OK, here's one about becoming a veterinarian. It coincides neatly with one that appears in my USA Today column this week on the merits of pursuing a veterinary education against all odds. 

Q: My daughter insists she’s going to become a veterinarian when she grows up. She’s only twelve years old but never a day goes by that she doesn’t ask what more she should be doing to help reach her goal. I’ve enrolled her in animal-related camps, taken her to horseback riding lessons and encouraged her to care for all our pets (we have many of them). Is there more we should be doing to prepare her? 

A: Congratulations on raising a hyper-motivated pre-teen. Mine is only one year younger and his comparably meager veterinary aspirations are easily satisfied by a computer and the occasional tour of a veterinary facility. 

Every kid is different, obviously, but it sounds as if yours demands more than most. Count yourself lucky...and cursed. Because you and your child have a lot of work ahead of you, not the least of which requires that you begin pinching your pennies in advance of an expensive career in higher education.

But first, onto the nuts and bolts of preparing a pre-teen “pre-vet” (or one of any age, really, should you decide to make a career change):

Direct experience with animals in a variety of settings is crucial, of course (and it sounds as if you’ve already taken that to heart), but consider that academic preparation is at the crux of success for almost every veterinary aspirant. 

While animal affinity is a basic, what separates the "maybe" vets from the "will-be" veterinarians is typically their ability to master science and math at the high school and college level. That’s why academic application is essential. After all, the fewer than thirty veterinary schools in the US all demand a high grade point average. And precious few are willing to accept C’s in calculus or any of the sciences. 

But that doesn’t mean your vet-to-be has to spend all her life in a science classroom, 4-H camps or partake of vocational programs that would steer her purposefully towards veterinary medicine. A well-rounded education that includes the arts, athletics and community endeavors is highly valued by veterinary schools. (Indeed, my own undergraduate degree included a major in Art History.)

In years to come, direct veterinary experience will be important. But don’t worry about that until her later teens. For now, focus on basic schooling and on activities that endear her to animals––and on padding your college savings account, of course.