Recommendations for daughter interested in being a vet

My daughter will be a senior this year, graduating in 2023. We are starting to look at colleges and figure things out. So far, she has a 4.0 GPA, 26 ACT (taking it again in a couple of weeks), President of Beta Club for next year, FFA president, FCCLA, either president or VP, yearbook staff. She was selected for our county leadership program for juniors last year and completed that, having the 2nd highest number of volunteer hours. She also has a job at the local True Value hardware.

We are in a rural area and low income, her older brother received maximum pell grants. She is aware that she will need pretty much a full ride for undergrad. Her top choice right now is Auburn (as an Alabama fan that is hard to say, lol) with Mississippi State 2nd. It will just depend on what scholarships she can get from each one. University of North Alabama will likely be her safety, her brother got a full ride there through scholarships and grants. She is also going to apply to Berea.

Any suggestions for the best way to reach her goal of becoming a vet?

Vet school starts after a 4 year regular undergrad:

Considered more competitive to get into than regular medical school.
Best of luck.

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My older daughter is currently studying in a DVM program. There are a few others here on CC who also have children in a DVM program. As @neela1 says you first get a bachelor’s degree (typically four years) and then apply to DVM programs (four more years).

A student does not need to get their bachelor’s at a super highly ranked university to get accepted into a very good DVM program. You also do not need to attend a university that has a DVM program. A student does need to do well in very tough classes. Pre-vet classes overlap quite a bit with premed classes, which are typically academically quite demanding. I would look for an affordable university with a good animal science and/or pre-vet program.

Veterinary experience is also very important when applying to DVM programs. This can be obtained while an undergraduate student, or after getting a bachelor’s degree and before applying to DVM programs, or both (my daughter went with “both”). It is relatively common for students to take some time working between getting a bachelor’s degree and starting studying for a DVM.

DVM programs are expensive. It would definitely be best to avoid taking on debt for a bachelor’s degree if at all possible. My daughter reports that she thinks that most of the students in her program are taking on too much debt, and that most of them do not want to talk about it.

You might (or might not) be able to save a little bit of money by attending in-state public universities for either a bachelor’s or DVM or both.

Some universities have programs where students work with animals. For example, both UVM and UNH have CREAM programs (“Cooperative Real Education in Agricultural Management”). You can find more details by googling them. You might want to see whether something similar exists at the universities that you are considering.

My understanding is that there are some very good universities and very good DVM programs in the south. Unfortunately I do not know much about them.


I was going to summon @DadTwoGirls, but Voila! He’s here! :smiley:

My advice, pick your cheapest state school that’s also got a vet school. Think your state flagship, MIZZOU, etc.

One of my patients who is a vet said he would have been an electrician had he known how hard the debt was to service.

Get it, but be wary of debt.


It’s even more selective than medical school, it’s very expensive, and the pay is relatively low. It sounds as if you’re planning for her to go where she can get a full scholarship, which is good. She can major in anything, and still take her prereqs for vet school - most schools would have the basic sciences required.

There is money in animal boarding, animal training, so being a vet tech who also does boarding and training might be an alternative for her, if vet school doesn’t work out. I’d suggest shadowing a vet this summer, or working in a vet clinic, if possible.

My niece is a Vet, had her choice between UC Davis and CSU. Still, the average salary for a vet is only about 100K (much less for a new vet) and vet school is expensive, so make sure that is really what she wants to do.

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We are in Alabama, so Auburn is our state school that has a vet school. Of course there is no way to know if she will be able to get into the vet school. We are in Northwest Alabama so Mississippi State is a little less than 2 hours from us, but we are Alabama residents so would not have preference there.

We are aware that vet school is expensive and very hard to get in, but that is what she says she wants to do. She is great with animals and has talked to a vet that is only about a mile from our house. None of the vets near here have had any employment opportunities available, she could probably volunteer, but has been working a lot this summer trying to pay for her senior class trip. I will tell her she needs to see about volunteering, even if it’s just a couple of hours per week.

She has been to Auburn twice to compete in FFA state horse evaluation. We have not been to officially visit yet and have not visited MS State yet either. She is very familiar with UNA. I took her brother to visit Berea when he was considering going there, but she has not been.

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Exactly. I agree with both. I think that it would be good to get some experience in an actual veterinary situation.

At one point before my daughter started applying to DVM programs she came home for a visit. I told her that I was impressed that she had reached inside a cow three different ways. She gave me a very puzzled look, paused for a couple of seconds, and said “Dad, which way don’t you know about?”. Being a veterinarian is much more about reaching inside a cow rather than holding cute bunnies. One obvious example is pulling out a baby cow when needed. Another example however is that cows apparently are not very good at swallowing pills – in some situations you instead place the pill in the cow’s stomach. To me this makes it very clear that mathematics was a much better major for me. My daughter sees this differently. Of course she has also dealt with many other types of animals, big ones and little ones.

In a veterinary situation you will get into situations where animals die. My daughter had one tough day a couple of weeks ago (she is working in animal urgent care over the summer) where every animal except one either died or was about to die. This included two beautiful horses with colic. It was tough for her. The next day another horse came in with colic. It was borderline but they were able to save the horse. A good candidate for a DVM program can handle the beautiful and/or deeply loved animals that die, and find that the animals that they save are worth the commitment and time and effort. She has also assisted in a very long list of animal surgeries which we think helped her quite a bit in her applications to DVM programs.

Some of this experience will not be available until after several years of working in a veterinary clinic, and possibly then only if the veterinarian happens to trust you. Other forms of working with animals is also helpful. Some DVM candidates will only have small animal experience, although I think that both large and small animal experience helped my daughter quite a bit.

My daughter is very determined (I would use a different word in situations where I disagree with her, but her steadfastness is the same). Her GPA for getting into DVM programs was good, but not “blow you away” good and definitely well under 4.0. We had wondered whether her determination and her extensive experience would overcome an only “okay” GPA. It did and she got multiple acceptances. Now that she is in the program I understand much better why. DVM classes are tough (at one point she said that premed organic chemistry was the most difficult B- that she ever had in her life – more recently she said that DVM classes are on average about the same difficulty, a few are worse). Dealing with dying animals is tough. You will be bitten and stepped on and scratched and pooped on (a series of rabies vaccinations was required to start the program). The people who are going to succeed as veterinarians are very strong students who are happy to deal with all this other stuff in order to help the animals.

And of course every animal comes with a human, who you also need to get along with.

For my older daughter, we are very convinced that this is the right path for her. You need to be drawn to it.

I do not actually know what this is, but to me it sounds good also.


Good advice so far. My daughter will start her second year of vet school in the fall.

Animal hours are very important. Many different options. Would suggest trying different experiences to see what she may like (or decide she doesn’t like). Many of them are volunteer positions. Shadowing vet is very helpful. Gives you a good perspective on what its like to be a vet.

When you are looking at colleges, ask if they have a pre-vet advisers. If so, talk with them. Some are better than others. Good ones keep track of various application requirements at various vet schools, bring in admission reps from vet schools to which grads apply, etc. Bad ones will prove pretty much useless. We saw both when my daughter was applying to undergrad.

Look at various vet schools to see if they prefer any group that may be helpful to you. Vet schools are mostly females at this point so that will be a disadvantage. But not to the same extent at every vet school. Also look at in-state versus out-of-state applications and admissions. Some vet schools strongly favor in-state applicants. Others actually have more spots for out-of-state residents. You can research application/admission at various vet schools. Some are more open about publishing that info than others.

Good luck to her.

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I am a veterinarian and my daughter just got into veterinary school, so I can tell you it was much harder for my daughter to get in than it was for me. It has only gotten more competitive (for some reason). I can say with absolute certainty that she must get a lot of animal experience- and varied animal experience. It needs to be small animal, large animal, lab animal, etc… to show that she has looked at every aspect. She needs to keep her grades up, she needs to have excellent recommendation letters, and she needs to be able to show that she has thought about the debt and how she might overcome it- because the admissions committee will probably ask her about it in her interview. She also needs to be aware of the psychological aspect of it. Veterinarians have one of the highest rates of suicide as a profession, largely because owners of pets expect human level care for pennies.



Do you think the profession still makes economic sense today? I just looked up the COA at Penn Vet, for example: 93K - 103K per year (some years are more expensive than others). Penn is perhaps the best Vet school in the country, but I wonder if one can overcome the potential debt in this profession today.

The WSJ has featured a series of articles on grad school programs, prospects and debt. One article highlighted a Penn Vet student who graduated with a job at just over $100K, but she had nearly $400K in debt ($300K from vet school the rest from undergrad). She was struggling.

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Many healthcare degrees don’t. I regularly advise students to be very focused on debt unless their family has the wherewithal to pay their way without leverage. Too many of my patients, be they physicians, dentists, or vets, are struggling with debt. Those of us from the stone ages have done quite well. Even then though I chose an undergrad that left me with no debt and an inexpensive, public optometry school.


Without question there is a lot of discussion of debt in vet med. You hear it at open houses/question sessions. Questions are asked in interviews. Much more focus on the issue than there was even 5-10 years ago. My daughter took a free ride for undergrad (that was refundable so she banked money while getting her undergrad degree in 3 years of classes and 2 semesters of paid internships). I am paying for vet school. About 80% of vet school grads have some amount of debt. Several of her friends/classmates will have a lot of debt. Will give her some freedom/flexibility that some others do not have.

About 5 years ago, we went to an open house for our in-state vet school. At the end there was a panel with students in their final year. Someone asked them about debt and they went down the road stating their debt levels. Two things struck me. One it was crazy high (each one listing more debt (combined for undergrad and grad). Two they seemed to be oblivious to the burden that places on them going forward.

Motto you will hear often in the vet med path: undergrad a cheap as possible. Though unfortunately for many, its not one that is followed in many cases.


My son is starting his third year of vet school at Kansas State this fall. He was accepted at Auburn and at Mississippi State as well. You have some excellent recommendations above. Be focused on debt. Scholarships are rare for veterinary school but are more numerous in state so Auburn. We didn’t have all the financial constraints so you need to look at schools in and out of state for the “best deal” undergrad. For vet school Auburn will be your best financial deal but some schools do have in state after a year options. We were lucky and were able to pay for his undergrad (very minimal due to scholarships and work) and for vet school so he can start out with only having his fiancee’s debt (28 mos of PA school) to worry about. At least they will have both incomes (they get married next summer). Pay is getting better and a lot of his friends were making 100 - 130k starting salaries this year straight out of school.

Mississippi State has an early admit program for high school students but her test score doesn’t meet what they want right now. My son did a program like that at K-State and was able to chop a year off his undergrad. His deal was that he keep a 3.3 GPA (his scholarship required a 3.5) and meet some other requirements, take all the prerequisites and then you could go straight into the vet school. He did this after 3 years. He didn’t have his degree yet but with the program when you successfully complete your second year of vet school you get your BS degree. So he just got his in May but has already done 2 of the 4 years of vet school. It all worked out well for him.

For your daughter I would say the following: Get grades up and stay focused in hs and do whatever you can in college to have the highest grades possible. Go to office hours, recitations (if available), any tutoring, etc. Get to know the professors. They can often get you paid jobs. My son got a paid physics LA ( like an undergrad TA) position after his first year by getting to know his profs and lab instructors. Get a job this summer working with animals. If you can’t find a paid opportunity with a vet shadow one. You are in a rural area, find the local farm vet and volunteer on weekends, see if an emergency clinic will let her volunteer, volunteer at a shelter if all else fails. She will need experience with a vet. Even if she can only get a few hours here or there it adds up. Also experience with people is good. They loved that my son volunteered at a hospice and was a counselor at a residential summer camp (taught horseback and lived in a cabin with younger kids). Undergrad if she can get a little research experience it is good (not mandatory but nice). Get a leadership position in a club undergrad. My son was president of his fraternity (he wasn’t involved in the pre-vet clubs but that was ok because he has a lot of summer and other work). Be involved in the pre-vet clubs if you can. See if there are FFA groups in the area that she could volunteer as a mentor for. Just set yourself up to stand out a bit. Do something a little different. He played a sport called polocrosse that added a lot of talking points.

Mental attitude. Big item. As was mentioned above very well make sure she can handle the down sides of being a vet. Not all petting ponies, puppies and kittens. Working with a cardiologist last weekend my son was bitten in the face by a great dane! Probably will leave a small scar. They were following all the proper protocols but the owner forgot to mention that her dog has had a tendency to bite - until after he bit. Things will happen, animals will die, patients will yell at you, where you work may not be the best environment. It is not for everyone. In vet school the studying can be brutal if you try for top grades. Just think about what your goals are. If you are going to be a GP they don’t have to all be A’s.

Getting in to vet school is hard but not impossible. Make sure she is sure it is for her but seeing it up close and personal. Good luck!


UC Davis is often considered the best vet school in the country, if not the world, and its COA is slightly cheaper–each year costs between $75 and $85K.

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The point is that graduating from even a top vet school with $300-400K in debt, may mean you’ll never be able to pay it off given the earning potential for most vets.


Tufts? Has a vet school but not sure how much an undergrad benefits.

I appreciate your description of working with animals. It’s very accurate. As someone who has spent her life working with large farm animals, I would encourage your daughter to consider choosing large animal medicine as her specialty. We have a huge shortage of large animal vets and it’s only getting worse. Every scenario you described is something we deal with on a daily basis. It’s interesting hearing your description of your daughter’s experiences. Those things are all skills/experiences my children have grown up learning and can do without even thinking about them. They just see it as part of what we do each day.


I know there is always a possibility that she will change her mind and I talked to her earlier about talking to the vet that she knows and asking about shadowing her and see what other experience she can line up for her. She debated for a long time on being a vet because she wasn’t sure she could handle having to put an animal to sleep but now feels like knowing that she is helping the animals would outweigh the unpleasant situations.

I believe in being upfront about things so we have discussed the difficulties but I think she would be a great vet so I want to be as supportive and helpful as possible.

She loves dogs and I am sure would love working with pets but has said she would love to work with large animals, like horses and cows.