Veterinary students must prepare in similar ways to students who wish to enter medicine, though veterinary school has its own requirements and application process. We will go over the course requirements, extracurriculars you will need to get involved with, and other concerns for a vet school application. We will also cover how you can begin preparing for veterinary medicine while still in high school.
Just like pre med, there are no pre vet majors. Instead, there are a number of courses you are required to take, which will prepare you for the work you will do in veterinary school. Specific schools do have their own requirements, and you should look into these when you are preparing to apply. In general though, you will be required to take the following courses:
All of the science classes you take should have a lab component. You are also expected to take further general ed courses in some cases, though these vary by school. In general, you need a solid background in math and the sciences, as these are the skills you will need to be fluent with to be a vet.
Other courses can help with your application or preparation, even if they aren’t required. Upper level anatomy and physiology courses, zoology, and upper level biology courses all have relevant information for you.
Your GPA is the single most important factor when it comes to vet school admissions. While they do practice holistic admissions, and look at other aspects of your application, your grades are the first and most important consideration. You should keep them high, and aim for a 3.5 average at least.
Luckily, vet school applications are generally slightly less competitive than medical school, so you don’t need to stress out quite so much. You can still get into vet school with merely good grades, rather than perfect ones. The other parts of your application will need to make up the difference in those cases though.
There is no real incentive to take harder courses than necessary and you should aim for a balanced schedule that will allow you to excel in the classes you do take. While vet schools will have your transcript, they have no context for whether a course was difficult or easy; all they see is your final grade in it, and that is the only evaluation they care about.
There is no pre vet major, and students can get into veterinary school with any undergraduate major. That said, most of the students do major in biology or chemistry. Due to the courses you are required to take, these majors line up well. A major in zoology is also popular, as the higher-level courses in that major will often directly parallel classes you will take in vet school.
You should apply for whatever major is best supported by your high school candidacy. You can then either switch majors when you get to the school, or simply take the necessary vet prep courses alongside your major of choice.
Pre veterinary advising is sometimes done through pre health, and sometimes done through the office of career advising (of which pre health advising is a subsidiary). This varies by school, as veterinary studies are less popular than other fields in health, and are less likely to have their own dedicated advisor.
That said, it is still useful to meet with advising early in your time at college. They will know more about courses you are required to take, and be able to connect you with resources for internships and other involvement with your chosen field. There may also be a pre vet student organization on your campus; if there isn’t you should consider starting one. It will be a useful resource in either case.
There are not strict experience requirements for veterinary school, but exceptional extracurricular achievement definitely aids your application. In general, schools like to see that you have past experience working with animals, research experience, volunteering experience, and have demonstrated leadership.
Working with animals is, of course, key to veterinary medicine. You do not need to work with a vet, but gaining experience with animals during college will boost your application greatly. This could be working in a shelter, participating in research with lab animals, or getting involved in other ways.
Doing research is quite helpful as an experience, as it contributes to the scientific grounding you will need to build upon in vet school. While your career will not be focused on doing research, the principles of scientific research will underpin everything else you do in school, and a solid understanding of them will help you significantly.
Demonstrating leadership is generally regarded positively by admissions officers, as is community involvement. They want to see signs you will be a devoted and helpful practitioner, and that you will contribute positively in class. Getting involved in the pre vet student organization at your school is a good way to do this.
There is not a specialized exam for vet school admissions, instead you will take the GRE (though some schools also require the biology GRE). The score you need to get varies by school, but you should try to perform as well as possible on this test.
While this test is not as important for your admissions as the LSAT or MCAT, it is still used by admissions officers to check your readiness for graduate level education. It is secondary to your grades, but you need both in order to gain acceptance. Most students take the GRE in their junior year, if they are planning on attending vet school right out of undergrad.
The requirements for these vary by school, but most want letters from professors, and from a vet you have worked with before. You should look to build relationships with professors, even in large classes, so they will be able to write you strong letters.
Some schools require a letter of recommendation from a vet. This is something to consider when choosing which extracurriculars you pursue, and what to devote your time to. This does not need to be a formal internship to land you a strong letter; shadowing or working alongside a vet at a shelter are both good ways to get involved, and to make these needed connections.
While you do not apply to vet school directly out of high school, you can still lay the groundwork for success, both academically, and in your extracurriculars. The first, and most important step, is to gain a sufficient grounding in science and math. You should take physics, chemistry, and biology courses, and math at least through calculus.
While you will need to take these subjects again in college, having some experience in them already will make for a much easier time, and ensure that your grades in college will be at the level you need for vet school applications. If you intend to major in one of the sciences, these courses will also offer needed preparation for that.
In terms of extracurriculars, involvement with animals is a great way to make sure a career as a vet is the right choice for you. This can come from organizations like 4H or FFA, volunteering at shelters, or even getting a job in a vet’s office. More irregular jobs, like pet sitting and dog walking, can also contribute to this, and build your experience further.
You should also get involved in more general science related activities if you plan on majoring in the sciences. Science fairs and competitions, student organizations, and other ways to get involved show off your love for learning, and make your chosen major seem like a real passion, rather than just a stepping stone.
Getting involved with doing research can be very helpful, especially if you intend to do research in college (which we suggest). While there are many openings for research on college campuses, these can be quite competitive; having prior research experience will give you a leg up when applying for these spots. This can come from independent research projects, or from doing a summer research program. Both will give you valuable insight into how the research process works.