NATIONAL REPORT — Resolve to start the year right — not through cliché New Year resolutions such as losing weight, eating healthy or quitting smoking — but by implementing key behaviors to ensure your educational success, experts suggest.
Re-evaluating your academic performance and how it can be improved will help you deal with stress, they advise.
Veterinary-college counselors and student-service professionals offer these suggestions for making 2008 a successful year:
Travel outside your career comfort zone. "Get as much diverse experience in veterinary medicine as possible," says Jeff Huckel, student-services director at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Even if a student is committed to one area of veterinary medicine, such as small-animal, it is important to try working with equine patients, exotics, other large animals or even in zoological medicine to ensure balanced experience and knowledge, he says.
Balance academics and experience. "Veterinary students need to be fairly solid academically, and they need to push hard. That is one of the lines of delineation between students," Huckel says. Having an equally strong presence in both academic and hands-on success helps students acclimate to all areas of the profession. "You can't put everything to one side. Remember, experience is something you can continue to build through your education program, but if you do poorly academically, you can't recover from that," he says.
Make yourself the top priority. "Students need to have 'me' time first, because it allows them to clear their minds and refocus," says Lisa Brinkley, student-services specialist at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Whether it is working out, watching a football game or reading a great book, do something for yourself and budget that time on your calendar. Often, this helps you clear the slate and remind yourself of your priorities."
Pursue education beyond the classroom. Students learn much of what they need to be successful veterinarians through their program courses, but not all aspects of the profession can be adequately covered — especially the business end. Attend seminars and take advantage of student-services departments on campus, and if, possible, attend veterinary conferences, says Hilda Mejia Abreau, student support-services coordinator at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. These types of forums offer knowledge not covered in a university course, such as strategies for time management, test-taking and relieving stress, or methods of accounting, practice management and dealing with employees, she says.
Find your own opportunities. Contact veterinary-college faculty members to discuss research opportunities, local veterinarians for weekend work or summer jobs or anyone else in the profession who might open a door. "Enforce persistence and stick-to-itiveness," Huckel says. "The key to being successful is being a self-starter, finding those avenues of opportunity and asking questions."