A question that gets asked a fair amount is what the options are for those who have applied to vet school but are ultimately unsuccessful in either attracting an offer of a place or who do not meet the entrance requirements to take an offer up. Needless to say either scenario is not one that is expected to be pleasant as none of us particularly enjoys rejection, especially when applying to vet school is necessarily such an all consuming endeavour. Anything other than a place at vet school is understandably bound to feel like a failure of truly epic and devastating proportions. The first piece of advice, therefore, is to accept that you’re going to feel utterly miserable and dejected for a period of time. Although I was fortunate enough to receive a vet school offer I do empathise with the feelings of intense disappointment, on account of my intercalation. I studied biochemistry and in spite of really knuckling down, working hard and revising my socks off the exams went terribly and I finished with a disappointing 2:2 in the degree. This was against the backdrop of all of my other friends who had intercalated in other subjects all achieving 2:1 classifications or better. I was crushed for several weeks but ultimately shook myself off, accepted that which had occurred, sought to learn lessons from the experience and examined how best to move on from and even capitalise on the experience. This is ultimately what you will need to do yourself if unfortunate enough to find an offer out of grasp. Sadly we cannot yet turn back time and alter the past – that would be an epic power – but what we can, and should, do is reflect and then formulate a new, revised plan based on the experiences and results up to that point. Still won’t stop you feeling rubbish though so expect and embrace a certain period of ‘mourning.’
Once you’re over the acute disappointment what next? Well, the options depend on your specific set of circumstances but are, in general:
Call the vet schools. Like right away!
Although you don’t have a place or may have not met the requirements for a conditional offer you’ll be basing your next move on mere assumption and we all know what assumption does. Call the schools, especially those that you had offers from, to clarify exactly their position. Who knows, they may have loved you so much at interview and couldn’t imagine teaching without your cherubic presence that they’re prepared to overlook the slight discrepancy that is your missing the offer requirements, especially if you were close. Clearly it would be a tad optimistic to expect this to be the case if you wind up missing the grade by a long way but a single grade slip-up might not necessarily mean game over, so ask.
If you don’t even have any offers then calling the vet schools is basically a massive long shot but you never know: fortune favours the brave and if they have to fill spaces for which they don’t already have candidates (unlikely) then your prompt, enthusiastic, enquiring call (from you, by the way, NOT your mum/ dad/ gran/ dog etc) may just result in a miracle.
Take up your ‘Insurance’ Offer
You may well have taken advantage of the option to apply to a non-vet course as part of your UCAS applications and so may have an offer from that course that you can take up. Whether you do so or not is up to you, and I guess that if your plan is to reapply to vet school then it will be irrelevant that you have a ‘backup’ course, although quite why you’d have bothered applying in the first place if this were the case is a valid question. Completing an initial degree in a relevant non-vet subject can certainly lead you to vet school eventually and if you’re prepared for the path to veterinary status to be longer and more expensive than you initially hoped then this can be a good option.
Apply through Clearing
If you don’t have any backup offers and the idea of not going on to university this year is not one you wish to consider then there is always clearing, the process by which universities open up places to courses that have to that point been undersubscribed. You can learn more about clearing via the UCAS website and the same potential for entering the veterinary course as a graduate as above is there.
Take a Gap Year & Reapply
With the number of places at vet schools limited and the number of applicants in excess of this figure it is inevitable that many perfectly good future vets will be unfortunate and not secure a place on the first application. The decision to take a year out and reapply, either with secured grades that meet the basic requirements of the vet schools, or with the intention of retaking some or all subjects is one that needs careful consideration. For a start, there is no guarantee that you’ll be any more successful at the second bite of the cherry and although some students do persist and prove the naysayers wrong by reapplying more than once, the chances of success are very slim and there is a strong case to be made for using your time (life) most effectively and exploring alternative options. If you do reapply then ensure you have a solid plan for doing so and aim to improve on what you submitted or did before. A greater variety of work experience? Better grades? An interesting hobby or project? A focus on nailing your interview technique and knowledge of the profession and issues relevant to it? There are so many ways in which an extra year can, and should, be used and failing to do at least something positive and proactive with the time will only serve to let you down. Even if you are not then successful the second time around at least you will have grown and improved as a person, with new or improved skills and knowledge and a better base from which to then kick start your next move. I would, personally, dissuade anyone from choosing to reapply more than twice as the chances of success are so slim and the years so precious. Rather do all you can to improve your application for one reapplication and then if it doesn’t work out look at options to move on. Remember, you can always come back to veterinary down the line if you still have the burning desire to become a vet in the years to come.
Do Something Else
If you either don’t plan to reapply, or if perhaps you already have and this is the second or third time of being unsuccessful in your applications then you may well opt to change tack completely and pursue other career options. Again, what you do is a personal choice but the possibilities are endless and I am sure you will choose wisely.