What vet schools wish applicants knew

Posted on October 03, 2019 by David Bainbridge

As someone who works in vet school admissions, I know we carry more responsibility than most university admissions staff. We’re not just choosing students who we think will do well on our courses (although of course that is important). We’re also seeking future professionals who will be able to safeguard the health and welfare of the animals we care so much about, as well as cope with the wider social, economic and ethical dimensions of a range of increasingly demanding veterinary roles.

To help with this, the Veterinary Schools Council has a dedicated admissions committee, one-eighth-or-so of which is me. This has proved to be a great forum for the different schools’ admissions staff to chew over ideas and also act together to achieve our common goals.

We’ve developed a central source of information 

One thing we decided early on was that potential applicants need a central source of information about the different entry requirements across the different schools, and, importantly, what each vet school has to offer. Obviously, all the UK vet schools cover the ‘core’ material that all new vets need to know, but the way we achieve this varies – and the experience of studying and living at the different vet schools varies too.

This is why have compiled our guide, Admissions Processes and Entry Requirements for UK Veterinary Schools. The guide covers crucial information about getting into vet school that budding vets need to know, including:

  • Course overviews
  • Work experience requirements
  • Common policies across the vet schools (eg disability, contextual data, widening participation, personal statement, school exam systems)
  • Pre-entry tests, questionnaires and interviews
  • Widening participation and graduate entry routes
  • Typical conditional academic offer

We really want to send the message that getting a place on a vet course is achievable for more people than probably think it possible, and that prospective applicants can always contact vet schools directly to discuss their own situation. 

We want to welcome students from all backgrounds 

One thing about the veterinary profession which has been agreed upon for years is that it does not reflect the UK population as a whole. In particular, black and ethnic minority students and students from educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds are under-represented. This is true of university education as a whole, but it is even more of a challenge for university courses whose graduates go on to form an important, respected and publicly visible profession.

So, to encourage applications from all backgrounds, in our admissions guide we’ve collated information about how each vet school promotes applications from under-represented groups through widening participation programmes. It has been encouraging to see how the different universities’ approaches to widening participation parallel each other, but there has also been a chance for us all to share best practice (i.e. steal each other’s ideas).

My top 3 tips for budding vet students

So, if you’re debating applying to study to be a vet, here are my three top tips:

  1. Read the VSC Admissions Processes and Entry Requirements for UK Veterinary Schools for encouraging, realistic, balanced advice about routes into veterinary education.
  2. If you’ve got a difficult set of personal circumstances, you’re struggling to arrange work experience, you can always contact the individual vet schools for advice. They may be able to help or make reasonable adjustments depending on your individual situation. 
  3. Remember that entry into vet school is hard, but there are many routes in, whether that be through a widening participation scheme or entering the course after having completed a different science degree.

And for the qualified vets out there who are reading this, spread the word about our admissions guide to anyone you might know who is considering applying for vet school. 

The make-up of the veterinary profession is dictated by the graduates who enter it, and those graduates are largely determined by the candidates who apply. Certainly, we at the vet schools welcome everything that vets in practice can do to send strong candidates our way.

David Bainbridge

Written by David Bainbridge

Chair of the Vet Schools Council Admissions Committee

David Bainbridge is the Chair of the Vet Schools Council Admissions Committee, Clinical Veterinary Anatomist at Cambridge University, and admissions tutor at St Catharine’s College. He spent time in mixed practice before mixing an academic career at the Zoological Society of London, Oxford University and the RVC with small animal clinics.