By Paige Roth
The million dollar question. Last week I spoke to a pre-veterinary advisor from Duke University who shed some light on the surprisingly daunting task of choosing a vet school.
Unlike selecting an undergraduate institution, there are a limited number of vet schools to choose from and they are generally fairly comparable. Of course, some have stronger shelter medicine programs or exotic focuses etc., but they will all set you up well to do the job. On the other hand, undergraduate institutions vary dramatically in terms of size or subject- matter strengths.
However, unlike medical schools, veterinary schools all have slightly different prerequisite courses, which means you need to first pick your schools, then choose your undergraduate courses accordingly. Read more about prerequisites here.
There is one school that should definitely be on your list – your in-state institution. It will offer you the best chance of admission and the lowest tuition. Focus on completing that school’s prereqs first, before expanding your list. If you don’t have a designated in state school, check out reciprocity arrangements. Some schools will extend the in state qualification to other states without vet schools. Also look into private schools that don’t give preference to applicants from a certain state.
I found this general info chart helpful when wrangling all this information.
According to the pre-veterinary advisor, some students only apply to their in state school because it is by far the best option and they can save money on additional applications to schools where their odds of acceptance are slim.
If you are like me, applying to only one school seems far too risky given the years of preparation involved in my application. I am planning to apply to 4-5 schools, including my home institution. As someone who would be willing to live virtually anywhere if it means becoming a vet, choosing those additional schools gets tricky.
My first instinct was to base my decision on applicant statistics – where do I have the best shot of getting in? But my advisor cautioned me against ruling out schools with low acceptance rates.
First, compare the list of prerequisites you plan to take for your instate school with the requirements for other universities and see if you can kill multiple birds with one stone. Then, if you want to add schools to your list that require additional courses, try to pick one or two classes that will open the most doors. For example, an animal science course or taking physics II could mean way more options.
Ideally, you should pick additional programs based on your specific areas of interest. However, I plan to pursue equine medicine, which most schools offer at comparable levels.
It may sound obvious, but consider tuition. Some schools, like North Carolina State, will grant out of state students the in-state tuition rate after their first year in the program. When we are talking about 10s of thousands of dollars saved during the course of the degree, this is a huge factor.
Finally, if you have a particular affinity for one state, he assured me that it’s ok to target that school, even if it seems a bit arbitrary. I was struggling to narrow down my list, but I have family in California and Florida, which may be the deciding factor.
While picking the right vet school can seem frustratingly arbitrary for people who like to quantify their decisions, it is critical to making the most of your undergraduate coursework.
Current and aspiring vet students: What helped you decide which schools to apply to? Did you have critical determining factors? What advice helped you the most while crafting your list?