You may have been out of school for a while, or you just finished and you are ready to go back again, but regardless of how long it’s been, thoughts of the how, when, where, and why are probably running through your head. Going back to school is actually really easy if you plan it out, commit to your plan, and realize that this is not something you have to do—it’s something you want to do, so odds are you are going to do it really well!
- Know What You Want to Do in Life (Or Know Who to Ask)
This is a career you are planning for yourself, so know what it is you want to do! Is the veterinary field right for you? Here are some things to ask yourself:
- Do I have a passion to work with animals?
- Do I want to have a position of responsibility?
- Am I good at learning through hands-on methods?
- Have I ever heard, “Wow, you’re like Dr. Doolittle. The animals just come to you!”?
- Do I want to feel like I make a difference in animals’ lives?
- Can I see myself working in this field in the next five years?
- Do I want more than a job? Do I want a professional career?
If you are still not sure if this is the right direction, know who can help you discover your true calling. A good school will have a career counselor who will assist you in discovering what career you should pursue, even if it means something outside of veterinary medicine. You should love what you do, so know what that is before you choose a career course.
- Play the Game of Nines
Before school hunting, make a list of the things you want to get out of your education. Is job placement assistance a factor? How long will it take you to finish your program and be able to apply your knowledge base in the field (actually be employed for what you want to do)? How about individual support? Do you want a comprehensive curriculum that will make sure that you learn what is required of you and give you opportunities to further your education?
Then make a list of the things you don’t want. Is your personal schedule a factor? If it is, then you don’t want a school with a rigid class schedule. Do you want to avoid over-crowded classes where you don’t receive individualized attention?
Compare your lists to evaluate what are the most important features. The school that best matches your criteria wins!
- Do Your Research!
Do you want to get the best education you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you find a school that puts their focus on student services and curriculum support while keeping their cost per unit to a minimum. Check out the financing plans. Usually financial aid means that you become responsible for paying back a larger sum of money at a later time. Deferring payments can be costly! Plus, tuition for those programs is usually higher, so calculate the bottom-line.
Another helpful hint is to limit the number of schools you checkout. When you get beyond two or three, it is difficult to remember the details of each school, what you liked and what you didn’t. You’ll know you found the right school because it will fit your wish list!
- Is Online Education Right for You?
Most people have experienced the rigors of driving to school, sitting in a crowded classroom where they often feel like just a number, and then getting to drive back home again. The upside is that they could “see” what the teacher was discussing through the use of projectors or writing boards, and they probably had the opportunity to ask a few questions. (This is a positive / negative list in action!) A good online program uses just the positive list where the program:
- Teaches through visualization.
- Provides opportunities for open discussion.
- Maintains a low student to instructor ratio.
- Eliminates the typical loss of time due to travelling to and from class.
- Is accessible regardless of your location and schedule.
When you make your list, does online education taught in a “real time” format (not all are) match the elements you are looking for? It should!
- Is Job Placement Assistance Included?
A word of caution – not all schools provide job placement assistance! While you are on your career track (planning your future, going to school, developing valuable job skills), along the way you need to actually apply what you have learned. A good program will include opportunities for you to learn hands-on skills in a real-life setting, and help you find employment—both during and after you graduate. Is it on your wish list to have your school provide you continued assistance during the life of your career? Don’t just be a number! Feel like your school supports you, even when you are no longer a student but are actively working as a career professional.
Now that you have your plan you should know your commitment level. Developing a career and going back to school may seem daunting, but it is simple if you know where you want to go with your life and how you are going to get there—and make sure you have plenty of support along the way! Your school should be there for you to make the transition smooth and easy!