Advice for Junior High Students Who Want to Become Veterinarians

Recently, I was contacted by a student in junior high school who wants to become a veterinarian.  Here are some thoughts that may be helpful as she prepares her journey to veterinary college. 

1) Grades-Grades are very important.  When you apply to veterinary school, you must list your overall grade point average as well as your grades in required courses from college.  Although your grades in junior high and high school are not counted, it is important to establish good study habits now.  Work hard and aim for an A in every class you take.  If you struggle in a particular area, get extra help now before you get behind. 

2) Classes-If you have a choice, select as many classes as possible in math and science.  A strong foundation in the basics of math and science will give you an advantage when tackling the tougher courses in high school.  

3) Experience-Experience is broken into two categories for veterinary college, animal-related and veterinary-related.  Veterinary-related means experience working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  The animal-related category includes work with animals in any setting.  Here are some ideas for students below the age of 16:

– Join 4-H and do projects with animals and veterinary medicine.
– Participate in the annual wild bird counts.
– Foster an animal for a rescue group.
– Train a puppy for an animal assistance program.
– Take riding lessons at a stable to learn how to handle horses.
– Volunteer to take care of a classroom pet.
– Go to veterinary camp to learn about animals.
– Learn the terms associated with each species of animal.  For example, a female cat is called a queen while the male is called a tom.
– Study the different breeds of the common animals.  As a veterinarian, I am expected by owners to know their pet’s breed.  Starting young to learn breeds will give you a leg up later on.  Besides, it is fun to learn the various attributes.

*Advice for high school students can be found in a prior post at

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.

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