Myth busting the vet school application process

Student looking stressed at laptop
I recently visited a school in Surrey, to talk to GCSE & A Level students about applying for and studying Veterinary Science. I was asked a lot of similar questions based around myths I’d been told when I was at school, which are clearly putting off hundreds of potential future vets from applying. 

As I did at the talk, I’m going to look at a few of these myths and dispel them, so that we can continue to change the narrative around studying Veterinary Science at university. There are far too many students who are being told by careers advisors that it’s "too difficult to get in" or they won’t get in because "nobody from this school ever has". 

Myth 1: There are over 10 applicants per place on the veterinary degrees

This is simply untrue, and is probably due to incorrect interpretation of information from individual universities which doesn’t account for the fact students apply to multiple universities. Compared to the ~7/800 places in 2010, there are now over ~1100 with vet schools increasing intakes and a new vet school in Surrey.

Myth 2: You need A*A*A*, to be head boy/girl and play high level sport to stand a chance

This is one of the most harmful myths to hopeful vet students, every year lots of A level students (including myself in 2010) are advised not to apply as their school doesn’t believe they’ll get in and they don’t want to set students up to fail. The average offer is AAA with some unis stating AAB.

Myth 3: You need to have been around animals and gaining work experience since you were 12 to get in!

Yes, this may have been the case once. I remember my careers advisor in year 9 giving me a form about entry requirements and reading some unis required >12 weeks of seeing practice and many other types of experience! 

However, now a lot of the vet schools are aware how financially draining this can be on prospective applicants (and their parents), and how it disadvantages students who may live in cities or aren’t from animal related backgrounds. 

All the vet schools have slashed their work experience requirements. The average of all the vet schools seems to be 4 weeks (2 weeks seeing practice and 2 weeks animal husbandry). Importantly: most only count experience in the 3 years pre applying so no longer disadvantage those who only realised it was the course for them in year 11 or 12!

I would say the take home message is quality over quantity and being able to talk about what you’ve seen and reflect on your experience.

Myth 4: ‘It’s 7 years of training to be a vet” & ‘It’s harder to be a vet than a doctor”

Nobody seems to know where this 7 year myth came from but even some of my family believed this until they’d asked me how long I had left! The course is 5 years at all the universities except Cambridge where it’s 6 due to an intercalated year (optional at all others). Some offer an accelerated 4 year programme for graduate entry. As for doctors I think you could argue either way...

Myth 5: ‘It’s 9-5 lectures every day and you won’t see a real animal until 4th or 5th year’

I heard this a lot as a school student on work experience, but can say I rarely have had more than two 9-5’s a week and was doing animal handling practicals from the start of year 1! Also, everybody gets to go lambing (and do other Husbandry EMS) in first year, which is definitely hands on animal contact!

Myth 6: ‘The Vet Course is so intense you won’t have time to do sport/societies etc’

Linked to number 5, and the view that you have no time to do anything else. A large proportion of my year played university sport. If students don’t want the time pressure, every VetSoc have their own teams requiring less of a commitment.  I’ve played sport, had a part time job and been heavily involved in the RAG society throughout my time at uni so it definitely is possible!

So if you’re lucky enough to get the chance to talk to aspiring vet students, either in school talks, as a student at a uni open day or as a vet in practice taking on a work experience student - encourage them to do their research and look at the current requirements from the universities and not to be put off by incorrect myths!

More information

If you're studying to become a vet then the BVA can offer you additional support to help you achieve your goal.

Student members can join at a heavily subsidised rate and receive all of BVA's benefits including:

  • The opportunity to have your say on the issues you care about within the veterinary profession
  • Support throughout your career
  • Professional development and training, including Student Guides
  • Free EMS insurance 

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