Pre-Vet FAQ

Because admission to veterinary school is highly competitive, students should choose an academic program that deeply interests them. Simply taking the prerequisite courses required by veterinary schools without considering alternate career goals is not advisable. The majority of UNH students accepted into veterinary school have pursued academic programs in one of the biological sciences in COLSA (e.g., Animal Science, Biomedical Science: Medical & Veterinary Science, Equine Studies, Zoology), although any academic program that includes the prerequisite courses can be considered. There are also opportunities for dual majors, minors and other combined programs which can be designed to match your career goals. Frequently, students who earn degrees in the humanities, fine arts, business or other non-science fields are also accepted. You should major in something that interests you, and something in which you will succeed, possibly as an alternative career path.

Pursuing a pre-veterinary intent at UNH is not restricted to a single major. However, most students intending to apply to veterinary school will complete a degree within the sciences with Animal Science, Biomedical Science, Equine Studies, and Zoology being the most popular majors for our pre-veterinary students. The admissions requirements for UNH can be found here and the admissions requirements for most veterinary schools can be found here.

Any of the Pre-Veterinary Program advisors are available and willing to speak with students from any major about preparation for and admission to veterinary school. Most of these advisors are veterinarians themselves, or have been successfully advising pre-vet students for many years. Please email or call (603) 862-2726 to make an appointment with a pre-veterinary advisor.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) publishes a summary of veterinary schools and colleges in the US, Canada and abroad, “Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements.”  This book is available from the publisher’s website and other commercial sites and bookstores. Copies are available at Dimond Library; ask at the circulation desk. The AAVMC website also has links to individual schools.

Veterinary schools look for a combination of traits in a successful candidate, including:

  1. Excellent academic credentials
  2. A fundamental understanding of the veterinary profession and its challenges
  3. Diversity of experience, including professional and personal factors
  4. Leadership, community involvement and social awareness
  5. Excellent Interpersonal and communication skills

Significant or exceptional veterinary or animal experience, including food-animal contact, research experience, cultural experience, community service or evidence of overcoming socioeconomic factors may be viewed favorably.

Check in the undergraduate catalog or with your advisor to see what the minimum acceptable grade is for your major. Although you may not have to retake a course to graduate from UNH, many veterinary schools require a C or C- or better in prerequisite courses. Remember, you must retake the same course at UNH for the grade to be substituted in your UNH GPA. The old grade will still appear on your transcript, but will not be used to calculate your GPA.Check with the admissions offices at specific schools to see how they deal with this question.

Requirements vary slightly among veterinary schools, so check the websites for specific programs to be sure you have their prerequisites. All prerequisites must be taken for a full letter grade, not Pass/Fail, and typically must be passed with a grade of C or better. Certain schools want other specific courses, such as Cornell’s requirement for two composition courses, or Animal Nutrition for application to North Carolina State University. Be sure to check the schools’ websites for more information. The student is ultimately responsible for making sure they meet the requirements and application deadlines.

Generally speaking, most veterinary schools require:


UNH Equivalent

  Two semesters of biology (with lab)

  BIOL 411 and 412

  Two semesters of general chemistry (with lab)

  CHEM 403 and 404

  Two semesters of organic chemistry (with lab)

  CHEM 651/3 & 652/4, or 547/9 & 548/550

  Two semesters of physics (with lab)

  PHYS 401/402 or 407/408

  One semester of calculus

  MATH 424B or 425

  One semester of statistics

  BIOL 528

  One semester of biochemistry

  BMCB 658/659 or BMCB 751/752

  Two semesters of English

  ENGL 401 and one other course

Veterinary schools look at a number of things when evaluating student transcripts, including the overall quality and rigor of the academic program (number of upper division courses) and the total credit load. Advanced courses in the biological sciences which expand your understanding of the field are recommended. If you have a specific interest in another area that you would like to explore, go ahead. Any class or experience that makes a student well-rounded will enhance their personal and professional development, and may be viewed favorably by admissions committees.

A minor requires 20 credits in an area of concentration, 8 of which may cross-list with your major (128 credits minimum required for graduation). Minors can typically be completed in the same four years as your major. A double major requires 160 credits, and typically entails summer courses or an additional year of study. The University Honors or Honors-in-Major programs include taking a certain number of courses at the honors level, plus a thesis project. If you do well in these additional programs, they should enhance your application, and demonstrate your ability to handle a more rigorous curriculum.

A high GPA is viewed as an indicator of academic potential. The average GPA of accepted students tends to be 3.5-3.7 for most schools, and many schools have a specific minimum GPA, between 2.5 and 3.4, averaging 3.0. These minimums are not necessarily firm, and schools may be open to applicants with lower scores, given other compensating factors in a candidate’s portfolio. Schools may look at the pattern or history of grades (e.g. significant improvement in the last two years), or performance in key indicator classes, such as Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry or Genetics.

Generally speaking, courses should not be repeated. A poor performance in one of the basic courses can be redeemed partially by a good performance in a higher-level course which demonstrates strength and competency within the same area. In rare cases, it may be advisable or necessary to repeat the course (see below for D’s and F’s).

It is usually preferable to take the required science courses during the regular school year to demonstrate that you can perform well even while carrying a full course load, especially larger key classes such as Organic Chemistry. If this is impossible because of time or scheduling constraints, summer work is acceptable.

Check with specific veterinary schools for their policy on accepting AP scores. Most schools accept AP credit, but some schools prefer or require college credit. Some schools accept AP credit, but advise students to pursue advanced courses in biology, chemistry, physics, or other science courses, which provide reinforcement of fundamental concepts. Make sure that the AP credit is indicated on your official transcript.

For most veterinary schools, applicants must have completed the equivalent of at least three full years of college, with at least 90 semester hours of course work. Most successful candidates, however, have earned bachelor's degrees prior to enrolling.

The GRE’s (Graduate Record Exams) have largely replaced other standardized tests for entry into veterinary school. If you intend to apply to veterinary school in the fall of your senior year, the GRE should be taken in the preceding spring or summer, allowing at least two-three weeks before application deadlines (around September 15). Preparatory courses or books are available commercially and on campus through CFAR. If your performance on previous standardized tests (i.e. SAT) is not strong, consider taking the exam early in the spring of your junior year to allow for a follow-up study course and repeating the exam.

Veterinary medicine is an animal oriented profession. Veterinary, animal, health science and or research experience is necessary, but how much and what types are required varies among schools. Some require a minimum of 500 hours. Veterinary clinical experience is especially important, as an understanding of the duties and responsibilities of a practitioner and the scope of veterinary medicine is critical. The type of practice depends on your interest area. Other experience working with different types of animals in different settings could involve breeding, rearing, feeding and showing various types of animals including companion animals, livestock, laboratory animals, zoo animals or wildlife.

Remember to keep a notebook or log of your experience, including total hours, activities and names of the veterinarians or other professionals with whom you interact. These contacts may be willing to write letters of recommendation later in the application process.

There are many opportunities on campus to obtain experience that veterinary schools will accept. These include Pre-Veterinary Club, Dairy and Equestrian clubs, jobs or volunteering at the dairy or horse barns, Therapeutic Riding Program, Little Royal Livestock Show, courses at the Shoals Marine Lab, research or independent studies, Cooperative Real Education in Agricultural Management (CREAM), and gross necropsy and rounds at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (NHVDL), among others. Talk to your advisor about other ways to get involved.

Research is an excellent way of obtaining more experience, but you should only pursue it if it interests you, not because it will “get you in”. Involvement with a research project will immerse you in a specific topic, and expose you to hands-on methods in the laboratory or the field, or both, which will expand your scientific horizons. You may develop and test your own hypothesis, or become involved in on-going research with faculty members on or off-campus. These research mentors can provide good advice on career opportunities within veterinary medicine and biomedical research. Because they work closely with you, they may be willing to write letters of recommendation during the application process.

Although more specific advanced planning may be required to study abroad, most pre-vet student schedules should be able to accommodate this program. Studying abroad can be an asset, as it exposes the student to different cultures and perspectives, which is viewed positively by veterinary schools.

As noted above, veterinary schools are looking for students who achieve in academic pursuits, but also have diverse experiences outside the classroom. This might include volunteer work or mentoring in the community, being active in your dormitory or sorority/fraternity, or tutoring or being a teaching assistant. Any activity that inspires you and involves you in the wider world in a positive way should enhance your application.

Veterinary school admissions are competitive, and acceptance is not guaranteed even with a strong application- having an alternative career plan (“Plan B”) is strongly recommended. If you don’t get in on the first round, talk to the veterinary school admissions representatives to see how to strengthen your application, take their advice on how to enhance your appeal, and then reapply. You might also consider taking additional courses, or pursuing a second degree (BS, MS or PhD). Keep in mind that veterinary schools may not consider the graduate GPA, only the rigor of the program, in their evaluation. Working in the veterinary or biomedical science field may or may not be critical, but continuing to show your commitment and aptitude for a veterinary career is important.

Any curriculum or major that prepares you for acceptance to veterinary school will also prepare you for a broad range of careers in biological and biomedical sciences, which might include other opportunities in human or animal health care, public health, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, environmental science, biomedical engineering, forensics, behavior or nutrition. Other advanced training opportunities are abundant, including graduate school, or programs for careers in pharmacy, nursing, physical or occupational therapy, or as a physician or pathologist assistant. The critical thinking skills acquired in a pre-veterinary program are also appreciated by employers outside of science and medicine.

Many students apply to veterinary school after working for a year or more, and the experience and maturity gained in practical life experience can be an asset. Consider your appeal as an applicant as objectively as you can, and continue to develop key aspects, such as leadership, community involvement and awareness, communication and interpersonal skills, and animal and veterinary experience. Working in the veterinary or biomedical science field may or may not be critical, but continuing to show your commitment and aptitude for a veterinary career is important. Programs like Peace Corps or AmeriCorps can also expand your personal and professional horizons.

Veterinary schools in the US are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education, to ensure a minimum standard in education is met. Schools in Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and Ross University (St. Kitts) and St. George’s University (Grenada) in the Caribbean are also accredited. Students graduating from an international accredited school take the National Board Exam and a state veterinary exam just like students graduating from a US veterinary school. Acceptance to the international schools is typically less competitive.

Veterinary school training generally has a broad-based approach, as the national veterinary licensure exams cover care and treatment of most types of domestic animals. Only a few schools “track” students into subspecialties (e.g. small animal, equine, food animal, etc.). It is worth spending some time considering what schools might be better if you want experience with specific species. Consider regional agricultural practices or geography (e.g. dairy cattle in NY or the upper Midwest, swine in Iowa, or aquatics in Florida), but remember that schools often have concentrations or relationships with industries that may not be obvious. Investigate websites for the schools, and speak with your advisor to learn more. Most of this specialty experience is gained over summers and during your final year veterinary school externships.  

Three letters of reference are typically requested and should be sufficient. In special circumstances, an applicant may want to submit more than three letters, if another perspective will enhance your application. You should request letters from someone you have come to know well, and who can reflect significantly on your suitability for a veterinary career. Ask the potential letter-writer whether they feel they can write a strong recommendation for you, as an unsupportive letter will not help your application.

The large majority of graduating veterinarians go into in private clinical practice, however, veterinarians are employed by government, business, universities, and the military in a wide variety of research, regulatory, and clinical roles. In a survey answered by 96% of new graduates in 2013, excluding salaries for graduates pursuing advanced study, average full-time starting salary was $67,136. Salaries vary by subspecialty, with significant differences between food animal exclusive ($76,740), mixed animal ($63,526), companion animal ($69,712) and equine ($47,086) practice. Veterinarians attaining positions in the uniformed services started at $63,450. Students pursuing advanced clinical training or graduate degrees averaged $28,988. (From: Shepherd, AJ (2013JAVMA 243:983-987)

Most students will borrow to finance a veterinary school education; scholarships are not typically available. A good credit score (for the student and their parents) is key for loan eligibility. Mean educational debt among those graduating with debt in 2014 was $135,283. (From: Nolan, RS. (2015JAVMA 246(12):1268-1271)

Across the veterinary industry, mean income for private practitioners was $121,303 in 2009, with declines noted since 2007 in equine and large animal practice because of the recession. Veterinarians in public and corporate practice earned an average of $124,232, and industry veterinarians earned an average of $167,415. (From: Burns, K (2011JAVMA 238(6):669-671)