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Cindy Barnes, DVM, CVSMT

Aloha! I’m writing this blog from the beautiful Four Seasons Resort on Lana’i. I thought it appropriate to start this blog with a glimpse into the future that I created for myself and my family, through hard work and perseverance. No more searching for change in the couch cushions. I now help others find their worth, and help to make the lives of those around me, meaningful and successful!

Getting Ready For Vet School

When we last talked, I had just decided to jump into my academic adventure with both feet. Vet School or bust! Where to even start? I went to my local community college and first looked into their preschool program. My youngest child was now 3 years old, and ready to start his own journey. Being able to drop him off at preschool while I took a few classes, was a huge blessing. Although, truth be told, I only took one science class my first semester. I was unsure if I had what it took to go back to school. After all, I’ve been raising children for the last 10 years.

I successfully completed my first science class in Biology, with a B. It was the green light I needed to keep forging ahead. I started researching veterinary schools and their prerequisites in detail, planning out my path from community college to the university to vet school. What GPA would I need to get in? What GRE (graduate record exam) score would I need? What extra-curricular activities would help me stand out amongst the thousands of applicants? This motivated me to get involved in the Student Government at my community college, and strive to join the Honors Program. I also continued volunteering for RAVS (Rural Area Veterinary Services) and doing other veterinary outreach. Balancing these activities, while raising a preschooler and four other kids including teenagers, keeping my marriage alive, working as a vet tech and finding time to sleep, was challenging. I became a time management and organizational guru. A skill that I have perfected as of this writing! The thing to remember is this, your house won’t always be clean, the dishes may not always get done, the kids might eat boxed Mac-N-Cheese for dinner, and all of it is okay. Give yourself permission to live the life that works for you.

My husband was (and still is!) instrumental in making it all work. He helped with early morning school drop-offs and bedtime rituals. I did my best to keep up with the mountains of laundry and feeding a small army. The home upkeep was delegated to the older kids with a deep clean by me at least once a month. Family time was between 3pm and 10pm, including chores, homework, and dinner. My homework and studying started after everyone was in bed. You do learn to let go of the small things, when trying to fit 10 pounds of life into a 5-pound bag.

After surviving my first college class, I was ready, willing, and able to accept the challenge ahead. I wasn’t a teenager, and wanted to get through school as quick as possible. Mapping out the fastest course to vet school, I took as many credit hours as the school would allow. This meant my usual course load was 18-20 units. I studied the course schedule with laser focus, took every “online” course I could, balanced my family’s schedule, my work schedule, and my class schedule with precision. There was literally not a minute in my life that wasn’t scheduled. Interestingly enough, this has not changed much as of today. My life is still scheduled down to the hour. However, I will say that taking some classes that are offered “online” is not always the best decision. Math for example. I am a visual learner and need to see examples, in person, to really grasp concepts. My first attempt at an advanced “online” math class, resulted in a withdrawal, of which had to be explained on my vet school application. Oops!

I quickly moved through the classes required to transfer to a university, and maintained a very high GPA. The research I did on how to get into vet school was very clear. Grades matter! I knew I didn’t need to get an associate’s degree at the community college, in order to transfer, so I focused solely on transferable classes, rather than everything required to get the associate’s degree. In less than two years, I transferred to a university. You do not need a bachelor’s degree in order to get into vet school. You simply need to complete the prerequisites. This is where most people are surprised. Yes, I got into vet school without completing a single degree. If you have a high GPA, competitive GRE scores, a lot of veterinary experience, a great bio, and can demonstrate that you maintain a life outside of school, you have a very good chance of being accepted.

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The year and a half I spent at Cal Poly Pomona, was exceptional. I rode for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team in both Hunt Seat and Reining. Many hot days were spent on the back of horse, a place where I am at peace and find purpose in life. Even though my junior horse show career, as a child, was spent riding Hunter/Jumpers, I finished 4th in the Nation in Reining for Cal Poly Pomona, the same year I was accepted into vet school. This is just one example of “maintaining a life outside of school” that the vet school entrance board is looking for.

Same rules applied while attending Cal Poly. Work hard, earn high marks, and do it as quickly as possible. I sketched out my entire course schedule at Cal Poly Pomona, as soon as I was accepted. Knowing exactly what classes I was going to take each quarter, helped me find the energy and motivation to keep going. I could literally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Interestingly enough, when it came to the final quarter, I only needed one class to finish the requisites for vet school. When I went to register for that class, it was full. All of the classes were full. There was one class standing in my way of going to vet school! What would you do? I went directly to the top and emailed the president of the university. I explained that I chose his campus over two other highly respected and tough schools to get into, and that he had a responsibility to support his students. Now it was his turn to honor my decision. Hey, it was worth a shot, right? If you never ask, the answer is always no. In this case, the answer was yes! They not only got me into the class, but they opened a whole other class and allowed me to register for it first. Now that’s dedication to your students and a testament to why I chose Cal Poly Pomona over the other schools I was accepted to.

The day I found out that I got into vet school was like any other day. I was in a study group for a class I positively hated…zoology. The group was debating a subject that just didn’t interest me, so I decided to check my email. Reaching over to log on via the communal computers in the room, like I’d done every day that week, I was not expecting to see anything new. To my great surprise, there was an email from Colorado State University. The tag line said, “Congratulations and welcome to the Class of 2012!” I screamed with joy, and all the classrooms down the hall could hear me. I called my husband and was in tears, hands shaking. What an amazing feeling to know that the hard work, late nights, and sacrifices, paid off. My life was about to fundamentally change in so many ways.

Stay tuned for a blog about the vet school journey. What a wild ride!

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