Preprofessional Health Advising Office, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-1017

Phone:  (619) 594-6638  FAX: (619) 594-0244 Web:







The preveterinary program at San Diego State University is designed to meet the individual needs of students preparing for entrance into veterinary schools.  Our responsibility is advising you on your choice of veterinary medicine as a career, in addition to helping you with all the paperwork and formality of the application procedure.  We are located in the Life Sciences North Building, Room 204.


This handout is designed to acquaint the SDSU preveterinary student with the application process.  The following information is offered as an overview, and is not intended to answer all of your questions or replace the advising services.  Read the following pages, attend the Topics in Veterinary Medicine class in the fall, check out our web page ( and, most important, open a preveterinary file now.


Because of the highly competitive application system, not every qualified applicant will be admitted to a veterinary school.  The percentage of accepted applicants has been steadily decreasing – from 50.56% in 1991 to 32.83% in 1999.  What made the difference for those accepted?  What is a competitive application?  Use this handout as a resource, for it is designed to help answer these questions.  Stay in touch with us, too--we're here to work with you.  Good strategy is more important than good luck.




ADVISING:    The Preprofessional Health Advisor is available for individual appointments on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  In addition, Peer Advisors, students who are familiar with the application process, provide informal advising.  During the academic year, the Preprofessional Health Advising Office is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The Peer Advisor schedule varies; please check the schedule posted outside GMCS-323. 


RESOURCES:  The advising office maintains a collection of materials for your use.  Included are:

Ø      Vet school publications

Ø      Resource books such as the Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements.

Ø      Summer and post-bac program application materials

Ø      Library of health professions-related fiction and non-fiction to improve your reading skills

Ø      Information on volunteer opportunities

Ø      Leadership opportunities


The PPHA web page has links to national organizations (including APVMA), many vet schools, student web pages, discussions of medicine-related issues, and application tools such as a GPA calculator.

CLASS MEETINGS:  Beginning 16 months prior to your application, you are expected to attend a series of meetings to learn about the steps you must take to prepare yourself for the application process.  You will be designated as the “Class of ‘XX,” where “XX” = the year you will enter veterinary medical school.  You will be notified of meetings by email, so please make sure we always have your current email address.




Bio 249, Careers in the Health Professions

This seminar course, Bio 249, is offered in the spring.  Speakers from a variety of health careers provide insight into allied health fields such as podiatry, optometry, physician assistant and pharmacy.  You are encouraged to take this course early in your academic program.

Bio 250C, Topics In Veterinary Medicine

Topics in Veterinary Medicine (Bio 250C) is given in the fall.  This seminar course is designed to teach you about the process for admission to veterinary school from the point of entering the preveterinary program until you are accepted to veterinary school.  In addition, a variety of veterinary students and specialists are invited to speak to give you a broader view of the profession.  Plan to take the course for credit the fall before you apply.  Sit in on the class every fall before then.

Bio 348, Internship

Reference the PPHA web page for information about established and “on your own” internships.



This office provides the only committee letter sanctioned by the University.  The SDSU Preprofessional Health Evaluation Committee is composed of SDSU faculty (both science and non-science) and veterinarians from the community.  If you wish to have a Committee Letter as part of your application (and many schools expect to see it if they know a university provides one), you must maintain a file with the PPHA Office.


In the fall prior to submitting your veterinary medical school applications, you will write your personal statement, participate in a peer review of that statement, and participate in a mock interview at Career Services to practice interviewing skills.  In the spring, you will provide the PPHA office with a draft VMCAS application, including personal statement, and a GPA calculation sheet showing your academic accomplishments to date.  This information is given to three committee members who will individually interview you and submit their evaluations to the PPHA Advisor.  If you receive a composite rating of “Recommended” or better, the PPHA Advisor will write a committee letter, which includes excerpts from an autobiography you write, the interviewers’ comments, and the Advisor’s summary of your qualifications.




The electronic VMCAS application is available in August of the year you apply.  Although the deadline is October 1, plan to submit your application at the earliest possible time, but no later than September 1.  Applications sent near the deadline can be delayed due to processing workload and create a serious disadvantage for you. 


An official transcript must be sent individually to each school to which you apply; request the transcripts in August to be sure they arrive in plenty of time. 


Prepare one VMCAS evaluation form to accompany your committee letter.  Ask your other two evaluators to send the form and their letter to the PPHA office.  Any additional letters you request should also be sent to the PPHA office.  Letter packets will be sent at your request, upon receipt of a mailing label and a request form. (A small fee is required to cover mailing and materials.)


California residents applying to UC Davis must complete UCD's OASIS (Online Admission System and Information Service) application.  VMCAS applications will not be considered by UC Davis Admissions.  Click on the UC Davis or the OASIS link from the PPHA web page.








Most preveterinary students prefer a major in Biology or Microbiology since most of the courses required for veterinary school are also required by those majors.  The sequence in which you take the courses is important because many of the preveterinary requirements have prerequisites and some science courses should be completed before submitting the application.  Regardless of which major you select, you should plan to complete your bachelor's degree prior to entrance into veterinary medical school. Work with your departmental advisor to determine which courses are needed for your major as well as for veterinary medical school.


You should plan to complete your degree within one year following your application to professional school.  You will normally apply in the summer between your fourth and fifth years in college.  For the majority of students, a 5-year program is preferred rather than a 4-year program.  GPA, exposure to your profession, and leadership activities on campus or in the community are very important.  A student who takes 13 units per semester, has a GPA of 3.5 or better and has been very active in the preveterinary program will be an outstanding candidate.  It is much less stressful for you, and you have more time to develop as a strong applicant.  Based upon our acceptances, the professional schools also seem to prefer this.  An individual on a 5-year program with a high GPA has a much better chance for acceptance than a 4-year person with a lower GPA.


Chemistry:  If you have not taken a chemistry course in high school or at another institution, you need to take CHEM105, Preparation for General Chemistry, prior to CHEM200, General Chemistry.  If in doubt, a placement exam is given in CHEM105 and you will be told which course to take.  The equivalent of CHEM105 or lower introductory chemistry can be taken at a junior college prior to enrollment at SDSU.


Math:  If you have a weak math background or it has been a long time since you have taken math, General Math Studies (99B or 91) is a good beginning, or take intermediate algebra in junior college prior to enrollment at SDSU.  IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOUR MATHEMATICS ABILITIES ARE STRONG.  Many professional schools require three units of calculus.  Math 121 is the recommended course for most students. 


English:  The Verbal section of the GRE includes vocabulary and reading comprehension questions.  If you are weak in English, start by enrolling in Rhetoric and Writing 92A and B.  It is important for you to read extensively, and in a variety of areas; also, you are strongly encouraged to take as many courses as possible that require a great amount of reading, writing, and interpreting.  The PPHA Office has a check-out library of health-related fiction, history and biography. You are encouraged to read one of these books for at least 20 minutes each day.


Language Requirement:  You may not be required to take a language; however, as a professional, proficiency in Spanish would be invaluable.


General Education:  Stay in touch with your major advisor to be sure you have all these requirements.



Extracurricular Activities

There are a variety of activities that fall into this category, but basically they include volunteer animal and veterinary experience, research and leadership functions.


Volunteer Experience:  An essential part of your preveterinary program is the volunteer (or paid) experience you acquire in a veterinary facility.  Particularly, the University of California, Davis, Veterinary School requires a minimum of 180 hours in veterinary clinics.  It would be advisable to work in both large and small animal clinics and to well exceed the recommended 180 hours. Successful SDSU applicants typically have had 1,000-2,000 hours.  There are many great opportunities in San Diego to acquire animal experience in various emergency animal clinics and shelters.


Research:  Although research experience is not required by the veterinary schools, it provides a way in which you can use the knowledge you have acquired in a problem-solving environment. There are several places available for you to go, most of them on medical school campuses.  Research opportunities are also available at the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park and Hubbs Sea World Research Institute through the Biology Department Undergraduate Advisor in LS 135.  Feel free to pursue any type of research that interests you.


Leadership:  Veterinary Medical schools look for leaders.  Some opportunities on campus are:


Ø      Student government offices

Ø      Student Health Advisory Board positions

Ø      Student clubs positions, for example, the Pre-Vet Club, Black Student Science Organization (BSSO), Students for diversity in Science (SDS), Postbac Support Group, AED

Ø      PPHA course coordinators for the Topics in Veterinary Medicine or Careers in the Health Professions

Ø      PPHA peer advisor

There are also many community organizations that offer leadership opportunities. 


Other Activities:  Of course activities not relating to veterinary medicine deserve your attention as well.  Many personal interests have nothing to do with veterinary aspirations; however, they are reflections of you and help you maintain your individuality and balance.  These activities are important to both you and the admissions committees.  Space is provided on applications to describe your interests and activities.  Talk about them--especially in terms of what effect they have had on your personal growth.



The GRE general exam contains verbal, quantitative, and analytical (problem solving) portions.  Most veterinary schools require only the general exam; however, Purdue requires the essay portion and at least two schools require the advanced biology section.  Check the requirements of every school you are interested in!  (NOTE:  Tennessee and Missouri require the VCAT, not the GRE.)  There are a number of review courses available to help you prepare for the test, such as SDSU's course (given by Dr. Neel), Kaplan, and USD. 


The GRE must be taken by September of the year that you apply to veterinary school.  On-line registration and a list of test centers are available on the web site,  When choosing a date to take the exam, consider the following:  a) complete as much pertinent coursework as possible before the examination date; b) schedule it early enough to be able to retake it, if necessary (you may take the exam once per calendar month).  Be sure to leave yourself enough time to strengthen your knowledge in any weak areas.


Applicants with marginal GPAs can strengthen their applications with excellent GRE scores.  If you feel that your GRE score does not reflect your ability, you may take the examination again.  The average percentile rankings for accepted students at UC Davis in 2000 were:  Verbal – 80%; Quantitative – 79%; analytical – 89%.  The U.C. Davis admissions committee uses your highest score on each section taken during any exam.  Therefore, you are not penalized for repeating the exams.  However, every veterinary school evaluates students differently.



The preveterinary student who is outstanding and excels in all areas is noticed, so get involved.  There is an excellent Preveterinary Club on campus.  It is a communication link to the profession.  If you would like more information, ask one of our Peer Advisors.


Begin considering Letters of Evaluation.  Letters from veterinarians are the most helpful, but you should also have letters from science professors.  Request forms are available in our office.


You should also consider an alternative to veterinary medicine; one you could enjoy as much.  Remain optimistic about your entrance to veterinary school, but try to be open-minded about alternatives.


Most students will apply the summer between their fourth and fifth years in college.  We strongly encourage you to get your application ready by early summer and have everything submitted at the beginning of the application period.  In this way the professional schools can evaluate you earlier and more thoroughly, since you are not in the rush of applications in September/October.  If, for some reason, the professional school does not have a complete file on you, there is still plenty of time to correct the problem.  It is also obvious that the student who pulls everything together earlier is usually more definite about where he/she is going.


Naturally, grades are very important.  For students entering UC Davis Veterinary School in 2000, the average undergraduate cumulative GPA was 3.4; the average required science GPA was 3.2.  Veterinary school admission committees are looking for a positive trend in your grade point average throughout college.  To accent this, UC Davis calculates a separate grade point average for your last two years (or 45 units) of undergraduate/graduate coursework prior to your application to veterinary.  The 45 semester units GPA for accepted students at UC Davis in 2000 was 3.5.





University Advising Center (SS1641, Tel. 619-594-6668)

General information, including graduation requirements, competency and general education requirements.


Major advisors (See SDSU catalog for complete list, by college)

Information pertaining to major requirements, prerequisites, class scheduling, etc.


Health Careers Opportunity Program  (location tbd)

The HCOP program was established to increase the number of disadvantaged students in the sciences who will be competitive for entry into medical schools.  Academic support includes workshops in science and math, MCAT preparatory workshops and summer programs.


Financial Aid  (SS3605, Tel. 619-594-6323)

Most students qualify for some type of assistance. A brochure describing aid programs is available from the office, or you can find information on SDSU’s web site:


Career Services  (SS1602, Tel. 619-594-6868)

Mock interviews help you prepare for the SDSU evaluation committee and medical school interviews.  Career Services also has a centralized listing of part-time jobs and volunteer positions.


Counseling & Psychological Services  (SS2109, Tel. 619-594-5220)

Individual and group counseling for issues such as stress management, test anxieties, relationship problems and personal growth.


Ombudsmen  (SS3635, Tel. 619-594-6578)

Independent and impartial agents who assist students with formal grievance procedures concerning issues such as grades, faculty/staff conduct and administrative policies.


Student Resource Center  (SS1602, Tel. 619-594-5221)

The SRC sponsors many programs recognizing academic achievement.  The Leadership Institute is of particular interest to premedical students.


Veterans Affairs  (SS1510, Tel. 619-594-5813)

If you are eligible for veterans, dependents, or reservists VA education benefits, this office will help you apply for benefits.


Preprofessional Health Advising Office, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-1017

Phone:  (619) 594-6638  FAX: (619) 594-0244 Web:



Each veterinary medical school has a number of prerequisite courses. The following is not a definitive list, but an overview of the majority of the schools’ requirements. Completing such courses will satisfy the requirements for most schools. Contact your department advisor to establish the sequence in which you should take these courses, and to be sure you complete all courses required for your degree.



2 years are recommended because UC Davis and several other schools require it (1 year or more with laboratory)



1 year of general or inorganic chemistry and 1 year of organic chemistry and one semester to one year of biochemistry


1 year (preferably calculus)
PHYSICS: 1 year
ENGLISH: 1 year (It is advantageous to take an upper division writing course such as Rhetoric and Writing 503W instead of the competency exam in order to improve writing skills for the required essays.)


Bio 201A: Principles of Cell and Molecular Biology Chem 200: Gen Chemistry
Bio 201B: Principles of Organismal Biology Chem 201: Gen Chemistry
  Chem 231: Org Chemistry
Statistics (e.g., Bio 215, Psych 270) Chem 431: Org Chemistry
(prerequisite for Bio 352 and Bio 354)

Chem 365, Bio 366 + Bio 366L:
Biochemistry & Cell Biology

Math 121 Calculus (Purdue requires 6-10 units) Physics 180A/182A
  Physics 180B/182B (Chem. and Physics majors may
substitute Physics 195/L, 196/L and 197L)

Rhetoric and Writing 100 - College Composition

Rhetoric and Writing 200 - Intermediate Composition
(NOTE: Cornell requires a lab for all basic science courses.)

AND two or more of the following:

Bio 350: Microbiology (required by Cornell) Bio 525: Mammology
Bio 352: Gen Genetics (required by UC Davis) Bio 577: Embryology (577 or 596 required by Davis)
Bio 526: Terrestrial Arthropod Biology Bio 596: Developmental Biology
Bio 474: Histology Bio 588: Parasitology

Bio 523: Herpetology
Bio 590: Human Physiology (590 or 560 required by Davis)
Bio 524: Ornithology Bio 560: Animal Physiology

Other classes may be required or recommended by some schools including public speaking, psychology, a foreign language, and so forth. If this appears all-encompassing, you are correct. Veterinary medical schools are interested in individuals with more than a scientific background. Thus, you should strongly consider taking courses outside of the sciences. Suggested elective courses include:

Philosophy 330 - Medical Ethics Rhetoric and Writing 503W - Technical Writing
Spanish (1 year) Rhetoric and Writing 508 – Scientific Writing
Comm 103 - Oral Communication Community Health Education 362 - International Health
Psychology 101 - Intro Psychology Community Health Education 561- Health and Medical Care

Psychology 456 - Psychology of Death and Bereavement