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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.

76 Comments to “How do I increase my chance of getting into veterinary school?”


  1. Dr. K,

    I am a first year at the University of Virginia. I was wondering if vet schools took the rigor of your undergraduate education into account when looking at applicants. For example, some undergraduate schools are significantly harder than others. I just received a C+ in general chemistry and I’m worried that my GPA is not going to be up to par with where I should be in regards to vet school applications. I know I have time to bring it up, but I am still concerned.
    Thanks,
    Ally

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  2. For the majority of my life I have wanted to be a vet and have always been good in advanced classes and such but as a high school senior right now I am feeling lost. I don’t know where I want to go for college and just in general feel lost right now. I have a 3.0 gpa a 32 act and spent 4 summers at Duke university as part of their TiP program. I am hoping to go into private practice in a clinic but have always enjoyed research and have that as a backup plan. My family doesn’t have much money due to a bunch of legal drama from my grandad selling the family business. I just don’t know what to do, where to go, or who to talk to. I’ve just been fairly depressed recently trying to figure out what I want to do,

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  3. Dr. K,

    Thanks for taking the time to help people like me. It looks like the recurring theme throughout your advise is more diverse experience and large quantities of contact hours – the more the merrier. I’m wondering if you have any creative ideas on how to do it when you discover you want to be a vet “too late”.

    I’ve always loved animals and my whole life people have asked me if I wanted to be a vet like my dad (Michigan State, large animal, poultry science, works for the federal government), and I’ve always responded “I would, but I’m afraid of needles”. So I followed the math career path – had a fantastic high school resume, GPA, extra currics, the works – went to a top engineering school (Kettering University, Flint MI) for Mechanical Engineering, minored in Math, graduated cum laude with thesis, still had the extra currics (none were animal or medicine focused). It’s a co-op school, so I worked in the plastic industry doing injection molding, and in oil and gas in Houston doing subsea. I’ve been with the same company in Houston for 6 years now (3 years full time) doing refurbishment of subsea tools, installation on the rigs, even working internationally in africa, europe, south america. I’m used to having to make calls that have millions of dollars in risk associated. But that’s nothing compared to the prized health of someone’s pet and family member. I have always done this as “the back up plan” because the economy was not exactly great when I graduated highschool (2007) so I went with a sure thing – being a female in the mechanical engineering field, especially one that is not afraid to do manual labor and get dirty can be a really sure thing.

    But I’ve never enjoyed it. It’s always been the backup plan. Well now I’m 25 years old, making great money, still afraid of needles, and NOT living the dream. But I’ve decided to get over that fear and once I make the choice to persue something, I’ve never failed. My question to you is how do I catch up? I don’t have the contact hours. I am not independently wealthy, and am living on my own in Houston with all the expenses and bills that come with it. My parents are in Michigan and living on my now-blind dad’s pension, so saving a little and living with them for a time is not really an option. Do you have any suggestions for getting the contact hours while working full time? I probably won’t get the thousand hours before applying, but want to make any hours I DO get count. Are there experiences that might be weighted more heavily that I should focus on?

    Thanks again for all your dedication to young people out there. And to all you 8th graders and highschool kids – don’t worry about any mistakes you’ve made to date – just get it right from here on out. If you can get into a school of your choice, see it as a clean slate. If you can’t, start working today toward a goal that puts you in a favorable position to attend a school of your choice. The grades and experiences that matter most are always those most recent, so it’s never too late to make changes and get on the right path.

    Regards,

    Diane

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  4. Dr K,

    Next Summer (’16) I hope to apply for vet school for admission for Fall ’17 start. Ideally, I’d like to become board certified in internal medicine.
    I am a sophomore right now majoring in microbiology and my GPA is about 3.6 (I started off taking business classes which lowered it a bit)

    I have a lot of hands-on experience under my belt. I have 7 years experience volunteering in shelters, 3 1/2 years working in a kennel, I completed a 9-month veterinary assistant program in high school. I left my job at the kennel to gain some experience in vet clinics and have taken a full time gig at an emergency/specialty vet clinic.

    I have some miscellaneous experience too, including retail, volunteering as a responder with the ASPCA where I handled roosters, and I serve on the board of directors for a dog rescue.

    My game plan before I apply is to vary my experience more by possibly interning on a goat farm for 1 summer and I’d like to work at a bear sanctuary 1 summer, too.

    I want to apply to two of the top schools (Colorado & Davis) and I really really want to get in without establishing residency prior to applying. Do you have any suggestions on things I can do to raise my chances of getting in?

    Monet

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  5. Diane,

    Congrats on getting to that life changing decision.

    Work FT and start by observing in veterinary hospitals in the evening, on days off, or the weekend. Emergency centers make it possible to observe even on Sundays. Volunteer at local shelters and barns. And, if you are sure you want to take the plunge, get a job as a veterinary assistant and leave the math world behind.

    Clinical or research experiences are far more important than mucking stalls.

    Dr. K

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  6. David,

    How are you doing today?

    Dr. K

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  7. Ally,

    A C+ in any science will reflect poorly, unfortunately. If the rest of your science grades are B or higher, then I wouldn’t worry. But if you are trending as a B or C science student, you will have a very difficult time getting in to vet school.

    Dr. K

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  8. I would do the post-bacc prerequisites because those will fulfill the requirement where-as a graduate program may not do that.

    The right school can overlook GPA if the applicant is extraordinary in other fields! Sounds like you are!

    Dr. K

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  9. Focus on undergrad, first! Get in to a good undergrad program and vet school will follow.

    I like Nick Trout as an author! Also, there are a lot of vet blogs out there to check out.

    Dr. K

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  10. Hey, I have always wanted to be a vet, always said that’s what I would be every since I was able to talk. Now I am getting into my latter years in highschool I have started thinking about taking a career in beig a M.D. I still have a few years to finally decide, but it’s always good to know what I’m wanting to do. I have several animals and love anything that has to do with animals. I help off an on with a family friend on their cattle farm. This is my first time ever thinking about anything other than vet school. I feel like I have limited myself to exploring and learning new careers and I just really want to have a successful future. it just seems like every time I have my mind made up about it I always go back and choose different.

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  11. Hi Dr. K,

    I have a unique question. I am 30, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. I have spent my years since college working around the world as an English teacher. However, after seven years, I have decided that I want to change my career path and I am VERY interested in becoming a vet. However, coming from a background in Social Sciences, I don’t have any of the pre-reqs required to apply. I would need to go back to school for all science and math courses (Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Statistics). These were never strong areas for me, but I haven’t taken any of these courses since high school, and I feel like I would enjoy them more now. I am not afraid of hard work, and I know that I’m looking at at least 6+ years of a change in career path, so that doesn’t bother me. However, I am a bit stumped at how I should go about fulfilling these pre-reqs. I’ve read that a lot of Vet Programs will only accept grades from a 4-year college, as opposed to a community college. Is this true? I had planned to take all the pre-reqs that I needed through a good community college. Do you think this will hinder my chances? I’m not really sure what my other options would be. I have never heard of people with a BA going back to a 4 year university to pursue a BS…

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

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  12. Cami McJett says:

    Dr. K,
    I am currently completing my senior year of college. I am majoring in pre- veterinary science. I am stressing so bad because there are many options available. I would love to go to veterinary school, but there is one thing holding me back. Getting the veterinary experience I need is somewhat difficult for me. I have had an internship for one summer and I recently went to China this summer. Do you recommend that I go on and get my masters? if so, what can I study in order to prepare myself for getting into vet school?

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  13. Hello…do you know if research labs that perform research on animals hire candidates that are animal lovers/owners? Or, do they tend to shy away from such candidates? Thank you.

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  14. OK, here is my story sorry it’s long. I am a senior in college, close to getting my bachelors degree. I am currently taking pre-vet classes. I want to get into veterinary medicine. It has been a lifelong dream of mine, But I’m afraid I will not be able to get in because of my education history.

    I went to a community college to get my associates degree, but I went there for 6 years instead of the original 2 years. The reason is because My first year there I got bad grades, it was my first time in college and I was getting use to the college life, so I had to retake classes, plus the college registered me for the wrong class. When I talked to the counsler to see what classes I needed she told me I need these classes, so I signed up for them, then found out later I didn’t need to take them. Also there was a mistake once, where they thought I graduated, but I didn’t I was still registered there, finally I got it all straightened out and I finished and got my associates degree.

    I then went on to a another university to get my bachelors, I’m still currently enrolled there, but I have been there are a while. I started in the fall of 2009 and I’m still there. The problem is that this college only offers certain classes certain times a year, so If I’m in organic chemistry 1, they don’t offer organic chemistry 2, till the next following year. That’s because this was not their main campus, It was like a small branch they had, but still offered the same classes and degree. Which is one of the reasons why I have been there long.

    Also my first year at this college I also was involved in a car accident, I wasn’t hurt but that experience changed me, I was nervous to drive a car, I started to take public transportation, which resulted in me being late, I also was still shooken up by that accident that it started to affect my grades, and I even had to see the school psychologist. This left my grades being really low I got D’s and F’s my first year there. the school put me on academic probation for that, after that I realized I had to get back in shape. I did really well after that, I never got anymore D’s or F’s. I passed my classes with mostly C’s and sometimes a B.

    However about a year later I developed a medical condition that started to interfere with my studying, and because of this I did get a D in one class and the school put me on academic suspension for that. I was able to get reinstated back in, and again I was doing well I passed my classes with C’s and a few B’s, then again my medical condition (which is hypothyroidism) started acting up again, I had really bad symptoms and I found out my doctor didn’t give me the right dosage for my thyroid, again the symptoms were bad that it was interfering with my work. I got a D’ in a class again and the school put me on academic suspension for that again. I was able to get reinstated back in after I told the college what was going on, and Since then I have not been on academic probation or academic suspension. I have been in good standing. I’m passing all my classes again with C’s and a few B’s.

    However my cumulative GPA is low its at a 2.11. I know I will be able to pass the classes I’m in now, but If I pass them with B’s or C’s I’m afraid it will not be enough to bring my cumulative GPA back up.

    I also took a veterinary assistant training class and got a certificate of completion for it, but I haven’t been able to find a job. All the animal hospitals I apply too tell me they will not work around my schedule, or I need previous animal hospital experience. I have done volunteer work at an animal Shelter for 6 years, I also volunteered for the salvation army, and my local library.

    I have one more semester left before I graduate, I have looked into Veterinary medical schools and have 4 of them in mind, and I plan on visiting them. I also plan on taking the GRE also.

    All the advisors I talked to tell me that even if I do well on the GRE that I don’t have a chance of getting into vet school, This is something I really want to do, and I have been making a huge improvement on my grades, I’m just afraid of my cumulative GPA and the fact that I haven’t worked in an animal hospital before, and that my transcripts will show that I was on academic suspension for two time.that I wont be able to get in.

    Please tell me there is still a chance that I can get in.

    Thanks
    Shela

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  15. Can you apply to veterinarian school even if you went online for college? My grades aren’t super great, but I’m working on it.

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  16. Taylor Rich says:

    Hi Dr.K,
    I’m in my 4th of 5 years at a fairly tough state school and by gpa is well……not exactly fabulous. To be fair it’s not really at the point of good either(Sub 3.0) but I have been working at a small animal hospital for over a year now with I believe well over 1,000 hours doing both assistant working and have been trained by the technicians to do tech work, assisting in exams, running the lab work, working overnights for hospitalized patients, being involved in every position in the hospital and being taught about the veterinary medicine by the veterinarian(s) there. I have tons of other animal experience such as years of equine care and petsitting as well as a wide variey of work experience. I intend on doing my equine internship over winter break and hopefully into summer as well and taking the GRE in spring(I’m expecting to do very well on that as I’m really focusing on it and generally do well on those kinds of tests.) Due to financial circumstances and other life circumstances such as having our home destroyed by mother nature twice, deaths in the family, environmental related health issues(now resolved) and having to move out on my own at 18 and work 2 jobs at any given time during the school year and breaks, it has really taken a toll on the goal of veterinary school. If I were to do significantly well, I mean 4.0s for the last 3 full semesters and an incredible GRE score, how do you think that would effect my chances of getting into US school? Also, do you get your acceptance/rejection prior to completion of your final year or do they look at your grades for the final semester prior? I was considering technician school after graduation if I am not immediately accepted and then reapplying or possibly doing the 2 year tech program (possibly knocking it down to 1.5 years with transfer gen-eds) before my fourth year so that I could fix my grades. Opinions on that? There’s no pre-vet advisers at my school and frankly any adviser I’ve seen hasn’t even been able to help me correctly build a schedule that satisfies my degree requirements. I apologize for this being so long-winded!

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  17. Lauren Davidson says:

    Hello,

    I have had an interest in veterinary medicine since I was in the 1st grade, I started taking action in the 7th grade when I decided to volunteer for our local animal shelter. I handled mistreated pit bulls and cared for large dogs for about a year and last year I took a step further and started shadowing at mabank animal hospital. I have been going almost every day but I didn’t record the hours. I think that’s bad but I’m not sure. But the veterinarian I shadow is Dr.Kinnard. He’s a strong supporter of Texas A&M university’s vet school. I love it all with a passion, every large and small animal I have come across has taught me something new. I am currently a freshman in high school and Vice President for Greenhand chapter of mabank FFA . I am currently taking principles of agriculture and plan on taking equine science and vet medical applications. My gpa is 3.6 and I’m taking advanced placement courses. I never worked so hard in my life. But, I’m wondering if there are camps I could do over the summer that universities offer that could help my chances of getting in. I’m nervous about my future and what could come.. I want to attend Oregon state university or CSU. Are there any tips you could give me as to what could increase my chances in getting in vet schools?

    Thank you.

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  18. Would attending a major university (I.e. Baylor University etc.) with a strong biology program vs. one that is a branch (A&M Commerce) of the vet school I want to attend (A&M College Station) affect my chances of getting into vet school? Everyone I talk to says Baylor is the way to go because they are so well known, but Commerce is a branch of A&M. Commerce does not have a very strong biology department, but they do have an Animal Science Major. Baylor does not have A.S. I guess I’m trying to balance quality of education over a name. I would greatly appreciate some advice.

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  19. So I am a little young to start looking at colleges, but I want to get ahead of stuff to get ready for the future. I was wondering if there are main classes I should be paying attention the most in school so I can get into a good vet college? I mean my grades aren’t the best, but I will work my butt off to get into a vet college no matter what it takes. The main part of the vet school I want ton pay attention in is training animals, and physical adaption for animals. For those what classes should I be working the most in, I will work my butt off in every class ,but for the majors that I just listed are there particular class to be getting AWESOME!!!! grades in?

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  20. Kathi Glenwinkel says:

    Hello,

    I just graduated (undergraduate) UC Davis with a B.S. in Animal Science and Management and all the required courses for vet school in July. My cumulative GPA has ended up being a 2.6 after a lot of hardship and withdrawing for 2 quarters. I have about 500 hours experience as a small animal vet assistant, 1,000 hours as a rehab tech, and over 10,000 hours as a dog trainer. Anyways, I didn’t bother taking the GMAT or applying to Vet School. I guess I’m hoping for a “that’s good enough, apply anyways!” response, but I really hate rejection and I’m not a lucky person to start with. My friend and fellow UC Davis undergraduate got into UCD vet school with no vet experience, a lower GPA, and no extra courses. Life is not fair, right?

    Kathi G.

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  21. I just applied to vet school..and I was just wondering if weight affects your chances of getting into vet school? I just know that I have seen slim to zero plus sized veterinarians.

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  22. Weight, tattoos, hair, and piercings are generally not an issue.

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  23. Hello Dr. K,

    I have attended college online through University of Maryland due to the fact that I was a military dependent and currently am as well. I attended school for 2 1/2 years without taking a summer or winter break and was able to achieve my bachelors degree in business administration. It took me a while to truly figure out what my passion was and what I wanted to do with my life. I do not have any experience under my belt but I have recently applied for veterinary assistant positions. I am currently a claims and collections processor for a construction company. I was researching more information on applying to grad school and came across this website so now I am really worried about not getting in!

    My husband and I are currently stationed on Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii but we will be leaving the Island in May. We have not received exactly where we will be going next but do you have any advice on which schools in which states would be good to apply to? Which universities have higher acceptance rates?

    Thank you!

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  24. Hello Dr. K,
    I am currently in my second semester of my sophomore year at Rockhurst University. It has been my dream since I was little to be a veterinarian and I have been working hard at it ever since I can remember, I did fairly well in high school, I took honors classes and nearly got straight A’s and graduated with a 3.4 GPA (I wasn’t top of my class or anything but still above average). I would shadow vets in high school whenever I can and am doing the same in college (though often it is hard to find time) I have tried applying for a job at a couple of clinics, but none will take me so far because I often go home during holidays, though I am planning on changing that soon. I am currently on work study and on the dance team at my school and that is the only extracurricular I have because I wanted to focus my time on studying. Though, I have not done so well in college as far as my grades, I have several C’s (which I am hoping to retake these classes and get my grades up) and I typically have a B average. My current GPA is 2.9, which I am hoping to get to or above a 3.0 by the end of this semester. I believe it is because of my time management skills which I have been working on and improving. My advisor at my college is a veterinarian and she says that as long as I show improvement in my grades, show that I am serious, and get plenty of shadowing with different veterinarians, and do other things that you mentioned, I should have a chance at veterinary school or at least to get considered when the time comes to apply. I wanted to ask, do you think I have a chance? I know if I try to turn things around as far as my grades and try to get practically all A’s I will have a stronger chance of being considered, but what else do you think I should do beyond that to make my chances even stronger?

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  25. So, where do I find the responses to all these submissions?

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  26. I don’t believe so! The nature of the business is such that you are moving and on your feet a lot. But there is also the potential for eating poorly due to time constraints and lack of exercise!

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