How To Become a Vet

Attending the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine Junior Vet Camp

Do you want to be a veterinarian? Are you asking yourself “Is there anything I can do now to make sure I become a veterinarian when I get older?” If so, this series of articles is for you. We created the “How to Become a Veterinarian” section of Vet Set Go to share activities that you can do today to explore animals and veterinary medicine. This article explores attending the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine Junior Vet Camp.


How does spending 6 days exploring the fascinating world of veterinary medicine with other future veterinarians just like you sound? Want to learn about animal anatomy and get up-close and personal with alpacas, cows, raptors, and exotic animals? Interested in learning how to perform a physical exam on a pet or getting a microscopic view of parasites? Then the Auburn Junior Vet Camp may be just the place for you. This amazing vet camp gives future veterinarians an opportunity to explore many different areas of veterinary medicine and get to know other kids in the same age group who have the same dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Vet Camper Turtle
Campers Barn
Vet Camper Cow Halter

Held every summer in June or July on the college campus, the Auburn Junior Vet Camp offers 6th to 8th graders an exciting overview of animal health and veterinary science, as well as a glimpse into what working veterinarians deal with from day to day. The camp features a good mix of interactive and hands-on sessions in classrooms, laboratories, and outdoor facilities. 

“I think since our camp is run entirely by veterinary students, it offers a unique perspective into our world. We remember what it was like to be that age, and it’s the age most of us started really gaining an interest in veterinary medicine."

 In addition, the camp counselors are veterinary students currently attending Auburn University. Why is that important? Megan Hesson, one of the counselors, explains, “I think since our camp is run entirely by veterinary students, it offers a unique perspective into our world. We remember what it was like to be that age, and it’s the age most of us started really gaining an interest in vet med. This helps us know how to better engage the students to make the camp a more rewarding experience because 10 years ago, we were all walking in their shoes.”

What Do Campers Get to See and Do?

The counselors coordinate with faculty members, professors, and clinicians to make the vet camp experience as interesting and informative as possible. When coming up with camp activities, the counselors keep fun in mind, but they also include learning experiences that accurately depict what the veterinary students are being taught in school. “One of our favorite professors always says ‘You didn’t come to vet school to pet puppies and kittens,’ so we tried to paint as good of a picture as we could about the many responsibilities of a veterinarian,” Megan says.

Here are some of the featured sessions:

Surgery Suite

Vet Camper Catheter Web
Surgery Gloving Web
Vet Camper Surgery Entubate
Surgery Camper Fun Web

Campers spend several hours in a simulated “surgery suite.” First, they gown, glove, and mask, the way veterinarians do for surgery. Then they rotate through stations that contain mock situations, with training dummies standing in for real animals. Everyone gets to practice:

  • Intubating a dog (inserting an endotracheal tube on a realistic dog head in preparation for anesthesia)
  • Placing a catheter into a “vein”
  • Suturing on an animal’s “skin”
  • Bandaging a “leg”
  • Performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

A counselor assists at each station, first showing the campers how to perform each task and then helping the campers to try it themselves.

Parasitology and Pathobiology

Vet Blood Tubes
Blood Agar Plates
Multi Head Microscope
Parasit Lab Campers

For the parasitology session, the campers also rotate through stations. They use a microscope to view various parasites, including heartworms, horse bots, flukes, ticks, and intestinal worms. 

In the pathobiology lab, campers learn about blood and get to do some hands-on work, drawing up blood into a capillary tube, then spinning the blood in a centrifuge and reading the results. They also examine blood smears on slides through a multiheaded teaching microscope (one with multiple stations) so everyone in the group can look at the slides together.

Large Animals

Haltering Cow Vet Camp
Llama Camper
Cow Runen Camper
Holstein Cow
Vet Camper Goat

This experience tends to be popular with both campers and counselors. The session is held in state-of-the-art barns, where the campers get to interact with and touch all of the animals, including alpacas, llamas, cows, goats, and sheep.

“Most of the campers who come here haven’t ever gotten to touch a cow, and when they’re here, they get to practice physical exams on [the animals],” Megan says.

The campers also get to:

  • Practice putting a lead on a cow (haltering)
  • Learn about milking dairy cows and see the machinery in the dairy parlor/milking barn
  • Reach into the rumen (the first of 4 parts of the stomach) of a cow and view some of the contents under a microscope

For camp counselor Ashley Thompson, this is her favorite day “because most kids don’t get the opportunity to see and understand where their food and milk come from and [how much] goes into caring for these animals.”

Exotic Pets

Camper Snake Boa
Gecco Camper
Spider Camper

Future veterinarians fascinated by amphibians, reptiles, and pocket pets may get a kick out of the exotic pet session. Not only are campers taught about these animals, but if they’re brave enough, they get a chance to handle them too. Counselors at different stations educate about tarantulas, turtles, lizards, rabbits, Guinea pigs, and snakes (which campers can have draped around their neck).

Raptor Center & Detection Dogs

Campers spend a session learning about the college’s famed Southeastern Raptor Center, home of the War Eagles. The War Eagles are a series of golden eagles dating back to the late 1800s who symbolize Auburn University. Although the kids aren’t allowed to touch the birds, they get to see and learn about other species, such as falcons, vultures, owls, and even a bald eagle, as well.

A demonstration on working dogs is also featured during the camp. Auburn trains working dogs, so the kids get to see a guide dog and a detection dog in action.

Why Is This Camp Valuable for Aspiring Veterinarians?

At the Auburn Junior Vet Camp, you’ll get to meet a group of kids who are as excited to learn about veterinary medicine as you. “It allows the kids to make new friends who have the same interests as they do,” Ashley says.

“The camp is basically a weeklong crash course in veterinary medicine.”

You’ll also spend time on teamwork and group building. “Our campers are divided into 4 different teams, and we host different competitions for the teams to earn points throughout the week,” Megan explains. “Because so much of our profession deals with working in partners and groups, this is an essential skill.”

The counselors agree that the camp can help tweens decide if they want to pursue veterinary medicine. “I think it’s so important to understand what veterinary medicine is all about before you decide to commit your life to it,” Megan says. “This camp is a great way for young students to get their feet wet and really see if this is what they want to do as a career.”

Milking Machine

Ashley points out that the camp provides a great opportunity for aspiring veterinarians because the campers get to see and do similar things to what the veterinary students themselves are learning and doing. “It can be an eye opener for some kids because veterinary medicine is not always cute little puppies and kittens,” Ashley says. “It can be gross and stinky sometimes—quite often, actually.”

“The camp is basically a weeklong crash course in vet med,” Megan says, “and it’s just a small taste of what veterinarians and veterinary students do on a daily basis.”

How Can You Attend the Auburn Junior Vet Camp?

To find out about future camps, visit the Office of Professional and Continuing Education website. Demand is often quite high for veterinary camps, and there are usually many more applicants than available slots. This is certainly true of the popular Auburn Junior Vet Camp. Although the camp is held during the summer, registration typically starts in December and only stays open for about 2 months. If you want to attend the camp, don’t delay! Talk with your parents about this opportunity now, and apply as soon as enrollment opens. 

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about vet camps and other steps you can take today to become a veterinarian of tomorrow, check out the Vet Set Go! book in the Products section. This book gives more information on vet camps and features a specific Action Plan on how to find the right veterinary camp for you—right now! You can also visit the Activities section to find a veterinary camp near you and learn what other future veterinarians are saying about the camps.

Written by: Dr. Chris Carpenter
Comments Add Comment
Tflodo1258
January 11 - 06:01pm

I'm a 7th grader and live in south Florida and I just wanted to say that the vet camp at AU was one of the best experiences of my life... it was so much fun and I learned a lot. The counselors are amazing and I met a bunch of kids all my age from all over the country. I 100% recommend this clamp for anyone who thinks they want to become a vet

Dr. Chris Carpenter
January 18 - 03:01pm

Thanks for you comment. You should go to this page and rate the camp in our Activities section https://www.vetsetgo.com/activities/auburn-youth-programs-junior-vet-camp

Victoria27
April 13 - 01:04pm

Are there any camps that'd be availed to a junior in highschool?

EmmaKnight623
April 26 - 07:04pm

I'm a rising Freshman. Can I still do the camp or is there something for my age group? Emma Knight

kaite821
April 30 - 08:04pm

i just submitted my application, and i'm very excited, this sounds so cool, in in 7th grade and really looking forward to see if i got the scolarship, also BONUS i would get to go on my first plane ride since i live in minnesota

Dr. Chris Carpenter
May 4 - 11:05am

Hello! The camp contest is only open to middle school campers entering 6th-8th grade in the fall of 2017. Thanks so much for entering.

bellybelle
June 9 - 05:06pm

Great story!

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