm- 21 weeks
- Langford Meats Abattoir- 1 day
- Bath Canine Hydrotherapy- 3 days
- Press Barrow Dairy Farm- 2 weeks
- Bristol Zoo- 1 day
- Hartpury Equine Therapy Centre- 1 afternoon a week for 2 years
- Home Farm- 4 days
- Home Farm Dairy- 1 morning a week for 2 years
- KT Anderson & Son- 10 days
What advice do you have regarding work experience?
My biggest piece of advice is to make sure your work experience is a varied as possible. Try to get experience in all of the main veterinary sectors; equine, dairy, sheep, pigs, poultry and small animal but also try to look for placements that will help you stand out and give you something interesting to talk about at interview such as lab work, wildlife centres, zoos or abattoirs. Liverpool have the biggest requirements for work experience at 10 weeks; 6 weeks of husbandry placements (which must include 1 week commercial food production farm, 1 week commercial or rescue stables or stud farm and 1 week commercial or rescue kennels/cattery) and 4 weeks in veterinary practice (at least two different practices, small and large) so I would definitely advise making sure you do this as a start. Another piece of advice I would give is to record everything. I kept a journal for each of my placements and wrote about cases I had seen and things I had done at each placement which made it a lot easier when I was asked for details about my work experience when I applied to vet school, especially remembering the dates I had been to each placement!
Where did you apply? Why?
I applied to Bristol, Liverpool, Surrey and RVC. I didn’t apply to Edinburgh or Glasgow as their fees are still £28,450 and £30,000 respectively so they were too expensive for me to afford. Cambridge didn’t have any information on graduates on their website and I felt I would be disadvantaged because of my A level grades, plus their course is 6 years which again would be expensive. I considered applying to Nottingham however, for graduates they wanted a B in Chemistry which I lacked and when I emailed to ask if they would be flexible with this considering I was on track for a first in my degree and had lots of work experience they said no.
What offers did you get?
I was rejected from Bristol before interview however was offered interviews by Liverpool, Surrey and RVC and received offers from all three.
ABOUT GRAD ENTRY
What degree would you recommend doing before grad entry?
I would definitely recommend Bioveterinary Science as it fits in really well with the topics taught at vet school, however there are lots of other degrees that are really interesting and the universities will accept if you don’t think Bioveterinary Science suits you.
Can I study something other than biovet?
Yes, animal related degrees such as Animal Science, Veterinary Nursing, Veterinary Sciences and Zoology are accepted as well as science related degrees such as Biochemistry, Biological Sciences and Physiology. Some unis also accept non-science related degrees however good Chemistry and Biology A levels are also required.
Is it competitive?
Like with applying as an undergraduate, applying as a graduate is also competitive. For Bristol, Nottingham, Liverpool, Cambridge, Surrey and Glasgow, graduates apply for the undergraduate veterinary course alongside undergraduates therefore graduates are competing for the same number of places. Edinburgh and RVC have separate graduate accelerated courses that are only 4 years however, there are fewer places on these courses (36 students enrolled out of 1318 applicants for the graduated accelerated veterinary medicine in 2013 according to the RVC website and Edinburgh’s website states that 45 places are available to applicants).
What do you feel made you stand out to get an offer?
I think the variety of work experience I applied with definitely made me stand out. Veterinary medicine is a challenging degree and a challenging career and the vet schools want to know that you understand all of the roles a vet has to play and that you are realistic about working in the profession. Having lots of relevant work experience allows you not only to demonstrate that you have a lot of practical experience, but that you understand the roles and challenges facing veterinary surgeons and that you are prepared for them. My work experience allowed me to talk about my experiences with confidence and show that I was ready for vet school. I also think my commitment to becoming a vet showed at interview as I talked with interviewers about how I had been willing to do another degree first and how it had only made me more determined to become a vet. I think they saw how passionate I was about becoming a vet and that I knew what it would involve.
Are GCSE/A level grades important and if so, which unis care more/less about this?
The importance of GCSE and A level grades varies between vet schools when applying as a graduate. According to their websites (as of 2015):
- Bristol: BBB at A level including Chemistry, no specific GCSE requirements.
- RVC: no specific A level requirements, C or above in Maths and English Language at GCSE.
- Liverpool: CC in Biology and Chemistry at A level, no specific GCSE requirements.
- Surrey: no specific A level or GCSE requirements.
- Nottingham: BB in Biology and Chemistry at A level, no specific GCSE requirements.
- Cambridge: discuss with admissions.
- Edinburgh: no specific A level or GCSE requirements.
- Glasgow: no specific A level or GCSE requirements.
What sort of degree classification should you be aiming for?
All unis require a 2:1 in your first degree, however some applicants are offered a 2:2 if for example they don’t get onto the four year accelerated degree at RVC and are offered the five year undergraduate degree. However, I would advise aiming for a first as when you apply some unis ask for your degree transcript showing all your results in every module from your first and second years so you want these to be as high as possible to put you at an advantage to other applicants.
How much does doing a second degree cost?
For your second degree, you are not eligible for a tuition fee loan as a graduate, as you will have received a student loan for your first degree. This means that you will have to fund your tuition fees yourself which are £9,000 per year for the English vet schools and £28,450 and £30,000 for Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.
Tell us about what financial support you will/will not get from student finance.
For your second degree, you are eligible for a maintenance loan from student finance, as you would get for an undergraduate degree, however, you are not eligible for a tuition fee loan as a graduate, as you will have received a student loan for your first degree. Your maintenance loan is dependent on your situation and household income and can be up to £5,740 outside London and up to £8,009 in London if you are living away from home.
What sources of financial support/sponsorship should a prospective applicant look for?
Although funding a second degree is expensive, it is definitely possible. One route of securing funding is applying for sponsorship or grants. A few places to look for sponsorship are animal feed producers, animal pharmaceutical companies, farming organisations, the army, zoos and wildlife parks and large vet groups. There are some bursaries and scholarships available which are also worth researching. Although loans are unavailable from student finance, loans such as career development loans from banks are specifically designed to suit those funding educational courses and you don’t have to pay them back until you finish studying. Most of the universities don’t ask for the tuition fee payment all at once but rather in two or more payments throughout the year, and some unis are happy to set up a payment plan with you. Sharing accommodation with other students to reduce costs and working part time are also easy ways to reduce the amount you need to find. Even working 10-15 hours a week would equal 50% of your tuition fees and working part time during your first degree can also help you to save up some money before vet school. Crowdfunding is another way students are recently funding their postgraduate degrees, with some students raising £25,000 or more from donations from family, friends and even strangers.
Have you considered going abroad to study?
I would have considered going abroad to study if I had not got into UK vet schools first time. I haven’t done a lot of research into foreign vet schools as this was my back up plan but I know a couple of people studying veterinary medicine abroad who really enjoy it. I would advise checking fees, that you would be accredited to work in the UK, and that courses are taught in English, as well as entry requirements, as these are quite often different to UK vet school requirements.
Any other advice for prospective applicants?
My advice for applicants applying for the first time would be to not try and do too much at once. Focus on getting the grades you need before trying to do extra-curricular activities or large amounts of work experience. Applying to vet school is really competitive and I think it’s hard when everyone applying has amazing grades, vast amounts of work experience, and is a member of every club or organisation possible to become hooked on the idea that you have to do everything at once to stand out. For me, I tried to do too much at once and let the grades I really needed and knew I was capable of slip. Although I wouldn’t change my experience of a first degree for the world, it is an expensive route to have to take and maybe if I had focused that bit more on Chemistry instead of trying to do everything else, I could have been in the position to apply first time.
For those who haven’t got in first time, my advice is don’t give up. Whether its retaking exams, gaining more work experience, or practicing interview techniques, it really is worth it in the end when you receive an offer. Retaking or taking a gap year to gain more experience may be more suited to you than doing a degree first and you should consider all your options before deciding what is best for you, but for some people doing another degree is a great option despite being expensive! If you are set on being a vet, don’t give up until you have exhausted every option and if you do decide to do another degree, I hope that you have as rewarding an experience as I have had.
Any further questions?
Yes, e-mail Daisy at: firstname.lastname@example.org.