Veterinary experiences are essential because some schools require that you have a minimum number of veterinary hours while others have a recommended minimum number of hours. Experiences also allow you to work alongside veterinarians, who are valuable resources for understanding vet school and the vet medicine field. They may even be willing to write you letters of recommendation, which are an important component of your vet school application.
Since Princeton does not have its own veterinary or medical school, opportunities are frankly limited compared to for example, Cornell, which does have both professional schools. However, you could still make the best of your Princeton and college experience by taking advantage of related opportunities both near campus and in your hometown. It is imperative that you take initiative. Here are some initial steps you can take:
- The HPA newsletter occasionally has links to veterinary opportunities so keep a lookout for those HPA emails. Sign up for individual vet school newsletters as well.
- To gain animal experience, you can volunteer or foster animals through your local animal shelter or even through SAVE A Friend to Homeless Animals, which is a shelter that is a 10-15 minute drive from campus. The PACE center organization SVC TigerTails occasionally organizes trips to volunteer at the shelter near Princeton, but it remains largely inactive due to transportation limitations. You will likely have to take initiative.
- Contact local veterinary clinics in or near your hometown via both phone and email for a summer shadowing experience or even a paid job as a veterinary assistant, though the latter is much more difficult (but not impossible!) to secure since clinics would prefer more experienced job-seekers. It’s always going to be difficult to get your foot in the door when searching for your first veterinary experience. It takes a lot of persistence, luck, and dozens of unreplied emails. Make an excel sheet and keep track all of the places you contact. Don’t give up hope and it’s never too late to get started!
- There are also veterinary clinics in the Princeton area such as the Princeton Animal Hospital & Carnegie Cat Clinic that you can contact to volunteer/shadow/work with during the school year. Unfortunately, they aren’t located at a walking distance and you will likely have to either drive, bike, or take a bus. A potentially cheaper option is taking the free TigerTransit weekend shopper to either the Wegmans or Walmart stop, which are located at a walking distance from a few other clinics. Be resourceful and creative 😉
- Use the TigerNet Alumni Directory to look up alumni that are currently in the veterinary medicine field. Log in with your netID, click on CAREER SEARCH on the left sidebar and select Veterinary Medicine as the field/specialty. You could try reaching out the contacts near your areas if there are any for veterinary opportunities!
- Many vet schools consider biomedical/science research experiences to be important. Taking up a position as a research assistant in a NEU/EEB/MOL department is one avenue you may want to explore since there are A TON of research opportunities at Princeton. You can cold email professors about your interests, why you would make a valuable addition to their lab, and what you find fascinating about their research. Thesis work related to the biological sciences would also be considered valuable to vet schools so making sure your independent work is impressive and impactful is another way to shine.
- Clubs, extracurriculars, and service work are also valuable to vet schools because they show that you are a well-rounded applicant. Leadership and interpersonal skills are important for future vets so try to get involved with student organizations. You do NOT have to join twenty clubs, you do NOT have to be president of all the clubs that you’re a part of, and you do NOT have to participate in exclusively animal-related activities. DO be yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and pursue what you’re passionate about and is meaningful to you!
- Did you know there are also vets on campus?! Dr. Laura Conour and Dr. Grace Barnett are research veterinarians in LAR (Laboratory Animal Resources) and are contacts you may want to consider reaching out to for animal/veterinary opportunities in lab animal medicine: https://www.princeton.edu/news/2018/08/08/meet-laura-conour-princetons-research-veterinarian,https://ria.princeton.edu/news/laboratory-animal-resources-welcomes-staff-veterinarian-grace-barnett,https://research.princeton.edu/people/laura-conour
- You may be able to utilize Princeton’s various funding sources to develop and fund your own veterinary/animal/research internship through PEI student initiated internships, the Streicker International Fellows Fund, ProCES, etc. Sometimes, IIP has the occasional veterinary clinic internship abroad so check their website out.
- There are also short, immersive (and usually pricey) programs that host college students at vet schools to help them learn more about the lives of vet school students and the field. Schools with these programs include Tufts, UPenn, and UCDavis.
- This is intuitive, but if you are interested in non-standard veterinary experiences (wildlife, zoo, emergency, community medicine, shelter medicine, equine, large animal, etc), you will have to put in many many hours searching for opportunities online. Summer opportunities are especially competitive. Always keep searching for opportunities. Bookmark or keep a list of ones you find interesting and want to apply to soon or a few years down the line.
- Sometimes students may have to work extra jobs to cover their education costs at Princeton, which may deter them from pursuing veterinary experiences. Unfortunately, many veterinary opportunities are usually not funded and/or are unpaid. While you should still try to aim for a couple hundred veterinary hours and to get at least one veterinarian recommendation, vet schools offer you the opportunity to explain circumstances in which you could not gain as much experience as you would have liked to. Reach out to HPA to determine how best to explain your circumstances in your VMCAS application.