Veterinary School

Preparing for Admission

Students interested in applying for admission to a United State college of veterinary medicine should select an academic program that provides a strong background in the biological and animal sciences. Nationwide, in 2007 approximately 5,750 applicants competed for 2,650 places in the twenty-eight United States veterinary schools. Thus the nationwide acceptance rate was 46 percent.

Admission to a college of veterinary medicine is based on several criteria. Specific admissions requirements for each school can be found at websites for individual schools. General admissions criteria include the following:

Academic Record
The average cumulative grade-point average (GPA) at most veterinary schools for the entering class is in the 3.50 range. Most veterinary schools recalculate GPAs in several ways: in required courses, in science courses, and in courses taken during the last three to four semesters. Rarely are Penn State students admitted to U.S. schools on first application when their GPAs are below 3.00.
Animal and Veterinary Experience
Significant animal, veterinary, and undergraduate research experience is required. Specific requirements vary among schools. Some schools require letters of reference from each experience listed in the application.
Scores on Standardized Tests
Scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) are acceptable at most schools.
Letters of Recommendation
Three letters of recommendation are required in the initial application. One letter is required from an academic adviser, counselor, or teacher; one is required from a veterinarian; and the third one can be from any individual selected by the applicant. Some schools either require or accept additional letters of evaluation in the supplemental application.

Minimum Course Requirements for Admission

The minimum course requirements for admission to most United States veterinary schools include the following:

  • A minimum of ninety credits in an undergraduate program
  • Two semesters of general chemistry with laboratory (CHEM 110, 111, 112, and 113)
  • Two semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory (CHEM 202 and 203; or CHEM 210, 212, and 213)
  • One or two semesters of biochemistry with laboratory (B M B 211, 212, and 221; or B M B 401 and 402)
  • Two semesters of general biology (BIOL 110, and BIOL 220W, 230W, or 240W)
  • Two semesters of physics with laboratory (PHYS 250 and 251)
  • Mathematics—The minimum requirement ranges from algebra and trigonometry to two semesters of calculus and varies with each school. This is a minimum requirement. Most schools do not accept students who have not taken calculus, even if their published requirement is algebra and trigonometry.
  • General education—Penn State students rarely have difficulty meeting this requirement if they meet Penn State's General Education requirements for graduation.
  • The specific number of credits required in each of the above categories may vary among veterinary schools. Thus, it is important to check the specific admissions requirements for each veterinary school under consideration.

The above list indicates minimum requirements. In order to be competitive, students should aim for a program that provides academic credentials in excess of the minimum requirements. Junior- and senior-level courses in anatomy, physiology, histology, embryology, genetics, nutrition, microbiology, and parasitology enhance the strength of a student's academic program.

The application process for admission to veterinary school begins in June or July of each year. Most U.S. schools participate in the centralized Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) coordinated by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. Many schools have a supplemental application that is submitted directly to the school after the centralized application has been submitted. Some schools expect a supplemental application from all students, while others request supplemental applications only from applicants who are selected from the initial application. The deadline for submission varies, but for most schools the application deadline is October 1 of each year. Interviews are scheduled during January, February, and March for those schools that conduct personal interviews, and decisions based on the application are communicated to the applicant promptly after the interview.

The Penn State Pre-Vet Club schedules an evening session in late March or early April each year to review admissions procedures for students planning to apply in the next cycle. Presentations are made by faculty and by students who have participated in the application process during the previous cycle.

Source: Lester C. Griel, Jr., Professor of Veterinary Science and Program Coordinator, Animal Bioscience Undergraduate Program, College of Agricultural Sciences. For additional information, e-mail Dr. Lester Griel.