You want to be a veterinarian. Fantastic! Veterinary Medicine is a wonderful profession. So much so, that around the globe 2011 was designated World Veterinary Year. Like anything worthwhile in life, becoming a vet is hard work. During a visit with the Dean of the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine I learned in 2010 they had almost a 10 to 1 applicant to admission ratio. You need to stand-out in that competition. Great grades and experience matter but so does the manner in which you tell your story. You must present a compelling, unique and memorable way for the admissions committee to remember you. With a smart approach dreams can come true – I was accepted into veterinary school on my first try! -Dr. Nelson
1) Grades – Your grades must be solid, i.e., over a 3.0, but they do not have to be perfect. If you score below 3.0 in any class, there are two options for overcoming this poor grade. First, you may retake the problem course. Second, enroll in a higher level course in the same area. Either way, make sure you study hard and get an A. These actions illustrate your commitment and desire toward a career in veterinary medicine.
2) Test Scores – The secret to a high score on the Graduate Record Exam General Test or Medical College Admission Test is preparation. (Most colleges require the Graduate Record Exam only.) Six months before the exam, enroll in a preparation course. These courses teach you how to take tests and finish within the allotted time. Also, take the entry exam early so you have plenty of time to report the scores and re-take the exam if necessary.
3) Experience – Experience is broken down into two categories: veterinary-related and animal-related. Working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian is optimal. Try to get experience in a variety of veterinary settings. For example, spend one summer with an equine veterinarian, another with a small animal veterinarian and another with a food animal veterinarian. While school is in session, work as a research technician with laboratory animals. During breaks, volunteer with an animal charity. (Please noted that not every candidate can get this kind of experience, but try. Great experience will counteract average grades or test scores. If you have excellent grades and scores, experience will distinguish you all the more. It also provides a more thoughtful perspective on the profession.)
4) Personal Statement – Each applicant must write an essay called a personal statement explaining why they wish to enter veterinary medicine. The successful applicant demonstrates three qualities in their writing; personality, desire and the ability to communicate in English. Start working on your personal statement months before it is due. Make sure it is perfect! I have seen great students rejected because of poor personal statements and vice versa. For more detailed guidance you may purchase “How to Write a Personal Statement for Veterinary College”. Click here for more information.
5) Letters of Recommendation – Unless directed otherwise, obtain a letter of recommendation from three individuals: A veterinarian you worked or volunteered with, your boss or supervisor and a college professor, preferably in science. Ask early in the process to make sure they have plenty of time to complete the letter.
6) Interview – The admissions committee uses grades, test scores, experience, letters of recommendation and the personal statement to cut the pool of applicants down to a manageable number. The final step is an interview. There are generally three techniques used for interviewing; the friendly approach, the stress approach or a combination of the two. Because veterinary medicine is stressful at times, some schools are adopting the stress style of interviewing. As with entrance exams and your personal statement, the key to a successful interview is preparation. “How to Interview for Veterinary College” provides specific advice for interviewing. Click here for more information.
Above all, I want to encourage your to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. It is a wonderful and rewarding occupation. Stay focused on your vision. If you work hard and prepare well, you can get in!