gracietiger

10+ Year Member
Apr 9, 2009
196
1
0
Status
Pre-Veterinary
Figuring out how to complete the prereqs completely overwhelms me.

Briefly, I graduated from prestigious college in '05, environmental studies and philosophy majors, took intro bio and intro chem, received a C and B-s in both. Also took stats and calc, received a B in stats and a B+ (maybe A-? can't remember) in calc from community college. Overall GPA ended up being around a 3.3. At the time, I was set on law school, didn't invest in science.

After graduating, messed around by doing everything but vet med. Moved all over the country, traveled the world, worked as an adventure guide. So I don't have a great deal of veterinary experience either, on top of not good grades. I worked as a zookeeper for over a year, and did a lot of conservation work, but the only straight up vet experience I have is what I have gotten in the last year at an internship.

I am completing the prereqs, and work full time for the university where I complete the prereqs to be able to afford them. My job is not related to animals at all, though it includes research. It is flexible with me so that I can take the classes whenever I need to during the day, which is why I have to keep it.

I have retaken chem, and have completed organic and physics. I have gotten A+s in all classes. Still though, my overall GPA and especially science GPA is going to be seriously hurting. My boyfriend is going to Penn Dental school and I need to be nearer to my home in MD because of a terminally parent, so Penn is my only option. Which is seriously ridiculous considering my previous grades.

To make things even more complicated, the intro bio course has been very difficult for me to get into. So I have not been able to take more than two courses per semester, if that, because all of the other courses require bio. I think I'll finally be able to get in this quarter, but I have nothing else to take with it that I haven't already.

so, I'm wondering, should I also retake the stats and calculus classes? A B and B+ are not bad grades, but at this point in life, I am very very confident I could ace them. The courses are very expensive for me, but I would hate to leave any doubt in an ad-coms mind that I could handle a heavy courseload. Would it be worth getting more A+s in those courses to prove that I can complete the pre-reqs and the person completing these courses is not the same person who completed the courses near ten years ago (had a little too much fun in college)? Or, is it more worth my while to just take as many upper level courses as possible later on, though they won't be included in the prereq GPA?

sorry to make this so long, but I know many of you have been in these shoes and had the same struggles, so I'm wondering what worked for you. Thanks so much for helping me.
 

StartingoverVet

Flight Instructor for hire
Lifetime Donor
7+ Year Member
Feb 17, 2010
23,452
7,928
181
Neither here nor there.
Status
Non-Student
Not sure I can give you a specific answer to your question but since our situations have a number of similarities, I thought I might have some insight.

I graduated from Penn (Wharton) with a 3.33 GPA. Not great but they certainly couldn't complain about the quality of the institution.

I got accepted into Penn Vet..

In between... I took almost all my prereqs through extension classes over a 2.5 year period. Mostly 2 classes at a time (in addition to full time non-vet related field). I got mostly A and A+ in those classes. Occassionally I had to drop down to 1 class due to life/full time job issues. My last 45 hours gpa ended up around 3.85, same as science pre-req. Final overall GPA ended up at 3.5.

Of the 3 interviews I attended only 1 seemed concerned that I didn't work a full academic load and even then their heart wasn't really in questioning me on it. I don't think that will be an issue at Penn as long as you are juggling work and classes.

As for re-taking classes, I think if you can ace classes you took previously it really shows the difference in your maturity level. I retook Calculus mainly because I had forgotten any math past algebra. I can't answer the money issue but if you can afford it, I would think it is really important.

As for more upper level classes, Penn doesn't put an emphasis on that. They like well rounded candidates. I took very few upper level classes and got it.

I know I had some other stuff going for me, but I wouldn't be too discouraged. You should be able to put up some pretty good numbers. Make sure to take some time out to ace the GRE. It certainly helps.

If you have any other specific questions feel free to PM me as I have been in your shoes.
 

smilin1590

10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Feb 23, 2009
282
1
91
Status
Pre-Veterinary
Another thing you might want to check out is if you can take that bio class at your local community college during the summer or during the regular semester. Talk to your job, considering they sound pretty flexible..if it's just this once that you have to go to another institution for 1 class so that you can continue taking the rest of your courses at the university you work at, they may not really care at all. Hope this post wasn't too confusing and wish you the best!
 

livvie

UF c/o 2014
10+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2009
86
0
0
Gainesville, FL
Status
Veterinary Student
I would say don't retake them, but focus on getting some veterinary experience. I think a 3.5 with a good chunk of veterinary experience will look a lot better than a 3.8 with little vet experience. If you work during the day you can always find an emergency clinic to shadow for a few hours every night. You can also check out the "Sucessful Applicant Stats" thread and look for the people who got into Penn to see about where you need to be.
 
Last edited:

TheEvilShoe

7+ Year Member
May 25, 2009
429
0
141
If you literally took the courses about 10 years ago, I think some schools won't even count those anyway and would actually MAKE you retake the classes in order to count as pre-req's. And then there are other schools that will let you toss out grades from a certain amount of years ago, if you choose (usually something like 7+ years ago - don't hold me to that, but I'm sure there is an option for people who are in that situation).
 

gracietiger

10+ Year Member
Apr 9, 2009
196
1
0
Status
Pre-Veterinary
Thank you so much for replying. Lot to consider.
Unfortunately, Penn will not discard my grades, even though by the time I apply, they will be exactly 10 years old. Geez, was it really that long ago?!

It's so hard to tell what Penn looks for, and I give up trying to figure it out. I've noticed many people with exceptional grades and very little experience, and others with tons of experience and average grades. I guess I'm hoping that my stats will be enough that I will at least be reviewed, and the adcom will not hold me to grades that were taken when I was just trying to have a little fun in college ten years ago. OK, I was super involved in campus, a division 1 athlete, and very busy with research so I wasn't a total loser. But, I am applying as the person I am today, not who I was ten years ago. I definitely don't think old grades, especially that old, reflect my aptitude or capabilities by any means.

If only the option of community college could be simple. Unfortunately, here in CA, community colleges are having a lot of problems, and their courses are just as difficult to get into as are courses at this university where I am an Extension student. Also, their bio courses would take three semesters to complete to fulfill requirements, whereas the bio at this university would require three quarters. That is a HUGE difference.



I think I am going to take startingovervet's advice and retake the courses. I would seriously hate to not even be interviewed and always wonder if it was because I couldn't just retake the courses. I want to ensure I'm doing everything I can. I am able to take the courses this quarter, and I am unable to take other, upper divisions, because I can't get into the bio. So, I have nothing to lose (but a ton of money), but vet school is the anti-cheap, so I might as well get used to this field sucking me dry financially.
 

Minnerbelle

Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Apr 2, 2009
5,112
2,627
281
Status
Veterinary Student
It's so hard to tell what Penn looks for, and I give up trying to figure it out.

I think I am going to take startingovervet's advice and retake the courses. I would seriously hate to not even be interviewed and always wonder if it was because I couldn't just retake the courses.
Hey, don't be shy and call them and ask! Admissions is usually more than helpful when it comes to giving advice about this type of thing. If you're only thinking Penn, then ask them point blank. Ask if they think you should retake it or your time/money would be better spent doing something else that they think will give you more edge (and while you're at it, ask what that something else might be)!
 

gracietiger

10+ Year Member
Apr 9, 2009
196
1
0
Status
Pre-Veterinary
Thanks, minnerbelle! Calling was actually the first thing I did, and the woman I spoke with was definitely trying to help me, but she also couldn't really tell me what to do. Ultimately, it is up to me as to how to proceed. There are pros and cons to all options so it's impossible for Penn to really tell me that they favor one over the other.
 

Minnerbelle

Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Apr 2, 2009
5,112
2,627
281
Status
Veterinary Student
Thanks, minnerbelle! Calling was actually the first thing I did, and the woman I spoke with was definitely trying to help me, but she also couldn't really tell me what to do. Ultimately, it is up to me as to how to proceed. There are pros and cons to all options so it's impossible for Penn to really tell me that they favor one over the other.
oh dang that sucks... sorry for the useless advice! well that must also mean that you can't be that bad off if they can't pin-point a disaster that you MUST improve, so that's a good thing right? best of luck! :luck:
 

sumstorm

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 5, 2008
3,331
16
151
NC
Status
Veterinarian
I had a similar tale: 3.39 out of undergrad, some C's and low B's. A decade off pursueing my career in other fields. The difference ma be that I had a lot of animal and vet experience (LA, SA, Zoo, Research.) I took a year to work PT at a vet clinic and go to school FT taking upper level science courses (3.98 that year.) I applied to Penn because it doesnt require retakes (neither does Cornell or Purdue or NCSU.) I only was accepted to NCSU (top choice and IS.)

Can you transfer in the intro bio to make yourself eligible for upper level courses? Retaking won't really help since grades are averaged for calculations. IE if you have a C, get an A, it should average to a B. I think it is just easier to proove you can handle a lot of demands at one time. Also, do you have enough vet experience in enough variations to prove you know the field, understand the limitations, challenges, and problems? If not, that may be something to over come.... experience isn't just for seeing if you like it, but for giving you a clearer view of the field, good and bad (and variety is often necessary in case the field you desire isn't viable when you graduate or years after that.)

I think it will be hard to get clear advice from Penn with your stats. They aren't bad, but there isn't a clear and succinct way to improve your application, and yet it might not be competitive. The only way to really know would be to apply, then ask for a review if you don't get in. They may be able to give you more detail. Also, search for threads on Penn and see what others have been told in their reviews.
 

gracietiger

10+ Year Member
Apr 9, 2009
196
1
0
Status
Pre-Veterinary
Thanks, sumstorm. Great advice.

My animal experience is definitely not as diverse as it needs to be, but I do have about a year and a half in a zoo, 600+ hours SA, 100+ hours spay/neuter clinic, and an itty bitty amount of LA. I've also done a lot of wildlife conservation work in Africa. I can prove that I have been committed to the animal field, but specifically the veterinary field is where it becomes tricky. But, I am okay with taking as much time as I need to get the experience. My feeling is that getting experience is the easy part. And, the truth is, I don't even want to begin vet school without feeling completely confident that I have thoroughly experienced all the various opportunities. Vet school is wayyyy to expensive for me to find out after that I should have known about this, or specialized in that.

It's the schooling that puts me in a bind because, as I am learning, that is HARD to redo.

May I ask, sumstorm, when you wrote your personal statement, did you acknowledge your previously lower grades? Or did you let the fact that you took additional courses later on and did well speak for itself? Also, I assume from your post that you opted not to take retakes of the previously lower scores? Do you, looking back now, think you would have been more competitive to Penn had you retaken them, and as startingovervet believes, pointed out that you had changed and could kill those same courses that you didn't do well in? Do you know if it was because of those grades from long ago that you didn't get accepted into Penn? It sounds like you have a lot of animal and life experience.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights.
 

nyanko

total trash mammal
10+ Year Member
Sep 8, 2006
8,811
3,135
281
CoMo
Status
Resident [Any Field]
May I ask, sumstorm, when you wrote your personal statement, did you acknowledge your previously lower grades?
That is something that goes in the explanation statement. The personal statement should tell a story that highlights your strengths and reasoning for going into vet med.
 

StartingoverVet

Flight Instructor for hire
Lifetime Donor
7+ Year Member
Feb 17, 2010
23,452
7,928
181
Neither here nor there.
Status
Non-Student
I wouldn't worry too much about "diverse" experience. Penn makes it very clear that they think you should mostly have experience in your area of interest which is very different from most of the other vet schools. I only had SA vet and SA animal experience and they didn't even ask me about it in my interview.

This is from the FAQs on their website.

"9) I have heard that I need veterinary experience as part of my application. What kind of experience do I need?

It is important for every applicant to understand the practice of veterinary medicine. Volunteering or working in a veterinary clinic will help you realize there is far more to veterinary medicine than just animals. The kind of practice depends on your interest area. If you are small-animal oriented, then you should work in a small-animal setting. If it is large animal, then your choice should be a large-animal practice. If you are curious, then try both or volunteer at a zoo or a wildlife rescue organization. If research is of interest to you, then get involved in a research project at your college or university. A minimum of 500 hours is recommended."

Also regarding upper level classes they note:
'Although these are the basic prerequisites, in the current competitive market, many applicants have more upper-level biology courses"

I didn't have many upper-level bio courses but made that clear to me that it was considered a weakness!

The only other thing I would say is that it is my impression that Penn relative to other schools seems to really emphasize a diverse student body. No one thing is more important, but it is crucial that you are outstanding in some way. Great grades, great/unusual animal experience, great research, unusual life experiences, etc. If you have that "wow factor," they seem more willingly to overlook some other areas that aren't as great.

Hope that helps.
 

sumstorm

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Apr 5, 2008
3,331
16
151
NC
Status
Veterinarian
That is something that goes in the explanation statement. The personal statement should tell a story that highlights your strengths and reasoning for going into vet med.
And that was the advice everyone gave me, and I personally ignored it, so do so at your own risk.

"Hard work outside of the classroom provided practical learning experiences but did influence my GPA as an undergraduate."

"My recent GPA is 4.0, including upper-level biochemistry..."

My PS still highlighted my strengths. One thing I emphasized was that I am in a position to pursue vet med w/out distraction/financial strife. IF you do it, it has to fit with the overall message; not a big deal, value in the alternative (working), and it won't impact vet med.

The reality is having to work from childhood+ HAS influenced who I am, and there are some good things about that, but I didn't have the same oppurtunities other students did. For me, ignoring that was like hiding an elephant. I decided to include it. I didn't hear anything negative potmortem about it...my PS was one of my strongest aspects.
 

CSU

Dec 15, 2009
134
0
0
Status
Veterinary Student
And that was the advice everyone gave me, and I personally ignored it, so do so at your own risk.

"Hard work outside of the classroom provided practical learning experiences but did influence my GPA as an undergraduate."

"My recent GPA is 4.0, including upper-level biochemistry..."

My PS still highlighted my strengths.

I included a similar comment on mine.