Choose My Major: Pre-Veterinary Medicine

vet with puppyIf you love animals and think that working with them everyday would be a dream come true, then maybe Vet school is the right career path for you. 
Getting in can be tough, so read on to get some great advice and develop your own game plan for becoming a vet.
 
Career opportunities:
There are many different career options within veterinary medicine, beyond the most commonly known option of opening a private practice. These careers can include jobs in public health, environmental science, biomedical research, or even wildlife conservation, just to name a few.
 
 
Choosing where to apply:
It varies from school to school, but preference is given for in-state residents, so if you know which area of veterinary medicine you think you want to focus on, research which vets schools are strong in that area, and then try to attend a college in that state so that you can gain residence during your four years of undergrad. You do not have to attend the university where the vet school is, just any college in the state. Also, states that don’t have their own vet schools will often have an arrangement with other states so that you can be considered a resident there because for many vet schools state residence is the number one factor!
 
Getting advice about applying:
Not all colleges offer pre-vet advising, and even universities with vet schools do not necessarily provide the best advising or internship opportunities for hands-on experiences. You should definitely contact the admissions office at each vet school. You can even do this as early as high school. Many vet schools will allow you to visit, tour and ask questions, and if this is an option, definitely do it!
 
Getting admitted:
While the rigor of your undergraduate college is considered, it is far more important to get good grades since you are admitted to vet school (like med school) largely on the basis of your undergrad GPA. You can be admitted directly to vet school from an undergraduate curriculum but admissions to vet school is really competitive, so many students will often pursue a Master’s degree or get some animal-related experience in order to strengthen their application.  Be aware that many students have to reapply two or even three times before they are admitted. Since vet school admissions are so competitive, it is always good for you to consider your back up plan!  This could include other graduate programs such as biomedical sciences, zoology, etc.

Most vet school students majored in biology or animal science, but this is not required.  The important become a vet for dogsthing is that you meet all of the admissions prerequisites. Do note that some animal science curriculums do not include biology, which you must take before applying to vet school. It is not necessary to major in animal science or to attend a university that has a pre-vet program on campus.
 
Prerequisites:
The prereqs for vet school admission vary, but most require biology, and other requirements can include: chemistry, physics, microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, animal science, calculus, statistics, and some humanities courses. Be sure to do well in your math and science courses and especially in biology. Not all schools require animal science courses, but some of the colleges on your list might, so check.  If your college does not offer these, then you can take them during the summer elsewhere.
 
Hands-on experience:
You will want to get actual hands-on experience with animals of all kinds (especially large animals!).  Nearly all vet schools require this, and some schools require many hours, up to as much as 2,000.  You can get this type of experience in the summers if it’s not available to you during the school year. Vet schools will even consider high school experience, so begin volunteering as soon as you know you may be interested in vet school.
 
Recommended resources:
1. “Get Into Veterinary School: Insights by an Admissions Expert-2012 Edition-For High School, College & Returning Students” by Joseph Piekunka
2. “Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements (VMSAR)” by AAVMC
3. Cornell’s pre-vet advising newsletter

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