Veterinary Medicine

Preparing for Veterinary School

There is no formal “pre-vet” major. Veterinary schools are interested in broadly educated students who have developed excellent writing and speaking skills, possess analytic and synthetic thinking ability, and are enthusiastic, life-long learners. Understanding of the social aspects of medicine is just as important as understanding the science. Your major will not determine your success in applying to veterinary school. Your interests should determine your choice of major. Majoring in an area that you enjoy is more likely to lead to academic success than pursuing a field for which you have little enthusiasm. Regardless of your major, it is necessary to demonstrate a mastery of science; proficiency in other areas will not compensate for lack of science ability.

The benefits of choosing to major in one of the sciences is that many of the courses required to prepare for clinical medical careers and the associated standardized tests, such as the MCAT, can be satisfied as part of the science degree requirements. Therefore, a student can prepare for medical school, while also satisfying degree requirements, without taking too many additional courses.

South Carolina does not have a veterinary school but does have contractual arrangements with the veterinary schools at University of Georgia to accept 17, with Mississippi State University to accept 5, and with Tuskegee University to accept 4 South Carolina residents. This means that if a South Carolina resident applies to one of the above schools and is accepted, they will receive an annual subsidy from the state of SC towards their tuition.

Undergraduate Preparation  

Undergraduate Preparation

Pre-requisite Courses

Besides the minimum science course work (two semesters each of general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics), most Veterinary schools requires additional courses in advanced biology. The admissions requirements for veterinary schools are quite variable and specific for each school.

The basic science classes should be completed no later than the end of your junior year so that you will be prepared for the GRE exam during that summer/early fall. Some veterinary schools require only the general GRE whereas others only require the subject (biology) GRE.

Personal Preparation

Good grades and test scores are essential factors in determining admissions, but are not the only determinants of success. Students must also demonstrate that they have a true interest in their chosen professions and the personal attributes that are highly desirable in a health professional. The applicant will need to articulate to an admissions committee why this career choice is right for them. All veterinary schools expect applicants to have sought opportunities in the career in which they are interested, and many schools require one letter of recommendation to come from a veterinarian.

Students should shadow a veterinarian. Since the health careers are service-related professions, students should also explore activities in people-oriented environments. Steady, long term involvement is preferable to short bursts of unrelated activities. work in a vet's office prior to application to veterinary school

This type of experience not only demonstrates social responsibility, but also helps to builds communication skills and teaches how to deal with a diversity of people. The insight and experiences gained through these activities will help a student compose an application essay that will convince an admissions committee of the worthiness of the applicant. In addition, these activities provide opportunities to acquire meaningful letters of evaluation from non-academic sources that will strengthen the student's application.

Tests and Application  

Tests and Application

The Application Process

Veterinary School Admission Test

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required by most veterinary schools. The general portion GRE is a computer based exam that is given year-round at the Sylvan Testing Centers. There are no specific test dates, but students must pre-register for the test. The GRE standardized test is directed at an introductory level of knowledge for science courses and comprehensive skills in reading and writing. Information about the GRE can be obtained at the GRE website.

The GRE should be taken during the Spring of the junior year or EARLY Fall of senior.

University of Georgia Veterinary School requires the advanced biology subject test, as well as the general GRE. The subject test is paper based and given in April, November and December. The deadlines for GRE scores to be sent to various vet schools can be found on the VMCAS website.

To do well on these tests students must have analytic skills and problem solving ability. Adequate preparation for these tests is essential. A student should aim to take the test only once. Although some professional schools will consider only the highest score or the most recent score, other schools will average all test scores. To adequately prepare for these tests, students must not only be knowledgeable about content, but must also be familiar with the test format and develop the resilience and stamina needed to concentrate for these marathon length exams.

Application Service (VMCAS)

A centralized application service is used to apply to veterinary programs: Veterinary Medical College Application Service

Students who apply to any of the professional programs utilizing a centralized service submit one application through the application service. The centralized service verifies the information provided on the application and submits the application to the professional schools designated by the applicant. The verification process may take up to 6 weeks and this time should be factored in when trying to meet application deadlines.

The application deadline for the VMCAS application is usually around October 1. Submit the following application materials directly to VMCAS: VMCAS Web application (submitted electronically) , Application fee and Three completed evaluations using official VMCAS paper or electronic forms.

Send the following materials directly to the veterinary medical colleges: Supplemental application, if required by the designated VMCAS college, and any associated fees, College transcripts, and Standardized test scores.

This means that the GRE test needs to be taken enough in advance for your score to be available to the schools by the school application deadline (information by school available at:

Most professional schools require additional information, called a secondary or supplemental application, from the applicant once they receive the student's application from the centralized service. Students applying to professional schools that do not participate in the centralized application service must request their applications from and submit directly to the professional school.

Other specific information on deadlines, fees, and participating institutions can be found at the VMCAS website.

VMCAS Contact Information 1101 Vermont Ave. N.W.
Suite 301
Washington, D.C. 20005-3521

Hours: Mon to Fri, 9am-5pm ET (subject to change)
Tel: 202.682.0750
Student/Advisor Toll Free Hotline: 877.862.2740
Fax: 202.682.1122


Design an Academic Plan

First Year

Fall Semester

Explore various majors and declare as early as possible. As soon as you declare your major, you will be assigned an academic advisor within that department. Students preparing to enter the field of Public Health or Health Administration can choose from almost any major. Make sure to identify that you are a pre-health professions student on the major declaration form. Make an appointment with your advisor to discuss professional goals and determine an academic game plan. As soon as you get settled into your classes, contact the chair of the Health Profession Committee, Karen Eippert, to make an advising appointment to discuss professional goals and discuss the necessary prerequisites, shadowing/volunteer work etc.

Spring Semester

Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your progress. Search for shadowing and volunteer opportunities in your field of interest.

First Summer

Shadowing/volunteer work

Second Year

Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor to discuss your Spring schedule. Visit the Center for Student Learning and schedule a meeting with the Director to begin learning about the GRE. Continue working on your volulnteer hours.

Spring Semester

Discuss your academic progress with your advisor and adjust your academic plan, as needed. Meet with Pre-Health Professions Advisor to make review your progress and the next phase of preparation. Explore career options and alternatives, if your GPA is not adequate or your career interests have changed. Sign up to take a free practice GRE through Kaplan.

Second Summer

Work/volunteer to gain insight of your career choice. Explore available internship and research opportunities. Get involved in the community. Start researching the professional schools and visit their campus and schedule a meeting with the Director of Admissions for Allied Health.

Third Year

Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor to discuss Spring schedule. Get organized, order review booklets and practice tests to prepare for standardized exams. Explore various professional schools and determine to which ones you will apply. Pay special attention to appllication deadlines.

Spring Semester

Discuss your academic progress with your advisor.  Meet with the Pre-Health Professions advisor to determine if your GPA is competitive and whether or not this is the year you should apply to professional school. (Contact the chair of the Health Profession Committee, Karen Eippert). Collect materials needed to fill in application and start working on application essay. Apply and study for standardized admissions tests.  Check the deadlines and do not miss them. Practice, practice, practice taking the standardized admissions test. Take the standardized admissions test and request that scores be released to the College of Charleston, schools to which you are applying. Request letters of evaluation from faculty and health professionals who know you well.

Third Summer

Continue to work/volunteer in your field of interest and community outreach projects. Organize application materials and make sure that everything is complete. Retake standardized admissions tests, if necessary.

Fourth Year

Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor. Get a degree audit and apply for graduation. Make sure your application materials are organized and submitted within the deadlines (earlier is always better than later when submitting application materials). Prepare for interviews (if applicable). Interview and wait. Search for sources of financial aid.

Spring Semester

Send updated transcripts directly to the professional schools to which you have applied. Sometimes it takes more than one try to get accepted. If you don't get accepted the first time, discuss options with the pre-health advisor.

Letters of Recommendation  

Who should I get to write letters of recommendation?

You want to ask for recommendations from people who know you well and can express with concrete example your intelligence, academic ability, character and potential as a health professional. Obviously, to get such recommendations you must first establish a strong relationship with your evaluator. Early in your academic career it is important to get to know your professors and maintain contact with those who may be potential letter writers. Most professional schools will ask for at least 3 letters of recommendation. Some programs specify from whom the letters should come. It is a good idea to have 2 letters from science faculty. Also, when exploring career possibilities, you want to establish at least one long-term quality experience. It is far better to have one or two quality experiences then to have a long list of superficial exposures to the health profession.

Establishing a Confidential File

Students who plan to apply to Dental, Medical, Optometry, Osteopathic, Pharmacy, Podiatry or Veterinary Schools are encouraged to establish a confidential file with the College’s Pre-Professional Health Advisor. It is extremely important that all materials be submitted in a timely manner. Your file should be complete by the start of your academic senior year (and no later than July 1st for those applying to an early decision program). It is to your advantage to complete the application process as soon as possible, in particular obtaining your confidential letters of evaluation.

Online Resources  

Admission Tests Centralized Application Services Medical Associations Opportunities For Minority and Disadvantaged Students Post-baccalaureate Programs

Preparatory Programs
The following programs are listed for the students convenience and listing does not imply an endorsement by the College of Charleston or the Health Professions Committee.

Pre-Professional Student Organizations and Resources

Frequently Asked Questions  

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Do I have to be a science major to go to medical school?

No. Your major is not important as long as you complete the pre-requisite course work to satisfy the admissions requirements and prepare for the standardized admissions test in your field of interest.

Will majoring in science give me an advantage in applying to medical school?

Not necessarily. Most medical schools are looking for well rounded students who have an aptitude for science. They do not give preference to science majors. Taking additional science courses may be beneficial in preparing for standardized exams, but the questions in standardized exams are based on knowledge found in introductory level science courses. The additional science background may also be especially helpful for preparation for the first two years of classes in medical school.

Should I minor or take a double major?

Only if you are truly interested in another field of study. There is no evidence that those students who have a second major or minor have a better chance of acceptance into medical school than those who do not.

Should I take a commercial prep course before taking the MCATs?

There is no hard evidence that commercial courses produce significant gains in test scores. These courses may benefit students who need the extra motivation to buckle down and study. They do provide the opportunity to take multiple full length practice test in real time situations. However, motivated students can do the same on their own or in a study group. There are plenty of practice materials available and practice exams are even offered by the AAMC.

Can I take required courses in the summer and/or at another institution?

In general, it is best to take your required courses at your primary academic institution and during the regular school session. Professional schools want to know that a student can handle science courses while taking a normal academic load. If you have a compelling reason, for taking a course during the summer, for example to be able to get the proper course sequence, then do so. You should try, at least, to take the course at your primary institution or one with equivalent academic rigor. Taking your science courses in a piecemeal fashion and at a two-year institution may be looked on with suspicion by health professions schools. You should also check with the appropriate department to see that the credits from another institution will transfer.

Can I get into medical school in less than 4 years?

Yes, however, this is not the norm and is not recommended for most students. The two medical schools in South Carolina require a minimum of three years of undergraduate work or 90 hours to matriculate into their programs. However, this requires students to squeeze all their required courses and take the MCAT exam by the end of their sophomore year. Four years of undergraduate preparation allows time for students to explore, grow, mature, and have experiences that enrich their lives and make them better medical school candidates.

Grades and Standardized Test Scores

If I didn't do well my freshman year, have I ruined my chances for medical school?

Not necessarily. Medical schools often look at trends in grades. If you can show a turn around in subsequent years, a poor showing in your first year may not have a significant impact on your candidacy. Professional schools may put more importance on your science GPA and MCAT scores in your overall academic evaluation.

If I drop a class will it look bad?

Not if it is an isolated incident. However, routinely dropping classes may evoke suspicion that you are not able to handle a rigorous academic load.

If I got a "C" in a required class, should I repeat it?

In some programs, the minimum acceptable grade for a required course is a "C". An isolated "C" isn't the end of your medical school career, but consistent "C" work will result in a GPA that is not competitive. If your overall knowledge in the subject is satisfactory, then you may be better off taking and earning a better grade in another science class to show you are capable of handling upper division science courses.

What grades (GPA) and MCAT scores do I need to get into medical school?

Your grades and MCAT scores are often used to assess your academic potential. There is no magic cut-off for either score. The two may offset each other, that is, a high GPA can somewhat compensate for a lower MCAT and visa versa. To be competitive your scores should be about the same as the average scores of those of the last years entering medical school class. In general, a combination of a GPA of 3.5 (or above) and a total MCAT score of 29 (or above) is competitive. For South Carolina medical schools, candidates with a total MCAT score of less than 20 or an individual section score below 7 are not ordinarily viable.

Can I take the MCAT multiple times?

Yes. However, as of 2003, all MCAT scores will be reported to the medical schools to which you apply. Medical schools have different policies on which scores they will use in calculating your academic profile score (a mathematical calculation involving your GPA and MCAT scores). Some schools will use your highest score or most recent score, while others will average all your scores. You should not take the MCAT lightly. You should go in fully prepared the first time and hope that it is the only time your will have to take it.

The Application Process

When should I take my MCATs and apply to medical school?

Students who want to enter medical school immediately after undergraduate school, should take their MCATs in the spring of their junior year and apply to medical school in the fall of their senior year. Medical schools start accepting applications in June, and the earlier you apply the better your chances are. Many schools have rolling admissions, meaning that medical schools start accepting students as soon as the interview process starts and continues accepting until the class is full. This means the later you apply, the fewer the number available seats there will be. If you do not take the MCAT until August your scores will not be available until October. Medical schools will not evaluate your application until they have your MCAT scores. Therefore, depending on your August MCAT scores can diminish your chances of acceptance.

Who should I get to write letters of recommendation?

Most professional schools will ask for at least 3 letters of recommendation. Some programs, particularly veterinary schools, specify from whom the letters should come. It is a good idea to have 2 letters from science faculty. You want to ask for recommendations from people who know you well and can express with concrete example your intelligence, academic ability, character and potential as a health professional. Obviously, to get such recommendations you must first establish a strong relationship with your evaluator. Early in your academic career it is important to get to know your professors and maintain contact with those who may be potential letter writers. Also, when exploring career possibilities, you want to establish at least one long-term quality experience. It is far better to have one or two quality experiences then to have a long list of superficial exposures to the health profession.