NATIONAL REPORT — No one said veterinary school would be easy.
But more and more students turn to the Internet to voice their frustrations and offer each other support with study suggestions and a little humor.
"I do more than sit and study, I also have weekly nervous breakdowns," writes one veterinary student from Minnesota on Facebook's "Veterinary School – Incompatible With Life" group page.Just seven veterinary student groups on Facebook, a social networking Web site, have a roster of nearly 19,500 members. Discussion topics on the group pages, with names like "Real Doctors Treat More Than One Species" and "Kiss Me, I'm a Veterinary Student," range from job and internship postings to study advice and ways to blow off steam.
More often than not, the comments on the group pages express relief and excitement over getting into veterinary school and a desire to share experiences, including warnings of ominous courses to come. Others pass on words of wisdom.
"A wise and successful vet said this to me over the summer," writes one anonymous poster. "'If you're getting A's in veterinary school, you need to get a life ... but don't get C's either.'"
Unlike campus groups, the Internet allows students to share experiences from all over the world. One group's discussion about the perks different schools offer garnered comments comparing animal freebies and veterinary-service discounts. They came from students at 17 international schools, including Jerusalem, Budapest, South Africa and Egypt.
Another perk of online veterinary school venting is that it can done anonymously through Internet pseudonyms — an aspect that hinders this magazine's ability to get feedback from student posters on their experiences with the online groups — that let students voice their honest opinions without fear of reprisal.
Other online communities for students outside of Facebook, like the Vet School Diaries on http://About.com/, allow students to chronicle the ups and downs of their lives.
Seventeen diary keepers, some of whom have moved on in their careers since the diaries began in 2001, talk about their classes, personal lives and how they manage to keep a balance. One writer gives the perspective of the spouse of a veterinary student.
In a diary maintained by "Kate," there is advice to one poster about what kinds of courses should be taken before applying to veterinary school.
"As far as being afraid of the science classes, don't be," Kate tells a person curious about veterinary-school requirements. "If you make the decision to work as hard as you can and make the grades, you can. But be aware, if you are not already, that it is very difficult to get into vet school and you must make good grades."
Kate, who will start her first year of veterinary school at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine this fall, also talks about her fears paying for veterinary school and watching her first necropsy.
"My first experience in necropsy was very cool, despite the fact that I looked like a prisoner in my way-too-big orange coveralls and my high heels covered in plastic," she says.
Unsuccessful attempts to contact the diary keepers and Facebook group administrators, partly due to the lack of full names being posted, demonstrate the security and anonymity of Internet networking forums — especially for students who might want to register a complaint or two without their schools and professors being the wiser.