Shadowing & Volunteering
As a prospective veterinary student, you are expected to spend time shadowing a veterinarian. Specifically, this means hands-off observation only. You should not engage in any activity that could be construed as the practice of veterinary medicine if you are not licensed and trained to provide such care.
Generally, veterinary schools require that applicants have experience observing or shadowing a veterinarian in action. Shadowing requirements for admissions can vary in a few aspects between schools including hours required, number of environments, and types of environments. While most programs require 250 hours minimum, more is certainly recommended and should be completed by the time you submit your VMCAS application.
To count toward veterinary experience, you must be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. If you are not under the supervision of a veterinarian, the experience is considered animal experience.
Varied experience is also helpful. If you have the opportunity to work in a research lab or for veterinarians who work with different species, that's a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee. Get as much experience as you can while you have the opportunity.
If you’ve been in 4-H, FFA, or a similar group, that’s great experience and should go on your veterinary school admissions form. Similarly, working with animals in any way can be valuable such as volunteering in shelters or rescues, which can provide animal handling experience that will help make you a better candidate. It’s advisable to keep a journal of your activities. Include dates, time spent, types of activities, who supervised, etc.
It is important that you understand the realities of being a veterinarian, so be sure to ask questions and engage with the vet you are shadowing as much as possible. Ideally, you should build a good relationship with at least one DVM or VMD, as you will want to request a letter of recommendation once you begin the application process.
The Pre-Professional Advising Office does NOT provide a list of possible shadowing opportunities or professional contacts. You must take the initiative to research opportunities and develop professional relationships that will lead you to shadowing experiences.
Volunteering is an important portion of the veterinary school application which should not be neglected. Veterinary schools are looking for you to show depth of commitment and substantial involvement and leadership in the community. You need to demonstrate that you can excel in rigorous courses, but also that you are compassionate and enjoy working with both people and animals.
Volunteering can be done in a clinical setting such as a veterinary hospital or private practice, but it can also be done with organizations such as the Humane Society, or any other organization (on-campus or off-campus) that you are passionate about. Check out the Athens-Clarke County Volunteer Guide to help you find volunteering experiences in the community.
Many student organizations champion humanitarian and community volunteer activities: