Preparing for veterinary school involves not only studying sciences but also extensive experience working with a diversity of animal species - large animals, small animals, and wildlife or exotic species. Veterinarians work in private practice, zoos, wild life centers, and animal hospitals. Veterinarians may also do basic research, oversee food production and processing facilities, or serve in a governmental agency. It is exciting to explore the many options available for careers in veterinary medicine.
There is usually a small group of Bryn Mawr students interested in attending veterinary school and there is an informal student club, the prevet focus group, that meets a few times each semester.
Note for international students: International students should be aware that admission to a U.S. veterinary school is extremely difficult for students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Many veterinary schools do not accept applications from international students. In addition, international students are not eligible for most financial aid sources such as U. S. government sponsored student loans. International students are encouraged to contact the undergraduate health professions advisor to discuss the significant challenges faced by international students seeking admission to U. S. veterinary schools
Most veterinary schools have similar basic prerequisite courses as medical and dental schools as well as additional required science and math courses. Most Bryn Mawr prevet students have chosen to major in biology or chemistry although with careful planning it is possible to complete the prevet requirements while majoring in a non-scientific discipline.
The prerequisite courses for veterinary school are:
The additional required science courses often include biochemistry, genetics, and microbiology. Some veterinary schools require courses in animal physiology and animal nutrition. All prevet course requirements usually need to be completed by the end of the spring semester prior to matriculation in veterinary school.
AP/IB credits: Each veterinary school has its own policy about accepting AP/IB credits. In general, if you have AP/IB credit for introductory science, the veterinary schools strongly prefer or require that you supplement those credits by taking upper level science courses with labs in the same discipline.
Each year the Association of American Colleges of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AACVM) compiles a "College Prerequisites Comparison Chart" listing the prerequisite courses for all AACVM member colleges. This file can be downloaded from the VMCAS section of the AACVM web site.
Through Purdue University Press, the AACVM also annually produces a guide to veterinary medical schools, the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR), which provides profiles of all of the veterinary schools, prerequisite course information, and criteria for admission. Copies of the VMSAR are available in the Resource Room in Canwyll House. You can also purchase a copy of the VMSAR from Purdue University Press.
Your state of residence is an extremely important factor in the veterinary school admissions process. Nearly all veterinary schools reserve the majority of their seats for in-state residents. Many states without a veterinary school set up contracts with veterinary schools in other states to reserve a limited number of positions in their classes each year. The Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements lists the contract schools for states that have no veterinary school of their own.
You should plan your prevet course work around the requirements of your state (or your state's contract) veterinary school because your chances of being accepted there are usually much better than your chances of being accepted at other schools. If you are thinking about veterinary medicine, you should meet with the prehealth advisor early in your college career to review the prerequisite courses for your state school or your state’s contract school.
All veterinary schools require that applicants have extensive experience working with animals; some schools specify that applicants complete hundreds of hours of primary experience. Most successful veterinary applicants will have experience working with several different species including representatives of both large and small animals. Veterinary schools prefer applicants who have worked in different settings in order to gain exposure to many of the practice environments of veterinary medicine. While shadowing a veterinarian is an important learning experience, it is essential that applicants gain direct animal handling experience under the supervision of a veterinarian. Veterinary schools usually require at least one letter of recommendation from a veterinarian.
Most Bryn Mawr students use the summer breaks to gain experience working with animals. For example, students have worked as stable hands at barns and animal caretakers for private veterinary practices. There are a limited number of internships at wildlife refuge centers and zoos. You may apply for summer fellowship funding from the Undergraduate Deans Office to support an unpaid internship. Similar to medical and dental school applicants, most Bryn Mawr veterinary school applicants apply after graduating from college, which gives them additional time to gain the required veterinary experience while also taking advantage of the many opportunities afforded by a liberal arts college education. Regardless of when you choose to apply to veterinary school, the prehealth advisor is always available to assist and support you with the veterinary school application process.
There are a few opportunities for you to gain some of this experience during the academic year. The Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania has a formal prevet student volunteer program. One previous Bryn Mawr student took advantage of the College's Praxis program to do an independent study class (Praxis level III) with an internship at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Most U. S. veterinary schools utilize an online centralized application service, VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service), which collects transcripts and letters of recommendation, and also verifies academic work and generates standardized grading information and GPAs for each applicant. The few veterinary schools that do not participate in VMCAS have their own applications, and applicants have transcripts and letters of recommendation sent directly to those admissions offices. Texas residents need to apply to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine through the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). The online TMDSAS veterinary school application is similar to the VMCAS application.
One year prior to your intended matriculation in veterinary school, you will submit your veterinary school application, The VMCAS application includes a one page personal statement and sections to describe your experiences in veterinary medicine, employment, community service, and extracurricular activities. After receipt of your application, the VMCAS service will verify the course and grade information that you entered, and your verified VMCAS application will be sent to veterinary schools you designate. The verification process may take up to one month, thus it is a good idea to submit the VMCAS application well in advance of the October deadline.
Currently VMCAS requires a minimum of three required letters of recommendation per applicant. Note that the recommendations must be submitted electronically: VMCAS will not accept recommendations on paper.
Individual veterinary schools differ in their requirements for types of letters of recommendation. Some veterinary schools will also accept a prevet committee letter, which is an overall composite recommendation letter written by the prehealth advisor. The prevet committee letter is an individualized comprehensive summary of the your academic background, achievements, professional and extracurricular activities, and motivation for a career as a veterinarian. You should consult with the prehealth advisor in the spring of the year that you intend to apply to veterinary school to discuss the process for getting letters of recommendation. You will also need to check the policies of each school where you intend to apply to learn their specific requirements regarding letters of recommendation.
After submitting the centralized VMCAS application, you will receive supplemental or secondary applications from the veterinary schools. These supplemental applications will usually have additional essay questions and request a supplemental application fee. Most schools start reviewing applications in late fall. Some schools will make admissions decisions without interviewing applicants whereas other schools will select competitive applicants for interviews. Depending upon the school, an admissions offer can be made sometime from early winter until the late spring.
Selecting which veterinary schools to apply to and how many schools to apply involves many considerations. The primary factor in determining where to apply to veterinary school is state residency. After determining which state schools you are eligible to apply to, you will need to review admissions requirements at other veterinary schools that accept out of state residents.
Most veterinary schools require applicants to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) general test. Application deadlines for receipt of GRE scores vary from school to school. You should plan to take the GRE no later than July one year before you plan to start veterinary school. There is a 60-day waiting period before retaking the GRE, and you want to give yourself plenty of time to retake the test if necessary during the application period.
Although the primary funding resource for veterinary education is U.S. government sponsored student loans and private bank loans, there are some scholarships and loan repayment programs. The Association of Colleges of Veterinary Medicine (AACVM) provides information about options for financing veterinary education.
The Financing Professional School section of this web site has some links to government-sponsored loan repayment programs.