What Are Veterinary Medical Colleges Looking For?

The most common question asked by many pre-veterinary students is what characteristics the veterinary medical colleges are interested in.  Many students assume that a high GPA and GRE score will ensure their entrance into the program of their choice, but grades alone are typically not enough.  Below is a basic overview of the characteristics of students that medical schools are looking for.  Read over them and see what areas you are doing well in, and what areas may need improvement.
A strong GPA indicates your ability to be successful with coursework and therefore is an indication that you will also be successful in completing the veterinary school curriculum. Although many veterinary medical colleges require that your GPA be at least 3.0 for admission, in reality a higher GPA is often needed.  For most colleges, the average GPA of accepted students is in the range of 3.6-3.8.

Many veterinary medical colleges require at least a score of 1000 on the GRE.  However, the average GRE for many schools is often closer to 1100 or 1200. This score is based on the general exam, which includes verbal reasoning, analytical writing and qualitative reasoning. Most colleges require GRE scores that are no more than 2-5 years old.  For the specifics for any particular school, consult the Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements (VMSAR) which can be ordered from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (www.aavmc.org).

Clinical Experience
One of the more critical experiences for prevet students is exposure to animals in a clinical setting.  This type of experience will allow you to ensure that you enjoy working with both animals and their owners and that you are well suited for a career in veterinary medicine.  The veterinary medical colleges expect that you will have spent time working with animals, either as a volunteer or in a paid position.  While there is no set number of hours for this experience, a common guideline is to attempt to gain 500 hours before you apply.  Again, this is just a suggestion and by no means a required amount.  It is also important to gain experience with a range of animals and in a range of different settings.  If you have been volunteering in a small animal facility, considering shadowing a large animal veterinarian or someone who works with exotics.  The more time you spend working with veterinarians from a wide range of areas, the better you will be able to determine which aspect of this career is the best fit for you.

Research Experience
Some veterinary medical schools look favorably on applicants that have research experience before they apply.  Research allows a student to investigate a topic in greater detail and more in-depth than work in the traditional classroom.  Conducting research allows you to gather and synthesize information and teaches you critical thinking skills.  All of these are valuable tools for anyone interested in a career in veterinary medicine.  The emphasis placed on research varies greatly from one vet school to another, often based on the characteristics of the school itself.  Be sure to carefully investigate the requirements and recommendations of any school in which you are interested.

Veterinary medical colleges want applicants who are mature, who know their strengths and weaknesses, and can handle situations that are new and/or stressful.  Maturity is the one thing on the list that can be the most difficult to obtain and demonstrate.  One way to help you become more mature is to attempt activities that take you out of your comfort zone.  By challenging yourself, you will learn more about yourself and how you deal with difficult situations.  Yet another way to develop maturity is to take responsibility for you own actions.  Recognizing that there are situations where you have made mistakes and then learning from those mistakes is a classic sign of maturity.