Top 8 Tips for Getting into Vet School
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
So you want to go to vet school? Well, you’re in good company. I’m here to tell you that it’s 110% possible if you’re willing to put in the work.
Like many of you may be feeling, I remember being so discouraged during the start of my undergraduate career. I was told in a few classes that only 1/3 of the students had a chance to be a veterinarian. I recall professors saying, “look at the person to your left and look at the person to your right...only one of you will be accepted into vet school”. WOW. That was so disheartening but at the same time, it pushed me to get to the place I’m at today.
Whether you’re in high school, college, or out working in the real world, I’ve seen SO MANY ways of getting into vet school. I know people who were accepted after completing only 2 years of undergrad (super quick route), people who’ve applied multiple times, and even some that started in careers outside of vet med then decided to go back to school. Regardless, each story is unique, inspiring, and shows there’s many ways of getting into vet school.
I will go ahead and touch on what many of you may be wondering. Did I have a 4.0 applying to vet schools? HAHA NO. Did I have above average GRE scores? Nope (Does almost average count?). Did I have thousands of experience hours? Again, NO. What did I have? I believe I had a well-rounded application that stood apart from other applicants. Looking back on my experiences I can say that I truly pushed myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I got involved in things that would benefit my future as a veterinarian BUT ALSO things I truly enjoyed. I don’t want to mislead you because it took a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, but I hope by sharing my experiences you will see that there isn’t just one ideal vet school candidate. I want to share 8 tips that helped me get accepted into multiple vet schools!
1. GET INVOLVED EARLY
This is one thing I cannot stress enough! If you even have a slight interest in veterinary medicine, I encourage you to start exploring the field! Volunteer at local veterinary clinics or animal shelters during high school. Explore different clubs or volunteer opportunities during your first year of college. DO NOT wait until your junior or senior year of undergrad to start obtaining experience. Trust me when I say you’ll be less stressed if you set yourself up for success early on.
2. DIVERSIFY YOUR EXPERIENCES
A lot of people go into vet school already knowing what kind of path they want to take and that’s awesome! I went into vet school thinking I wanted to be a neurologist. NOPE. Not my path anymore (still not sure what I want to do). Regardless of your desired path, I encourage you to experience as many areas of veterinary medicine prior to applying to vet school. Why? First, this will open your eyes to the many opportunities in this field and how different veterinarian’s jobs can be. Secondly, that’s more experience you’re gaining with different kinds of animals and this will help set you apart from other applicants.
I’d highly suggest trying to gain exposure to at least 3 areas of veterinary medicine/ animal work. So that could be small animal, large animal, exotics, wildlife, or research (and many more). By the time I applied to vet school I had exposure to small animal, large animal, exotics,wildlife, and research.
3. DO YOU
This one seems so obvious but I’m telling you...it’s not. The transition from high school to college is such a learning curve and can be overwhelming. Always keep your personal goals in mind and don’t give in to what you think you should be doing based on everyone around you. You know what’s best for you so focus on that.
I remember sitting in orientation and someone telling me I NEEDED to take 18 credit hours each semester to prove I could keep up with a veterinary curriculum. Looking back, I’m so happy that I didn’t listen. I decided to enroll myself in 14 credit hours each semester of my freshman year. THIS WAS THE BEST DECISION I COULD HAVE MADE. I was terrified of how hard college would be and this allowed me to ease myself into my new lifestyle while also maintaining solid grades.
4. ASK FOR HELP
I’m not someone who absorbs information quickly and that’s always been an insecurity of mine. I envy my peers who can sit in a lecture and immediately understand and regurgitate the information. I struggled with many classes in undergrad (calculus, physics, genetics, etc.) so I had to figure out a way to stay on top of my academics. Did I have to study 3x more than some of my classmates? YES. Did I attend numerous review sessions and TA hours? OH YEAH. Did it suck putting in so much extra work? YUP, but it was all worth it in the end!
So don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re struggling in a course, go talk to your TAs or professors. If you want research experience, ask faculty or others around you about available opportunities. If you’re feeling helpless and confused confide in someone (ME!).
5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
It’s easy to get consumed by the school work but this is by far the most important piece of advice I can give. You only have one life to live so make the best of it. Don’t let your dream of becoming a veterinarian get in the way of living your life. Study hard but don’t let it define you. So what if you get a C? I had at least three C’s applying to vet school. It’s not the end of the world (I know it may seem like it but trust me it’s not). Just keep doing your best and the results will follow. So make it a priority to spend time with your friends, family, and continue doing all the fun things you enjoy.
6. BUILD STRONG RELATIONSHIPS
If there’s one thing that got me through undergrad it was having amazing mentors and support systems. I was extremely lucky to have had an awesome advisor who helped get me on the right track during my first year. I’ve heard horror stories about students having terrible advisors but let me tell you something. You are NOT locked down to that one person. Yes, you may have to schedule your classes with them each semester, but they are not your only resource! Reach out to other faculty members in your department. Get to know your professors. Build genuine relationships with the people who are there to help you succeed. The bonus is that you build awesome connections and these people can genuinely attest to what kind of person you are. So, when you’re applying to vet school, graduate school, or a job and need letters of recommendation you know exactly who to ask. Don’t be the person who asks a professor they barely know for a recommendation letter. You want people who genuinely know you to write on your behalf.
By the time I applied to vet school I had 5 solid letters of recommendation ready to submit that represented different aspects of my experience.
Recommendation 1—Small animal veterinarian (worked with since high school)
Recommendation 2—Small animal veterinarian (worked with since high school)
Recommendation 3—Professor ( I did undergraduate research for)
Recommendation 4—Associate Dean of my college (I did research for)
Recommendation 5—Panhellenic Association Advisor (I worked a lot with her during my time in Greek life)
7. HAVE 2 PLAN A’S
One of my favorite professors in Animal Sciences always told us to have 2 plan A’s. He said that we should have a couple career options in mind and work towards preparing ourselves for all of them. If you set yourself up for success, YOU will be the one who gets to decide which plan A you want to pursue. I had my 2 plan A’s. One was going to vet school and the other was applying to graduate school. I took this piece of advice to heart and really made sure I was the best future vet student or graduate student I could be. In the end I was the one who got to decide which route I wanted to take.
8. PRACTICE TALKING
This one’s REALLY important. You’re probably thinking this is a bunch of BS but let me be the first to tell you that talking to your friends/family is WAY different than talking to a future employer or the interviewers that may decide your fate into vet school. I’m an extremely extroverted individual that’s never had problems talking but I’ll be the first to tell you that talking to employers or interviewers can be intimidating. So, what should you do? PRACTICE. I’m not kidding.
During my freshman year I attended my college’s career fair just to practice talking to companies. I wore my most professional outfit, typed up a resume, and just went for it. Looking back, it was probably a weird thing to do but it really helped get me outside of my comfort zone. Not only did I learn how to talk to industry professionals, I also landed an unexpected internship!
In addition to attending career fairs, I also made sure to set up numerous mock interviews with faculty prior to my vet school interviews. I also made my friends ask me all sorts of interview questions. It never hurts to prepare early. I promise you, by the time you get to the real deal you’ll be so much more prepared.
If you made it to the end of this post you're a trooper! I hope you found this post somewhat helpful. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.