The jump couldn’t have gone better! I was first out of the door at 13,000 feet, remembering Stefania’s advice about body positioning as I stepped out and instantly adopted the tracking pose, banking sharply left to enter a smooth, stable and comfortable track. I quickly spotted Stefania, who was flying just to the right and slightly below me, with her camera trained on me and issuing instructions on direction and body position tweaks. The theory that we discussed before the jump, and the visualisation that I spent time doing in the plane during the climb to altitude, really helped as I found myself adopting the tracking position, which is counter to what we learn when flying belly, with the difference between my jumps the month before and this time plain to see and feel. I loved it! Nothing comes close to the true feeling of flight as we soared across the Dubai skies, turning at will and feeling as close to being Superman as I can ever hope to.
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.
Exam results day is the culmination of all of the hard work done to date and hopefully the confirmation of the fact that you’ll definitely be heading off to vet school, either this year or following a nice relaxed and interesting Gap Year. As such, there is rather a lot riding on it all and the stress can be quite overwhelming. I should know as I have been there.
The first thing to point out is the obvious fact that you will be nervous. Even if you’re Mr or Miss Super Cool and Unflappable, the mere fact that you don’t actually know what it says on that results sheet will lead to some nerves. Embrace it though and recognise the feeling of nervous anticipation. It is, however, important to realise when nervousness is morphing into panic and act to prevent it. At the end of the day there is nothing you can do at this stage to change the results and reminding yourself of this fact is useful. Reassure yourself that you have worked hard and that this hard work will be reflected in your results.
Preparing for the Big Day:
1. Get a good night’s sleep – such a mum and dad thing to say I know but its true. Being rested and alert on the day will enable you to either react swiftly and decisively if the results don’t pan out quite as you’d hoped or to at least savour and enjoy every moment of success assuming you do as well, or better, than expected.
2. Arrive early – if your results don’t come out as expected and it looks as though your conditional vet school offer is at risk then being one of the first to be able to ring the vet schools will place you in a much stronger position compared to being one of hundreds later in the day. Similarly, if your grades turn out to be stellar and you don’t have a place or were on a waiting list then getting straight on the phone as early as possible is the surefire way of turning that opportunity into ultimate success. Surely it’s worth getting up nice and early just this once 🙂
3. Take a list of the vet schools’ contact details, especially the Admissions Offices – having the essential information to hand, such as who to call, will save valuable time and could be the difference between being one of the first to get through to the vet schools or being in a frustrating queue. When you’re in a bit of an emotional state on results day, the last thing that you will want to be doing is scrawling through the internet looking for the correct telephone numbers to call. Do the legwork beforehand and save yourself the headache.
4. Charge your phone and ensure you have call credit – rather obvious you might say but you’d be surprised how many people will turn up to results day, need to or want to call someone and find that they can’t as they’re out of battery. How rubbish would it be if you were on the phone to a vet school admissions tutor and the phone cut out? Pretty rubbish is my assessment. Don’t let it happen.
The Big Day itself:
1. Eat something – you’re likely to be super nervous and as such not feel like eating. That would be a mistake. Your brain needs fuel to work properly and if you need to step to it and be all proactive in calling the vet schools then you’ll want your brain along for the ride. Feed it beforehand.
2. Check you have everything you need – charged phone, contact details (as above), car keys etc. I am bit of a nerd and so tend to set out everything I need the night before so I can see if I am missing anything. That way, on the morning in question I can simply scoop everything up safe in the knowledge that it’s all present.
3. Arrive early – not only will you get to open your results in relative peace without the entire school buzzing about but you’ll also be in a great position to act quickly if necessary and call the vet schools before half the world has the same idea. You can, of course, then stay on and enjoy the buzz as everyone else arrives to get their results – after all, it’s potentially a great day of solidarity and celebration between friends so should be enjoyed.
4. Opening your results – the MOMENT OF TRUTH! Take a deep breath, relax and embrace the reality 🙂 I remember time slowing right down and the words and letters taking a few moments to really come into full focus, and then for my brain to compute them. What I remember really feeling, more than elation, was just pure relief. Relief that I had done what I had set out to do by getting the required grades and confirming my place, and also relief that I hadn’t let anyone down. As daft as that last statement might sound I don’t think I was, or am, alone in feeling that way. We place so much pressure on ourselves and the expectations placed on us, either real or imagined, from everyone around us is often huge. As such, when I saw my results I just thought “phew!” It doesn’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy the fact that I had achieved something big, just that the response was a bit more complex.
What if you do better than expected?
First of all pat yourself right there on your back – you legend! If you have not got an offer from a vet school then get on the phone immediately and see if that situation can be changed – you owe it to yourself to try, right?! Otherwise you may have another plan in place, in which case good luck and enjoy the rest of your summer.
What if I miss out on my conditional offer?
I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen to any of you as I know the crushing disappointment that comes with not achieving what you really had your heart set on. First of all, expect to ride a huge wave of emotions, from disbelief, to bitter disappointment, to anger and many more emotions still. Again, the key is to get on the phone immediately to the vet school that you have an offer from and see whether you can still take up the place. Sometimes the schools will have liked you so much that they are prepared to look past the black and white nature of your results – the only way you’ll know is to ask the question, so get on it. If you are not successful then your options at this stage are to either take a Gap Year and reapply, take up a place doing another non-vet course at uni, or do something totally different instead.
So, there you have it. A potted guide to how to handle what can be the single most stressful day of your academic career (so far). All that remains to be said is GOOD LUCK and ENJOY YOURSELVES 🙂