Veterinary School Admission
In the U.S., the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree requires four years of study at a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are 28 accredited vet schools in the U.S.
Veterinary school admission is complex and highly competitive. Admission procedures vary considerably from one school to another. Make sure that you understand and follow the specific requirements of the schools you are applying to.
Strange as it sounds, your place of residence is one of the first things you should consider in deciding which vet schools to target – and in gauging your chances of being admitted.
Many vet schools give preference to state residents as well as residents of contract states (states that have a formal agreement with the vet school to subsidize tuition for a certain number of their residents.) In effect, residents of U.S. states that do not sponsor or contract with a veterinary school are treated as a separate applicant pool in which many candidates are competing for an even more limited number of seats.
Many U.S. vet schools require applicants to submit an application through VMCAS (the Veterinary Medical College Application Service), a centralized application service operated by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges. Some schools require a second, school-specific application, often called a ‘supplemental’ application, in addition to the VMCAS. Of course, schools that do not participate in the VMCAS have their own application forms.
The VMCAS and school-specific applications require:
- College transcripts
- Information about professional and volunteer experience
- Information about extracurricular activities
- A personal statement
- Letters of reference
- Standardized test scores
Standardized test score requirements vary from school to school. Usually, schools accept scores from the GRE, GRE Biology Subject Test, and/or MCAT. (The VCAT test was discontinued in April 2003 and is now an ancient history lesson.)
Schools invite strong applicants to a personal interview, which is the last step in the selection process.
Veterinary schools consider a broad range of criteria in assessing applicants. They are looking for students whose academic records and test scores indicate that they can handle a demanding vet school curriculum. They also look for students who understand the realities of veterinary practice and who are experienced, comfortable with, and effective in handling animals. They want students with the stamina and commitment needed to excel in a long and demanding course of study. And, because veterinary practice always means dealing with people as well as with animals, they want students with people skills.
It’s fair to say that an additional requirement for veterinary school admission is a thick skin. Unfortunately, there are always many more qualified applicants than there are seats available in DVM programs. The chances of any applicant being accepted are typically one in ten at best. Applicants from states that do not support or have contracts with a veterinary school face even higher odds.
However, smart applicants won’t let an initial rejection put an end to the dream of a veterinary career. Many vet students have won admission on their second or third try. You can, too – provided you treat your first application as a learning experience and make a concerted effort to learn from it what you need to do to be a stronger candidate.