Scholarships for Animal Lovers Abound

Aspiring and current veterinary school students should check out these options for free money.

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Through the unique Pet Life program at Florida’s Eckerd College, students don’t have to leave beloved companions at home when they move onto campus.

If you, like Dr. Doolittle, have always loved to "talk to the animals," and you want to turn that love for animals into a lifelong career, your heart may be set on becoming a veterinarian. Of course, going to vet school takes a lot of hard work and determination, not to mention a lot of money. The last thing you want while you're cramming for a test on the endocrine systems of birds is to worry about how you're going to pay for the next several years of school.

Thankfully, scholarships for aspiring veterinarians can help offset the cost of vet school, so you can worry about getting Fido back on his feet again—and not your mounting student loan debt.

[Get more tips on paying for college.]

Do you attend a veterinary school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)? The American Veterinary Medical Foundation awards scholarships to current first-, second- and third-year students attending an AVMA accredited college of veterinary medicine, and selects winners based on academic excellence, dedication to their chosen career path, and financial need. To apply, visit the website this coming February.

If you love dogs—specifically the purebred kind—we suggest you look into scholarships sponsored by The American Kennel Club, which has scholarship programs rewarding both undergrads and veterinarian students for involvement in the AKC and an interest in purebred dogs.

Over a decade ago, the AKC established its Veterinary Student Scholarship Program, which supports future veterinary practitioners and researchers through scholarship awards. Scholarship recipients are selected based on academic achievement, activities with purebred dogs or related research, and financial need.

Every January, the AKC sends out scholarship application materials to veterinary schools across the country. Though the AKC requests that schools nominate up to four candidates, and individuals cannot apply on their own, we suggest you speak with your veterinary school's financial aid office to inform them that you are interested in being nominated. Schools must submit their nominations in May.

[Learn about scholarships for atypical students.]

Alternatively, if you're just entering a four-year college or university, or are currently reenrolled as an undergraduate, and if you participate in American Kennel Club events either as a Junior member, a volunteer, or through your 4-H group, we recommend you apply for the AKC's Junior Showmanship Scholarship. Applicants are selected based on financial need, academic achievement, and involvement in the American Kennel Club. Apply by February 15 if you're hoping for a scholarship for the 2013-2014 school year.

If your passion lies closer to the equine family, don't miss applying for the Winner's Circle Scholarship, which is presented by the Race for Education, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), and Platinum Performance. The scholarship is designed to encourage and support veterinary students who intend to enter equine veterinary medicine, as well as reward leadership and participation in the AAEP's student chapters. This scholarship is for students who are in their fourth year of veterinary school, so if you meet all the above criteria, we encourage you to apply.

Finally, as always, we encourage you to visit your school's financial aid office. Many scholarships for aspiring veterinarians are school-specific, which means the competition may be less fierce—and the money may be more abundant.

Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Corrected 1/14/13: A previous version of this post misidentified the American Veterinary Medical Association.