A lot of children say that they want to grow up to become animal doctors… but some of us never grow out of that stage. If you want to become a veterinarian, or you are interested in knowing what your veterinarian has accomplished, keep reading! As one part of a three-part series, you are bound to understand more about your vet, or your future!
Whether it was bringing their dog in to the vet as a kid, or much later in life, your vet made the decision somehow, somewhere, and at some time! Veterinary school is filled with people in different stages of their life and from all different backgrounds, so the stories are all unique. What they all have in common however, is that they made a choice to challenge themselves and to provide a voice for animals.
The commitment to four more years of school, also comes as a large investment… since vet school is expensive! According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, median tuition for veterinary schools in the United States is $50,123 for out-of-state students and $23,664 for in-state students, per YEAR! According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average debt of veterinary graduates was around $150,000 in 2019. While deciding about vet school, it is important to consider these numbers. Loving veterinary medicine however, often outweighs the fear of large loans for many.
Despite misconceptions, an applicant can go to any college or university, and study any major… as long as the prerequisite classes are all taken. Prerequisites are the courses required to have been taken prior to starting the first day of vet school. Some of the common prerequisite courses are organic chemistry, microbiology, and mathematics, but each veterinary school has a unique list of classes that they require. Interestingly, not every program requires that applicants obtain a bachelor’s degree…as long as they have completed all of the prerequisites. (Although…having a bachelor’s degree is thought to make an applicant more competitive.)
Like you may have heard, it is competitive to get accepted. Your personal statement, veterinary and animal experience, GPA, letters of recommendations, GRE (a standardized test) scores, and life story are all considered. In the applicant pool, however, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so veterinary classes end up very unique!
Just like the applicants, the programs are all unique too! With only 30 veterinary schools in the United States, it can feel like too few… but at the same time be overwhelming to have to choose! Each school has its own specialties, species, and style that stand out within the veterinary community. There are private and public schools, domestic and international schools, and schools that vary drastically on methods of teaching. Where to apply depends on where you live and your interests, but for many it should also include the cost of tuition! Cost is often overlooked by the excitement of applying, but making strategic choices on where to apply, based on the cost of tuition, can make a big difference after graduating.
For most schools, applications are accepted every Fall, for class starting almost a year later. There is one generic application that is used by the majority of schools in the United States, known as the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service). However, many schools take an opportunity to get to know you better and ask more specific questions via “supplemental” applications. After applications are reviewed, most schools offer interviews to candidates they are interested in. Traditionally these are in-person interviews, though with COVID-19, each school is making unique changes for this process. An interview is a chance for the program to get to know you, but also for you to get to know the program. Just like any interview, it is best to prepare! Practicing answering questions about yourself and your beliefs, while you are stressed, can help the process go much more smoothly! Though no preparation can duplicate the feeling of the real thing, it can make a huge difference for many.
Going through the steps of deciding and applying can be very stressful, but chasing your dreams makes it worth it in the end. Especially since… it is all about the horse! (Or the dog, the cow, or the iguana.)
*Interested in knowing more? Stayed tuned for “The ‘How Vets Become Vets’ Series, Part 2: What’s it like in Vet School?” or email firstname.lastname@example.org to have one of your questions about veterinary school be answered by a real live vet!