Q&A: Can GRE & GPA Make Up For A Lack Of Experience?

I am currently a junior zoology major at Suny Oswego in NY. I have the opposite problem in that my GPA is not to lo I currently have a 3.3 but I have not had a lot of time to gain many experience hours. I am putting myself through college and have been working while at school. Also I didn’t decide to actually pursue veterinary school until my sophomore year. I always hear you can make up for low grades with experience but does it work the other way in that good grades and a good GRE score can make up for a lack of experience?



To be honest, I have not heard that you can make up for GPA with experience or vice versa (but I could be mistaken!). I have heard that you can make up for a less than stellar GPA with a solid GRE score.

Experience is one thing that I do not think is necessarily indicative of whether you can handle the academic rigors of veterinary school. Most veterinary schools value or even require veterinary experience because veterinary school is a significant investment of your time and money and they want to be certain that you know what you are getting yourself into. Especially when you consider the amount of debt that students are accumulating in pursuit of their veterinary dreams, you want to minimize the chance that they are going to regret their decision.

It’s understandable that students are not always able to gain much experience while they are enrolled full-time in school, especially if you are working or supporting yourself. However, do whatever you can to fit in experience whenever possible! I know my undergraduate school, Pomona College, has internships that students can do in the surrounding community to gain experience and exposure to various fields and professions. Pomona College actually pays students for their time during these internships, which is wonderful as it allows students who need to earn money to participate. Granted, not all schools have these programs, but they are worth looking into. If you need to gain experience, my advice to most people is to find the local animal shelter and inquire with them about volunteering. Although not all animal shelters have veterinarians on staff, it is a great way to gain experience.

I will also reiterate the importance of using the explanation section of the VMCAS to explain your situation and why you do not anticipate the weaknesses on your application to persist through veterinary school.

Also, don’t worry about being “behind” because you didn’t decide very early on that you wanted to be a veterinarian and made every move in your life directed at achieving that goal — that’s unrealistic! The vast majority of students in my veterinary school class did not know when they were 5 that they wanted to be a veterinarian. I didn’t decide until I was in graduate school in a completely different field! And plenty of people who read this blog also changed their careers! So don’t worry — you’re not behind. None of us are, really. We just all take different paths to our goals and those paths are often determined by our individual life experiences! 🙂

Life In Vet School & Tips On Getting In

4 thoughts on “Q&A: Can GRE & GPA Make Up For A Lack Of Experience?”

  1. I thought I would offer my perhaps more cynical advice, though this isn’t my blog:

    In pre-veterinary realms I think those with 3.8 and lower GPAs have cause to worry about grades. Especially if you are planning to apply out-of-state. The schools ideally want 4.0 GPA with excellent GRE scores AND a little bit of veterinary observation (min of 300 hours). If you have leadership roles in agriculture-related clubs, all the better. But the decision (in my experience and opinion) comes down to quantitative numbers ie grades.

    I would strive to get As in those final upper-level courses, as a lot of admissions committees will calculate hard science GPAs and last 60 credits GPA over a cumulative GPA. Also attempt to blow those GRE scores out of the water, and get as much varied animal experience as you can muster!

    1. Although grades are clearly a big factor when deciding who gets admitted to veterinary school, you must consider that there are a plethora of students at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine who did not even come close to a 3.8 GPA. A very close friend of mine didn’t even come close to that but was accepted Out Of State, albeit from a very reputable school. These are things that must be considered!

      It’s not all about the number. My GPA from my undergraduate school wasn’t a 3.8 but I went to a top 5 liberal arts college where grades are not inflated. Granted I was able to get 4.0 in graduate school and all of my post-bac classes but they were at various schools from community colleges to UC Berkeley and University of Colorado. GPA is not equivalent from school to school.

      With that being said, I will simply state that I disagree with your belief that you must worry about your GPA if you have less than a 3.8. I will say that everyone should aim for the best grades they can achieve, but do not let a less than stellar GPA prevent you from even giving your dreams a shot! It’s better to give it your best shot than abandon your dreams altogether simply because someone scared you away by leading you to believe that your GPA would never get you into vet school.

  2. I am aiming to get into Cornell since it is my instate option. I have been interning at a veterinary office and will have 80 hours once my internship is done and I am planning on volunteering there afterwards. Also I have around 40 hours of experience with wildlife rehabilittation and about 20 hours of taking care of reptiles in capitivity which I am still working with this and gaining more experience. In your opinion would this be sufficient experience to apply or would it be better to wait a year and gain more experience first?

    1. Given that I know people who have been accepted to veterinary school with little to no experience, my advice would be to give it a shot! I know I wasn’t expecting to apply until I had a solid application (all coursework completed and enough experience to be competitive) but I decided to apply a year before I anticipated I would with a mere 5 pre-requisite classes completed and just barely 500 hours of experience and I was accepted that year. Just make sure that you continue to gain more experience once you apply and update schools with your progress. Here are some other helpful posts:



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