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By Caroline Stamm '24
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  • Animal Science

The Animal Science Careers class (ANSC 1105) allows students to explore various animal science opportunities and develop skills that will aid them in career planning. Recently, six students from Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine with differing backgrounds, species interests and intended specialties visited the class for a live Q & A. Here’s a snapshot of what they had to say!

What key lessons did you wish you had learned as a freshman?

Mia Jacobson (BS ’21, DVM ’25): You don’t know what life is going to throw at you, and that’s okay— plans aren’t everything! You’re going to do so much throughout your undergrad career, and all of these things will lead you to what you want. Prioritize your well-being first.

Mariacamila Garcia Estrella (BS ’17, MPH ’21, DVM ’23): Everything is going to be okay and everything will work out! If you are ever struggling in a class, talk to the professor. Start early to get the help you need and always reach out. 

Vivian Lee (BS ’21, DVM ’24): Enjoy everything Cornell has to offer you. This school provides you with the most incredible opportunities. Remember that while classes are important, you have to be kind to yourself. The hard work will be worth it in the end, but balancing that with relaxing is significant to doing well.

Alex Levitskiy (BS ’20, DVM ’24): Your undergraduate experience should be guided by your genuine interests. In the pre-health student body, there seems to be a lot of pressure to fulfill a certain set of criteria to get into vet/med school. Avoid that pressure and lean into your budding interests. Let your journey to vet school be passion-driven, as you are more than a checklist!  

"Let your journey to vet school be passion-driven, as you are more than a checklist!"

"You’re an undergraduate student for such a short amount of time, so enjoy it!"

"Animal and veterinary care hours are important. It’s the quality that matters over the quantity of hours."

What’s the most important thing you did as an undergrad to get you to where you are today?

Liv Halvorsen (BS ’22, DVM ’25): Animal and veterinary care hours are important. It’s the quality that matters over the quantity of hours. Have diverse experiences and try things outside of your comfort zone. I spent a week in Montana doing equine surgery. I didn’t have the best time, but it taught me that I didn’t want to become an equine veterinarian. These experiences will also help you in your vet school application.

Alex Levitskiy (BS ’20, DVM ’24): I worked to market my own brand based on my avian interests. While I still acquired various experiences to explore veterinary medicine adequately, I pursued certain experiences because I wanted to do them, not because I had to. I wanted to do research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I wanted to go to Shoals Marine Lab. I wanted to further my training in avian husbandry. I feel that this made my story more compelling than that of a pre-vet student who pursued generic experiences. This approach also made my undergraduate trajectory much more enjoyable and exciting.

Sohela Dhillon (BS ’21, DVM ’25): Prioritize studying hard, but also remember that it’s okay to hang out with friends and be social! Time management was very important to me throughout my undergraduate career. I was keen to balance academics with fun extracurricular activities. I was in Alpha Zeta (the co-ed agriculture fraternity) and rode with the Cornell Western Equestrian Team. All of the activities I was involved in gave me a support system and I would not be the same today without all of these communities.

Mariacamila Garcia Estrella (BS ’17, MPH ’21, DVM ’23): Echoing what Sohela said, I’ve learned from undergrad that it’s so important to have a support system to get you through the tough parts. The only way to solidify those bonds is to do fun things not vet school related. School is always a priority, but taking time to relax is also important. It’s never the end of the world if you get a bad grade in a class.

What classes would you advise students to take if they are interested in pursuing vet school?

Liv Halvorsen (BS ’22, DVM ’25):

  • Domestic Animal Biology (BIOAP 1100)
  • Fundamentals of Endocrinology (ANSC 4270)
  • Histology: The Biology of the Tissues (BIOAP 4130)
  • Dairy Sheep Management (ANSC 3850)

I have a lot of recommendations for classes you can take! The core Animal Science classes required to graduate all prepared me for vet school. Domestic Animal Biology (BIOAP 1100) helps with anatomy classes that you’ll take your first year in vet school. As a junior and senior taking harder animal science classes, I would advise taking Fundamentals of Endocrinology (ANSC 4270) and Histology: The Biology of the Tissues (BIOAP 4130). That being said, don’t overwhelm yourself with these harder classes! You’re definitely going to learn all of these things in vet school. My favorite class was Dairy Sheep Management (ANSC 3850). I got to participate in weekly sheep milking at the Teaching Barn. It was a great experience.

Mariacamila Garcia Estrella (BS ’17, MPH ’21, DVM ’23): 

  • Introduction to Wines and Vines (VIEN 1104)
  • Intergroup Dialogue (EDUC 2610)

It’s all about balance! Take your core animal science courses, but also integrate some fun courses. I was able to take Introduction to Wines and Vines (VIEN 1104). I also realized how applicable certain courses are. I took Intergroup Dialogue (EDUC 2610), and most of the communication skills learned there I still utilize today. You’re an undergraduate student for such a short amount of time and it’s important to enjoy your time here.

Vivian Lee (BS ’21, DVM ’24):

  • Science Communication courses
  • Microbiology (BIOMI 2900)

I would highly recommend students take science communication and writing courses during their undergraduate years. It’s important to know how to write and talk to others, and many of the communication courses offered here teach students those critical skills. I would also recommend Microbiology (BIOMI 2900).

Alex Levitskiy (BS ’20, DVM ’24):

  • Field courses with hands-on experiences
  • Conservation with Communities for One Health (NTRES 4150)

I encourage field courses that supply students with hands-on experiences domestically and abroad. One of my best experiences during my undergraduate years entailed traveling to Indonesia to partake in conservation medicine efforts with critically endangered species like the Sumatran rhinoceros through the course Conservation with Communities for One Health (NTRES 4150). Experiences like those were most formative in shaping my career interests, not to mention super exciting!

"I’ve learned from undergrad that it’s so important to have a support system to get you through the tough parts. The only way to solidify those bonds is to do fun things not vet school related."

"I pursued certain experiences because I wanted to do them, not because I had to."

"It’s important to know how to write and talk to others, and many of the communication courses offered at Cornell teach students those critical skills."

What challenges did you encounter on your path to vet school?

Mariacamila Garcia Estrella (BS ’17, MPH ’21, DVM ’23): I was a transfer student from the University of Florida. Transitioning was difficult and I ended up taking a fifth year because I wanted to retake some classes. My fifth year was the best thing I could have done for myself. I was able to declare a minor in natural resources where I traveled to Congo, Indonesia, and Patagonia through classes. I also was able to get a master's in public health. When I applied to vet school, I didn’t get in for the first time. I talked to the admissions committee and improved my application so I was more prepared when I applied again. I was accepted the second time around and learned so much from the process. Everyone’s journey is different and that's ok! Some people go straight from undergrad to vet school. Others may wait a few years after graduating and then decide to apply.

Mia Jacobson (BS ’21, DVM ’25): My freshman year, I was diagnosed with cancer. I did online classes, which was challenging while being sick. It taught me so much. Everyone faces challenges and it doesn’t mean you can’t come back from the hardships. If veterinary school is what you want to do, you will keep going and face those challenges. I was lucky enough to get into Cornell Vet the first time I applied, but I have friends who didn’t get in, took a gap year and applied after a year of gaining more experience.

Caroline Stamm ’24 is an Animal Science major and student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

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