Veterinarians provide large and small animal health care. They often take a holistic approach to animal welfare that, combined with communications and problem solving skills, makes veterinarians uniquely qualified to fulfill a variety of roles. Careers could include companion animal practice, public health, the environment, homeland security, food safety, research or employment with government agencies.
Preparation for Veterinary school includes completion of a certain prerequisites and (preferably) completion of a Bachelor’s degree. Make sure you do research into which prerequisites are required for the programs to which you are interested in applying, as they can vary! Listed below are the most common prerequisites for Veterinary school and courses at UNLV that will fulfill the requirement.
Major: You may major in whichever subject you choose as long as you are meeting required pre-requisites for the programs to which you are applying. Veterinary schools appreciate diversity in majors so choose a subject in which you will be successful!
Pre-Reqs: Preparation for Veterinary school includes completion of certain prerequisites. Prerequisites for Vet programs vary. Some programs require a bachelor degree; others do not. This list shows courses which may be required. Do your research to ensure you are meeting all required courses for the schools to which you are interested in applying. Listed below are the most common prerequisites for Veterinary school and courses at UNLV that will fulfill the requirement.
- 1 or more semesters of General Biology w/labs: Biol 190/191
- 1 year of General Chemistry w/lab: Chem 121/122
- 1 year of Organic Chemistry w/lab: Chem 241/242
- 1 semester of Biochemistry: Chem 474
- 1 semester of Genetics: Biol 304
- 1 semester of Stats: Stats 391
- Anatomy and Physiology: Kin 223/224 OR Biol 348/349
- Microbiology: Biol 351
- Calculus: Math 181
Additional common pre-reqs
- 1 year of General English
- 1 semester of Psychology
- Communications: Com 101
- Statistics: Stat 391
Grading Policies for Pre-Requisites
- AP and IB Credit are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs
- Community college credits can be viewed differently by each school; research the program to see if they are accepted!
- Online lab courses are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs; some schools will not allow ANY online coursework
- All courses, including repeated courses, will count towards your GPA, regardless of how old they are. Be careful with “w” on your transcripts; they are not counted towards GPA but you should not be withdrawing from courses as a trend
- Some programs have expiration dates on their pre-reqs, meaning you need to take them within a certain time period of applying. Again, do your research!
GPA Information and Calculator
While the professional school admission process is holistic, your grades do matter. It is extremely important to understand how professional school GPA’s are calculated, as there can be a vast difference between your UNLV GPA and your professional school GPA.
Keep in mind that while the information below is generalized to professional schools/programs and the GPA calculation process, it is the student’s responsibility to understand exactly how the programs they are applying to consider, weigh, and/or calculate their GPA.
Professional school GPA’s calculate all grades ever taken at the secondary level. This includes all transfer credit grades, repeats, remedial courses, and possibly graduate level courses. There is no “grade forgiveness” or “grade replacement” for professional school GPA - all grades count. There is also no expiration date on courses for them not to be considered for calculation; even courses you may have taken “years ago” count towards your professional school GPA.
Professional school GPA’s are also calculated in more ways than just your cumulative GPA. Your “science” GPA (or BCP/BCPM) is also a very important marker in your application to professional school. Your science GPA is your GPA calculated only with your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and (sometimes) Math classes. The third and fourth most common calculations are your “all other” GPA, which is your GPA calculated on all courses without your science classes, and your “prerequisite GPA”, which is your GPA calculated only on the prerequisites necessary for that particular professional school program/track.
To help you understand how your professional school GPA will be calculated, please use the resources below. Although intended for use in calculating GPA for medical school, this calculator can be effective for calculating Vet School GPA as well. Bring this GPA calculation to your PPAC appointments, as it is an important part of the discussion. If you need help filling them out, give us a call!
- VMCAS GPA Information and Calculator
- For Excel spreadsheet: please email email@example.com.
Professional school programs have adopted a “holistic” admissions process, meaning you are more than just your metrics. How you demonstrate your motivation for your future profession, your personal characteristics, and the ways in which you give back to your community can make or break your application.
It is your responsibility as a pre-professional student to understand the different types of experiences that will make you a competitive applicant to professional school. The most common classifications for experiences include:
- Community Service: experiences that show your commitment to your community and serving others
- Animal Experience (not vet involved): experiences in which you interact with animals in any type of environment
- Veterinary Experience: experiences in a clinical environment while working with a veterinarian. Important: Many veterinary programs require a minimum number of hours for veterinary experience, always be sure to do your research to make sure you are completing all requirements!
- Shadowing: observing a professional in the field you are interested in pursuing. Students should strive to shadow 2-4 Vets.
- A note about shadowing: Shadowing: Shadowing opportunities are notoriously hard to find, so we advise you to start early. Generally speaking, the following are the two most common ways to secure shadowing opportunities:
- Network: ask family, friends, and colleagues if they know a professional that would allow you to shadow
- Engage in clinical experiences first. If you are volunteering in a hospital, free/outpatient/inpatient clinic, have a job as a CNA, EMT, PT or Dental Assistant, etc., prove yourself as a competent, compassionate volunteer or employee and ask the professionals you work with from there. The more they know about your aspirations as a future dentist, the more likely they are to take you on for shadowing or refer you to a colleague who will.
- A note about shadowing: Shadowing: Shadowing opportunities are notoriously hard to find, so we advise you to start early. Generally speaking, the following are the two most common ways to secure shadowing opportunities:
- Research: It is highly recommended that you participate in research during your undergraduate career. Not sure where to start? Visit UNLV’s Office of Undergraduate Research for help! Research can be in many different areas so choose something that is meaningful (you will publish, present a poster, etc.) and that you are interested in!
- Student Organizations/Clubs: Involvement in student clubs/organizations on campus. You can visit the UNLV Involvement Center for a complete list of student organizations on campus.
- Leadership positions: It is important as a future dentist to demonstrate leadership. You should aim to have 2-3 leadership roles (lasting longer than 3 months) before you apply.
One of the most frequently asked questions is “how many hours do I have to do?” There is no “magic number” of hours for you to complete. Keep in mind the following for your experiences:
- There should be a reason “why” you have chosen each experience; “check the box” mentality will NOT work.
- They should be meaningful both on a personal level and to your professional journey. Keep in mind, you will have to write thoughtful, eloquent descriptions about your experiences so participating “just because” won’t help your application.
- Commitment over time is important. Programs would rather see dedication over many months/years to an experience over your “experience-hopping.”
- It is about the breadth and depth of the experience; think quality, not “quantity.”
Please visit our PPAC Resource Board for volunteer, clinical, shadowing, etc. experiences, as well as examples of where to find these experiences in the Vegas valley. Please keep this link bookmarked, as we are always updating!
Letters of Evaluation
Please note: UNLV currently does not offer committee letters. Students will need to secure individual letters of recommendation. We will keep you updated as to the status of new committee letters.
When applying to veterinary school, you will need 3-6 strong evaluations from writers with whom you have long-term relationships and who can address multiple competencies, such as those listed on the AAMC website. Although the competencies listed are for “pre-med” students, you will find that a majority of them apply to other pre-professional tracks as well.
The most frequent question we get asked is, “who should write my letters of evaluation?” As advisors, we aren’t here to tell you who to ask; we are here to guide you through the process of securing your letters for your application. Generally speaking, the best letter writers are those professors, mentors and healthcare professionals that you have shadowed, worked with closely, can speak to your academic abilities or humanistic side, and will write you a STRONG letter. Choose someone who can speak in concrete terms about your passion for professional school and why you will excel as a healthcare professional. The key to finding these letter writers? Start forming your relationships EARLY in your pre-professional career. Far too often, students come to us at the point of application and are still unsure of who to ask to write their letters. Asking a professor, healthcare professional, community service director, etc. “just to ask” will result in a less than stellar letter for your application and this can be detrimental in the admissions process. Remember: start forming relationships early!
Make it as easy as possible for your letter writers. Schedule a meeting to address your goals. Provide your recommender with your resume, personal statement and competencies or strengths that you would like addressed in the letter. Express gratitude for their time and effort.
Respect your recommender and give him or her ample time to write your letters. Your request already imposes on your recommender’s time, and a last-minute request is an even greater imposition. Not only is it rude to ask for a letter close to a deadline, but you will also end up with a rushed letter that is far less thoughtful than is ideal. Don’t assume that it is anyone’s duty to write a letter for you, and realize that these letters take a lot of time out of your recommender’s already busy schedule.
Types of Letters
It is of utmost importance that you do your research into specific letter guidelines for the schools you are applying to, especially in regards to whom the letters should be from. Most programs require one evaluation from a veterinarian, preferable with whom you have shadowed. Schools may also require a science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and/or non-science professor, professional, or “other”, but requirements can be different from program to program. Please pay attention to the requirements!
- Faculty/Professor Letters
Since many professors have hundreds of students in their classes in a given semester, it is your job to reach out to them first, build a relationship, and then ask for a letter. Letters from professors should not only address your academic capabilities but also your motivation for your chosen career. Since letters do address your academic capabilities, you should be seeking letters from professors in which you received a good grade in the class. Lastly, make sure you understand the necessary requirements regarding “science” professors. “Science” professors are often those from Biology, Chemistry, or Physics areas.
- How to Get Strong Letters from Professors
- Get to know your professors
- Go to class and office hours
- Volunteer for research or to TA
- Take more than one class with the same professor
- Maintain the relationship
- Attend virtual office hours
- Ask meaningful questions to show that you care about the course
- How To Ask
- Be respectful
- Ask 2-3 months in advance
- Request the letter via in-person meeting
- Follow up with a scheduled meeting to review your goals & resume
- Provide your personal statement, resume & AAMC Guidelines & Competencies
- How to Get Strong Letters from Professors
- Medical/Healthcare Professionals
Request your letter from a medical professional that you have developed a relationship with through multiple hours of clinical or shadowing. The letter should address your skills as a future healthcare profession.
- Research Letters
Letters from research professors provide another validation of your aptitude for life-long learning and research and could be especially important to programs with a heavy research mission. In projects led by a graduate assistant, you may find that most of your experience is with the Graduate assistant rather than the professor. In this situation, the graduate assistant with whom you have worked most closely may write you a letter and have the lead professor cosign.
- Other types of Letters
Often students will have other letter writers that know them well and can speak strongly to the strengths and attributes. This could be a volunteer supervisor, a liberal arts professor, or family physician, just to name a few. The guidelines are the same. Provide them with the information they will need to write a strong letter. Share your passion and goals.
Who Not to get Letters From
Yes, there are people you shouldn’t be asking for letters of recommendation. They include family members, “family friends”, patients, and, generally speaking, people who don’t know you well. Letters from family and family friends are considered bias and the admissions committees won’t give them any merit. Those from people who don’t know you well often result in “alive and breathing” letters, meaning they don’t tell the committee much of anything other than you are “alive and breathing.”
Also, many students make the mistake of getting letters from distant acquaintances who have powerful or influential positions. The strategy often backfires. Your family member’s employer may know the governor, but the governor doesn’t know you well enough to write a meaningful letter. This type of celebrity letter will make your application seem superficial.
- More information
- The number of evaluations varies by program.
- You may choose to which school each letter will be sent.
- Electronic submission of letters is preferred by all professional schools application services. Follow specific instructions in your application on what information to provide to your letter writers.
- Never physically collect a letter from a letter writer yourself!
- If you need to collect letters early, utilize services such as VirtualEvals. Be sure to note which of these third-party services your professional school application service integrates with for uploads.
- When asking for a LOR, it is a good idea to give your letter writers:
- copy of your transcripts
- your resume/CV
- copy of your personal statement
- Give your letter writers the general courtesy of information about the letter writing process, including deadlines, how they will upload the letter, and by telling them when you have inputted their contact information so they can keep an eye on their email for instructions.
Your personal statement is the part of your application where you have an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your GPA, test scores, and experiences. It communicates what is important to you and explains in-depth your reasons and motivations for pursuing professional school. Additionally, a personal statement can help explain any gaps in education or experiences, as well as any weaknesses in an application. Follow these tips and tricks to help get you started.
- Take some time to reflect and write some notes on your personal journey to professional school. What is your motivation for this career? What experiences have you had that have helped reinforce this motivation?
- Write down a list of qualities you want to demonstrate to the admissions committee, and select your stories and experiences to show them. Explain how these experiences have impacted you and your journey personally.
- Use this as a time to explain any challenges you faced that may have resulted in receiving low grades, gaps in education, etc. Focus on how you overcame these obstacles and make it part of your story.
- Be concise and simple. Stick to the character count, which is 3000 characters for the VMCAS application. Check your application guide for more information.
- Edit, edit, edit! Seek multiple opinions from at least 4-5 different people and NEVER turn in a personal statement with grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes.
For more information on how to write a personal statement for professional school, please attend a Personal Statement workshop. Dates and times for all workshops can be found on the PPAC website.
Attributes and Competencies
With only 28 Veterinary schools in the US, placement is competitive. Students must demonstrate a high level of compassion for all animals and people, excellent interpersonal and communication skills, the highest moral and ethical standards, and a motivation to serve, and they are expected to interact effectively with people of all ethnic, social, cultural, and religious backgrounds. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell lists the following competencies for pre-vet students: “A candidate for the DVM degree must demonstrate abilities and skills in five areas: observation, communication, motor, intellectual (conceptual, integrative and quantitative), behavioral, and social.
- Observation: The candidate must be able to observe and make assessments from required demonstrations and experiments, including but not limited to anatomic dissection, microscopic analyses, animal/patient demonstrations, and radiographic and other graphic and diagnostic images. A candidate must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand, and assess findings. S/he must perceive and interpret signs of fear, aggression, and other potentially dangerous behaviors exhibited by various animal species. Observation requires the functional use of vision, hearing, and somatosensation, often in complex situations in veterinary health care environments.
- Communication: A candidate must be able to elicit information, establish rapport, offer explanations, and to describe changes in behavior, activity, and posture. Communication includes not only speech, but also interpretation of nonverbal cues, and reading and writing in English. The candidate must be able to communicate effectively, efficiently, and in a timely manner with all members of the health care team.
- Motor Function: A candidate must have sufficient motor skills to use scientific and diagnostic instrumentation, to carry out animal restraint and essential diagnostic procedures, including palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other components of a physical exam on live animals, to perform surgical manipulations, and to conduct dissection and necropsy on cadavers. A candidate must be able to execute motor movements reasonably required to provide general care, surgery, and emergency treatment to patients of all species. In addition, the candidate must be able to escape physically dangerous contacts with animal patients. Such actions require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and functional use of the senses of touch, vision, and hearing.
- Intellectual (Conceptual, Integrative, and Quantitative): Problem solving, a critical skill of veterinarians, requires that a candidate be able to obtain, retrieve, analyze, integrate and synthesize information from multiple sources efficiently and accurately. In addition, a candidate should possess the ability to measure and calculate accurately, to perceive three-dimensional relationships, and to understand the spatial relationships of structures. Candidates must be able to formulate and test hypotheses that enable effective and timely problem-solving in the diagnosis and treatment of patients in a variety of clinical situations. In many cases, these decisions and appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers are time-sensitive. Thus, candidates must demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and abilities to process multiple situations simultaneously.
- Behavioral and Social Attributes: A candidate must be able to fully utilize his or her intellectual abilities, exercise good judgment, promptly complete all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and to develop effective relationships with their companions, peers, staff, colleagues, and with clients. S/he must be able to work effectively as a member of a health-care team, and must be able to tolerate physically and emotionally taxing workloads, to function effectively under stress, and to display flexibility and functionality in the face of uncertainties inherent in assessing patients' health problems. Candidates need to be able to both elicit and convey information to clients and staff in a timely and effective manner, using both oral and written formats. S/he must understand the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of veterinary medicine, and function within both the law and the ethical standards of the veterinary profession. The candidate is expected to demonstrate a high commitment to professional behavior that includes, but is not limited to, demonstration of competence, compassion, integrity, lifelong learning, concern for others, interpersonal skills, collegiality, interest, and promotion of the public good.”
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by most veterinary schools, and some also require the Biology GRE. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is also accepted by some schools in place of the GRE. The GRE General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you'll do in graduate and professional school, including business and law.
- Verbal Reasoning — Measures the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse, reason from incomplete data, understand multiple levels of meaning, such as literal, figurative and author’s intent, summarize text, distinguish major from minor points, understand the meanings of words, sentences and entire texts, and understand the relationships among words and among concepts. There is an emphasis on complex verbal reasoning skills.
- Quantitative Reasoning — Measures the ability to understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems using mathematical models, and apply the basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis. There is an emphasis on quantitative reasoning skills.
- Analytical Writing — Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, including the ability to articulate and support complex ideas with relevant reasons and examples, and examine claims and accompanying evidence. There is an emphasis on analytical writing skills.
Find out where you can take the exam and what preparation you need to succeed. For a listing of each accredited veterinary school's requirements, go to the AAVMC site. More information can be found at the ETS website.
- Applications to Veterinary school are submitted 12-15 months before you intend on enrolling (think: summer of the year prior to enrollment). However, the exact timing depends on when you will take the GRE, complete prerequisites, direct patient care hours, etc.
- It is helpful to create a timeline for yourself when applying to professional school but your timeline should be flexible. Course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, deadline changes, etc. all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline. Visit our office for help in creating your timeline
- Make sure you pay attention to specific deadlines for the schools you are applying to! For specific application deadline dates, check the VMCAS website.
- US veterinary schools admit students once a year in the Fall.
- Applications are submitted 12-15 months before the desired school enrollment date. However, the timing depends on when you will complete your degree and the necessary prerequisite coursework (and successfully take the GRE). All prerequisites must be posted to your transcript prior to starting professional school, and the timing is sensitive.
- While applying early in the cycle has advantages, the best time for you to apply is when your application is the best it can be.
- Veterinary school requirements vary from school to school. Research schools early for specific information on their requirements.
- Before any submitting application, have people with an unbiased eye go over each entire application to catch any errors. Your Pre-professional advisor is happy to do this for you.
What Programs do I Apply to?
Visit each professional school’s respective website; they have tons of tools for prospective students! Research! For information and links to U.S. veterinary colleges, visit the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) website.
Generally, students will want to consider the following when deciding where to apply:
- Mission statement and focus
- Programs offered (MD, dual degree, research)
- Curriculum and teaching methods
- Support and wellness structures in place for students
- Preparation of students for USMLE, graduation; where do students match and in to what residencies?
- GPA/test score requirements
- Specific or unique prerequisites
- Size and demographics
- Cost to attend; scholarships
For a template to help with your research, please email the PPAC at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Primary Applications are processed through the centralized application service, VMCAS, and are sent to all schools you designate on the application.
Applications open online in late January each year to allow applicants to start their applications and submission starts on, or around, May 9. As mentioned, ensure you are paying attention to deadlines for submission for each school to which you are applying! Deadlines vary between October-March.
Read all instruction manuals and directions carefully! When available before each application cycle, download the instruction manual on your computer to have access to at all times while filling out the application.
Be prepared months in advance for the cost of submitting applications to professional school. Fee assistance is available through each application processing service, but will only cover a limited number of programs.
NOTE: When prompted, please release your information back to UNLV PPAC. This helps us advise other pre-med students and gives us accurate historical data on where our students have applied, been accepted, and matriculated to. Your personal information will be kept confidential at all times.
Once veterinary schools receive your verified primary application, they will send out “Secondary Applications.” Deadlines for completing secondary applications range from 5 business days to a month, so pay attention! These applications are created by each specific school so, therefore, are different lengths and ask different types of questions, depending on what the school is trying to ascertain from you. Often, they are essay style questions, so allow adequate time. Follow directions carefully and be aware there will be an additional cost to submit your secondary applications on top of your primary application fees.
Secondary applications are automatically sent from some schools and others will screen applicants for metrics and experiences before sending. Each school is different! If you decide at the point of receiving a secondary application that you are no longer interested in attending that school, that’s ok! You are not required to send back the secondary at that point.
Submit your secondary as soon as you are comfortable with your responses (ensuring you are still before deadline) so you can be reviewed and, hopefully, extended an invitation.
Getting an invitation to interview is a great sign! This means the admissions office has decided you are qualified and they want to get to know you better! This is your face-to-face opportunity to impress the admissions committee. Your job is to turn that invitation to interview into an invitation to attend. The best way to do that is to prepare.
Most professional schools hold “interview days” in which they bring in a group of applicants for a day or two. During those days, you may engage in any of the following: your actual interview, written essays, the Standardized Judgement Test (SJT), school tours, and/or “meet ‘n greets” with faculty and staff. Please remember, the entire day is the interview, not just those times when you are in a formal meeting. You never know who is watching so be on your “best behavior” all day!
There are several types of interview formats used by professional schools. The most common are the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), Traditional format, and Group Interview.
Multiple Mini Interview: The MMI is an interview format where you are given a scenario/question and a predetermined amount of time to answer.
Traditional: These are the most common, where you are interviewed by 1-3 people at a time. You will be asked questions about your application, why you chose to apply to their school and why you decided to pursue veterinary.
Group Interviews: These activities include more than one applicant. They can either be to determine your ability to work with others by giving you group activities to solve a problem, or asking one question where everyone has to answer.
Application Year Timeline
The Primary Application Service (VMCAS) opens in January. Begin to fill out the primary application as soon as possible. Read instruction manuals carefully.
June – July
- Make final decisions on which schools to apply to and submit primary applications.
- Order official transcripts from ALL colleges and universities that you have attended to be sent to the appropriate Application Services or Interfolio
- Application Services verify primary applications, and notify applicants of verification or problems with verification.
August - November
- Veterinary schools begin sending secondary applications to applicants (if invited to complete a secondary application, begin and submit sooner rather than later).
- Prepare for and attend interviews.
- The PPAC Advising office offers mock interviews so you can practice. If you have an interview scheduled, call the office 801-581-5744 and ask to schedule a mock interview.
- Continue to complete and submit secondary applications (check deadline dates).
- Send schools application updates if acceptable.
- Continue to check school application status website for each individual school.
- Admissions committees meet and decide status: accept/reject/waitlist. Applicants notified.
- Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, in October.
- Newly admitted applicants must notify Application Services and the school to which they plan to matriculate of their decision. Admits with multiple acceptances must choose one school and withdraw their applications from other schools.
May – August
- Applicants on waitlists are notified of an admission offer (typically, schools confirm their class by the end of June.)
August – September
- Orientation and school year begins. An applicant on a waitlist can no longer be offered a position at another school once orientation begins.