Veterinary schools look for three different kinds of experience when reviewing applicants: animal, veterinary, and research. You should keep a detailed journal of your activities to refer to when completing your VMCAS application. Record the dates and times of your experience, the types of activities you performed, which kind of experience it was, and the contact information of your supervisor. For when it comes to writing personal essays, it may also be helpful to include information on why you chose each experience and what you learned from the activities.

  • Animal Experience is any opportunity that allows you to gain hands-on experience in working with animals. This may include shadowing, working at a zoo or kennel, or volunteering at a farm or humane society. This does not include family pets.
  • Veterinary Experience includes opportunities where you worked with animals under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
  • Research Experience can be gained through animal/veterinary studies or any other field or lab-based research.


Shadowing a veterinarian involves following the doctor during their everyday tasks and observing how they interact with their clients, patients, and veterinary team. If you are still deciding whether pre-vet is the right path for you, shadowing is a great introduction to the reality of veterinary medicine.

Research and reach out to local veterinary practices. This may include small and large animal clinics, zoos and aquariums, research facilities, or even government workplaces. Shadowing a range of veterinarians may help you to discover unexpected interests within the profession and to better understand the wide scope of veterinary medicine.

Internships & Externships

When looking for a pre-veterinary internship or externship, research opportunities in your area. Carleton’s Career Center offers help with finding and funding these experiences and with completing any required application materials (resume, cover letters, and application forms). Often, it is easiest to find an internship with veterinary programs and clinics in which you have already shadowed or otherwise have a relationship with. Reaching out to veterinary alumni is also a great way to network and discover internship and externship opportunities.

To learn more about how Carleton can fund your experiences, reach out to the Career Center or visit their website.

On-Campus Opportunities

Research (+ Animal experience)

  • Student Researcher → There are many opportunities to get involved in research at Carleton, and participating in any student-faculty lab will help you to gain invaluable researching experience. However, many of the laboratories in the Psychology and Biology Departments work with animals, allowing you to log both animal and research experience hours. Explore what Psychology and Biology faculty members are studying!

Animal Experience

  • Animal Care Worker → may include working with the pigeons, rats, and mice in the Psychology Animal Colony and/or taking care of laboratory animals in the Biology Department. Jobs openings vary by term and academic year.

Close-to-Campus Opportunities

Veterinary Experience

  • Cannon Valley Veterinary Clinic → small animal practice shadowing opportunity located in Northfield
  • Countryside Animal Hospital → small animal practice shadowing opportunity located in Dundas

Animal Experience

  • Prairie’s Edge Humane Society → animal shelter volunteer opportunity located in Northfield, MN

*Opportunities to experience large animal, wildlife, and exotic medicine are available outside of Carleton’s transportation services. Contact CCCE or the Career Center if you plan to volunteer or shadow a practice farther from campus and need help finding transportation.