Pre-Veterinary Medicine Preparation at UH Mānoa
(Text compiled from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges website, the AAVMC’s Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements, the NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admission Guide, and the UHM 2011-2012 Catalog.)
Veterinary Medicine programs offered in Hawai'i: None
D.V.M and V.M.D. Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate?
The Application Process
Veterinarians work with animals to help not only animals but also people live longer, healthier lives. They diagnose and treat sick and injured animals, prevent animal diseases, improve the quality of the environment, ensure food safety, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and advise animal owners, from livestock companies to individual pet owners.
Veterinary medicine continues to expand rapidly and now offers twenty-one specialties: anesthesiology, animal behavior, dentistry, dermatology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, laboratory animal medicine, microbiology, nutrition, ophthalmology, pathology, pharmacology, poultry veterinary medicine, preventive medicine, radiology, sports medicine and rehabilitation, surgery, theriogenology (reproduction), toxicology, veterinary practice and zoological medicine.
Veterinarians work in a wide variety of areas, including private practice, zoos, private industry, mobile services, research laboratories, government institutions, the military, wildlife organizations, racetracks, and circuses. Veterinarians work in public health, inspection and regulatory agencies and in government agencies such as the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Food and Drug Administration. Although most veterinarians are in clinical practice, some also choose to conduct research or teach in higher education.
Related fields that do not require a veterinary degree include animal health technician, animal research, animal science, animal training and breeding, animal welfare, environmental management, hospital administration, marine biology, veterinary assistant, and wildlife preservation.
Becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or Veterinary Medical Doctorate (VMD) requires 7 to 11 years of education:
- Bachelors Degree (~ 4 years);
- Veterinary Medicine School (~ 4 years);
- Optional: Internship (~ 1 year); and
- Optional: Residencies (~ 2-4 years).
Many schools offer joint degree programs, combining a DVM with degrees such as a Master of Science (DVM/MS), a Doctor of Philosophy (DVM/PhD), and a Master of Business Administration (DVM/MBA). Combined degrees can be offered concurrently, sequentially, or in combination, and often extend the number of years in veterinary school.
The first three years of veterinary school are usually spent in classrooms and laboratories studying the biological sciences, including anatomy, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. Years three and/or four are primarily clinical.
Upon graduation from an accredited veterinary school, DVMs are eligible to take the national board examination and state licensing. Some states require tests and/or interviews in addition to the national board examination. All veterinarians must be licensed in order to practice!
1. In their senior year, veterinary students can apply through a matching program for an internship in small-animal medicine, large-animal medicine, or surgery. Veterinarians can often command a higher starting salary after completing an internship. The most prestigious internships are at veterinary medical colleges or large private veterinary hospitals. Ranking for internship is based upon academic performance and faculty recommendations.
2. Veterinarians who have completed an internship or who have two years of private practice experience can apply for residency programs. Residencies are 2- to 4-year programs that provide further specialization in 11 areas: internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, exotic small animal medicine, pathology, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, and oncology. Some residencies combine research and graduate studies and confer a Master’s degree. Upon successful completion of residencies, veterinarians are certified by the appropriate veterinary medical specialty board.
Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the veterinary schools you are interested in attending.
The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to veterinary schools:3.
BIOL 171/171Lab and 172/172Lab
Introductory Biology I and II
CHEM 161/161Lab and 162/162Lab
General Chemistry I and II
CHEM 272/272Lab and 273/273Lab
Organic Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/151Lab and 152/152Lab
College Physics I and II
BIOC 441 or BIOL/MBBE 402
Math 215 and 216
(or MATH 241 and 242)
Applied Calculus I and II
(or Calculus I and II)
SOCS or PSY 225
ENG 100 and 200+
4. Additional requirements may include agriculture, animal nutrition (ANSC 244), animal genetics (ANSC 445), business, computer science (ICS 101), environmental biochemistry (MBBE 412), genetics (BIOL 340), humanities, microbiology, social sciences, and upper division biology or zoology courses such as embryology.
Tuition, as high as it is, covers only a fraction of the cost of educating a veterinary student, which means that each new student represents an investment by the veterinary school. Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the veterinary curriculum and are likely to become good veterinarians.
Are you capable of completing the veterinary curriculum?
Admissions committees are looking for students who have:
- completed the prerequisites
- a high overall GPA (U.S. Average for admissions for 2008 was 3.57/4.0)
- a high science/math GPA
- performed well on the GRE or MCAT
- balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
- a good understanding of the profession
Are you likely to become a good veterinarian?
Admissions committees look for students who have:
- demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
- high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
- demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
- a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
- experience in the field and with what the profession entails
- a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
- good leadership skills
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- strong letters of evaluation/recommendation
There are currently 28 public and private veterinary schools in the U.S., each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths.
Although there are resources that rank schools (U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, etc.), the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between you and your school.
To find schools that are good a fit for you:
- Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Start with a list of all schools you would consider attending, which usually includes all 28 schools
- Using the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR), create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality (PAC offers a list of 7 factors to consider, found here: Choosing a School Handout);
- Once you have your MCAT or GRE scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools on your Long List into ‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’. Next, rank the schools by preference, and then decide how many schools you can afford to apply to. (PAC peer advisors can help with this process) Be sure to apply to schools in all 3 categories (‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’);
- If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.
All veterinary schools require applicants to take either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The GRE and MCAT differ significantly; be sure to check which test you need!
GRE Overview: The GRE is administered year-round, appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and is available only in computer-based format. The test requires approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete and assesses your skills in Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning.
GRE Scoring: Scores for the Verbal and Quantitative sections each yield a scaled score of 130 to 170, in 1-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 in half-point increments.
MCAT Overview: The MCAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Writing. The test requires ~5 hours to complete, and entails ~144 multiple choice questions plus two 30-minute essays. The MCAT is administered in a computer-based format, and is offered about twenty times each year.
MCAT Scoring: Writing samples are scored by letter grades ranging from J to T, with T being the highest; the other three sections are each scored 1-15, for a possible total of 45.
Preparation: Your most important preparations for both the GRE and the MCAT are your undergraduate courses, not only the prerequisites for veterinary school, but all of your courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills. Remember that your verbal reasoning (MCAT) and Analytical Writing (GRE) scores are not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in veterinary school, but also the most difficult score to improve.
There are three general steps in applying to veterinary schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.
1. Primary applications for most schools must be filed with the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS), which is a centralized application system. Once the application is complete, VMCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated. Before applying through VMCAS, all applicants should be familiar with the instructions found on the AAVMC website at: https://vmcas.org/instructions/vmcas_help_entrance.htm. Note that not all schools participate in VMCAS; for those schools, there is only one application, which you may request directly from the individual schools. Electronic submissions are strongly recommended.
2. Secondary applications are specific to individual veterinary schools, and are sent to applicants after receiving the VMCAS application. Some but not all schools screen applicants before requesting secondary applications. Secondary applications commonly request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation.
Note: Instead of secondary applications, some schools may send “supplementary forms.” Supplementary forms are not formal applications, but are similar to secondary applications in that they ask for additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation.
3. Interviews: After reviewing applicants’ complete application packet (including both primary and secondary applications), medical schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals.
Hawai’i residents are eligible to participate in the Professional School Exchange Program (PSEP), a service of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In a competitive process, PSEP selects applicants to receive financial support from state funds; those students will be able to pay instate tuition if they attend a participating program on the west coast. WICHE applications become available in July and have a mid-October deadline.
Note: To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply one full year in advance of matriculation, so in the summer after your junior year.
- The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Most application questions can be answered by reading the VMSAR.
- Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
- Advanced Placement (AP) credits
- International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- military credits
- courses taken at a community college
- non-U.S. coursework
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on prerequisite science courses
Ashley M. Stokes, DVM, PhD
Associate Extension Veterinarian
Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
1955 East-West Road, Ag Sci 314G Honolulu, HI 96822
UH Mānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to veterinary schools.
|UHM's Pre-Veterinary Club||www2.hawaii.edu/~prevet
|UHM's Biology Club||www2.hawaii.edu/~bioclub
|American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)||www.avma.org|
|Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC)||www.aavmc.org|
|Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)||https://portal.vmcas.org/|
|Graduate Record Examination (GRE)||www.gre.org|
|Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)||www.aamc.org/students/mcat|
|Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)||www.wiche.edu|
|Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR)||available in PAC|
|Medical Professions Admission Guide: Strategy for Success by NAAHP||available in PAC|
|Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program||http://preparingforgraduateschool.weebly.com/|
Pre-Veterinary Medicine Program at UHM
This pre-veterinary medicine program is not a degree granting major, but an advising program to better prepare University of Hawaii at Manoa students for applying to veterinary school.
This program provides one-on-one advising for pre-vet students as well as opportunities for experience, guidance on coursework, applications, and many more.
For more information on how to get started on your path to becoming a veterinarian, click here!