Dogs, cows and horses, oh my! There are many different tracks you can take in vet school, but the first step is to apply. Making the most of your experiences with animals will get you far in the application process, but here are some additional helpful tips to get you one step closer to your dream career!
#1. You can go to vet school with any degree
Vet schools will accept any undergraduate degree as long as you meet the prerequisites. A few people also enter vet school taking only the prerequisites, but most applicants have at least a BS. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) maintains a list of required and recommended courses for all accredited schools.
Veterinary microbiology professor Mike Teglas says most schools require at least biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry and physics. Check the specific requirements of any schools you are interested in to make sure you meet them all. A few colleges offer a major in veterinary science or pre-vet programs, but they are not required. Some of the most common undergraduate degrees are biology, animal science, zoology, biochemistry, and microbiology.
#2. Schools are looking for more than GPA
The average GPA of students accepted into veterinary medical schools is 3.3 to 3.7, but schools also seek applicants with a variety of life experiences. Teglas recommends that students research many different animal experiences, such as observing different types of veterinarians and participating in different animal-related activities, such as rodeos or equestrian events. Working with your own animals also counts as experience.
Schools also seek community involvement, for example through different clubs and organizations, or community service. Teglas said showcasing leadership skills in clubs, jobs or through community involvement in applications can give you that extra edge. Having a job as an undergraduate can also boost your application, with extra points if you’ve worked with animals in any capacity!
#3. Make sure you have all your application items
Most veterinary schools require a GRE score and a few require the Biology GRE. The graduate record review has three sections; analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. Most students take the GRE in their freshman year or early in their senior year, but studies can begin as early as your second year. You can check the website of the schools you are interested in to see what the average GRE score was.
Applications also require letters of recommendation, one of which must be from a licensed practicing veterinarian. Teglas recommends starting now to connect with different types of vets so you have a better idea of what you want to emphasize in your studies.
Finally, perfect your personal statement! Including your work experience and career goals are obvious choices, but colleges want to see a complete candidate. Talk about your hobbies and interests outside of veterinary medicine and how they impacted your education or career choice. They are also great places to showcase your leadership experience and communication skills!
#4. Streamline the application process
You’ve put all that work into your application, now you just have to hand it over to the college admissions officers! The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges offers lots of useful information about different veterinary schools, such as cost comparisons and a quick way to apply to different veterinary schools. You can use the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) to send your application and all required materials to all colleges to which you are applying and monitor any further action you may need to take.
Teglas said the most important thing to keep in mind during the application process is that vet schools are expensive! Be sure to only send applications to schools you are interested in to keep costs down.
Want to learn more about becoming a veterinarian? Read part one of our conversation with Mike Teglas, professor of veterinary microbiology at the University of Nevada, Reno, about what high school students can do to start their careers in veterinary medicine.