As I was preparing to apply to vet school for a second time, I was quite certain I would not get in. Why? My undergraduate cumulative GPA was only 3.5. Now, most people would be happy with a 3.5, they even put a fancy description on it. However, the first time I had applied, my cumulative GPA has been 3.35 and I did not even qualify for an interview.
DISCLAIMER: The interview process varies between schools, so I am only going to describe what my college does. It is one of the top American veterinary colleges, so I assume many other colleges do it the same way. Always look into the process before you apply and be prepared, some schools don’t even interview.
My school gets about 800 applicants each year (of the approximately 6,000 applicants nationwide). The school only interviews the 300-400 applicants with the highest GPA. In my first application round, the lowest GPA they interviewed was a 3.6. If I remember right, the average acceptant GPA was 3.75. I got a nice little note stating how sorry they were that my academics were basically not up to snuff (my words, not theirs). So I spent my senior year of college working my butt off to get a 4.0, and I did. But still, I was worried it would not be good enough since it only pulled my overall GPA up to 3.5. The point here is- you need to have a good GPA to get an interview. The next stories I am going to tell have this point: a good GPA does not guarantee you admittance.
This following story is from a large dairy vet I shadowed, who has been asked in the past to help with the interview process:
There was a boy applying to vet school with a 4.0 GPA. In the interview, after asking all the veterinary-related questions, his interviewers asked him what he did in his spare time. He answered: Study. The interviewers then asked him what he did when he was caught up with school work. The boy answered: I study the information again. Thinking the boy might be confused, the interviewers asked him what he did during the summer. He responded: I buy the books for fall semester and study them. Exasperated, the interviewers asked him what he did when he was not studying. The boy answered: I listen to classical music.
He was not accepted.
At the end of my interview, I asked my interviewers what they were looking for in an interviewee, just in case (God forbid!) I did not get in this time. This is a story they told me about a girl they had interviewed earlier that day,
The girl had a 4.0 GPA, but the interviewers noted no extracurricular activities other than research. They asked her all the necessary questions and only got short answers (like one to five words) spoken in a quiet tone. When they asked about what she did outside of school work, she said she liked to read. When they asked about a time she had failed, she replied that she never failed.
They did not accept her.
Vet schools want someone who is well rounded, adaptable, and who can talk to people. Even though we want to work with animals, we also have to work with their owners. My interviewers told me at the end of my interview that I could expect my acceptance letter soon. Why? They said it was because I had no problem talking to them about my successes, failures, and everything in between. They said they knew I was book smart because of my grades, but it wasn’t until they talked to me that they realized I was comfortable laying my fears and stress out on the table and using obstacles to better myself. People who claim they never fail will take it to heart when they do. And I was guaranteed that every student fails at something during the four years of vet school.
Rule to live by: Good grades can get you places, but it is your personality that determines whether or not you get to stay in those places.