Musings of a Veterinarian

Archive for February 15th, 2009

How do I increase my chance of getting into veterinary school?

February 15, 2009 By: Dr. K Category: Questions, Veterinary School

Congratulations on making the decision to pursue a career in veterinary medicine! May you find it rewarding and challenging. The decision to become a veterinarian is the first in many steps to actually receiving a degree. Being a veterinarian carries great responsibility and necessitates a life long commitment to learning. The most important thing to remember: Loving animals is not enough of a reason for becoming a veterinarian. VETERINARY MEDICINE IS FIRST ABOUT LOVE OF MEDICINE AND SECOND ABOUT LOVE OF ANIMALS. Once you are sure veterinary medicine is the career for you, read below for a few tips to improve your odds of getting into veterinary school.

1. Do Your Research

There are only 28 veterinary schools in the United States.  The average number of new veterinary students admitted to school nationwide is only 2,100. On average, about 43% of applicants are accepted to veterinary school yearly. Certain schools are more difficult to gain acceptance into than others. Your chances of getting into one of these schools sometimes depends on the state in which you reside. For example, the University of Pennsylvania typically accepts a high percentage of in state students. However, every year the state of New Jersey (with no veterinary school) purchases several seats for New Jersey residents. Other states may have similar contracts. Knowing your chances at different schools can help you narrow down the application process.

2. …More Research

Most veterinary schools prefer students to have their bachelor’s degrees prior to matriculation. Other schools will allow students with a certain number of credits, typically junior undergraduates,  apply and matriculate prior to undergraduate graduation. Know the undergraduate course requirements and GPA requirements prior to application. Preveterinary programs can tailor your undergraduate education to ensure all of the prerequisite courses are completed but does no guarantee admittance. Make sure your undergraduate institution has a network to assist with the application process.

3. Get Experience

You should have in depth experience in at least one field of veterinary medicine prior to application. Some schools, like Cornell University, emphasize breadth of experience over depth of experience. That means the admissions committee seeks applicants with experience in small/large animal medicine, research, shelter medicine, and even human medicine. Most schools recommend at least 1000hrs of hands-on veterinary experience: equivalent to 2-3 summers of full-time work. Cleaning kennels or mucking stalls shows you aren’t afraid of hard work. Of course, the more technical experience the better.

4. Emphasize Other Relevant Experiences

Have a few bad grades but salvaged your GPA? Dealt with the public as a waiter/cashier/fast food provider? Use your non-veterinary experiences to emphasize highly desirable traits like perservereance and social aptitude. Good communication skills are a MUST. Any previous occupations or volunteer efforts that extoll your interpersonal skills need special attention.

5. Be a Man

Sorry ladies. This one is out of your control. Only 25% of veterinary school students are male. Schools are actively seeking men to try to even the field.

6. Pursue a Career in an Under Served Area

Recent updates reveal critical shortages of large animals veterinarians, public health veterinarians, and governement veterinarians. Don’t limit yourself to private practice! Check out this article at AVMA.org!

7. Visit Veterinary Schools

Visit veterinary schools you are interested in at least 6 months to a year prior to application. You will most likely meet with an admissions officer. This is a chance to show initiative and interest in a particular school. This is your first chance go make an impression: ALWAYS DRESS WELL! Take copies of your transcripts and be prepared to discuss any grades under a “B”.

8. Be Persistent

Even if you don’t get accepted to veterinary school your first try, don’t give up on your dream! I know of veterinarians who were accepted on their 3rd attempts. In the interim, strengthen your application with more veterinary experience, a master’s degree, or research.

With proper preparation you can greatly increase your chances of acceptance to veterinary school.