When you were growing up, how many times did you say to yourself, “I want to be a veterinarian?” Probably countless. Why? You love animals! It’s your passion, and now you want to make sure you’re fully prepared to start your journey to becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). First up, completing your vet school applications.
Specific veterinary school requirements vary from school to school, but there are a few things you can do to make the application process—which can seem intimidating—a little easier. This blog has a list of the most important requirements and helpful tips and strategies to help your veterinary application go smoothly—and stand out.
REQUIREMENTS FOR GETTING INTO VET SCHOOL
1. Complete your undergraduate course prerequisites
You don’t necessarily need to finish your four-year college degree before applying to vet school, but it is highly encouraged. Most schools prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate degree or not, you will need to take a number of college classes that meet all the veterinary school prerequisites.
Many students are curious to know what degree you need to be a vet. Choosing a major is up to you, but most schools recommend undergraduate degrees in biology, animal science, biological sciences, or biomedical sciences. No matter your undergraduate degree, be sure to do well in your core science and math classes. Your veterinary school admissions teams are going to look closely at those courses when evaluating your transcripts.
“Evaluating transcripts is not just about grades (although they are important and you have to have a C or better in the prerequisite courses); it is also looking for evidence of learning maturity from year to year—looking for solid performance even as courses become more difficult,” says Ross Vet Associate Director of Admissions Ruth Schroeder.
At Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, we take a holistic view of the admissions process, reviewing not just grades and test scores, but also giving weight to your experience, perseverance, and passion to become a veterinarian. But remember, most schools still have minimum GPA requirements, both for your science classes and overall.
Helpful tip: focus on your core undergraduate science and math classes to help boost your vet school preparedness.
2. Document your experiences working with animals
You’re passionate about animals and animal welfare. Vet schools want to see it! Documenting your experience working with animals may be the most important part of your application. Most schools require a minimum of at least a few hundred hours, and some expect even more. If you can, try to gain experience working with a variety of animals, both large and small, as some schools may wish to see a breakdown of your experiences.
When looking at how to get into vet school, note if the school requires your hours to be completed under the supervision of a practicing veterinarian or if it will consider general animal experience such as volunteering at your local animal shelter. At Ross Vet, we prefer that your experience has taken place under the supervision of practicing veterinarians, but other experience may be considered.
Helpful tip: Shadow a vet! They can provide you a letter of recommendation documenting your professional experience.
3. Complete your GRE
While this is not necessarily a veterinarian degree requirement, completion of your Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is highly recommended. While test requirements vary depending on the school, most schools require it and have a recommended minimum score. What is the GRE? It’s a test that evaluates your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. For vet schools, it’s used as part of your application portfolio and is used to evaluate your potential to be successful in the program.
Test prep is key.
Like the saying goes, “practice makes perfect”, or in your case, practice makes taking the test less intimidating and can increase your overall score. Performing well on the GRE can help strengthen your application. It’s not unusual to struggle with the first few practice exams. If you feel like you’re still struggling after a few tries, it may be worth signing up for a practice course. Many courses are available online or you can investigate your local resources.
“The GRE is about test-taking strategy and the ability to critically think through the questions; even if you don’t know the answer, based on what you do know and the answer options available, arrive at the best possible answer by figuring it out. The GRE provides the admissions committee evidence of your ability to think critically and problem-solve,” says Schroeder.
Helpful tip: start early and practice, practice, practice!
4. Know your application deadlines
Getting into vet school is all about preparation. Mark your application deadlines on the calendar and get organized. You can apply year-round at Ross Vet for our three flexible start dates in January, May, and September. Or you can apply through the open Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) cycle dates.
5. Begin tackling your personal essay
Whether you apply through VMCAS or directly through your school of choice, you may be required to submit a personal essay. Typically, you will respond to one to three essay prompts related to your career goals and personal qualities. Typically, your essay has a word limit of 300 to 500 words.
It can be overwhelming if you let it be. Take your time. Reflect on your passion for animals and your why. Why do you want to be a vet? Then prepare two or three talking points you want to make sure the admissions teams understand about you and your goals.
As you consider your why for becoming a veterinarian, be sure to give thought to your passions beyond a love of animals. You can love animals and care about them and not be a veterinarian! So, think about the role veterinarians play—they are clinicians (diagnosing and treating), they are educators (to their clients and staff), they are researchers, business operators, etc. Also, give thought to the wide variety of career options available to someone with a DVM degree.
Of course, every school is different, so be sure to review any specific requirements for how to get into veterinary school for each institution you plan on applying to.
Helpful tip: Don’t sweat the essay! Be concise and let your personality shine through.
6. Reach out early for letters of recommendation
At Ross Vet, we require two letters of recommendation. VMCAS requires a minimum of three letters. However, be sure you understand the specifics for each school you plan on applying to. Make sure you have enough letters!
Once you know how many letters you need, it’s important to then choose the right evaluators who can demonstrate your critical thinking skills, your dedication to the profession, and your positive qualities. Most schools prefer letters from veterinarians and science professors. Develop a positive relationship with the veterinarians and professors you interact with. Let them get to know you, so they can write a meaningful letter that provides evidence, with specific detail and examples, of your ability to be successful as a DVM student and future professional. Now’s the time to reach out and ask them for a letter of recommendation.
Ruth Schroeder indicates that “Letters are critically important as they provide additional evidence, from respected professionals, of your ability to be successful academically and professionally; as well as the opportunity for those evaluators to speak to your ‘soft-skills’ such as teamwork, leadership, professional communication, self-confidence, initiative, and personal maturity.”
Helpful tip: don’t wait until the last minute! Reach out early for your letters to give your evaluators enough time to put together a thoughtful letter.
7. Be Specific and Detailed
When applying to vet school, always be sure to address school-specific requirements. A review of your application and any interviews may be delayed until your application is complete. Review your specific requirements for how to get into vet school early on so you don’t miss anything.
Helpful tip: the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) maintains Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements, a comprehensive guide of member schools.
8. Submit your application with confidence
Your vet school application has a lot of moving pieces. When you can, download or log into the application in advance so you are fully prepared to address each section. Pay close attention to the sections that require documents to be uploaded and be sure you’ve paid application fees.
While you wait to hear back on your application, start practicing for your interviews. Practice makes perfect and schools want to see you shine in your interview.
Helpful tip: practice your interview with your supervisor or, even better, an alum from your school of choice! The more you practice, the more confident you’ll come across to the admissions committee.
Still wondering “what do I need to get into vet school?” and "what are the requirements to become a veterinarian?" Reach out to the Ross Vet admissions team for answers to any questions you might have.