Planning for Vet School

Many students who major in Animal Ecology have set their sights on attending college for Veterinary Medicine. Our Pre-Veterinary and Wildlife Care option is specifically designed so students meet many of the admission requirements for vet school. This page is meant to answer questions that students have about preparing for and applying.

Mountain lion

Vet School Admissions Requirement

There are 33 veterinary colleges in the United States, all of which are accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). They also oversee 21 international vet schools, including 5 in Canada.

Despite meeting the accreditation standards of the AAVMC, every school’s admissions requirements are different. It is important to research each school individually to know what they require, and how to best curate your academic plan to meet those requirements.

Things to consider when looking at vet schools are their location, specific programs, and cost. The AAVMC has plenty of resources for prospective vet students, so be sure to visit their website.


What to Take

As an Animal Ecology major, your undergraduate coursework will cover many vet school admission requirements, but it is important to know if the schools you are interested in will need any additional classes.

If you are unsure which schools you plan on applying to, then consider taking these courses and any of their prerequisites:

  • Physics 2 (PHYS 132+lab)
  • General Chemistry 2 lab (CHEM 178L)
  • Organic Chemistry 2 (CHEM 332+lab)
  • Biochemistry (BBMB 301 or 316)
  • Microbiology (MICRO 302+lab)
  • Animal Nutrition (AN S 319)
  • Calculus (MATH 165)

When to Complete Them

It is recommended that all required coursework be completed by the end of the fall term in which you are applying to vet school. Schools may have some leniency in allowing one or two classes to be completed in the spring, but it is best practice to have all requirements completed beforehand.


Check your schools of interest to see their GPA requirements. While a higher GPA is always preferred, even a 4.0 does not guarantee acceptance into a vet school if one is lacking the course requirements or necessary experience.


Coursework and grades alone will not get you into vet school. Like all higher education institutes, vet schools want well-rounded applicants. In addition to desired coursework, experience and involvement in extracurriculars can help set an applicant apart from others.

Looking for experience or extracurricular opportunities?

Start with on-campus student organizations and clubs and the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Job Board!

Student Organizations    

AZA Job Board


Being involved in clubs, academic societies, or volunteering are all great ways to bolster your application. These experiences don’t have to be related to veterinary medicine, either. Being on the cabinet for a club or serving as a mentor demonstrates desirable leadership qualities and shows initiative.


Practical Work

Hands-on experience is so important that a certain number of hours is required for both the Animal Ecology major and most vet schools. However, vet schools want to see a variety of experiences, including:

Veterinary - Work overseen by a certified DVM. Does not have to be strictly domestic, livestock, or zoo animals.

Animal Care - Care work with animals that is not pet ownership or work done for an educational course.

Research - Does not have to be animal-related research. Should be overseen by someone with a DVM, MS, or PhD. Should be actual contributions to the research that demonstrate an understanding of the scientific method.

Applying to Vet School

How to Apply

Most (but not all) vet schools in the US utilize the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). It is a single, standardized application that can be sent to multiple schools at once.

Schools may also require a supplemental application in addition to the VMCAS. Be sure to check the application process found on your school of interest's website.

Go to the AAVMC Application

When to Apply

Vet School applications are due by September of the year before you want to start. Most students will complete all necessary steps throughout the summer.

If you are wanting to go straight into vet school after completing your undergraduate degree, we recommend applying to the school(s) of your choice during the summer before your final year.

Letters of Recommendation

Schools may also require letters of recommendation from various sources. These letters can come from your academic advisor, instructors from your classes, or supervisors from jobs and internships. Many schools will require at least one of your letters be provided by a veterinarian. When asking someone for a letter of recommendation:

  • Make it clear when the letter is needed, where it should be sent, and what it is for.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to ask. Letters take time to write, and it’s not uncommon for people to say “no” if they are being asked at the last minute.
  • Ask people you feel would give you detailed, quality recommendation letters. These are people who know you and can talk about your accomplishments and abilities. An instructor you had one time three years ago, in a class of 200+ students, that you haven’t spoken to since, is probably not a good source for a letter of recommendation.

CASPer Test

Many vet schools require that you take the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer) test. This is a situational judgement test used to assess personality and ethics.

Learn More About CASPer


Schools may conduct interviews during the application process and will reach out to you to arrange dates and times.

Iowa State University Vet Med Application Checklist

Use the College of Veterinary Medicine's application checklist to ensure you don't miss any important information on your application journey.

Go to checklist

What’s Next?

Some vet schools may be prepared to notify you of your admission status as early as January after submitting your application, while others may not let you know until several months later.

Didn’t get into vet school?

A rejection letter does not mean the end of your veterinary career. Most students who apply do not get accepted into vet school. If you are rejected from a school, politely request feedback from the admissions staff. Figure out what the school felt was lacking in your application, and what you need to do to make yourself a better candidate. This may mean taking some additional courses, or gaining more experience. Then apply again.

If you no longer desire to go to vet school, there are still career options available with your degree and skillset. Look into other animal care positions and discuss with your academic advisor what sort of pathways you can take.

Got into vet school?

Congratulations! Once you’ve been contacted with an offer, you will be given a deadline to accept. From there, the school will be in contact with you to discuss things such as financial aid, orientation, and other details. Best of luck in the next steps of your veterinary journey!

Take the Next Step

Learn more about the Vet Med admissions process or contact us with questions.