How Many Vet Schools Should I Apply To?

In the fall of 2013 I received a concerned message from a vet school applicant:

I have applied to 13 (10 in the US, 2 in Scottland, and 1 in London), and from what I am hearing, I am starting to regret that decision as it seems that vet schools may look unfavorably upon me as I seem more desperate and less serious about their school. What is your take on this – do you think that applying to many schools hurts one’s chances of admission?

With the ultimate question, “How many vet schools should one apply to?”

While I wish there was a magic number out there that would maximize one’s chances of being accepted to vet school, my experience is that every applicant is unique (different scores, experiences, letters of recommendation, etc.) and every school is unique (different applicant pool, requirements, population of in-state vs. out-of-state students to pull from, etc.) that trying to make it all logical and predictable would be painful and ultimately a waste of time.
The number of schools you should apply to should depend on your unique situation!
  • If you feel that you have a less competitive GPA or GRE and are worried that some schools will not consider you because of that, perhaps applying to a few extra schools would help your chances of getting accepted on the first round.
  • If you are a career changer or otherwise pressed for time and want to avoid sitting through multiple application cycles before getting accepted, perhaps applying to more schools is a better idea for you.
  • If you are not an in-state student for any of the schools, then I’d advise applying to more than just a few schools to maximize your chances of acceptance.
  • If you have a very specific geographic requirement and need to be within a certain proximity to family/significant others, you may not want to apply to many schools outside a certain range.
Don’t forget the drawbacks of applying to multiple schools, however.
  • More supplemental applications (and potentially additional supplemental application fees).
  • Higher cost (each school you apply to costs money). Then if you get interviews at multiple schools, you have to factor in the cost of traveling to each of the schools for an interview.
  • Time. Each additional school likely requires more and more of your time between the applications and interviews.
  • Decisions. If you end up getting into multiple schools, you are faced with some difficult decisions as far as which acceptance do you want to pursue. This isn’t always a straightforward or easy decision.
Ultimately, the student who emailed me didn’t regret the decision to apply to so many schools:
You were right, it didn’t end up affecting me, because I got into my top schools! I’ve been accepted to upenn, Ohio, and Kansas. I was also interviewed at Purdue, Mississippi, and Iowa and am waiting for hear back from them, as well as Oklahoma and Michigan (who don’t conduct interviews). So I for sure have a tough decision ahead of me!
It’s all in your hands. The only thing I would advise against is applying to all veterinary schools. Narrow your focus as best you can to the ones that you would ultimately consider attending and spend quality time on your supplemental applications for those schools.
Good luck!