Pre-Veterinary Advising

Schedule a Pre-Veterinary advising appointment with Dr. Telfer in Navigate. Include the reason: VASCI Pre-Vet Advising

Applying to Veterinary Medical Colleges as a University of Massachusetts Amherst Pre-Veterinary Science Major or Animal Science Major

        Veterinary medical school admission is extremely competitive, with approximately 3,000 seats available in the US compared to over 20,000 human medical school seats. There are 2-2.5 times the number of applicants as there are available seats. The UMass Amherst Pre-Veterinary program is nationally ranked in the top five of college programs for future veterinarians. Of the 20-30% of our majors who apply to vet school, virtually all gain admission to at least one vet school and most students choose between multiple acceptances.

Most students intending to major in Pre-Veterinary Science enter as Animal Science majors. If they earn a 2.700 or better GPA in ten selected science classes, they have the option to enter the Pre-Veterinary Science major. The courses required to graduate with a Pre-Veterinary Science major are specifically tailored to fulfill the course requirements of most veterinary medical, graduate, and medical schools and to prepare our majors for success in these programs.

Students who change their mind about applying to veterinary medical school will benefit from an Animal Science careers seminar, career training classes and biotech research opportunities and can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Pre-Veterinary Science, Veterinary Technology, or Animal Science with a concentration in Animal Management, Biotechnology, or Equine Science. The UMass Amherst Animal Science program is also highly ranked nationally.

Components of a successful veterinary college application

  1. Excellent grades. Aim for a GPA of 3.5 or better. The higher the GPA, the higher number of veterinary medical college acceptances and the more options open to the student. A minimum of a 3.4 UMass Amherst GPA is predictive for admission to at least one US veterinary medical school; the average GPA of admitted veterinary medical school students in 2019 was 3.6. An "A" in a higher level science course (i.e. 400 and above) counts for more than an "A" in a lower level course. Veterinary college admissions look very carefully at your overall GPA and your grades in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry and advanced science courses as an indicator of whether you can pass the demanding veterinary school curriculum. Your grades will largely determine whether you can get into the vet school of your choice or get into any vet school straight out of college, since grades and GRE scores make up 60-70% of the decision. You can take a few classes during the summer session or at a community college, but not so many that it appears that you won't be capable of doing well in the many demanding courses taken at once in vet school (thirteen in the first semester at Tufts). If you have a very low GPA, you can rehabilitate your application portfolio by performing well on higher-level science courses that you take after graduation. Earning a master's or Ph.D. degree also helps.
  2. Excellent Graduate Record Exam (GRE) test scores. This test is similar to the SAT, with verbal, quantitative, and written components. Plan on preparing to take the GRE no later than the fall of your junior year by going to the Educational Test Service website and downloading the free Powerprep II software for Windows, working through a test preparation book or taking a course. You should start taking them by the spring of your junior year, so that you can take them more than once before the ve tschool application deadlines in September of your senior year. Taking the GRE twice is sufficient; taking the test three or more times looks suspicious. Do not take the test before you have prepared-- a low score will hurt your chances, even if you have a higher score later. A very high GRE could compensate for a lower than average GPA. It takes a high GPA to make up for a low GRE.
  1. Veterinary medical related experiences. You need three experiences of at least 200 hours each to be competitive, chosen from the following four areas:
    1. Large animal
    2. Small animal
    3. Wildlife/conservation
    4. Laboratory research
      Veterinary medical colleges prefer applicants with an open mind about animal species since their mission is to teach you the material that you will be tested on the National Veterinary Licensing exam in your fourth year of veterinary medical school. They are judged on the basis of the percent of their students who pass the licensing exam, so they have a vested interest in your interest in all of the species covered. Thus, it’s a mistake to have two or three veterinary medical-related experiences centered on small animals or horses, even if you think that’s what you will specialize in as a veterinarian. Conversely, if you are interested in a veterinary specialty (e.g. zoo medicine), make sure that you gain experience in that area. These experiences can be pursued during the school year or during the summer, but keep in mind that it might be easier to find an opening in a vet clinic near home than near Amherst, where you'll be competing with all the other pre-vet students. Summer experiences may also be more exotic (i.e. internship at an aquarium). These experiences are required so that the veterinary colleges are assured that you have a comprehensive grasp of the veterinary medical profession and so that you can cultivate contacts who will write superlative recommendation letters for you. Document your experiences daily (hours worked, what species) so that you can fill in details on your applications years later. Remember that veterinary medicine is just as formal as human medicine. Just as you would defer patient questions to the M.D. if you were working in a human clinic, you should defer all client questions on the diagnosis or treatment of their animals to the D.V.M. It is a good idea to periodically ask your supervisor for feedback on your performance and to implement their suggestions.
  2. Superlative recommendation letters (minimum 3). One to two will be from contacts from your veterinary medical related experiences, and one to two will be from an academic advisor or a professor from a science class. At least one to two of the recommendation letters should be from a veterinarian. Once you've identified candidate references, ask them if they feel that they could write you a strong letter of recommendation for vet school. You don't want a lukewarm letter of recommendation and it's no fun to write one, so both of you will benefit from this.

    Recommendations consist of two parts. In the first part, the recommender is asked to rate you on your emotional stability, initiative/originality, motivation, personal and social maturity, dependability, communication skills, integrity, intellectual capacity, leadership and ability to work with others. Your goal in your veterinary medical related experiences and in your interactions with your professors is to convince the recommender that you deserve the highest rating in all of these categories. There may be a question about whether you can handle large and/or small animals adequately, but the choices are "yes", "no" or "not able to judge". The veterinary schools are interested in your psychological profile and how you interact with other people, who will be your classmates, professors, and clients. The assumption is that you can interact satisfactorily with animals, or you wouldn't be applying to veterinary medical college. The second part of the recommendation is a letter. When you ask someone to write a letter of recommendation, send them your resume/CV to make writing a strong letter as easy as possible. List all of your work, veterinary medical related and extracurricular activities, with phrases underneath each activity pointing out how this activity proved you have the character traits listed above (e.g. "Cashier at a supermarket for five years--demonstrated dependability and integrity in handling large sums of money"). Your letter writers will use this information in their ratings and their letter. If there's a weakness in your application (i.e. low grade in Chemistry 111 because of a death in the family), discuss it with them so that they can help you make your best case. You are asking a huge favor of your letter writers. They have agreed to write you a letter because they believe in you. Vet schools will not pay attention to bland letters or to positive letters with no evidence to back up the letter writers’ claims.
  1. Personal statement/ essay questions. Start working on your personal statement early (June after junior year) and have other people read it and make suggestions. Think about it from the perspective of the admissions counselor, who has to read thousands of these personal statements. Don't put the admissions counselor to sleep. Don't make the mistake of using platitudes ("Helping animals is very rewarding"), dwelling on how long you've wanted to be a veterinarian ("…since I was in utero."), how much you love animals ("I love my cat/dog/horse/iguana."), or how you were motivated to become a vet because of an emotional response to the death or rescue of an animal. Avoid a reiteration of your veterinary medical related experiences. Instead, demonstrate that you’ve thought deeply about the profession of veterinary medicine. For example, identify emerging trends and challenges in veterinary medicine, issues in animal welfare, and influential cases you’ve seen and conversations you’ve had. Relate these to your goals and the contribution you plan to make to the field of veterinary medicine. Veterinary medical schools are looking for future leaders in the field.
  2. Choice of veterinary medical colleges. You will have to decide whether you only want to go to one veterinary school (maybe the one in your state of residence), or whether it's more important to you to start veterinary college the fall after you graduate with a B.S. The highest ranked veterinary schools are very selective. Most students apply to a range of schools, from their dream school to their safety schools. Consult with members of the Pre-Veterinary advisory committee on your choices. Your odds of getting into a veterinary school are affected by whether a veterinary school has reserved spots for residents of your state. You may want to establish residency in another state by working there after you graduate (attending school there doesn't count). If you want to go to a specific school, go ahead and apply even if your odds are low.
  3. Excellent interview. Prepare for the interview by reading American Veterinary Medical Association discussions on current veterinary medical controversies. Find out about the job opportunities and starting pay for DVMs. The average debt for a graduating DVM is $165,000, so you should have a plan for paying it back. Research the veterinary school so that you're prepared with questions about their program, financial aid, etc. Make sure you know your own application inside and out—it looks very bad if you can’t tell your interviewer about your own record and experiences. Read what other interviewees have written.


High School and Freshman year
    -- Veterinary medical related experiences in small or large animal, wildlife, or laboratory research.
    -- Investigate Veterinary college and career choices on the AAVMC website and the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Sophomore year
    -- Veterinary medical related experiences in small or large animal, wildlife, or laboratory research
    -- Investigate Veterinary college programs. Make sure you will have all necessary prerequisite classes for the veterinary colleges you are considering applying to.
    -- January: Decide whether you will apply to the early admissions program at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Work on the application during the January break. Ask evaluators if they would be willing to write a supportive evaluation and letter for you, as described below for a senior.
    -- March: Early admissions deadline for Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. If you don't get in, schedule an appointment with an admissions counselor from May-August to review your application with you.

 Junior year
    -- Veterinary medical related experiences in small or large animal, wildlife, or laboratory research.
    -- Decide which Veterinary colleges to apply to.
    -- Fall: start preparation for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
    -- Winter: look at the VMCAS site and start to familiarize yourself with it. This will be useful to start gathering all the details the application requires.
    -- Spring to summer: take the GRE one to two times. Check allowable frequency of test taking on GRE website-- minimum spacing could be no more frequent than once every 30 days. Check the individual vet schools' GRE deadline requirements on the VMCAS website to make sure that you will start taking the GRE early enough. When you take the GRE, arrange for your scores to be sent directly to the vet schools to which you are applying.
   -- January- May: VMCAS site opens, colleges available in May. Start working on your application now! Filling out the information will take a considerable amount of time, so do it now, whenever you are not busy with classes. Write the first draft of your personal statement and other essays. Plan to show these to multiple people and go through at least six drafts. Request official transcripts from all universities that you’ve attended to send transcripts to VMCAS. Prepare and send supplemental applications to veterinary colleges that require them. Two US schools (Texas A&M and Missouri for residents) use their own application process, so if you apply to one of these schools, you will have to ask your evaluators to submit their evaluations and letters through Texas A&M and Missouri's websites in addition to the VMCAS.
   -- May-July: Contact your evaluators to ask them to write a strong letter of recommendation for you. Supply your evaluators with your unofficial transcript and a resume that makes all the points you want to appear in the evaluation and the letter. You can register up to six evaluators on VMCAS; a minimum of three evaluators is required. Follow up with your evaluators as to whether they have received an email from VMCAS or schools with their own applications giving them access to the evaluation website. Let your evaluators know the deadline-- VMCAS won't send your application on to the vet schools without three evaluations.

   Senior year
       --August-September: VMCAS applications are due around September 15. Try to finish and submit your VMCAS application by August to avoid last-minute issues. Remind your evaluators of the deadline by sending them an email thanking them for completing the evaluation and letter by that date. Submit any required supplemental applications and follow up with the veterinary colleges to make sure your applications are complete.
        --December-Spring: Prepare for interviews. If you are not successful this round, make an appointment to talk to a veterinary medical school admissions counselor in a school to which you have applied about the weaknesses in your application and consider what you should do to remedy them, whether you should change which veterinary medical colleges you apply to in the following fall, or whether you should implement "Plan B" and pursue a different career path. Many people who do not gain admittance immediately after college will eventually do so.

- Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements, published yearly by Purdue University Press - requirements-2020-edition-2021-matriculat
- Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
- AAVMC Careers in veterinary medicine, vet school requirements, VMCAS link, scholarships and financial aid for veterinary students
- VMCAS portal for application
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Course Requirements for Veterinary Colleges

The courses listed below meet the requirements of most veterinary schools. However, after selection of the school(s) you wish to attend, it is recommended that you consult each school's catalog for specific requirements and check with your academic advisor.

The Summary of Course Prerequisites Chart for Veterinary Colleges indicates the requirements for 33 U.S. schools and 13 foreign schools.  The chart includes hyper-links to the requirement list found on each school’s website. 

U.S. Veterinary College requirements for admission. Admissions requirements for veterinary medical schools outside the United States.

Please click here for information regarding costs of U.S. veterinary schools.

Veterinary School Requirements UMass Equivalents

English  (1 year)

ENGWRIT 112 and NATSCI 387

Speech    (Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Purdue, Texas A & M only)

COMM 260 or COMM 250

Mathematics (1 year and to include one semester of calculus)

R1 and MATH 127 or MATH 131
Statistics (choose one of the following:)

Physics  (1 year/labs)

PHYSICS 131 and 132


   General Chemistry/lab (1 year) CHEM 111 and 112
   Organic Chemistry/lab (1 year) CHEM 261, 262, 269

BIOCHEM 320 or BIOCHEM 423 & 424

   Biochemisty Lab    (Cornell, Illinois, North Carolina, Tuskegee and Dublin only)


    Introductory Biology with lab
        (1 year)
BIOLOGY 151 & 152 & 153
    Cellular Biology ANIMLSCI 285 or BIOLOGY 285 or BIOCHEM 285
    Genetics ANIMLSCI 311 or BIOLOGY 311 or BIOCHEM 311
    Microbiology MICROBIO 310
    Microbiology lab ANIMLSCI 366 or MICROBIO 265 or MICROBIO 312
    Anatomy and Physiology ANIMLSCI 220 or BIOLOGY 654, 564 or 567

Animal Science

    Animal Nutrition ANIMLSCI 332

    Animal management courses (1 year)

ANIMLSCI 101/103, 231/251, 232/252, 233/253, 234/254, 236/256, 297D/297DC, 455/456
Science Electives

ANIMLSCI 390E, 321, 432, 472, 521, 572, 581H

BIOLOGY 521, 540, 542, 544, 548, 583

UMass/Tufts BS/DVM Early Decision Program

The Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine located in Grafton, Massachusetts offers undergraduates enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst an opportunity to apply to the DVM program in March of their sophomore year.   A limited number of students are admitted, and upon acceptance, are guaranteed a space in Tufts veterinary school class after they graduate, if they maintain a minimum 3.4 GPA and take the required prerequisite classes.  To be eligible to apply, candidates for this program must be sophomores and must have completed a full year each of introductory biology and chemistry.  SAT scores will be evaluated in the place of GRE scores.  Freshmen contemplating application to the Early Acceptance Program are encouraged to speak with a pre-veterinary advisor about accruing veterinary medical related experiences.  If the applicant is not accepted, the applicant can make an appointment with a Tufts admission counselor in the summer to review his/her application, in order to strengthen it for the next round of veterinary medical school applications. Further information regarding this program can be viewed at the Tufts web site.

UMass Pre-Veterinary Advisory Committee

Dr. Janice Telfer, Ph.D.
Dr. Katherine Beltaire, D.V.M.
Dr. Rafael Fissore, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Dr. Carlos Gradil, D.V.M., M.S., Ph.D.
Dr. Amy Rubin, D.V.M.
Dr. Nuno Carreiro, D.V.M.