The pathway into veterinary school is fraught with difficulties, but one student used only her experience to gain acceptance into the school without having completed her undergraduate degree.
Rachel Ellerd shared her unique journey into the Texas A&M Veterinary School through her Instagram and blog, ‘Exotic.Pet.Vet.’. She gained acceptance to the vet school as a student at the University of Texas at Austin without earning her degree until after getting into A&M. The combination of her expansive animal experiences like her volunteer work with both Austin Humane Society and the Austin Bat Refuge, along with her high GPA, Rachel was able to join the Class of 2021.
After creating her Instagram a year ago, Ellerd expanded it into a blog to detail the exact steps she took to accomplish her goal of entering vet school. After receiving a positive response, Ellerd began writing about her study abroad experience in Africa and has plans to create another post about her recent trip to Thailand and Vietnam for an A&M volunteer program.
Ellerd’s decision to pursue a veterinary career stemmed from her upbringing. Ellerd’s family owned many pets, inspiring her love of all animals from a young age. The list of animals include lizards, turtles, birds and even a python.
“I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t one of those kids that grew up knowing they wanted to be a veterinarian. I grew up with animals all throughout my life. My family basically had a zoo,” Ellerd said. “It worked out because I really like science and that was a way that I could combine both my love of science and my love of animals. It came together in veterinary medicine.”
When she first applied to veterinary school, Ellerd had no expectation of getting in. She said she wanted to use this attempt in order to question the school about how she could improve upon her application.
“I had no idea it was even a possibility until I was looking up the prerequisites online. On some website it said you need these prerequisites but you don’t need to have a degree,” Ellerd said. “I did more research about it. It is very rare to get in without a degree, because it’s so competitive and people need a high GPA and lots of experience and usually that doesn’t happen until your in school for so many years.”
The ‘Exotic.Pet.Vet.’ blog was Ellerd’s answer to the large number of students asking her advice on veterinary school admissions through her Instagram, which has garnered over 4,000 followers. Ellerd’s blog post goes into the specifics of her undergrad career and gives tips on how to best prepare for the application.
“I had so many people asking me how to get into veterinary school. I was kind of tired of answering their questions. So I wrote that one blog about how I got in,” Ellerd said.
Although Ellerd has a long list of credentials, it took a little bit of luck to earn the acceptance.
“It was kind of by accident that I had all my classes finished in time because I didn’t plan on taking a super heavy course load,” Ellerd said. “I had to double-down on my science classes and I got [in] by one class. I just barely made the deadline.”
For the aspiring veterinary students, she advises to take as many opportunities as you can and pool your efforts to finding research experience.
“Get involved with research. Everyone knows you need to have a high GPA and everyone knows you need to get experience. Research is not something people think of. That was such a big part of my experience as an undergrad… it opened up so many opportunities that I couldn’t even imagine when I first started research,” Ellerd said.