Name: Lara Muttiah
Vet School: Edinburgh
How did you get into vet school?
I knew I wanted to be a vet from age 13 or so, and I HAD to go to university in the UK! I am Australian but had been living in Sri Lanka for some time, attending an International school. I took 9 IGCSEs and managed to get As/A*s for English, Maths and the Sciences. Unfortunately it was quite difficult to get enough animal husbandry experience where I lived, and I know many other students from Asia who had the same problem. I was able to complete around ten weeks’ worth. I spent four weeks seeing pracise and the rest of time at a riding stable and working with wildlife. Getting farm experience was very hard, which was frustrating because it is important in the UK. Nevertheless, I got 1 week under my belt. I got into vet school on results day in 2013, but decided to defer entry until the following year, resulting in an unplanned gap year. I did A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and English Literature. As an international student, my first offer came from Edinburgh in January 2013, without an interview. I had an interview with Bristol over the phone in the same month and an offer from them followed soon after. My last offer was received (again, without an interview) in March 2013, from Glasgow. All the universities offered me a place if I got AAA in biology, chemistry and another subject. I also applied to Liverpool, but withdrew after I received my first offer as I didn't feel that I had enough work experience. I assumed I had not achieved the required A Level results and so had made no preparations for applying for a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK! I had also made some other important plans that could not be moved to a later date, so the admissions staff at Edinburgh very kindly let me defer.
What was the most demanding aspect of the application process?
I found finding work experience the most difficult thing. To make things harder I couldn't drive so had to squeeze work experience in whilst I was still at school and revising for exams! I was very worried I would be rejected on the basis that I had not clocked up enough hours, until I received the first offer.
What do you feel most prepared you for vet school?
I don’t feel as though I was prepared at all…But I found my rhythm a few months after I arrived. Reading around my subjects and my work experience helped a little. The volume of information you’re expected to absorb is a little intimidating, but working through each week’s work, every week is the solution. Also, although my gap year was unwanted and unstructured, it allowed me to take a break in between school and uni, which, as I discovered, I really needed. I am not sure I would have been able to cope with the stress of going straight to university.
What advice would you give to applicants?
For applicants coming from Asia especially; if you know you want to go into veterinary medicine as early as I did, as well as where you want to apply, I think you must really work at establishing contacts that can help you with getting animal husbandry experience. You will be taught animal handling during your first two years so will be at the same level as everyone else, but for the sake of a successful application, advanced planning is a must. When I applied, the universities were sympathetic to the fact that not everyone would be able to get to farm experience, but even just 1 week like I did can help you prepare for an interview or vet school itself. The interview I had was very friendly, but the veterinary questions that were put to me were mainly related to farm animal husbandry. In hindsight I wish I had read up more about UK farming. Also, while seeing practise remember to do follow up research and form your own opinions!
It is also important to do extra-curricular activities as this shows that you will be able to cope with vet school and will help you make friends!
Finally, If you take a gap year-whether through deferral or prior to applying to uni-make sure you do something constructive! My gap year was unplanned and thus unstructured, but I could have done more if I had really tried. Even just travelling can do you some good before entering university life.