There are 30 Veterinarian schools in the United States. Veterinary schools are looking for well-rounded applicants who have a confirmed interest in becoming a veterinarian. Pre-veterinary students should plan to spend time outside of the classroom to explore and commit to veterinary medicine by engaging in a variety of activities including but not limited to shadowing, working, volunteering and research. Veterinary-related experiences include anything that is done under the supervision of a veterinarian. These experiences working with a veterinarian show you are committed to being a veterinarian and understand the role. Examples of these veterinary related experiences including working for a veterinarian, shadowing a veterinarian, volunteering at the Detroit Zoo or at the Michigan Humane Society. With shadowing, it is helpful to shadow veterinarians in a variety of settings.
Participating in student organizations and non-clinical volunteering shows that you are giving back to your community while building communication and leadership skills.
There is an online centralized application for applying to Veterinary schools called Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). On this website, the following information needs to be provided by students in completing the application:
- Classes & Grades
- Activities – explain extracurricular and animal experiences
- Personal Statement – one page essay, not to exceed 3000 characters
- Letters – send three letters of recommendation (LOR) to VMCAS
- Transcripts – must be submitted to VMCAS
VMCAS now opens mid/late January with the info pages (academics, personal information, VMCAS essay & experiences sections) all available for the student to work on. Come mid-May, the school pages opens. Students then link each academic course to each school's course requirements.
Students need to check school sections for supplemental essays or links to another website for supplemental information. Some schools like NCSU don't release supplemental essays until the student's VMCAS application is submitted. It is best to shoot for submission by August 25 and for LORs by a similar date. Students can add in people for LORs starting at the January open time.
It is the pre-vet student's responsibility to track all the experiences they engage in throughout the course of their preparation. This means knowing the range of dates, total number of hours, and supervisor contact information for each of the places an experience happened. The PMHSC suggests using an Activity Tracker to log this information.
Anything done under the supervision of a Veterinarian counts as animal-related experiences. Pre-vet students can volunteer with animals or have a paid position at a Veterinarian's clinic or office. Vet schools want pre-vet students to have experience with both small and large animals. In southeastern Michigan, it can be difficult to find experience with large animals but students need to try to find opportunities when possible to increase their exposure and experience with large animals. Pre-vet students can check with their own vet clinic for volunteer or paid opportunities or look into local vet clinics in their community for possible places to check into any opportunities for animal-related experiences. At WSU, we have a Pre-Vet Club that helps pre-vet students talk with other pre-vet students and network with each other about opportunities to gain animal-related experiences prior to applying to vet schools.
Animal-related experiences show vet schools that you are committed to being a veterinarian and understand the role. Pre-vet students are encouraged to pursue these animal-related experiences to gain a thorough understanding of the role of a veterinarian as well as show vet schools that you are truly committed to becoming a Veterinarian.
Non-clinical volunteering in the community and being involved in student organizations on campus shows that you are giving back to your community and develops communication and leadership skills. Vet schools value students having volunteer experiences other than animal-related experiences when they submit their application. There are hundreds of student organizations at WSU that students can choose from and students are welcome to start their own organization if interested.
Vet schools encourage pre-vet students to volunteer in medical experiences such as hospice or nursing homes or anything in human medicine since the volunteer experiences will add value to their application. Every year, the Pre-Med and Health Science Center hosts a patient care panel where the area hospitals explain their volunteer opportunities to students as well as the volunteer application process at their respective hospitals.
It is good to shadow veterinarians in a variety of settings to gain the most exposure prior to applying to vet school. If you are working or volunteering at a vet clinic or office, the veterinarian at the clinic can be someone you ask to shadow. If you are looking for a shadowing opportunity, contacting a veterinarian in your local community or contacting the local Humane Society can be good leads for possible shadowing opportunities. The Pre-Vet Club at WSU is another possibility for finding leads for shadowing opportunities. Your pre-vet advisor will know how to contact the leaders of the Pre-Vet Club and get you connected to the club.
Shadowing a veterinarian shows vet schools that you understand the role of a veterinarian and have taken the time to investigate the role. As you observe a veterinarian in their daily routine, ask yourself these questions: Could I see myself doing this role each day? What do I like about the role? What do I not like about the role? Could I still do these tasks each day even though I don't like them? If you get an opportunity to talk to the veterinarian you are shadowing, ask him/her what they like and don't like about being a veterinarian. At the end of your shadowing time, be sure to ask the veterinarian for leads for other veterinarians that you can shadow and if they are in other settings, as that will be helpful for your preparation for applying to vet school.