Resources for Pre-Veterinary Medicine Students

Veterinary Medicine is a challenging career that some of our students choose as a career option. We at the University of Scranton are committed to providing our students with this resource that we hope would help you in your preparation for applying to Veterinary Medical Schools.

We compiled this resource that will hopefully be of use to all students interested in applying for admission into a veterinary medical school.  The following is an outline of all the information that we feel would be helpful.

The full version of the contents of this document can be downloaded here.

I. Suggested Coursework and Curricular Preparation

A. Selecting your undergraduate major
B. Biology Coursework
C. Cognate and GE courses
D. GPA requirements

II. Extracurricular Activities

A. Veterinary Experience
B. Research
C. Other Activities

III. Admissions Tests: the GRE or the MCAT

IV. The Application Process

A. Recommendation Letters
C. The GRE
D. Costs
E. Selecting your school
F. Early Admission
G. Preparing for interviews

V. Timeline for planning your undergraduate career

VI. Some useful tips and hints

For more information, consult with our Biology faculty such as Dr. Mike Hardisky.

We encourage you to join our Facebook Group (U of Scranton Vet. Med.).

Veterinary Students can come from any science major. However, given our liberal arts curriculum and courseloads required by most of our undergraduate majors, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you select Biology as your major. Most of your course requirements for veterinary medicine can be fulfilled within the major. If you select another major such as Neuroscience or Biochemistry, it is technically possible to fulfill the requirements; however, you will need to take many extra courses (or possibly get a second major or a minor).

It would be advantageous if you are a member of our programs of distinction (SJLA or Honors), but this is NOT a requirement. An advantage of participation in the Honors program is that you will obtain the research background as part of your normal coursework.

Many vet schools require the following:

  •   Organic Chemistry: almost all vet schools require at least 1 semester, and many ask for at least 8 credits (so 1 year of Organic Chemistry and the Labs)
  •   Biochemistry (Chem 350; required in some programs, check with individual schools) - for the Biology major, Chem 350 can be taken to fulfill the major elective requirements
  •   Physics (1 year; so take this as part of your normal cognates)
  •   A Math-based statistics course. Bio 379 (recommended) or Math 204
  •   1 year of English (including a literature course)
  •   Public speaking course (this can generally be fulfilled by our GE requirement, or an SJLA class such as Trivium)

Note: All of these are part of the standard requirements for the Biology major.
Remember that admission to veterinary medicine is highly-competitive.  While there is no "magic number" for a GPA, aim to hold your GPA at 3.7 or above. If your GPA is below that, make sure that your application has many other strong areas that could convince an admissions board to consider your application.
Instructions for applying for and taking the GRE can be found on their website. When preparing for the GRE, the best thing to do is to PRACTICE extensively rather than “study” for it like you would a regular exam. The exams are given on computer, and you have to be very familiar with this style of testing.

Your GRE scores will usually be due to your schools by November, so make sure that you take it by early October. While you should aim to do well the first time you take it, you might want to give yourself time to retake the test in case you need to. Thus, it is advisable to take it sometime late summer or early September.

If you have satisfied some of your Math requirements through AP credit, you are encouraged to keep your Math skills active through taking Math additional courses, participating in Mathematics-sponsored extracurricular activity, and/or tutoring Math courses in the CTLE.
Applications are expensive – approx $250 per school, plus the costs of the GRE and copies of your transcript. Be prepared to spend quite a bit, but you don’t want money to be the reason that you limit the number of schools to which you apply. So be prepared for the expenses.
First and foremost, RESEARCH the schools on your own, and see what each school requires.

Veterinary schools often have geographical restrictions – many schools are required to serve applicants from their state or area of the country. Therefore, many of them will take very few out-of-state applicants (for example, UC Davis only takes TWO people from out-of-state). Look at each school’s website, and measure your odds accordingly. If you want to apply to a school that takes very few (10 or less) out-of-state students, your application must be spotless; otherwise, you may be wasting your effort and money.
Many veterinary programs expect that you have some laboratory research experience. Research experience gives you a number of important attributes:

  • It proves that you are interested in and enthusiastic about science
  • It teaches you how to think critically
  • It teaches you independence and responsibility

We have many ways of getting involved with research in addition to the Honors Program. Check here for more information.
In general, there is no single set of extracurricular activities that will be particularly advantageous. Extracurricular activities are there for YOU. They help mold you into a well-rounded person. Therefore, you should select activities that you are passionate about and that truly enjoy.

When you apply for veterinary school, the committees will most likely look at the list of your activities, but their questions will revolve around what you learned from your activities. So for example, if you are involved with Habitat for Humanity or Urban Beats because you love doing it, think about positive skills and experiences that you gain from such activity. Remember, the hallmark of a thinking person is his or her ability to turn anything in to a learning experience.

Therefore, when selecting extracurricular activities, focus on QUALITY and NOT QUANTITY. Remember the motto: “Non multa, sed multum” (“Not many, but much”).

Do something out of the ordinary, but do so because that is who you are. Schools like to see extraordinary experiences. Our alumni often report that interviewers look for things in your resume that are different or unusual; for example: a Philosophy Major (in addition to Biology major); participation in a study-abroad or a travel course; membership in varsity sports, or singing with the University chorus.

But, to borrow from Shakespeare: “this above all, to thine own self be true”. If you do something because you think it will get you into veterinary school, it won’t. Usually, interviewers can spot the activities that are done which are consistent with your individual personality and those that are done to solely to bolster your record.
Most veterinary schools typically do NOT consider a committee letter as part of the recommendation package. Almost all of them require letters from at least one faculty member and one (frequently, two) veterinarians.

For your faculty letter, try to select a faculty member who knows you well, who has had you as a student, who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and who understands the requirements for veterinary school admission. As an alternative, you can go through the University’s HPEC committee; the committee members will conduct an interview and prepare a non-committee letter signed by the scientist on the interview team. If you opt to do this, try to select an interview committee that has a Biology faculty member (such as Dr. Hardisky, Gomez, or Smith) that is familiar with veterinary school admissions requirements).

For your veterinarian letters, try to select veterinarians for whom you have worked, who is familiar with you as an academic entity, or with whom you have had a professional working relationship. While it may be nice to have your family veterinarian or a veterinarian family friend who has seen you grow up write a letter on your behalf, this letter may not adequately address your academic qualifications or your potential as a veterinary professional.
Some schools allow you to apply for Early Admission, which means that if you are accepted and you can complete your undergraduate studies in three years, you can be admitted into a veterinary program. This option requires you to be an outstanding applicant, and requires a lot of preparation on your part. Make SURE that you work with your academic advisor very carefully to do this.

Note that if you apply for Early Admission and are not accepted, this does not preclude you from applying again in your senior year. In fact, although this is a time- and effort-consuming effort, some of our alumni say that it is worth it so that you gain experience in assembling your application and interviewing at schools.
If you are called to interview at a veterinary school, it will be to your benefit to do a mock interview. Many people will be willing to help you, especially people in Career Services, your faculty, your veterinarian mentors, or our alumni.

Be prepared for questions about anything in your application – your research, shadowing, and extracurricular activities. Make sure that you know the details of things that you did (for example, your research projects). When asked about your activities (see section II.C., above), be sure you can answer questions that address “what you learned” from each experience that you had, or how these experiences helped prepare you for a career in veterinary medicine.

Some schools conduct "behavioral tests" (questions that are very situational), and ask how you would respond in certain situations. People in Career Services can help you with this.