The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

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The Transition to Veterinary School: Mastering the Art of “Suffering Happily”

by former undergraduate Courtney Norjen

After four fantastic years at Penn State, I packed up all of my stuff in August and moved to Columbus, Ohio to start veterinary school at the Ohio State University (but don’t worry, I will always truly be a Nittany Lion!)

I was asked to write about what starting veterinary school is like, and I have been struggling to come up with an accurate description. So to procrastinate, I flipped through a Tumblr blog called “Shoulders Deep in Vet School” (it’s hilarious if you’ve never seen it). As I was scrolling, I came across a perfect GIF for describing what veterinary school is really like. It is a quote from Harry Potter, when Ron is reading Harry’s tea leaves and claims “you’re gonna suffer…but you’re gonna be happy about it.” Vet school is incredibly challenging and the workload is massive, but it’s also unbelievably rewarding and I could not be happier to be here.

There were two major educational culture shocks when I started vet school. First, there is no “syllabus week”. There isn’t even a “syllabus day.”   My classmates and I walked into class the first day excited to start school and figure out what our classes would be like. And suddenly it was like trying to drink out of a fire hose. No one could take notes fast enough and everyone was looking around in panic, wondering if they were the only ones who couldn’t keep up. The second shock was getting used to a schedule that was more like high school than college. We typically have class from 8 am to 4 pm, and we are in the same auditorium all day except for when we have laboratories. But unlike a normal 8-hour workday, we have to study after school to keep up with the material.

It took about a week to get used to the sheer volume of material that we cover in class daily, and to be mentally prepared to sit in lecture for most of the day. But once I was adjusted, school became much easier (or if not “easier”, at least more manageable). I found that there is actually plenty of time during the week to do things other than study, and I think that having a good balance of school and fun is absolutely vital to success in veterinary school. Outside of school, I work at a small animal emergency hospital on Sundays, volunteer for community outreach activities through the vet school, and make time to explore all Columbus has to offer with my friends and classmates.

Vet school has definitely been a huge transition, and it is a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I still wake up every day excited to go to class and learn the information that I’ll need to be a veterinarian in just 3.5 short years. So I will continue to happily “suffer” through the insane hours of studying to keep getting closer to my dream job.


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So You Have a Vet School Interview…Now What?

We have many motivated undergraduates in our lab. They often go on to do great things–but not always in ecology!  In this post, Courtney Norjen provides advice for interviewing for Veterinary School. Good luck at OSU, Courtney!


The road to veterinary school is a long, challenging one that involves hundreds or even thousands of hours of veterinary, animal, and research experience, high academic achievement, and additional extracurricular and leadership activities.  After years of preparation and spending hours completing the application, you have an interview!  But how do make yourself stand out in your interview?

Interviews tend to be very nerve-racking, so to make it as comfortable as possible, it is important to prepare.  The best thing you can do to prepare for your interview is to reread your entire application and your personal statement.  Anything that you wrote in your application is fair game for an interview question, so be sure you can talk about everything in there.   For example, I mentioned in my application that while working with a large animal veterinarian, I rode along to a swine farm that had a leptospirosis outbreak.  In one of my interviews, I was asked what kind of disease leptospirosis is, what organ systems it affects, and why it is an important disease.  They want to know that you really did what you listed on your application, that you learned from it, and that you are not going to try to make up an answer to a question you do not know.  Another good way to prepare is to search for lists of veterinary school interview questions on-line.  Be ready to answer the standard “tell me about yourself,”  “why do you want to be a veterinarian,” and “how do you deal with stress” questions, because they are asked in just about every interview.

In addition to answering questions about your experiences, you will likely be asked some ethical or “situational” questions.  A very common one is “what would you do if an owner brings you a perfectly healthy animal and wants you to euthanize it?”  These questions tend to be the hardest for interviewees because they are no longer about you, and many people are afraid to give the wrong answer.  The most important thing to remember about these questions is that there is no right or wrong answer.  You just need to be able to support the answer you give (especially when the interviewers challenge your position, which they undoubtedly will).  Some veterinary schools even use a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) series where you will be asked nothing but these types of questions, so it is imperative that you are ready to answer them.

Lastly, the best advice I can give you is to be confident and be yourself!  They are interviewing you because they want to get to know YOU.  So before you walk in, take a deep breath, relax, and let your personality speak for itself!