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 can work in many settings, including private practice, zoos, wildlife centers, and animal hospitals. Veterinarians may also do basic research, oversee food production and processing facilities, or serve in a government agency.
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.
PreVet Course Requirements
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.
Generally, the prerequisite courses for veterinary school are:
- One year of introductory biology, with lab
- One year of general chemistry, with lab
- One year of organic chemistry, with lab
- One year of physics, with lab
- One year of English (one semester of the Emily Balch Seminar plus one additional course in the Department of Literatures in English , which can be completed at any time prior to graduation)
- Additional semesters of biology and chemistry, depending upon the individual veterinary school.
- Many veterinary schools also have a math requirement.
PreVet course requirements usually need to be completed by the end of the spring semester prior to matriculation in veterinary school.
The Importance of State Residency in the 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.
Gaining Experience in the Field
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 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. There are a limited number of internships at wildlife refuge centers and zoos. You may apply for summer fellowship funding to support an unpaid internship. Many 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.
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.
Application Process for Veterinary School
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.) One year prior to your intended matriculation in veterinary school, you will submit your veterinary school application.
Most veterinary schools require applicants to take the GRE 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 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.