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How to Get into Vet School

Veterinary medicine is a very tough field; in what other area of medicine is your patient unable to tell you their symptoms or medical history? A medical field where you are expected to be an anesthetist, surgeon, dentist, and internist all in one? While the job itself is difficult, the schooling to become a veterinarian is also difficult. As one new veterinarian said “It is the most challenging disciplines of medicine”. You have probably heard how competitive it is to get into veterinary school, but it is not impossible. If you have good science and math skills and an interest in helping animals, you need to pursue your dream.

Grades are very important, but maintaining a 4.0 grade point average will not automatically get you into veterinary school. Neither will a perfect score on your GRE (Graduate Record Examination) exam. Grades and test scores are important because they indicate your intelligence, your study skills, and your motivation to succeed. Those are all qualities veterinary schools look for when evaluating candidates, but they are also looking for well rounded individuals. The veterinary field has significantly diversified its requirements in the past decade, so colleges also include individuals that are not from the “usual” status quo. Students who were accepted into veterinary school actually had an average GPA of 3.5. Schools are looking for future leaders, so you can make yourself a better candidate by getting good grades as well as experience, indicating your leadership skills.

Prerequisites are classes required for admission to veterinary school. While schools have different prerequisites, most of them require the following classes or ones similar to them: fundamentals (general) of chemistry with lab, organic chemistry with lab, biology I, II, with lab, biochemistry, physics, social sciences, and general courses like English, history and other science electives. Make sure you know your prospective school’s requirements when you plan your undergraduate courses.

Your undergraduate major is not as important as completing the prerequisite coursework with good grades. In actuality many schools do not require a bachelor degree, but most applicants will have one. While many applicants will major in biology or animal science, it is not always the case. Schools have accepted students with undergraduate degrees in math, engineering, English as well as others. It’s important to pick a major by what you are passionate about, not simply the one that will get you into veterinary school.

Experience is another important factor when schools are evaluating applicants for admission. Belonging to a group like 4-H or FFA is a great experience you can have in high school and it also looks good on an application. Working with animals in any way is basically required and will also provide you with practical experience and knowledge in the field. Shadowing a veterinarian or volunteering at a pet shelter are both good experiences. Many schools require letters of recommendation from professionals in the field to be included in their application packets. You may also need letters of recommendation from professors in your undergraduate school. Joining school government or other school groups is an indication of your leadership skills, so if possible get involved with an organization.

Standardized tests are a large factor in the application process. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by most veterinary schools. Some also require the Biology GRE to be taken. Almost all the 28 veterinary programs require students to go through the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical Colleges Application Services) which is available on the AAVMC website. The deadline for the VMCAS application is in October every year. Some schools also require their own supplemental applications.

While there isn’t any guaranteed way to become a veterinarian, following some the guidelines given can help students plan their path. Not all of your courses and extracurricular activities should be 100% focused on meeting the veterinary admissions requirements. Have fun; join clubs you like, do things you enjoy. Like we said before schools are looking for well rounded individuals. If you don’t get in, believe me you are not alone. Some years there have been 15,000 applicants for 2,500-2,600 available seats. What you can do is contact the admissions staff and request feedback, then address the issues and reapply the next year.

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