Applying to Veterinary Medical School

Applying to Veterinary Medical School

As veterinary physicians like to say, the only real difference between MDs and vets is that the former is limited to treating just a single species. To prepare to apply to veterinary medical school, prevets must complete not only the curriculum in premedical sciences but also additional prerequisite coursework, depending on where they are applying. Generally, these additional courses can be completed after the orgo/bio year and while applications are under review.

Coursework and Curriculum

The extra prerequisites typically include biochemistry and microbiology. Prevets who completed a statistics course in a business or social science department before coming to GS may need to take a pure statistics course if required by the school. Because there is so much variation in the additional coursework required by vet schools, it is recommended that prevets begin to identify the schools to which they plan to apply in their very first year at Columbia, and in so doing determine what additional coursework they will need to take. In addition to the websites of individual veterinary schools, there are two important resources for information about the preveterinary curriculum:

  1. The Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements
  2. The table of prerequisites on the website of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

Some of the additional prerequisites (e.g., biochemistry and genetics) are offered at Columbia; others are not. Advisors will help students to identify schools in the area where those courses are offered. Enrolling in courses as a non-degree student can be challenging; it’s best to plan this well in advance of the semester when the course will be taken. Because students must remain continuously enrolled at Columbia, a student who takes classes outside Columbia in a semester in which they are not also enrolled in coursework here will incur a registration fee at Columbia.

Practical Experience

Veterinary schools expect the applicant to have gained extensive experience working with animals. The number of hours will vary by school, but it is not unusual for a school to require as much as 600 hours. Furthermore, many schools will require that the applicant gain experience with more than one type of animal (e.g., large and exotic animals; or large and small animals). Some will accept work with animals that is not medical in nature; others will not. Letters of evaluation from these work sites are extremely important.

Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)

Most of the non-profit veterinary medical schools in the US participate in the Veterinary Medical College Application Service, and so do a number of schools outside the US. This one web-based common application allows applicants to initiate an application to multiple schools at the same time; upon receipt of the common application, schools may send the applicant a supplemental (school specific) application. Information about VMCAS is available on the AAVMC website.

The small number of schools that do not participate in VMCAS includes Tufts, a school to which many Columbia prevets apply. Students must communicate separately with these schools to acquire their application forms.

Standardized Tests

In most cases, vet school applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (general test) and do so preferably by the end of the summer in which they submit their applications.

Letters of Evaluation

Except for non-VMCAS schools, vet schools will receive letters of evaluation through VMCAS. The design of the electronic letters of evaluation section of VMCAS requires that referees submit their letters directly. Consequently, prevets are not required to have copies of letters on file in the Postbac Program Office. Because schools have varying requirements in letters of recommendation, applicants should become acquainted with these as early as possible.

Committee Letter

The GS Premedical Office writes committee letters for those prevets who have met the eligibility requirements. Eligible prevets are encouraged to confer with their prevet advisors concerning this, in light of the requirements of the schools to which they plan to apply and of the format of the common application.