Believing in yourself


A part of succeeding is believing in yourself. It is very easy for vet students to forget how truly talented they really are. As one of the students in the selected class, each UMN CVM student was selected from over 700 applicants comprised of some of the brightest and most talented individuals in the United States.

“I’m Not Sure if I’m Smart Enough”

You and the vast majority of students accepted into vet school possess the ability and potential to succeed. Very few (<1/year) students do not complete their veterinary studies and even fewer of those who do not are unsuccessful because of academic reasons. It may get better after successfully completing your first set of exams but imposter syndrome will sneak back on a regular basis.

Failing an Exam, or Not Getting the Highest Grade is NOT the End of the World

Most vet students are used to performing exceptionally well on tests. However, it’s not uncommon to stumble on occasion, given the many exams that comprise your veterinary school program. Failing an exam is not the end of the world. It does not mean your career is over! It does not mean you will never find a job. It never means your faculty will give up on you. It probably does mean you need assistance in study habits or with life issues.

Consider an unsatisfactory grade an opportunity to reflect on what is going on in your life. Consider talking to a VetPAC coach and/or asking for help with other life events. And keep exams in perspective. Performance on an exam does not define worth as a person.

Stop and Smell the Roses

In the midst of your veterinary education, it’s easy for students to forget how far they have come. Many students have already received a degree prior to starting vet school. In the first year of vet school, students begin to master a “privileged knowledge”. Students will learn much that very few people in the world have an opportunity to learn and understand.

Your vocabulary will grow immensely. Students who take the time to bask in their significant accomplishments and unique experiences gain perspective. They remember how much they’ve overcome to be where they are. They “pat themselves on the back”, and remember that they are fortunate and trusted.

Path is just as important as the destination.If you are enjoying the path, then the destination isn’t that important. And if you aren’t, then the destination is moot.  And vet med is a long path.   I want you all to look forward to most days- not count off to an imaginary day in the future. If your calendar is full of crossed out dates , I worry  you are living to a future date rather than living for today. You could be missing out on a lot of life.    We select for a very driven group of people with really odd ways of measuring success and we need to create and use new yardsticks. You are in a great group of people learning really cool stuff and that continues your entire career. Just like with the leprechaun and the pot of gold: there is no finish line; but there is a really cool journey.   Malone


People to Talk to

  • Your supporters (family, friends, classmates)
  • Yourself – give yourself the same advice you would give a classmate!
  • Dr. Erin Malone, 612-625-4762,
  • Anyone in Academic and Student Affairs
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • AVMA self care resources
  • Addressing Imposter syndrome

Resources – How Harry Potter lessons can help – Vet student podcast

Final Thoughts

Remember how far you’ve come.

You’re a UMN CVM student and you BELONG to a special group!


We all have impostor syndrome sometimes, or all of the time. Vet school is extremely difficult on your brain, body, and soul. We have all felt like we are not good enough, not smart enough, or not strong enough to survive the trial-by-fire that is this program. But you are strong. You are smart. You can do this. Remind yourself and your classmates of this every single day. On good days and bad days, tell your friends and peers that they are good enough to be here, they deserve to be in this program, and they will become amazing veterinarians.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

Vet school can be quite intimidating at first. Especially because some of your classmates may have more experience than you. Don’t let it get you down. You are just as smart as they are, you just lack some of their experience. Use it to your advantage. Engage and learn from them. They’re your colleagues!

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2021

The most important lesson I have learned in vet school is: failure is one of the best ways to learn. It’s hard to imagine you will ever succeed when you fail an exam, say something wrong in front of the class, mess up a simple surgical technique or improperly treat a patient. But, these are memories you will probably never forget and when you have the opportunity to redeem yourself, you will understand your mistake and how to fix it. So don’t beat yourself up when you fail, instead learn from your failures. Remember that vet school is a safe environment where failure is expected/acceptable (at least it should be).

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

“Don’t let anyone tell you “first year is easy”. A lot of first years (including myself, way back when) get really down on themselves when they struggle first year because “it is supposed to be the easiest one”. Sure, the schedule is better and the material is not as complex, but there is a little shock that comes with your first semester. Vet school is a TON of information, and it takes a little time to learn how to handle it all and take it all in. Be kind to yourself. I wish I knew starting out that my worst grades would be my first semester. Just because you may not be the star of your class first semester, absolutely does not mean you won’t rock the rest of them.”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

“Trust yourself and your school. JABSOM graduates a whole class of doctors each year. Each of these individuals passed Steps 1 and 2, secured a residency, and eventually became a successful physician. If you work at it, you can do it.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2004

“It’s very easy to doubt yourself…[Med] school is extremely challenging! You made it in for a reason, so never feel like you are inadequate for the job. Everyone has those feelings at some point—if you feel that way, do not think you are the only one.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006


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Well-being Handbook Copyright © 2019 by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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