You’ve taken classes, racked up volunteer hours, and sat through pre-health presentations. You’re now ready to apply to vet school! Unfortunately, it’s a long and involved process.
1. Research schools
There are only 28 in the United States, which means they are hard to get into. All of them are good.
Always apply to your in-state school, if you have one, because you have the best chance of getting in there. Most schools are 2/3 in state, and many are higher. It is also cheaper in state.
Some schools offer conditional acceptance programs if you meet requirements as a sophomore and maintain grades (contract schools), but this is not necessary for getting in. All schools have large and small animal, but look at schools that have the program you want if you want a specific focus.
2. Gather materials
It’s real. He was stunned from flying into a window.
Start early, because the application is involved. You need:
Transcript- average GPA is around 3.6. It’s possible to make up for a lower one, but higher is always better. Consider retaking classes if need be to show that you’re serious about vet school and can handle difficult material.
Make sure you have the prerequisites for the school you’re applying to. Email admissions departments if you’re unsure about anything- they’re usually really nice, and it helps (a little )if they know you, especially from in-person presentations if your school had any. Also email them or go in for a post-rejection interview if you don’t get in to learn why they didn’t accept you and how you can improve for the next application cycle. Many people get in on their second, third, fourth, or even fifth tries!
GRE Score- Average scores vary by school. Leave enough time to retake it and still apply on time if you haven’t taken it once yet.
Personal statement- explain who you are as a person, why you’re passionate about veterinary medicine, and so on. Make sure it is not “I wanna b a vet cause I loooooove puppies and kittens!!!!!!!!! :)” You need to show that you are serious about becoming a vet, and that you are doing if for the right reasons (such as desire to help others, the science aspect, or public health). “I’d rather be a vet than a human doctor because I don’t want to work with people” is also something that should never come out of your mouth or keyboard during the application and interview process.
Letters of Recommendation- usually 3 are required: 1 from a veterinarian, 1 academic, and 1 other. The third one might be up to you or might be specified by the school (such as an employer, a second vet, or an advisor). Give the person writing for you lots of time and a helpful information sheet if they don’t know you very well (but try to get people who know and like you and will sing your praises).
Experience hours- usually a minimum of 250 veterinary, but it varies by school and more is always better.
Extracurricular Activities- leadership positions or animal or medicine related ones are good, but anything you’re passionate about is good. It also helps to show that you manage your time and are involved.
Work Experience, research experience- further relatable experience, work ethic, and time management is the idea here. Published research or research with or about animals or medicine is a bonus but is not necessary to a successful application.
Explanation section- explain any unusual circumstances, for instance if there’s a reason you had a drop in your grades, or some type of hardship.
Supplemental Application- Some schools have one (check their website). Always do it if there is one.
Money- Vet schools are expensive to apply to, although it’s cheaper per school in VMCAS the more you apply to.
This is Jaye. She was the most fantastic horse ever.
Most schools use VMCAS, an online application system like CommonApp that sends your materials out to multiple schools. The website goes live over the summer and is due the next fall- pay attention to guidelines and deadlines. Submit it at least a day early because the website often crashes the night before the deadline from traffic volume. Also, check up to make sure schools receive all of your materials (if physically sending something, use delivery confirmation). Update schools if you gain experience after applying.
4. Wait and Relax
Grace goes bridless
It’s apparently nerve wracking to wait to hear from schools, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Keep up your grades if you’re in your last year of school (most schools give you until you matriculate to finish your requirements).
5. Hear back and go for interviews
One of these things is not like the others…
No one is accepted without being brought in for an interview, usually in late winter or so. It takes time and money to travel, but it’s the only way to get in and it’s a really good sign if you are granted an interview. Some schools have a program where on your interview day you shadow a current vet student. Make sure you stay for that if offered to show interest, and the students typically report back on what they thought of you. It looks really bad to take off. Also, always extensively research the school before you go (your admittance likely hinges on it!), and don’t ask questions with answers on their website!
6. Get accepted (congratulations!) or rejected (I’m sorry)
If you get accepted, decide on your school of choice if you’re super lucky and have multiple acceptances and submit a deposit to secure your place. Good for you!
If you didn’t make it in, know that many people don’t get in on their first try and you can try again next year. Ask the school why you didn’t get in, and work on what they tell you. This might mean boosting grades, retaking the GRE, or gaining experience hours. An excellent way to spend this year is to work as a vet tech, thereby making money and gaining valuable experience.