Advice For High School Students Who Want To Be Veterinarians

Each year thousands of hopeful students apply to veterinary college with the dream of becoming a veterinarian.  With hard work, persistence and careful planning, you can be one of them.  The following is a list of tips to help you achieve your dream. 

Grades:  Work hard to get the best grades you can in high school.  You do not have to get straight A’s to be a veterinarian.  However, you want to establish good study habits that will sustain you through undergrad and into veterinary college.  Take all the college prep courses you can especially in chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics.  Having a strong base in these areas will help you with the required courses in college. 

College:  When it comes time to select a college for your undergraduate degree, do your homework on each school.  Besides touring the campus and learning about the student activities, ask to speak to the pre-professional adviser.  Find out the success rate of their students getting into veterinary school.   Please note that smaller colleges and universities often have one pre-professional adviser for medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine.  Others will have an adviser for each.  Either system will work depending upon the adviser.  After you speak with the adviser, ask to speak with some pre-vet students to verify what you were told.    
Important note:  Since the acceptance rate into professional schools has become a marketing tool, some schools will cut students out of their professional programs if you do not meet their standards.  I take issue with this since the people making these decisions are not veterinarians or veterinary educators.  I believe every student  should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.  The advisers in these programs tend to focus primarily on GPA, without taking into account the importance of the GRE test scores and experience.  Make sure you understand the college’s policy before you apply.  Ask, ask, ask and then verify with others in the program.

Experience:  Your experience with animals is vital to becoming a veterinarian.  It is broken down into two categories:  veterinary-related and animal-related.  Working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian is optimal.  Try to get experience in a variety of veterinary settings.  For example, spend one summer with an equine veterinarian, another with a small animal veterinarian and another with a food animal veterinarian.  While school is in session, work as a research technician with laboratory animals.  During breaks volunteer with an animal charity.  

Not every candidate can get this kind of experience, but try.  Great experience will counter
act average grades or test scores.  If you have excellent grades or scores, experience will distinguish you all the more.  It will also provide a more thoughtful perspective on the profession.  Start gaining experience and building your resume now.  You are never too young.       

More information on application to veterinary college is available at: 

This is a fabulous profession.  I wish you all the best and look forward to calling you a colleague someday!

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.