Monday, August 31, 2009

Law student wants to attend pharmacy school

Question: I'll be graduating law school this December and applying for August 2010 admission to pharmacy school. I have a BS in political science, a solid math/science GPA, pharmacy experience, and my wife and several of our friends went to the pharmacy school I'm applying to. My question is this: Will the admissions committee look disfavorably on my going straight from law school to pharmacy school? How do I overcome the impression that I'm a professional student looking to wallpaper my bedroom with degrees?

Answer: I know several JD/PharmsD's and a couple PharmsD/MD's, so I would like to think I have a little perspective on this. When we review applications, we acknowledge when an applicant has an advanced degree and usually give them credit for that which works in your favor.

That being said, certainly one or more members will wonder why you are not practicing law and that will be up to you to explain. I do not believe, and it has not been my experience, that you will be looked upon disfavorably by the committee for choosing a non-traditional path. Ultimately, your statement and interview should adequately minimize any thoughts about "wallpapering".

Use your statement to explain your desire to become a pharmacist. The experience that you have gained can be used to your advantage and should reinforce your professional pursuit of a pharmacy degree and career. Last year I interviewed an MD who decided he no longer wanted to be a physician, but instead wanted to practice pharmacy. He was articulate in expressing his wishes and he is now a first year pharmacy student. Given the background that you have shared with me, I suspect you will do a more than adequate job in explaining your career goals and the process by which you have arrived at this point.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can a co-worker write an LOR for me?

Question: As far as I can telll, schools don't like a LOR from co-workers. But since I have real work experience, can I ask my ex-manager who knows me for 7 years to write a LOR for me ?

Ansswer: Absolutely, you can have your ex-manager write you an LOR. What you should not do is have a "peer" write you a letter of recommendation. If you work as a pharmacy tech, do not ask another pharmacy tech for a letter of recommendation. If this example, you would need to have an LOR from the pharmacist. Every year I see letters written by "co-workers" and the committee typically frowns on this. Letters should come from superiors or those you report directly to.

Depending on the relationship with your ex-manager, I would strongly suggest that he/she indicate the responsibilities you had as an employee and describe your character and work ethic. Certainly, the letter should focus on your work relationship and nothing since the time he/she stopped being your manager (ie, friendship, etc).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Community College question regarding course loads

Question: For the last two years, I've been working and going to school part-time. I've been taking 2 pre-pharmacy classes per semester at a community college. Does pharmacy school look down upon this? Should I quit work and attend school full-time?

Answer: We addressed a question similar to this on the blog a while back - see link:

I know a number of committee members like to see what an applicant can do with a full, rigorous courseload, but that doesn't mean your approach won't be successful in gaining admittance to pharmacy school. Certainly, some believe that if an applicant is able to work full time and take courses toward applying to pharmacy school at the same time, that would be an adequate predictor of success in pharmacy school.

It would probably be helpful to mention how driven you have been to succeed while working and attending community college on a part time basis. It might also be comforting to a committee if you tell that that once in pharmacy school, you will devote all of your attention to your coursework and consider that your full time job.

Good luck.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This would have killed an elephant... or Michael Jackson

This is unrelated to pharmacy school admissions, but did you see the story on what killed Michael Jackson? Not to make light of a fantastic entertainer's death, but he must have had an amazing tolerance built up to medications.

On the morning Jackson died, Murray tried to induce sleep without using propofol, according to the affidavit. He said he gave Jackson valium at 1:30 a.m. When that didn't work, he said, he injected lorazepam intravenously at 2a.m. At 3 a.m., when Jackson was still awake, Murray administered midazolam.

Over the next few hours, Murray said he gave Jackson various drugs. Then at 10:40 a.m., Murray administered 25 milligrams of propofol after Jackson repeatedly demanded the drug, according to the court records.

WOW! Read the full story from the LA Times:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Question about electives and upper division courses

Question: Hi I am an undergraduate Biology student and want to attend Pharmacy School after I finish my BS. I was wondering if you recommend taking Biochemistry and Microbiology along with all of the pre-pharmacy requirements or are there other upper division electives that I should take instead? Thank you.

Answer: If your plan is to complete your BS Biology prior to applying to pharmacy school, I would imagine that you will be required to take Biochem and Micro as part of your required coursework to complete your degree. Is that correct? Certainly having completed rigorous courses such as those mentioned would be beneficial (if you do well in them) when an admissions committee is reviewing your file.

I suspect that during your first year of pharmacy school you would be required you to take Biochem and Micro, so you would be well ahead of the curve in those classes. I don't know anything about your current academic path, but it would be very acceptable for you to apply prior to earning your BS if you wanted to. Many students do exactly that. Applying after the second year of undergraduate studies is common. If you aren't accepted at that time, you can complete your BS and try again two year later.

If you elect to complete your BS first, any advanced math or science courses will be looked upon favoravbly by a committee. However, be intelligent in your choices and make sure that you can be successful in the classes chosen. Better to not register for a class than to drop it half way through because it is too time consuming, difficult, or unintertesting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

PCAT - Augst 22, 2009.... Thoughts and Reactions

For those who took the PCAT today, please share your thoughts on the exam. How did you prepare? What would you have done differently? All insight is appreciated.

I hope to finish up the remaining personal statements this weekend, so please don't think that I have forgotten to respond to your emails and questions. I will get back to everyone asap.

Thank you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Personal Statement - reviews

As the school year begins anew, we now have less free time to review the number of personal statements that we were able to over the summer months. Thank you to everyone who has sent us statements. We hope to catch up and provide you with feedback in the next couple of days.

As mentioned earlier, we will begin to shift the direction of the blog to interview preparation. Hopefully, we can have our first online web discussion in September. There are so many things we hope to do, but we want to make this a useful site for those who visit. If there is a topic that you would like to have addressed, please email us -

Again, thank you for visiting the blog. Please click on the link to the right to "follow" us. You won't receive any spam emails or be signed up for anything by doing so. It is our hope to have 100 followers and we would hope that those applicants who had their statements reviewed (300+ of them) would grant us that request.

Please send this link to everyone you know. Stay tuned!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

PCAT August 22, 2009 - Advice, Questions, Comments

Good luck to everyone taking the PCAT this weekend. If you have taken the exam previously, please use the comments section below to offer any advice. If this is the first time you are taking the PCAT and you have questions that keep you up at night, please post them below and the many readers of this blog can help ease your concerns.

Please provide as much information in your questions and answers as possible.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First week of Pharmacy School

Hello all,

Sorry this posting is kind of late. Got caught up in some last minute items to do this past weekend so I am posting this today Tuesday August 18th 2009 for my experiences from last week (first week of pharmacy school).

Well initially it was overwhelming as I knew no one and the amount of workload we were notified that we would receive was scary. As we progressed as a class throughout the week, I realized what the administration was talking about during Orientation. We went over 1-2 chapters in the first week! Already there is an exam coming up soon and this is quite a daunting task of learning and keeping everything in mind. One must manage their time well otherwise they will not know where it went and the next lecture day comes and it would seem as if a storm of information has hailed upon you.

Nevertheless, I seemed to have handled it well the first week and made some new friends. Surprising to see how many people have come from different regions of the state and out of state. Professors are definitely top notch and deliver the information in a manner which we can process and understand it but now the practical part of Pharmacy is greatly in play. Of course initially they are teaching us the theory aspect of how to carry yourself in certain situations but in the weeks to come, we will be put to the test.

This first week was a complete review and also many new things as well but the number 1 thing I am taking away from this first week is the willingness and the unity between the students in aiding each other to succeed in the classroom. No one refuses to form a study group with other individuals and everyone is willing to help. This is directly the opposite of undergraduate school. It’s a new and completely refreshing atmosphere that anyone who has the prospect of becoming a Pharmacist would enjoy.


I need to write my own LOR

Question: I have a question about how to write a letter of recommendation, for myself unfortunately. I've known the pharmacist for a year and a half and have asked him questions and concerns that I've had with college many time. In a way I'm like his mentor, I asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me, but he doesn't have much time to so he said he'd sign off on it if I wrote it myself.

My major concern as I was writing it was that I didn't know what to really say about myself from his perspective. What are some good, not overly fictitious things I can talk about? Since I've only physically seen him a few times there isn't much their, he lives on the west coast and I live on the east. Suggestions on things I could talk about would be immensely appreciated.

Answer: Thanks for your email. I really cannot advise you on your question of how to best misrepresent yourself in this situation. In fact, it makes me a bit uncomfortable to be honest. What you are asking is for advice on how best to lie. While I have seen this done and have even confronted one applicant for what was obviously a "self LOR", I would recommend against submitting such an LOR to PharmCas for a variety of reasons.

I am not a philosophical person, but I'm sure the great minds would ask if you are willing to misrepresent yourself on this occasion to better your chances, what might you be willing to do as a professional for personal gain. It's a slippery slope and one that I'm sure many have traversed. I would advise you from doing so.

I know this is not the advice you hoped for, but I would be uncomfortable offering anything else.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dear Pre-Pharmacy Clubs and Organizations...

First of all, thank you to the many university and community college students who belong to pre-pharmacy clubs and organizations. Many of you have been very helpful in distributing information from our blog to others in your group and we appreciate it. Someone informed us that the pre-pharmacy group from Hawaii-Hilo has a link to our blog on their facebook page: which I thought was kind of neat.

If you belong to a pre-pharmacy organization at your school, please forward the blog link to others in your group. We will help as many students as time permits. And this service is free, so what more can you ask for? :)

If you have an organization website or facebook/myspace page, please add a link to us. The greater participation, the more valuable a resource we can be for each other. Thank you!

PCAT score - review

Question: Hi I had just stumbled upon your blog today, and am so grateful. With all the pre-pharm students you have helped I was hoping to get some advice in regards to my situation. I am planning to apply for the upcoming 2010 fall semester, but I don't feel confident in what I have to offer. I recently graduated, took the PCAT August 2008, have a decent GPA and just applied at CVS.

Verbal Ability 81
Biology 94
Reading Comprehension 40
Quantitative Ability 67
Chemistry 86
Composite 82

GPA: 3.27 not including Orgo II that I just took.
Organic Chemistry II with Lab : A (5.0 hrs)

I am scheduled to retake the PCAT in October. But I am assuming that I'll need great recommendations accompanied with an amazing personal statement to get into any school or to even be considered. I need advice as to how I can increase my chances for acceptance? Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Answer: I encourage you to review some of the previous blog entries as your stats are in line (or better) than some. A week or so ago, one of our applicants was admitted with a PCAT around 50 (see link and follow through link in blog entry so I wouldn't be too concerned in your situation.

Not knowing where you plan to apply, I would say you have a pretty good chance of being granted an interview with an 82 composite. Of course, LORs and your statement are critical elements, but your PCAT and GPA are acceptable for many schools. Improving your reading score will help, but might not be necessary with the very strong Bio and Chem scores you earned.

During the interview process is where you will need to be on the top of your game and sell yourself to the institution. If you can make even a slight improvement to your Reading and Composite PCAT scores, you will be in decent shape if you are applying to multiple schools with admissions stats similar to yours.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Question about University of Southern Nevada

Question: I am pretty open to moving any school anywhere in the United States that will admit me. My test scores and GPA are pretty average, so I was researching schools that admit student with credentials similar to mine. I haven't been in school for several years, but want to try pharmacy school (I have a chemistry degree).

Are you familiar with the University of Southern Nevada? I was reading through their website and found this interesting, "The Admissions Office will rank applicants using a formula based on their Interview Selection, actual Interview, and PCAT scores. Letters of recommendation, pharmacy experience, a BS/BA degree and Nevada or Utah residency are NOT required to apply." Plus, they offer academic forgiveness which will help my GPA big time.

So, if I've got this straight - no LORs, no experience and they'll make my poor grades disappear? I'm a shoo-in, right?

Answer: I will first state that I did not attend and have never been employed by the University of Southern Nevada School of Pharmacy. I have no affiliation with the school. I believe there is a link among the ads on the side of the page or under this blog entry for the USN School of Pharmacy, so you can click the link if you want more information from them directly.

To your question: I find it a bit interesting that the school publicizes the fact that "Letters of Recommendation are not required and are not accepted". I am not judging their admission process, but I learn quite a bit about applicants by reading what others have to say about them. I don't know why they won't accept LORs.

In your case, the academic forgiveness sounds like it could help quite a bit. Please read the fine print, however, that all prereqs must be taken within the last 5 years. It also appears that there are actually two campuses (one in Nevada and another in Utah) with a total number of admitted students > 200. Their website says they received more than 1500 applications, so quite a few people might think the way that you do. Nevertheless, it would certainly be worth sending your PCAT score to them and let the chips fall where they may. Good luck.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wouldn't it make more sense to give RP's some prescriptive authority?

I just read this article from the Wall Street Journal detailing insurance companies wanting their plan participants to have an online consultation with a doctor rather than going to an office to be seen. By filling in the blanks on a form, the doctor will let you know within 24 hours what you should do. OMG - are you serious?

In what Atlanta-based RelayHealth calls a webVisit, patients answer detailed
written questions about their symptoms and a report is sent to the doctor. The
physician then responds within 24 hours through the site with follow-up
questions, a suggested treatment, a prescription or a request to see the patient
in person.

Wouldn't we as a health care system be better served by allowing the most accessible health care professionals (ahem, pharmacists) to treat minor ailments? If you have strep throat, do you really want to be told to fill out the form online and you'll hear back in 24 hrs? Why couldn't the RP have the precriptive authority to dispense some Pen VK and get the patient back to health? It would sure save everyone a lot of time and money. It irritates me that pharmacist advocate groups and associations have not been more proactive in legislative matters pointing out to insurance companies and lawmakers that pharmacists are knowledgeable and can be a resource for treatment of certain issues.

Keep this in mind as you complete your schooling and make a conscious effort to become involved and change the way things are done.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Alternative Medicine

Question: I am interested in studying alternative medicine to SUPPLEMENT my pharmacy education, NOT substitute. On a forum, I asked whether mentioning this plan was wise, and I was met with much negative criticism. Everyone told me if I wanted to do this, I should pursue this alternative as my career instead of pharmacy.

I was wondering, whether this was a bad thing to mention in my personal statement?

Answer: Every year we have a few applicants who indicate in their personal statement that they have an interest in alternative medicine. I find it interesting that you say others have told you not to mention this because I do know some reviewers who have a somewhat cynical view of such therapies. Inevitably, one committe member will make a comment that the applicant should go and work at the "health food store" instead of pursuing pharmacy school. So, I think there still may be some negative views of "alternative medicine". Alternatively, I know of one professor who is actively involved in research with such therapies and might view your interest as a plus.

I think if you can address your interest in alternative medicine appropriately and not focus on it as your primary goal for attending pharmacy school (which you indicate it will not be), it shows an interest beyond traditional medicine and you wouldn't be penalized for it.

When in doubt, be true to yourself and what you want the committee to know about what kind of pharmacist you will be. If alternative medicine is interesting to you, mentioning it will help the committee know you a bit better and give you a more complete review of your application.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How to address goals in a personal statement

Question: Upon graduating from pharmacy school, I plan on teaming with my parents to figure out how to open a pharmacy in my father's African village. While starting up the business abroad, I would still pursue my career in America. Details and planning are still very vague at the moment but my question is: Would something like this be a good goal to include in my personal statement for pharmacy school admission?

Answer: Thanks for your email. I have read about intentions similar to yours in personal statements before. I think it is an altruistic goal and worth mentioning, however, I would probably make it a secondary endpoint. That is, you want to be a pharmacist (first and foremost) to help people and you also have the goal of building a pharmacy in the African village. I think most committee members would see that as a positive. If nothing else, it does show your character and your desire to contribute to society.

Good luck.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New contributor added

Many of you responded with emails and comments regarding the blog entry detailing the admission of a student whose email question appeared on our blog. I asked him to tell you what the first week or two of pharmacy school is like and he accepted our offer.

I requested that he give you whatever information he feels might be useful to prospective pharmacy students. I hope that you will offer your comments and questions for him and the rest of the group, thereby enabling a particpatory forum.

Thank you!

Success!!! Welcome to the Profession!

Comment: We received a nice email from an individual who was accepted into pharmacy school this week for classes beginning Fall 2009!! See his original email and our response.


This is a great case study that should teach you a couple of things:
a) Being waitlisted doesn't mean you won't be admitted - even up until the last day of orientation
b) You can overcome a poor (or marginal) PCAT score with strong letters of recommendation and a good interview
c) Even in cases where I (or others) tell you that your chances are remote, good things can still happen


Hello Admissions,
I got into pharmacy school for this Fall 2009 at ______ :)

Today was last day as orientation was today. Today has definitely been an exhausting day. Can't wait till the white coat ceremony!

You know they always said there is always that one person who was selected right dead in the end but I shrugged it off and just thought well they just want us to feel better. I never knew it was going to happen...let alone to me!

I definitely learned something valuable today...Production, Persistence, and Patience are the 3 P's of Pharmacy school admissions.

I hope to keep in touch with you and perhaps if any student is in need of any aid, I can be of service.

Appreciate all of your input.