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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Picking The Right College

A commenter posted this, which I felt was worthwhile answering.

I am a high school student aspiring to become a veterinarian. I'm in the process of looking at colleges and figuring out which undergraduate programs will give me the best chances of getting into a good vet school (which I know is very competitive). I was wondering what advice you might have about what's important to consider in the whole college-search process in order to reach my goal of ultimately getting a DVM. 

I may be a bit controversial with my comments here, but I don't feel that there is much difference in colleges when it comes to going into veterinary school as long as you can meet the minimum requirements.  Yes, some schools have higher ratings than others.  But you don't need to go to a school like Yale, Harvard, or Oxford to get into vet school.  I went to a small state school in western North Carolina and received a very good education. Someone involved in veterinary student selection might be able to contradict me, but I've never seen any strong evidence that the college on your diploma makes much of a difference in entering vet school

The main thing to look for in colleges is whether or not they have a pre-veterinary program.  If they do, then pick a college based on your location preferences and budget.  State schools will be much cheaper than private ones, and that may be a big factor in your choice.  Pre-veterinary programs are designed so that they will meet the entry requirements of most veterinary colleges.  It's not to say that you couldn't get into vet school going to a college without a specified pre-vet curriculum.  But in those cases you will have to be much more careful in your choice and find out the requirements of the vet schools you might choose.  You can request a catalog from any vet school and they will list which courses and grade average they look for in their candidates.  Then you can compare these requirements against the courses offered at a college.

The important factors tend to be your grade point average, especially in the required courses, veterinary experience and recommendations (you'll need both), extracurricular activities, and sometimes an interview (depending on the school).  If you have these covered you'll be in good shape.  If you have poor grades or are missing experience, it won't matter which college you went to.

Keep in mind that you will likely be heavily in debt when you graduate vet school, probably well over $100,000 if current trends hold true. I would recommend an undergraduate school that is less expensive or that you can get scholarships or grants so that you lessen your debt load entering vet school.  I managed to make it into vet school without any outstanding debt at all, and then racked up around $40,000 in loans in four years (and this was back in the late 1990s when costs were lower than they currently are).

Good luck in following your dream!