Apply Smarter to Veterinary School

What is Apply Smarter?

Narrow your target list of schools. Only apply to veterinary schools where you can attend at the lowest cost possible. Your future Dr. Self will thank you!

Veterinary school is expensive. A veterinary degree can cost as much as a medical school degree and more than the average U.S. home mortgage.  However, veterinary new graduate starting salaries are about 1/2 to 1/3 of a new physician’s income.

You might be focused right now on just getting into veterinary school, but choosing a school without thinking about the price can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To save yourself heartache and years of financial stress, commit to applying smarter. To date, no study shows that your income as a veterinarian increases because of the school you attend or the amount you pay for your education.  Thus, there is no “Harvard effect” for veterinarians.

How Do I Apply Smarter?

Make cost an important part of your application process by choosing to apply to only the schools where you will be eligible for one of the least expensive seats.

According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) 2023-2024 Annual Data Report, the least expensive first-year discounted tuition seat (in-state resident seat) for veterinary students starting in Fall 2023 (graduating 2027) was about $18,904 (University of Georgia).

The priciest first-year non-discounted tuition (out-of-state, non-resident seat) was about $74,352 (Ohio State University). You can expect to receive a great veterinary education at any of the AVMA COE accredited veterinary schools.

You do not have to pay $50,000+ more per year to receive the same education, degree, and career opportunities as your in-state resident colleagues.

Borrowing for veterinary school is different from borrowing for undergraduate education.

Veterinary school is considered graduate/professional school. There are virtually no student loan limits. You’re allowed to borrow much more, but interest rates and fees are much higher than loans for undergraduates. Interest alone can add $20,000 – $40,000 or more to your veterinary school costs. The less you borrow, the lower your interest.

New veterinarians with less debt to manage have a head start. A lighter loan burden means more financial flexibility and possibilities after graduation. With less debt, you can more easily pursue an internship or residency, or take a new job in your dream location without worrying as much about being able to pay your loans. Yes, your vet school experience is important, but the rest-of-your-life experience is even more so!

What can we learn from the most recent survey of veterinary school applicants?

Data presented by Dr. Lisa Greenhill of AAVMC during the 2018 AVMA Economic Conference showed most veterinary students apply to five colleges of veterinary medicine.  But most students don’t worry about cost until they have an offer of admission.


When faced with the choice, your desire to be a veterinary student will likely prevail over your concern for cost consequences when you have a letter of acceptance in hand. Make cost an important part of your application process by choosing to apply to only the schools where you will be eligible for one of the least expensive seats.


First, you don’t get to choose how much you can pay towards your student loans after you graduate. Under traditional repayment plans, the monthly payment will be based on the amount you borrowed, the interest rate(s), and the time to pay the balance to zero. For example, a $260,000 home mortgage at 4% with a 30 year repayment period would require a monthly payment of $1,241 to pay the balance to zero.

The Veterinary class of 2022 told AAVMC they were willing to pay about $1,200/mo to service their veterinary school debt.

In order to eliminate your student loan balance in 10 years (the default repayment timeframe for federal student loans) at an average interest rate of 6% paying $1,200/mo, you would need to borrow less than $108,000. 

Wherever you live or whichever school you attend, it will be nearly impossible to obtain a veterinary education for $108,000. 

Use the VIN Foundation Cost of Education Toolkit to see what schools allow you to come closest to $108,000 total for your veterinary education.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to apply smarter

Come as close as you can to a student loan balance that can be repaid in 10 years using no more than 10-15% of your veterinary income by choosing the least costly in-state school and minimizing your living expenses. That will reduce the amount you’ll need to borrow and the interest that will accrue while you complete your veterinary education.

To apply more financial perspective, in order to limit your $1,200/mo student loan payment to 10% of your income, you would need to earn $144,000/year after you graduate. The 2023 graduating class (excluding those pursuing internships and residencies) reported an average income of about $125,00 per year. Paying $1,200/mo with an average veterinarian starting salary would require 12% of your gross monthly income (and that’s before all those taxes come out of your paycheck).


The average student debt balance reported by 2023 veterinary graduates with student loans was about $189,000. In order to pay back that amount over 10 years at a 6.5% interest rate, your monthly payment would be $2,146/mo.

That’s 79% more than what most applicants say they are willing to pay and nearly 21% of the average gross monthly income for 2023 veterinary graduates. Remember, you need to keep in mind that you will have to pay taxes and other living expenses beyond your student loan payment after you graduate.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that single person households for those ranging in age from 25-34, spend roughly 80% of their household expenses on Housing, Food, Transportation, and Healthcare.  That does not leave a lot of room for loan repayment, let alone important things like emergency savings and retirement planning. Not to mention clothing, entertainment, and other general living expenses. This is why most veterinary school graduates need to utilize Income-Driven Repayment — an alternative repayment method that ties your repayment to a percentage of your income — to manage their veterinary school loans while balancing their budgets.

Do your future budget a favor; prioritize schools where you can apply for discounted tuition, such as the school(s) that have contracts for you to attend at the state resident rate. Fortunately, the acceptance statistics show that your best chance of getting into a veterinary school is at your state of residence school.

Some schools allow you to switch state residency status after your first year so you can obtain discounted tuition starting in year two of veterinary school: North Carolina State, Ohio State, Missouri, UC-Davis, and Washington State universities. This can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition, living expenses, and interest.

Target schools where you can attend at the lowest cost possible. Your future Dr. Self will thank you!

Avoid applying to schools where you would pay full non-discounted tuition, particularly if you are planning to pay for your veterinary education with student loans. The more you borrow, the more interest you will accrue, and the more you’ll end up paying back.

Consider moving to a state ahead of time to establish residency and apply for a discounted seat. Even if this prolongs your application by a year, the cost savings and financial flexibility can be well worth it.

Cost matters. Prioritize schools with the lowest total cost of attendance, make sure you’re borrowing as little as possible to cover your veterinary education and focus on skills to help you increase your earning potential as a veterinarian.

Apply Smarter!

Tools to Apply Smarter?

Apply Smarter Webinar Recording

Watch the recording below of the recent Apply Smarter webinar from the VIN Foundation. In this video Rebecca Mears, DVM shows how to Apply Smarter to veterinary school, increase chances of acceptance, and save time & money! We welcome any feedback.

Apply Smarter Checklist

All this information can be overwhelming. The Apply Smarter Checklist provides a clear outline of seven steps to help pre-veterinary students Apply Smarter to veterinary school.

Apply Smarter Prezi

Review the Apply Smarter presentation materials including clickable links to the resources referenced in the presentation. Think of this as the “slide deck” that you can click through and review at your own leisure as a quick summary of the webinar.

Apply Smarter Message Boards

The Apply Smarter Message Board is a helpful forum where pre-veterinary students can discuss applying to veterinary school with veterinarians, veterinary students, and fellow pre-veterinary students. Have questions about a certain school? Perhaps you’re pondering the financial side of the process? Or maybe you’re already accepted — congratulations! — and wondering what the next best steps are. You even have the ability to post your questions anonymously in this area!

Apply Smarter Overview Blog Post

Explore the Apply Smarter blog post to learn more information and additional tips on applying smarter to veterinary school.