How I entered a veterinary school without an undergraduate degree

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Most US veterinary schools can accept students if they have all of their prerequisites completed at the time of entry, whether they have a degree or not.

This meant that I could apply after my second year of college and go straight to vet school after my first year. While it’s rare due to the competitiveness of vet schools, it’s not impossible – here’s how I did it at the University of Texas (UT).

Some quick statistics on my application

Undergraduate GPA at University of Texas: 3.8

GRE Notes:

  • 157 Reading, 75th percentile
  • 160 Reasoning, 76th percentile
  • 4.5 Analytical writing, 82nd percentile

Research assistant in an ecology, evolutionary and behavioral biology laboratory for three years and an organic chemistry laboratory for one year

Teaching assistant in biology

Some experience in a veterinary clinic

Lots of veterinary volunteer experience

Second Chance SPCA Volunteer

Austin Humane Society volunteer

Austin Animal Center volunteer

Austin Bat Refuge Volunteer

Animal Officer for UT Wildlife Rescue Team

“What’s your biggest tip for getting into veterinary school?” What can I do to make myself stand out? “

There is absolutely one thing I say to anyone who wants to go to vet school: get involved in research! I worked in two different research labs during my three undergraduate years. If you can show potential veterinary schools that you already have research experience under your belt, you’ll be sure to stand out.

I’ve been told that research doesn’t have to be animal related, but if it does, that’s a huge plus as it can double in hours of animal experience! The first lab I joined in undergrad was Integrated Biology, led by Dr Molly Cummings, in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavioral Biology at UT.

The model organism in our laboratory was fish, in particular Gambusia affinis and Xiphophorus nigrensis-the mosquito fish and the swordfish, respectively. During my three years working in this lab, I have participated in behavioral and cognition studies involving anxiety, mate selection, and learning (yes, fish can learn!).

Then I worked in an organic chemistry research laboratory. At UT, we were allowed to replace one of our lab credits with work in a real research lab. I heard that the organic chemistry lab was one of the most difficult courses in my major, and I was lucky enough to be accepted into a research lab working with light spectrometry and colorimetric testing. .

How did I get involved in these laboratories? I just asked! With most research institutes, it is possible to search different departments for interesting ongoing research and find emails from professors working in the lab. Most professors will jump at the chance to bring an undergraduate into the team (who’s going to pass up the free work?).

Research also offers a lot of additional bonuses that I was not aware of when I first signed up. For me, it was possible to accumulate one credit hour for three hours worked in a lab per week. So for a semester I worked nine hours a week and had three credits added to my course load as an A (hello, GPA booster)! I ended up racking up 12 total credit hours over my three years, and it certainly helped me with my GPA in science. After three years, I was so close to my principal investigator that she became one of my recommendation letter writers.

While most people have told me that I can specialize in anything as long as I meet my prerequisites, I highly recommend specializing in something that aligns with biology or animals. So many of the prerequisites for veterinary school are science-based, and the more I learned in this area, the easier it became. As a result, it was easier for my academic advisers to get me to the classes I wanted, which is something to consider at a large university.

There is one thing I specifically recommend for those who want to apply early: get all the prerequisites ASAP! My counselors tried to convince me to leave all the “difficult classes” for later in my study plan and take the easier ones first, but instead I left non-compulsory classes like “Intro to appreciating jazz” for the end (yes, that was the very last class I took at UT). That way I knew I could apply as soon as possible, and if I wasn’t registered when I first applied, I could take these courses after I graduate. Yes, it was hard to take all of my science classes at first, but I didn’t say it was easy to get accepted early, did I?

GPA tips and tricks

I would not recommend this route to a future vet student if getting decent grades and taking several difficult courses at once is too much. Ultimately, surrogacy matters a lot, and it’s much harder to conjure up a surrogacy once it’s gone.

When it comes to my GPA, one thing I learned was not to be afraid to drop out of a class and come back to it later when I was ready. For me it was organic chemistry. I had a very difficult course load the semester the first time I tried to take this course so I decided to drop it and take it over the summer, and it made a huge difference . The first time I took this course, I failed the first two exams. When I followed it during the summer with the exact same teacher, I obtained an A in organic chemistry I and II.

At first I was worried that the vet schools would accept me with the dreaded “Q-drop”, but luckily I didn’t get used to it and they gave up. Another thing I did to increase my GPA (and my mental and physical health) was take a physical education class. It might not have counted towards my GPA in science, but if I had to practice anyway, then I thought I might as well take credit for it!

One thing I didn’t know is that some vet schools give prospective students a GPA multiplier, depending on the school. For example, a 3.0 in an Ivy League or a top institution can count a lot more for an application than a 4.0 in a community or satellite college.

Enter and look to the future

When I applied to veterinary schools I decided to “think big or come home” and applied to 10 colleges. For each application, I made sure that I had the required prerequisites and that the school would accept a student without an undergraduate degree.

Of these 10 veterinary schools, I was offered interviews in nine of them. I have received acceptances from the Royal Veterinary College London, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University, Auburn University, and the University of Georgia DVM-PhD double degree program.

Although I liked all of these schools, I chose the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Not only had they just built a brand new, state-of-the-art veterinary school and revamped their curriculum, but it was by far the cheapest because I was in the state.

When people ask me which vet school they should go to, I personally recommend going to schools across the state if possible. To me, all American veterinary schools offer quality education and none are worth an extra $ 30,000 per year in tuition.

During my undergraduate studies, I tried to join at least one sports / physical club, social club, and volunteer club in order to be a full student. At UT, I was on the official gymnastics team, in the Alpha Xi Delta sorority and an officer of the pre-vet club. Gymnastics allowed me to continue to compete in a sport that I had practiced all my life. My sorority forced me, an introvert, to become more social and meet people outside of my major. And the pre-vet club gave me the opportunity to volunteer and gain clinical experience. Plus, I landed a managerial position as an events coordinator, which looked great on my resume!

Like many other students, I have held multiple jobs (and at one point, three jobs at a time). In addition to babysitting, I have worked as a biology lab teaching assistant, biology lab research assistant and my favorite job out of anyone working for wildlife rescue at UT-Austin. It was through this work that I received training to capture wild animals and either release them off the school premises if they were healthy or bring them to a licensed rehabilitator if needed. medical care. I was paid to do something I would have done for free. We saw it all from bats, possums and snakes to owls, and loved every minute of it.

Although this was after I applied to vet school, I also worked at the Austin Aquarium. I could have tried to gain more experience as a vet technician, but decided I could do it later in vet school and instead focused on my passion for exotic animals. I am so happy I did, because this is where I learned so much about breeding that will surely shape my future as an exotic animal vet.

Rachel Ellerd is a veterinary medicine student and is currently pursuing a career in exotic animal medicine at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Find her on Instagram @ exotic.pet.vet.


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