Veterinary medicine is an exciting field with a large variety of opportunities for an individual to influence and affect the life of animals, their owners and society on a whole. There are currently 28 veterinary schools and colleges in the United States and five in Canada. The programs are competitive, but it is a great profession to pursue.
Courses required for admission to veterinary medical schools are quite different depending on the school because each school sets its own requirements. It is very important that you check the individual schools requirements as you near the application time (http://www.aavmc.org). The veterinary medical schools belong to a centralized veterinary medical association called the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Veterinary medical schools require applicants to have completed the pre-veterinary curriculum prior to application. The minimum science preparation for admission into veterinary medical school, with a few exceptions, include the following:
- Principles of Biology I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- General Chemistry I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- Principles of Organic Chemistry I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- Physics I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- Calculus I
In addition to these courses stated, many veterinary medical schools also recommend or require courses in Animal Biology, Embryology, and Physiology.
For the student who expects to complete a degree in four years and go directly into veterinary medical school, the pre-veterinary curriculum will need to be significantly completed by the end of the junior year of college. Veterinary medical schools typically accept the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), or the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for entrance into veterinary medical school. The typical four-year curriculum for a pre-veterinary medical student mirrors the curriculum of a premedical student. These courses serve as a common denominator between applicants and are also the foundation upon which students build once in a professional school. As noted above, the pre-veterinary medical curriculum given above should be considered the minimum science preparation for a health professions school. You may decide to take additional upper division biology and chemistry courses to strengthen your background in the science, especially if you elect a major in the humanities or social sciences.
Veterinary medical schools are stressing a broad, general training at the undergraduate level. The CORE requirements of the College of Arts & Sciences at Saint Louis University include courses which satisfy non-science requirements. These courses include General Psychology, Composition and other courses which develop communication skills. Take more than the minimum CORE requirements in humanities and social sciences.
General Academic Preparation
Veterinary medical school admissions committees recognize the importance of a liberal arts education which includes a strong foundation in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and development of excellent communication skills.
Although the completion of a college degree may not be specifically required by a veterinary medical school, there is an expectation that the applicant has pursued some discipline in depth. The successful applicant typically has a four-year degree, thereby studying a discipline in depth. Skills are developed through many avenues of study, such as in the natural science, in the humanities, and in the social and behavioral sciences. Development of effective written and oral communication skills are especially important for veterinary medical school applicants.
Selection of a Major
Professional schools do not select students based on the undergraduate major. The process of selecting a major should include consideration of interest and your individual strengths and weaknesses. The most important aspect of major selection is a consideration of what careers, other than as a veterinarian, the major prepares you to enter. Think of the major as a backup plan.
Although successful pre-veterinary medicine students have completed majors in many disciplines, both in the sciences and the non-sciences, it is necessary for the pre-veterinary medicine students to do well in their science courses. These courses will adequately prepare the student and will be viewed favorably by the admission committees of the veterinary medical schools for entrance into veterinary medical school.
Click here to see sample curricula of majors.
The Successful Applicant
Any applicant to veterinary medical school will need to complete an application either through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) for the 28 veterinary schools which participate in this centralized application service, or directly through the two schools which do not participate - Tufts University, and Tuskegee University. For those schools you will need to contact the admissions offices directly. For the schools utilizing VMCAS, you can obtain information about the application through the Internet at http://www.aavmc.org/vmcas/vmcas.htm.
Diversity within an entering class is considered highly desirable by veterinary schools. Avoid the common misperception that admissions committees seek some ideal combination of characteristics in the applicants they select for admission. What is important in the admissions process includes:
- High level of scholastic and intellectual potential. These are measured by academic averages, both overall cumulative average and overall math/science grade average, the entrance exam (VCAT, MCAT, or GRE) scores, and three letters of recommendation (one preferably from a veterinarian.
- Personal Qualities. Does the applicant have the leadership skills, motivation, perseverance, social maturity, curiosity, and sense of commitment deemed important in a veterinarian?
- Knowledge of the profession. Has the applicant demonstrated an interest in the veterinary medical profession and developed a knowledge of the profession? Experience in an animal health care setting, awareness of current events related to the veterinary profession, and interaction with animal health care professionals provides evidence for this interest and knowledge. It is essential that the applicant will have amassed a considerable amount of time directly in the care of animals.
- Demonstration of a commitment to helping people. Participation in community and service organizations or working at a shelter for the homeless demonstrates the applicant's degree of commitment to being of service of service to others. Remember, veterinary medicine is as much about working with the owners of the animals as it is about working with animals.
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