So you want to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine?
Before you answer that question, understand that you have to be completely comfortable with blood, feces, and all other bodily fluids. You also need to be prepared to go to school for at least 8 years and yes, you need to be strong enough to deal with death. Still think you want to give it a shot? Fantastic! I am here to assure you that it is possible and inform you of what steps you need to take to make it through your undergrad and hopefully onto veterinary school.
I am an aspiring veterinarian, but unfortunately I have not made it there just yet. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at Western Illinois University and will be graduating this upcoming December. I have successfully made it through the application process for veterinary school for the fall of 2018, but I will not find out about my admission until next February-March. Thus, I am still on edge on whether I am a strong enough candidate to get in. However, I have learned what schools are looking for during my time of meeting those requirements. Now I want to pass what I know onto others.
First and foremost, you need a high GPA. You do not have to be a 4.0 student (though it never hurts to shoot high). Most schools admit students with an average of a 3.6 GPA. School will become a priority in order to get those high grades. Pre-Veterinary programs involve intense science courses such as microbiology, anatomy/physiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry to name a few. Many people do not seem to understand that pre-vet students go through the same academic courses as pre-med students do. It is not going to be easy and for a good reason. Students who cannot handle the academic rigor of any pre-professional program will not make it through graduate school. That means if you really want it, you have to work for it.
At WIU, pre-veterinary students can choose to either go through the Biology department or the Agriculture department. I chose the Ag department and I am so thrilled with my decision. The Agriculture department at WIU gave me the hands on experience with animals that I always craved. I plan on working with both small and large animals when practicing veterinary medicine, but even for those who are planning on working strictly with small animals should still go through the Ag department. Before you jump into learning medicine, you must first learn the basics of the animal. For example, how they function, their behavior, and their needs. The Ag department provides this for you. You will get to learn all of these aspects and more. The Ag department also provides core courses that help your social and professional skills such as building a resume and how to act during a formal interview (which is required for veterinary school). If you cannot already tell, I am an advocate for WIU Ag because I truly believe it is going to get me to the next chapter of my life.
Veterinary schools also want undergrads that go beyond just a high GPA. Being an honors student and/or performing undergraduate research are two examples of raising academic status. Students should also get involved in other ways on campus. Schools want to see a well-rounded candidate. Get involved with clubs and organizations and additionally try and gain leadership positions. You should also get involved in your community.
Outside of school in general, experience with animals is a must. There are many ways you can gain animal experience. A job at a clinic is always great, but you can also gain experience through volunteer work at either shelters or farms. Internships are also a great experience builder. Additionally, the university provides experiences as well. The WIU farm offers student employment and there are many study abroad programs that would be beneficial. One thing you must do however, is build a relationship with at least 2 veterinarians. Schools require 3 letters of recommendations and 2 must be from different veterinarians. So keep that in mind while you gain your animal experience. I also advise to have one recommendation from a professor so your academic work can be represented as well.
Once it gets closer to application time, one other requirement is the GRE standardized exam. It is definitely something that should be prepared for. University libraries (at least WIU) offer free prep books for the GRE as well as other standardized exams. Take advantage of them! They are free! As a college student, you will become very fond of the word “free” and unfortunately applying for veterinary schools can be expensive.
So, we have now covered that you need to have a high academic status, be involved on campus and in your community, have lots of animal experience, have relationships with veterinarians, get a good score on the GRE, and still be sane. It sounds a little overwhelming, right? Of course, but it is possible! I cannot express the importance of a quality support system. These are the people (academic or at home) that will continue to push you when you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Do not think that you have to do this alone, open up to those that want to help you. That goes for any future goal you may have, not just vet school. I know I would not be where I am today without my support system, that’s a fact.
Like I already said, school will become a large part of your life. Remember to spend some time on your physical and mental health. Have fun during this time in your life (but not too much fun, schools expect you to keep your public record and social media clean).
Lastly, when it comes time to finally apply for veterinary schools through the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service), make sure you have done your research and know the requirements for the schools you want to apply to. Start early and stay calm during the process. When everything is done and submitted, celebrate and be proud of how far you’ve come! My dad consistently says one thing to me during my years in school. He says “always remember to make yourself proud.” This has stuck with me during all the times I was drowning in school work or stressing over applications. It is something that I think everyone should remind themselves when striving for their goals.
Hi, Everyone! My name is Kagney Nudd and I am from Dallas City, IL. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at WIU. As you already know from reading this blog, I plan on going on to veterinary school to get my DVM. I hope this blog was of value to you! If you have any other questions regarding requirements for veterinary school, feel free to shoot me an email at KR-Nudd@wiu.edu. I am happy to help!