Loop Abroad alum Amelia Matczak shares her firsthand insights on applying to vet school.
You have finally taken the leap and set your sights on veterinary school. Like most that want to apply, you now have to navigate fulfilling AVMA prerequisites, your other academic schedule, gaining animal experience, and preparing for the GRE. Further, if you’re anything like I was, you may have decided you want to be a veterinarian, but you still don’t know how to apply to vet school, how much time you need to commit to the application process, or what interviews will be like.
But fear not, prospective vet school student, having survived the process myself, I am going to outline all of the major pieces that go into applying to vet school and throw in some tips along the way.
Unlike many other students with vet school ambitions, I didn’t realize I wanted to apply to veterinary school until my second year of college. Luckily, I was already in a science-related major, so some of the more basic AVMA prerequisites I had already taken. That being said, I was surprised to find out that each veterinary school has its own set of course requirements. There is overlap between schools, of course, but if you have your heart set on one university in particular, it’s crucial that you look at their prerequisites and make an academic plan to fulfill them before matriculation. Thankfully, the AVMA has a pdf they update annually which covers all prerequisites for all accredited programs.
A vet friend of mine suggested that I apply to school a year early, so using this list I narrowed my search to the ten schools whose programs’ prerequisites I was able to fulfill. Then, I researched schools individually to identify which programs I was most interested in, leaving me with four schools I wanted to apply to.
Annually, the online VMCAS application opens at the end of January and closes mid-September. Then, about three months later, schools invite students to spring interviews for the following academic year. Essentially, you finish your application a whole year before you want to start veterinary school. For most students, that means finishing your application just before the start of your fourth year of undergrad. For me, however, I finished my application just before the start of my third year. Personally, I recommend starting the application as soon as it opens in January, and here’s why:
1. Time. Give yourself as much time for the application as you possibly can. Even if you don’t submit your application until the deadline, the whole process requires lots of information and several short essays. Life can change quickly, and although you might feel as though you have a lot of free time now, the last thing you want to do is be down to the wire and pressed for time.
2. Recommendations. Just like applying for undergrad, you are going to need letters of recommendation for veterinary school. The difference is that there are requirements with regards to who can write your letters for your VMCAS application. At least one of your letters has to be from a veterinarian and another is highly encouraged to be a life science professor from your undergraduate university.
Veterinarians and college professors are busy people and, if they are willing to write you a letter of recommendation, they are doing you a favor. They are giving their free time to write you a letter and you should give them as much time as possible to do it. Most people advise asking for a letter of recommendation at least three months before the deadline. Personally, I knew who I wanted to ask as soon as I started my application, so I asked them immediately and I’m glad I did; my one professor found out she was having twins just three weeks after I asked, but she was able to write my letter before her life had gotten too busy.
3. Money. Let’s face it. Veterinary school is EXPENSIVE and the application process is no different. I know I spent over $1,500 on applications between the VMCAS fee, individual school application fees, supplemental application fees, the cost of taking the GRE and flying to interviews. Further than that, once you’re accepted to veterinary school, tuition (with room and board, etc.) can be anywhere from $40,000-$80,000 a year depending on if you go in-state or out of state. Long story short, no part of veterinary school is inexpensive, so starting your application early can give you a chance to start saving up money for the application and interview process. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
You’ve finished the application and waited the three painstakingly long months between the deadline and interview notification to hear back from your top school; you’ve been offered an interview slot! I know that it is both an exciting and scary feeling. For me, I did a lot of research to find tips for vet school interviews, and between that researching and attending interviews, these are the four tips I found most helpful:
1. Know the Program. You should know something about the school you are interviewing for before you arrive. Find something about their program that sparks your interest, something their school offers that isn’t offered at another school. “Why?” you ask? Well, I know the question of, “Why did you choose to apply to ________ over another school?” was asked of me at every single interview I attended. In short, know why you want to go to that school before you attend your interview.
2. Read Your Resume. No one should be able to know you better than you. Of course, the interviewer will have a copy of your resume with them, but odds are, they have only briefly skimmed it. You want to ensure you know it top to bottom (you can even bring a copy with you into the interview!) so that if they ask a question about your animal experience, you don’t even have to think about how long it was you volunteered at a local rescue shelter.
3. Take a Minute. The worst thing you can do to yourself in an interview is feel rushed. The more rushed you feel, the more nervous you become. The more nervous you become the more rushed you feel, and the cycle continues. So, don’t be afraid to take a moment or two before responding to their questions. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make sure your responses are thoughtful and insightful. In fact, it’s often seen as a positive quality by interviewers!
4. Don’t Lie. Just don’t do it. It can seem tempting during a stressful interview to “fudge the truth” a little, but the last thing you want to do is contradict something that’s on your application or on your resume. When it comes down to it, the risk is simply not worth the potential of a reward.
In the end, applying to veterinary school is all about planning. Some people have the luck of knowing that vetmed is for them from the start of their undergraduate career, and that is amazing. Take advantage of that time to start setting yourself up for a successful application. For those like me who didn’t realize veterinary medicine their path until much later, you are just as good of an applicant as anyone else! So, no matter who you are or what your background, just remember that the stress of the application process will be worth it once you set foot on campus for your first day of veterinary school. Happy applying!