Veterinary Medicine

What roles do veterinarians play in society and what are their duties on the job?

Veterinarians are at the forefront of protecting the public’s health and welfare as they play a major role in the health of our society by caring for animals. They also use their expertise and education to protect and improve human health. It’s likely that you are most familiar with veterinarians who care for our companion animals, but there are many other opportunities for veterinarians. Veterinarians also help keep the nation’s food supply safe, work to control the spread of diseases, and conduct research that aid both animals and humans.  There is a growing need for vets with postgraduate education in particular specialties, such as molecular biology, laboratory animal medicine, toxicology, immunology, diagnostic pathology or environmental medicine. The veterinary profession is becoming more involved in aquaculture, comparative medical research, food production and international disease control. 

Veterinarians who work directly with animals use a variety of medical equipment, including surgical tools and x-ray and ultrasound machines. They provide treatment for animals that is similar to the services a physician provides to treat humans. Veterinarian duties include:  

-Examine animals to diagnose their health problems  
-Treat and dress wounds  Perform surgery on animals  
-Test for and vaccinate against diseases  
-Operate medical equipment, such as x-ray machines  
-Advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions, and treatments  
-Prescribe medication  
-Euthanize animals  

Adapted from https://hpa.princeton.edu/sites/hpa/files/veterinarymedicine-2018.pdf, https://hpa.princeton.edu/explore-careers/veterinary-medicine

What careers are available in the veterinary medicine field?

The following list is not exhaustive but provides an overview of careers where graduates of veterinary medical schools can effectively apply their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees.  

-General private practice as standard veterinarian
-General public practice in shelter medicine and community medicine
-With advanced training and experience, practice a specialty field such as ophthalmology, orthopedics, aquatic animal medicine, marine biology, wildlife animal medicine, zoo medicine, or emergency animal medicine. 
-The Federal Government employs veterinarians through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) working on biosecurity, environmental quality, public health, meat inspection, regulatory medicine, and agricultural animal health, or the investigation of disease outbreaks.  
-Research, either in a university setting or with companies that produce animal-related products or pharmaceuticals, as laboratory medicine veterinarians and veterinarian-scientists
-Public Health, particularly with governmental agencies such as the United State Public Health Service, which works to control the transmission of animal-to-human (zoonotic) diseases.  
-Global Veterinary Medicine, in private practice or with international agencies working in areas such as food production and safety or emerging diseases.  
-Public Policy, working for governments and non-profit organizations on animal and zoonotic diseases, animal welfare, public health issues, or as consultants with non-governmental agencies. 

Adapted from https://hpa.princeton.edu/sites/hpa/files/veterinarymedicine-2018.pdf

I love animals. Should I pursue veterinary medicine?

Today’s veterinarians are extremely dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of animals and humans. Veterinarians are animal lovers and understand the value of animals in our families and society. However, being an animal lover is simply not enough to be admitted to vet school. There are a plethora of potential careers for animal lovers including being a zoologist, kennel attendant, humane educator, marine biologist, veterinary technician, marine biologist, and wildlife rehabilitator. Ask yourself: why am I drawn to vet medicine? What qualities do I possess that would help me become a successful vet? How do I see myself contributing to the field and my community as a future vet? Gaining experience by volunteering or working at a veterinary clinic/hospital and directly working with vets should help inform your decisions regarding a veterinary medicine career. It is also essential for aspiring vets to possess other personal attributes that contribute to a successful career in veterinary medicine. These include:

A Scientific Mind: A student interested in veterinary medicine should have an inquiring mind and keen powers of observation. Aptitude, interest, and doing well in the biological sciences is important.  
Good Communication & Interpersonal Skills: Veterinarians must meet, talk, and work well with a variety of people. 
Compassion: Being compassionate is an essential attribute for success as it should guide humane treatment and medical decisions by a veterinarian. It is also important for veterinarians working with owners who form strong bonds with their animals. 
Leadership Experience: Many environments (e.g., clinical practice, governmental agencies, public health programs) require that veterinarians manage employees and businesses. Having basic managerial and leadership skills contribute to greater success in these work environments.

Adapted from https://hpa.princeton.edu/sites/hpa/files/veterinarymedicine-2018.pdf

I love money. Should I pursue veterinary medicine?

A harsh reality that pre-vets should be aware of is although vet school is as expensive and time-consuming as medical school, the economic return is one of the lowest in the healthcare industry. The average starting salary for Princeton grads is roughly about the average starting salary of vet school grads(~60-80k). 99% of the time, students who apply to vet school genuinely care about animals, are not in it for the money, and are willing to be broke for the job even after years of extra training. Financial struggles reportedly contribute to veterinarians having disproportionately high suicide rates in the healthcare field.

Vet school graduates may choose to pursue a specialty, which can give a salary boost, but specialization requires years of residency and internships with low pay all while paying off your loans. Location and type of practice can also impact salaries.

There is essentially very limited grant aid for vet schools (unlike some medical schools that are now beginning to cover full tuition for financial aid students) and it is probably because vet school graduates are too broke to afford large gifts to their vet school alma maters. There are some scholarships that students could apply to, but financial aid tends to be mostly in the form of loans and you are expected to work jobs during the summers and/or the academic year. However, attending your state vet school could help you get a somewhat reduced tuition charge for being an in-state resident.

Vet Schools

How is veterinary school different from medical school?

Vet school students deal with dozens of species while medical school students focus primarily on humans. The MCAT is usually not required unlike medical school and instead most require the GRE. While both require letters of recommendation, HPA committee letters are not required for vet school. Students take challenging courses in the biological sciences early on and participate in rotations later on in both vet and med school. One additional interesting difference is that vet schools have a set number of in-state seats and out-of-state seats, which means applicants are usually only competing with residents if they are residents or non-residents if they are non-residents for admission. Tuition is also substantially lower for resident students.

How many vet schools are there and where are they located?

As of Summer 2020, there are 32 American, 5 Canadian, and 16 international veterinary medicine colleges accredited by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). Accreditation may change for various reasons and lists are biannually updated here.


  1. Auburn University (Alabama)
  2. Tuskegee University (Alabama)
  3. Midwestern University (Arizona)
  4. University of Arizona (Arizona) 
  5. University of California – Davis (California)
  6. Western University of Health Sciences (California)
  7. Colorado State University (Colorado)
  8. University of Florida (Florida)
  9. University of Georgia (Georgia) 
  10. University of Illinois (Illinois)
  11. Purdue University (Indiana)
  12. Iowa State University (Iowa)
  13. Kansas State University (Kansas)
  14. Louisiana State University (Louisiana)
  15. Tufts University (Massachusetts)
  16. Michigan State University (Michigan)
  17. University of Minnesota (Minnesota)
  18. Mississippi State University (Mississippi)
  19. University of Missouri-Columbia (Missouri)
  20. Cornell University (New York)
  21. Long Island University (New York) 
  22. North Carolina State University (North Carolina)
  23. The Ohio State University (Ohio)
  24. Oklahoma State University (Oklahoma)
  25. Oregon State University (Oregon)
  26. University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania)
  27. University of Tennessee (Tennessee)
  28. Lincoln Memorial University (Tennessee)
  29. Texas A&M University (Texas)
  30. Virginia-Maryland Regional College (Virginia + Maryland)
  31. Washington State University (Washington)
  32. University of Wisconsin-Madison (Wisconsin)

The following 22 US states currently do not have vet schools:

  1. Alaska
  2. Arkansas
  3. Connecticut
  4. Delaware
  5. Hawaii
  6. Idaho
  7. Kentucky
  8. Maine
  9. Montana
  10. Nebraska
  11. Nevada
  12. New Hampshire
  13. New Jersey
  14. New Mexico
  15. North Dakota
  16. Rhode Island
  17. South Carolina
  18. South Dakota
  19. Utah
  20. Vermont
  21. West Virginia
  22. Wyoming


  1. University of Calgary (Alberta)
  2. University of Guelph (Ontario)
  3. University of Prince Edward Island (Prince Edward Island)
  4. Université de Montréal (Quebec)
  5. University of Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan)


  1. Murdoch University (Australia)
  2. The University of Sydney (Australia)
  3. University of Melbourne (Australia)
  4. University of Queensland (Australia)
  5. University of Bristol (England)
  6. University of London – Royal Veterinary College (England)
  7. VetAgro Sup (France)
  8. University College, Dublin (Ireland)
  9. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (Mexico)
  10.  State University of Utrecht (The Netherlands)
  11. Massey University College of Sciences (New Zealand)
  12. University of Glasgow (Scotland)
  13. The University of Edinburgh (Scotland)
  14. Seoul National University (South Korea)
  15. Ross University (West Indies)
  16. St. George’s University (West Indies)

Is it easier to get into an in-state vet school than an out-of-state vet school?

It is very possible to make the case that it is usually relatively easier to get accepted to a vet school in your state than a vet school out of your state.

For example, Ohio State’s incoming Class of 2022 consisted of 66 residents and 96 non-residents and the school had received 245 resident and 1144 non-resident applicants. The acceptance rate for residents is 27% compared to 8% for non-residents. The difference is significant! However, these stats are not based off of all the students that were offered admission, including ones that declined acceptances.

University of Florida offered admission to 102 residents out of a total of 433 resident applicants and offered admission to 95 non-residents out of a total of 809 non-resident applicants for the Class of 2023. This amounts to a 24% acceptance rate for residents, double that of the non-resident acceptance rate (12%).

As a final example, UCDavis offered admission to 128 residents out of a total of 510 resident applicants and offered admission to 6only 20 non-residents out of a total 502 non-residents applicants. This amounts to a 25% acceptance rate for residents and only a 4% acceptance rate for non-residents. Admitted residents also had much lower science GPAs on average (3.62) compared to non-residents (3.96). 

Our final verdict is: where you live can definitely impact your chances of getting accepted into vet school. However, you can’t just pack your bags right before submitting your application and move to the state with your dream vet school. Applicants have to submit proof of residency for at least a certain amount of time (usually 1-2 years) in order to be considered residents. 

There are still 22 states without vet schools. So the question that remains is: are those students at a disadvantage? While not entirely clear, some states without vet schools like New Jersey sign contracts with states that do have vet schools to reserve a set number of seats and discounted tuition rates for students. If you are located in one of the 22 states, research whether your state has similar to New Jersey’s policies as shown below: 

The Veterinary Medical Education Act of 1971 provides for contractual agreements between the New Jersey Department of Higher Education and out-of-state schools of veterinary medicine for the acceptance of New Jersey residents who are and have been residents of the state of New Jersey for 12 consecutive months. Under the terms of the act, the schools receive a substantial subsidy toward educational costs in return for a number of guaranteed reserved seats, at in-state tuition and/or reduced fees, for New Jersey residents. At present, New Jersey has contractual agreements with the following schools: New York State College of Veterinary Medicine of Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, all of which reserve seats for New Jersey residents. As of 2003, 24 spaces were available. Students are encouraged to apply to all of these institutions in order to increase their chances of acceptance. Most schools of veterinary medicine also admit a few out-of-state residents without specific contracts. 

What schools have Princeton students have recently applied to and matriculated at?

According to HPA, the following vet schools received the most applications from Princeton students from 2012-2016:

  • Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
  • Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
  • North Carolina State Veterinary Medicine
  • Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities College of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine

Princeton students have matriculated at the following schools from 2012-2016:

  • Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
  • North Carolina State Veterinary Medicine
  • Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

HPA has now released more updated, in-depth data from the past four application cycles:

Applying to Vet School

What is the VMCAS application like?

Much like the Common App, the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service) is a centralized application system used by many vet schools. The VMCAS collects biographical data, academic information, animal/veterinary/research experiences, recommendations (eLors), official transcripts, personal essays, and college supplements. The VMCAS now opens in January and students can submit their application from May to mid-September of each application cycle. 

Most vet schools use the VMCAS, but some may ask applicants to submit applications in other ways. This link is not updated, but gives an idea of which schools accept the VMCAS. The AAVMC (Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges) also releases a sample application annually. Updated VMCAS application information can be found here.

What are the vet school essay prompts and what are some useful tips and resources for writing the essays?

The personal statement for the VMCAS used to consist of a single prompt: Discuss briefly the development of your interest in veterinary medicine. Discuss those activities and unique experiences that have contributed to your preparation for a professional program. Discuss your understanding of the veterinary medical profession, and discuss your career goals and objectives (5000 characters)

Now, VMCAS asks students to answer each of the following prompts in less than 2000 characters (including spaces), which is roughly 300-350 words:

  1. There are many career choices within the veterinary profession. What are your future career goals and why?
  2. In what ways do veterinarians contribute to society and what do you hope to contribute?
  3. Considering the breadth of society we serve as veterinarians today; what attributes do you believe are essential to be successful within the veterinary profession? Of these attributes, which do you possess and how have you demonstrated these in the past? 

Here are documents with tips and resources that you may find helpful. While some discuss the old prompt or a specific supplement,  the information may still be relevant:

Remember, many schools also have their own supplemental prompts which may or may not be released on their websites. If you are thinking about applying during a certain year, you can create your account as soon as January of the same year so that you can access all the supplements before the summer and begin brainstorming/drafting asap.

What standardized tests are required?

The majority of vet schools require the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), but more and more schools are eliminating standardized tests as a requirement. The GRE can be taken in a computer or paper format at select testing sites and consists of three sections: reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. 

The ETS usually provides a free GRE practice test for students. Test prep companies like Kaplan, Princeton Review, Barron’s, and Manhattan Prep offer various materials such as practice tests and problems for a cost. Magoosh also offers a free phone app called the Magoosh Vocabulary Builder for students interested in improving their vocab skills for the reading and writing sections. Visit https://www.ets.org/s/cv/gre/institutions/update/ for information on changes in GRE testing in light of COVID-19. Contact ramalik@ if you would like a collection of downloadable GRE resources.

Schools may also accept the MCAT (since some students apply to both med and vet school) while some schools like Purdue are now asking students to take online tests that assess personal characteristics.

Who should I ask for recommendation letters and how many do I need?

To submit the VMCAS, a minimum of 3 recommendations are required and a maximum of 6 will be accepted.  Unlike medical school, committee letters from the HPA are not required.  Most schools require that at least one of the 3 recommendations is from a vet. Recommendations can also be submitted by academic advisors and professors. Some schools are also open to accepting additional non-standard rec letters from individuals that are not from the university or veterinary profession. This could include a mentor, high school teacher, or supervisor for your non-veterinary experiences. Letters from family members or friends are usually not recommended.

Rec letters are used by schools to assess your abilities through the eyes of professionals. They can sometimes even make or break applications if admission officers see red flags such as lack of communication skills and immaturity. When deciding who to ask recs from, make sure you have had at least somewhat of a close personal and professional connection to the vet/professor/mentor. Moreover, make sure you have had mostly positive experiences with them otherwise you might just be asking for a vet school rejection. 

HPA offers the opportunity to store copies of letter of recommendations for up to 6 years past your graduation year so that you don’t have to awkwardly keep asking old contacts to write you letters. However, HPA may still not be able to submit the letters to VMCAS on your recommender’s behalf. Contact HPA for more details regarding rec letter storage and/or visit this link. This link also includes tips for when and how to professionally ask for recs (the info is tailored mostly for pre-meds, but it should still be useful)!

What prerequisites should I take?

Unlike medical school requirements, vet schools requirements vary greatly from school to school. Here are prerequisites for schools that Princeton students usually apply to, though it may be outdated. Always check the websites of the schools of your interest for updated prerequisite requirements. 

Source: https://hpa.princeton.edu/sites/hpa/files/2018hpa-vetschoolrequirements.pdf

The AAVMC also provides vet school prerequisite summaries on their website.

Some courses such as animal nutrition, animal science, communication, public speaking, microbiology with lab, etc. are not offered at Princeton. If you are interested in applying to schools that require them, you will have to take them elsewhere or contact the schools directly to ask what they recommend.

If you would like to apply to as many schools as possible, you should consider taking most if not all of the following courses at Princeton: 

  • General chemistry with lab (2 semesters)
  • Organic chemistry with lab (2 semesters)
  • Physics with lab (2 semesters)
  • Intro Biology with lab (2 semesters)
  • Biochemistry (1 semester)
  • Calculus (1 semester)
  • Statistics (1 semester)
  • Physiology (1 semester)
  • Genetics (1 semester)
  • Microbiology (1 semester)
  • English/Composition/Writing Intensive Courses (2 semesters)

Many schools also accept AP credit (4s or 5s) for chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, and english as long as it is on your official transcript, which Princeton transcripts do include. A few schools will accept one organic chemistry course instead of two and one advanced biology class instead of two or three. Schools also are usually open to a statistics course from any department. Some also provide options to replace courses. For example, they willl accept Junior/Senior independent work in lieu of the english requirement. Reach out to individual schools early to plan out your prerequisite coursework. You can apply to vet school missing up to ~12 credits (~3-4 prereqs), but this can also vary between schools.

What are the corresponding names of these prerequisite courses at Princeton?

Recommended coursework at Princeton:

  • General Chemistry with lab: CHM 201 (Fall) & CHM 202 (Spring)
  • Organic Chemistry with lab: CHM 301 (Fall) & CHM 302 (Spring)
  • Organic Chemistry with lab: CHM 337 (Fall) – one semester orgo
  • Biochemistry: MOL 345 (Fall/Spring)
  • Physics with lab: PHY 101 (Fall) & PHY 102/108 (Spring)
  • Calculus: MAT 103 (Fall/Spring)
  • Statistics: SML 201, ORF 245, PSY 251, POL 345, SOC 301, ECO 202, WWS 220,  or WWS 332
  • Comparative Physiology with lab: EEB 314 (Spring)
  • Genetics: MOL 342 (Spring)
  • Modern Microbiology: MOL 380 (Fall)
  • Writing and Freshman Seminars (Fall/Spring) can potentially replace English Composition as writing-intensive courses

Every course at Princeton is worth 4 credits/hours.

What are some webinars or admissions panels I can attend/watch to learn more about the vet school application process and the veterinary medicine field?

Here is a YouTube link to a useful UCDavis panel that invited admissions officers from various schools.  It is interesting to see the different ways in which schools assess applicants! There is also a list of upcoming and/or recorded webinars on the application process hosted by the AAVMC. Finally, here is a list of recorded webinars by the AVMA pertaining to careers in veterinary medicine.

How have application requirements changed in light of COVID-19?

The AAVMC has conveniently collected and reported information on changes related to prerequisite coursework, the GRE, recommendations, and more. And as always, check the websites of individual schools of your interest.

I performed poorly in one or more of my prerequisite classes. Am I doomed?

As a general rule, B’s are NOT bad grades at Princeton. This isn’t Harvard. B’s suggest you are doing well and meet Princeton standards, but have a few areas that you can work to improve in. C’s are acceptable and D’s/F’s suggest you need to seriously reflect and drastically change the way you approach courses at Princeton. 

Before considering your options, make sure you first spend some time reflecting on why you performed poorly in the course. Did you neglect your mental health and sleep? Did you spend too much time on the Street? Were you experiencing unpredictable health problems? Were you experiencing family problems? Did you face housing issues during online semesters? Were you unable to seek help from Professors, TAs, fellow students, and McGraw out of the fear of looking “stupid”? Do you believe the grade you received does not reflect your effort? If the grade you received was indeed unfair (this can happen at Princeton), keep in mind it is still not a good idea to blame instructors for your grades on your application and it’s best to take the time to improve your application in other ways. 

Additionally, reflect on whether you feel confident in handling future prerequisite coursework. Being a pre-health student juggling academics, social life, self care, and extracurriculars at Princeton is exhausting – are you still willing to commit to completing and doing well in the coursework? If you are, make sure you have a semester-by-semester plan for how to tackle the rest of your prerequisites at Princeton. 

In general, there are four options if you perform poorly in a prerequisite: 

First, you could take the L and keep the grade if it meets the minimum requirements, which is usually either a C- or a C, for the schools you intend on applying to. Most if not all schools won’t accept a D or F. 

Second, if your GPA and prerequisites are generally not a strength, you could put more effort into other areas of your vet school application to compensate for the low grades. Some schools are transparent about their formula so you may want to research the most highly weighted components and invest more time in those areas. These may include veterinary/animal/research experiences, recommendation letters, essays, GRE scores, and getting honors in your department.

Third, schools may offer unique ways to compensate for the poor grade. Some offer the opportunity to take upper-level classes in the same department to “replace” that grade (e.g. Cornell). Some schools will accept any three biology courses, so you could potentially take another biology course to replace it on your own accord (e.g. UPenn).  Some schools even offer the option of “erasing” your entire freshman year or your first semester if you had had a tough time transitioning to college (e.g. UIllinois). The key here is you should be well-versed in the specific prerequisite policies of the schools you are interested in. They also change from time to time. So make you do your online homework often! 

Fourth, if your grade is legitimately a bad grade, you may want to retake the course to not only show improvement, but to also increase your prerequisite/science/cumulative GPA. It is important to reflect on your performance in the class by asking yourself the previously mentioned questions, and then address any of those problems before you try to retake a course. Retaking a course is risky because it will NOT replace your original grade. If you previously received a passing grade (D or higher), a repeated course will not count for course credit towards the 31/36 total needed for graduation and could make you course deficient. However, demonstrating significant improvement will look amazing on your transcript and application. If you are not sure if you should retake the course or consider one of the other options, you should never hesitate to reach out to admissions officers from the schools of your interest. Try to take their advice because at the end of the day, they will be making your admissions decision. Once you are sure retaking is the next best step, discuss your plans with the course professor, an HPA advisor, AND your residential college dean. If approved, you will have to manually submit a course enrollment form to the registrar’s office in West College/Morrison Hall. You could also potentially retake the course at a different school or as an online summer course. However, different vet schools have different policies on what they will accept so do your research.

As a final note, if you have legitimate reasons for doing poorly in course, you may also want to consider explaining your performance and how you grew from your experiences in your application. The VMCAS offers a section called the “Explanation Statement” to explain anything that you feel is important for the admissions committee to know. Meet with HPA to discuss how best to use this option if you would like to elaborate on your academic performance in your application.

How much does GPA factor into admission decisions and what is the average GPA of accepted Princeton students?

GPAs usually play a significant role in vet school admission decisions because schools want students to be academically prepared for the rigors of vet school. Schools may consider some or all kinds of GPAs while assessing an applicant such as cumulative, science (all STEM classes taken), last 45 hours/credits (~last 3-4 semesters or 11-12 Princeton courses), and prerequisite GPA. However, GPAs are still one of many other factors (rec letters, experiences, essays, interview, personal qualities) that admissions committees review. There are a ton of forums and posts online about the experiences of students with “low” GPAs getting into vet school that you can research and look to for inspiration. 

Generally, 3.5+ GPAs are considered competitive. Keep in mind that Princeton GPAs tend to be slightly lower than other schools overall so don’t beat yourself up for being below or near average. In 2016, HPA reported that the average GPA of Princeton applicants accepted to medical school is about a 3.55 while nationally, it is about a 3.7. In 2020, HPA reports that the average overall GPA of Princeton applicants accepted to veterinary school is a 3.47 and the average science GPA is a 3.48. However, keep in mind that both Princeton averages ranged from 2.6 to 3.9 and were computed using a total of only 13 accepted applicants that applied during the 2016-2019 application cycles. Additionally, the averages are based on Princeton, summer, and post-baccalaureate coursework. When analyzing the average GPAs of 32 US schools and 2 schools in the West Indies using AAVMC data, we find that the average overall GPA of accepted applicants from the 2019 cycle was a 3.56 and the average science GPA was a 3.47.

Not all schools are transparent about average GPAs of accepted students, but some do post admissions statistics and/or incoming class profiles. Examples are below, but you can google “[insert vet school e.g. Tufts vet] class profile statistics” to search for updated statistics, other previous years, or the profiles for schools of your interest.

Another useful resource is the AAVMC tool called Profile of Admitted Students which lists the average cumulative and science GPAs, number of seats, GRE scores, and class sizes from a recently admitted class. An example is shown below. You can use the filters to narrow down schools based on mean GPA or hover over schools to view any school’s stats. Notice that some schools have higher (e.g. 3.8 for Tufts) or lower (e.g. 3.2 for St. George’s) average GPAs than others. 

Being Pre-vet at Princeton

Does Princeton have a veterinary program or major?

Princeton does not have a pre-veterinary program or major. While pre-vets at Princeton join a variety of STEM and humanities departments, many choose to concentrate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, which is arguably the closest department to veterinary/animal science.

Does Princeton offer pre-vet advising?

Princeton HPA (Health Professions Advising) does not have advisors designated specifically for pre-vet students, but HPA staff still advises all pre-health students including pre-dental and pre-vet students. Meet with HPA as early as you can for advice and assistance. You can also contact hpa@princeton.edu and prevet@princeton.edu to join both the HPA and pre-vet listservs for additional support. See more information from HPA below:

Question: Dear HPA, I’m a freshman and I’m considering becoming a veterinarian. What can your office do for pre-vets? Is there anything I should know about being pre-vet?

Answer: Thanks for checking in with us! It’s true that there aren’t many pre-vet students on campus, but we certainly enjoy working with pre-vets. We have specialized listservs for pre-vet, pre-dental, and MD/PhD through which we share targeted messages, so be sure to email Jen at HPA@princeton.edu and ask that she put you on the pre-vet email list. Most often, we answer pre-vet students’ questions about coursework (the required courses for vet school are very similar to the ones for med school, but there are a few anomalies at certain vet schools) and about applying to vet school. When it comes time to apply (your junior summer if you’re hoping to matriculate right after graduation, or your senior summer if you’re taking one glide year), we’ll work with you on application logistics. You’re always welcome at the programming we offer for pre-meds, such as the Interviewing Info Session or the session we do on writing a personal statement for your application, since the vet school application process is very similar to the med school one. The key differences are in timing and your letters of recommendation. You will need 3-4 individual recommenders who will complete forms via VMCAS, the application service that most (but not all!) vet schools use. The committee letter process through HPA is optional – vet schools do not expect committee letters in the way that medical schools do. You’ll also submit your application in the fall rather than early summer. The AAVMC website and their pre-vet newsletters may provide particular advice, so we’d recommend bookmarking that site, as well as using our HPA resources, and be sure to contact Princeton’s Pre-Veterinary Society officers to be part of the pre-vet student community on campus. In any case, we’d like to meet you and talk about your pre-vet path in general, so please don’t be a stranger!

What veterinary opportunities exist at Princeton?

Veterinary experiences are essential because some schools require that you have a minimum number of veterinary hours while others have a recommended minimum number of hours. Experiences also allow you to work alongside veterinarians, who are valuable resources for understanding vet school and the vet medicine field. They may even be willing to write you letters of recommendation, which are an important component of your vet school application.

Since Princeton does not have its own veterinary or medical school, opportunities are frankly limited compared to for example, Cornell, which does have both professional schools. However, you could still make the best of your Princeton and college experience by taking advantage of related opportunities both near campus and in your hometown. It is imperative that you take initiative.  Here are some initial steps you can take:

  • The HPA newsletter occasionally has links to veterinary opportunities so keep a lookout for those HPA emails. Sign up for individual vet school newsletters as well.
  • To gain animal experience, you can volunteer or foster animals through your local animal shelter or even through SAVE A Friend to Homeless Animals, which is a shelter that is a 10-15 minute drive from campus. The PACE center organization SVC TigerTails occasionally organizes trips to volunteer at the shelter near Princeton, but it remains largely inactive due to transportation limitations. You will likely have to take initiative. 
  • Contact local veterinary clinics in or near your hometown via both phone and email for a summer shadowing experience or even a paid job as a veterinary assistant, though the latter is much more difficult (but not impossible!) to secure since clinics would prefer more experienced job-seekers. It’s always going to be difficult to get your foot in the door when searching for your first veterinary experience. It takes a lot of persistence, luck, and dozens of unreplied emails. Make an excel sheet and keep track all of the places you contact. Don’t give up hope and it’s never too late to get started!
  • There are also veterinary clinics in the Princeton area such as the Princeton Animal Hospital & Carnegie Cat Clinic that you can contact to volunteer/shadow/work with during the school year. Unfortunately, they aren’t located at a walking distance and you will likely have to either drive, bike, or take a bus. A potentially cheaper option is taking the free TigerTransit weekend shopper to either the Wegmans or Walmart stop, which are located at a walking distance from a few other clinics. Be resourceful and creative 😉
  • Use the TigerNet Alumni Directory to look up alumni that are currently in the veterinary medicine field. Log in with your netID, click on CAREER SEARCH on the left sidebar and select Veterinary Medicine as the field/specialty. You could try reaching out the contacts near your areas if there are any for veterinary opportunities!
  • Many vet schools consider biomedical/science research experiences to be important. Taking up a position as a research assistant in a NEU/EEB/MOL department is one avenue you may want to explore since there are A TON of research opportunities at Princeton. You can cold email professors about your interests, why you would make a valuable addition to their lab, and what you find fascinating about their research. Thesis work related to the biological sciences would also be considered valuable to vet schools so making sure your independent work is impressive and impactful is another way to shine.
  • Clubs, extracurriculars, and service work are also valuable to vet schools because they show that you are a well-rounded applicant. Leadership and interpersonal skills are important for future vets so try to get involved with student organizations. You do NOT have to join twenty clubs, you do NOT have to be president of all the clubs that you’re a part of, and you do NOT have to participate in exclusively animal-related activities. DO be yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and pursue what you’re passionate about and is meaningful to you!
  • Did you know there are also vets on campus?! Dr. Laura Conour and Dr. Grace Barnett are research veterinarians in LAR (Laboratory Animal Resources) and are contacts you may want to consider reaching out to for animal/veterinary opportunities in lab animal medicine: https://www.princeton.edu/news/2018/08/08/meet-laura-conour-princetons-research-veterinarian,https://ria.princeton.edu/news/laboratory-animal-resources-welcomes-staff-veterinarian-grace-barnett,https://research.princeton.edu/people/laura-conour
  • You may be able to utilize Princeton’s various funding sources to develop and fund your own veterinary/animal/research internship through PEI student initiated internships, the Streicker International Fellows Fund, ProCES, etc. Sometimes, IIP has the occasional veterinary clinic internship abroad so check their website out. 
  • There are also short, immersive (and usually pricey) programs that host college students at vet schools to help them learn more about the lives of vet school students and the field. Schools with these programs include Tufts, UPenn, and UCDavis.
  • This is intuitive, but if you are interested in non-standard veterinary experiences (wildlife, zoo, emergency,  community medicine, shelter medicine, equine, large animal, etc), you will have to put in many many hours searching for opportunities online. Summer opportunities are especially competitive. Always keep searching for opportunities. Bookmark or keep a list of ones you find interesting and want to apply to soon or a few years down the line. 
  • Sometimes students may have to work extra jobs to cover their education costs at Princeton, which may deter them from pursuing veterinary experiences. Unfortunately, many veterinary opportunities are usually not funded and/or are unpaid. While you should still try to aim for a couple hundred veterinary hours and to get at least one veterinarian recommendation, vet schools offer you the opportunity to explain circumstances in which you could not gain as much experience as you would have liked to. Reach out to HPA to determine how best to explain your circumstances in your VMCAS application.

How can I meet other pre-vet students?

Since campus life will no longer be the same during the 2020-2021 academic year, organizations must find alternative ways to allow students to meet and stay connected with one another. We are currently planning virtual events for the upcoming year so stay tuned!