How to Be a Competitive Veterinary School Applicant

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

I spent two years researching and contemplating whether I would attend veterinary school before I applied. I did so much research that I can name the classes needed for most schools off the top of my head. There’s no need to necessarily be as neurotic as I was, but understanding what various schools are looking for is crucial.

I’ve put together this basic list of necessities to help you stand out as a competitive applicant:

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  1. Picture yourself as a veterinarian

    I advocate this as the single most important factor in getting anywhere in your life. I look at it as you have to completely desire to become a veterinarian in order to accomplish it. There cannot be backup plans. If I were on an admissions committee and had two similar applicants, but one obviously desired the position more, why would I ever offer the position to the indecisive one? Before you can do anything else, you need to make up your mind that you’re in it for the long haul since sacrifices will be necessary to continue on a very demanding career path.

  2. Work full-time as a technician

    I recommend this because I believe it is the only way that you can truly understand what goes on in an animal hospital. I have seen people volunteer for short amounts of time, but they never comprehend the trials and tribulations that a working veterinary technician does. They also lacked the dedication that workers had since their livelihood did not depend upon excelling in this position. Furthermore, by immersing yourself in the environment, you ensure that you fully see everything that goes into veterinary medicine besides the science of it. Client communication and business-mindedness are key factors that are only beginning to be stressed in veterinary school. Be prepared to become an awesome veterinarian before you’re even accepted into a school.
    Now, volunteering in different environments to learn about the other types of paths is still crucial. I spent many hours volunteering with marine mammals, equine, and avians. While a variety of experiences is key to having your application considered, a multitude of various volunteer activities does not let you fully understand the depth of any single position.

  3. Attend CE hours

    While working as a technician, you can get a lot of background information and networking by attending the Continuing Education hours that certified veterinarians and veterinary technicians are required to attend. It shows a lot of character to give up your personal time to attend seminars on areas of veterinary medicine that interests you. Obviously, it’s not as important as work or volunteering, but since few do this it could stand out on your application.
    I also recommend reading veterinary publications in order to stay current in the field. (Yes, they ask you about current topics during your interviews!) is a great free resource that you can sign up for as a veterinary technician.

  4. Hone in on your individualized strengths

    What makes you different? My bachelor’s in communications and art helped make me an interesting candidate. Just imagine, everyone has to fit into a certain mold just in order to apply. Be sure to talk up your other strengths in your application. On the note of a bachelor’s degree, most candidates do already have one before applying for veterinary school. Graduate school is not like college where they expect seniors to apply – they promote life experience as a distinguishing characteristic.

  5. Study Up!

    Veterinary school requires a lot of study time to fully comprehend all of the information, so get used to studying much of your time now! One common misconception is that you have to be a perfect student. Make sure you do exceptionally well in areas that interest you and be able to defend yourself as to why some courses you cannot get an A. For example, I tend to not do well in general survey lectures since your entire grade is based on three short multiple-choice tests. When given written exams and hands-on lab practicals, I excel.

  6. Do NOT give up!

    This is probably the most important factor. Perseverance in such a grueling, competitive environment is key. There are thousands of other qualified applicants out there and sometimes the cards just don’t fall right. But you cannot let it discourage you. Work harder next year, and apply to schools that you would not think you would like. I was shocked that I fell in love with Iowa State University when I first did not even want to apply there. (Thanks to my mother, I did – you always need a strong support system to back you up!)

3 thoughts on “How to Be a Competitive Veterinary School Applicant”

  1. OUTSTANDING article!!! A real-life, student-guide through what is a pre-vet jungle! Thanks to the writer and to sdn for posting this:)

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