Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things to avoid saying....

Here are a couple of statement fragments that I strongly suggested the applicants change or remove:

1) In this case, the applicant had been working in a pharmacy, but decided to stop for the summer and waitress instead to earn additional income:
Life is about choices and their consequences. Hopefully my choice to waitress rather than work in the pharmacy this summer will be viewed as a chance to refine my social and communication skills with people from all walks of life.

Admissions: I would avoid mentioning your choice to waitress rather than working in the pharmacy. You can write about your pharmacy experience in your personal statement without any reference to your decision this past summer. It simply isn't necessary to point this out and it will probably give the committee a reason to doubt your commitment to pharmacy. Make the reviewer focus on what you have (pharmacy experience) rather than pointing out what I would consider to be a questionable choice. Simply state you have pharmacy experience and leave it at at that.

2) In this case, the applicant is trying to make the point that pharmacists are an important part of the health care team. I disagreed with the method in which it was conveyed.
After a visit to the doctor, the next step is to visit the local pharmacy to get the required medication necessary to get you well. Initially, you would think that the person behind the counter handing you your pills has a pretty simple job. However, the responsibilities and duties of a Pharmacist are vital to the health of an ill individual.

Admissions: This comment caused me some heartburn on the applicant's behalf: "Initially, you would think that the person behind the counter handing you your pills has a pretty simple job."

Please remember your audience. Some of the readers of this statement (referred to as "you") are very likely pharmacists and probably do not think this your statement is accurate. Some might even be offended at the inference. From time to time we will read a statement that makes a sweeping generalization that sinks like a lead balloon. Why a pharmacy school applicant would use an example implying that the public thinks poorly of the profession of pharmacy is beside me. I strongly recommended changing this paragraph. The message can be conveyed without the aforementioned sentence.

Thanks again to everyone. We will try to post as often as we can as the October PCAT beckons and interview season begins.

Thank you!

We wanted to take a moment to express our thanks to everyone for reading the blog. Yesterday, we had over 700 different visitors check the website - a new record. As mentioned, we don't make any money by doing this, other than a few pennies when somone clicks on an ad. We do this because we like to help.

In the 6 months since we have started posting blog entries, reviewing statements, and answering questions via email, we have met a lot of really great people and think that we have been able to provide some much needed assistance to prospective applicants.

We hope that you have found the blog to be useful. If you have, please "follow" the blog by clicking on the right hand side of the page. We also hope that you will tell your friends, classmates, co-workers, colleagues, and any pharmacy organizations you belong to.

Please keep the questions, emails, and comments coming in.

Thanks again.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Question about accelerated programs

Question: I just applied to Massachusetts college of Pharmacy and Health Sciences- Boston. I am trying to get into their 2 year programme after which i will start my 3 year ( First Professional Year ) because they dont require the PCAT. do you know anything about it and is it a good move for me or i should just stay at my current school and finish all the required classes and take the PCAT.

Answer: I think an accelerated program fits some students well, however, it does require an adjustment in the scheduling mindset. It's not for everyone. Mature students probably do a bit better, in my opinion.

If you have already applied, I suspect you have all of the information on the program so I'm not sure what more I can tell you. Certainly, you could stay at your current school if not admitted and reapply to other institution. In the latter case, taking the PCAT would probably be necessary.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Studying, studying....

Hello! I am down to my final three weeks of studying before the Oct. 17th PCAT. Since I didn't do well on the bio and chem sections the first time around, I have only been studying these two areas. Last Saturday I spent time shadowing a pharmacist who also happens to be someone I have asked for an LOR. I do work part-time in a retail pharmacy, but it was a good experience for me to shadow a pharmacist in a different setting. She is a pharmacist in a student health center on a college campus. I have had a professional relationship with this pharmacist for years through my job as a pharmaceutical representative. The shadowing was helpful in that I was able to see the differences between her position and what I see in the retail setting, and also for her to have more time with me so she is able to write a more detailed LOR. She was able to ask me a lot of questions about my motivations for pharmacy school, my interests, my volunteer background, etc.

Although I am busy studying for the PCAT, I've also been continuing to fine tune my personal statement. I've found it's very helpful to write a bit, walk away for a few days, come back and fine tune some more. It's very beneficial to have several people read what I've written to make sure I'm on track with getting my point across and for grammatical errors. Admissions initially reviewed my statement which gave me an excellent start to fine tuning even more.

I hope everyone who is preparing for this next PCAT is having success!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Should I retake the PCAT?

Question: I received my August PCAT today:
Verbal: 53%Biology: 80%Reading Comprehension: 21%Quantitative Ability: 91%Chemistry: 81%Writing: 2, 2Composite: 71%

I am shocked to see that my reading comprehension and verbal scores are that low. Although English is my second language, I've been in the US for 13 years now. What do you think about the 71% composite score and should I re-take it in October? But if I take it in October, my application won't be complete until November until the schools receive it (I'm applying to some rolling admission schools)...What should I do??? Thank you!

Answer: This is a tricky one. If you had scored 71 in each category, I wouldn't be as concerned with a composite of 71. However, having one very low score (21 on PCAT Reading) won't help you. Plus, scoring a 2 on the writing doesn't minimize any concerns. On the blog previously, we did address how to handle one deceptively low PCATsub-category score. You might review some of the earlier posts.

I would make the argument that if your statement is well written (which is a must in this case), you could try to persuade a committee that the test does not accurately reflect your abilities. Certainly, in an interview setting, I would imagine that an interviewer would pay particular attention to your communication skills.

In short, yes I would retake the PCAT. I would focus on thereading/verbal areas. Work on pre-tests and study guides. You have taken the test once and now have an idea what to expect. I would anticipate improvement in your second attempt.

Good luck.

What are my chances? Review of PCAT scores

Question: Hi I am 30 years old, and I attended a Health and Engineering High School on the Pharmacy track. I did not go into college right after graduation due to military plans. I had a child and those to were put on hold. I started working in a pharmacy in 2003 while I worked on my Associate's in Pharmacy technology. Through all of my experience working in different areas I have decided on being either an IV Pharmacist or a compounding Pharmacist as I feel those are the two areas I excel at.

Finances and just generally being afraid of rejection I have not applied for pharmacy school. I work full-time, and I am a single mother who is also working on a chemistry degree as a back-up plan. Through all of this I have managed to keep my grades decent, my current gpa is a 3.167. I Clepped my General Biology classes, Gen Chem 1: B, Gen Chem 2: A, Org 1: C, the lab: B+, Org 2: B, the lab: A, Both Physics were C's. Now on to my PCAT. I took it in 2006 before I had any organic, physics, calculus, etc. Verbal: 86, Bio: 60, Reading: 37, Quant: 42, Chem: 35 with a composite of 53.

I have 8 schools both public and private that I would like to apply to on the east coast. Do I have a chance of being accepted at any of them? I was thinking of pushing myself and making a dash to try and take the October PCAT and score higher, now that I have had those classes.

Answer: I think your chances of acceptance are probably remote because of the low PCAT Quant and Chem scores. However, you indicated that the PCAT was taken before some pretty important courses were completed, so there is no doubt that retaking the PCAT should help you out. Minimally, you would want all of your PCAT sub-category scores > 50.

I would encourage you to retake the PCAT at the earliest time (Oct) and get all of your LORs and statement completed. If your scores improve, I don't see why you wouldn't have a decent chance. I wasn't sure if you ever applied back in 2006-07 when you originally took the PCAT or not. Nevertheless, if at first you don't succeed.....

Let us know if you have any other questions. Please consider following the blog by clicking on the right hand side of the page and passing the link on to anyone else you know who might be interested.

Should I discuss a medical condition in my statement?

Question: My situation is very uncommon. Several years ago I was diagnosed with a rare, but serious disease. Basically, the doctor removed one of my lymp nodes under my neck.

After being sick, I recognize that healthcare is my biggest interest, so I decide to go to a pharmacy school or medical school, I almost finished my major in business as well as prereq for scicence classes. I am not concern about GPA because I do good in science classes and business classes.

However, my question is: could I include "my medical story" in my personal statement? I am afraid of committes will think that I am not able to do well in healthcare field due to my history sickness ....!?! As a committe member, can you give me a right way to write my personal statement?...

Answer: If your illness had an impact on your career goals, you would be wise to share it. The opening paragraph could briefly explain your illness and how you overcame it. Any information that you are willing to share with the committee will be helpful to you, particularly if it played a role in your desire to become a pharmacist.

This example is much different than the applicant who asked if she should indentify her depression and text anxiety, in my opinion. I stress, this is my opinion. Nonetheless, I would encourage you to use your life story as it certainly appears to have affected your desire to become a pharmacist.

Good luck.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Question about prerequisites

Question: I've been seeing many schools require anatomy and/or physiology, microbiology with lab, and human anatomy. I have taken Mammalian Physiology, but are there strict differences between say human anatomy and regular anatomy? It is hard for me to know because I have learned about human body systems in classes that were NOT called anatomy/physiology, some of those classes were called "Biology I and II".

Answer: Unfortunately, I really cannot answer your question. IEvery school is different. I suggest you contact the schools where you plan to apply directly and ask them if the courses you have taken fulfill their prerequisites.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What are my chances - application review

Question: Hi, I just happened to stumble across this blog randomly, and it's probably the best resource I could have found for my own journey to pharm school!

I hope you can give me a little bit of help too! I'm currently a new undergrad junior/senior (I don't really know at this point, it's confusing) who will receive a BA in Chemistry in Spring 2010. Now, I started out right out of high school at the local community college since I didn't know what else to do. I switched majors a few times, and just couldn't focus or make up my mind. I didn't take it very seriously, and my GPA shows it.

So, several years later with a made-up mind for Pharmacy, and I'm already moved here with hopes of being admitted to the PharmD program for Fall 2010. I'm sure submitting my application now would be better to get it in as early as possible, but I really can't submit it yet. I'm currently in the process of being hired to volunteer at a hospital in the pharmacy (I have no prior experience), so I have no pharmacist as of yet to write me a LOR. Since I'm new at the school, I don't know the professors too well yet, so I'm waiting until at least a few more weeks in before I ask any of them for a LOR. My GPA will be ~3.0 with the grades I'm on track for (A's and/or A-'s) after this semester, since I'm sure they would wait until at least then to make up their minds, if not after the spring semester. I've got a PCAT Composite of 86 (all areas high 70's through low 90's) and a currently laughable GPA of something like 2.75. So, now that you know my life story well enough to write a biography, here are some questions:

- Realistically, will a ~3.0 GPA, 86 Comp. PCAT, ~100 hrs of hospital volunteering, and a BA in Chem give me a shot at an interview and acceptance?- Will taking part in some research help out the application any?- Is there some kind of "LOR etiquette" that should be taken in how soon into a semester I should ask a professor to write for me? And for that matter a pharmacist?

Answer: I cannot speak to the school where you are applying, but ours is already making decisions on applicants now so I would not assume yours will wait until after the semester unless they told you that specifically.

Do you have a professor at your CC that could help you out? I'm not sure if there is an etiquette to getting an LOR, but I would personally hesitate to write one for someone I didn't know. If you need to ask someone who is unfamiliar with you, bring your CV and make an office appointment so you can at least spend a few minutes explaining your goals. This would make me much more comfortable in writing a letter for that circumstance. The same probably goes for an RP LOR.

Your PCAT score is good and will get you into a lot of schools. While your GPA is probably substandard, if you can write a strong LOR and explain some of the deficiencies on your application, I think you would be in line for an interview. This would be your chance to sell yourself.

Ultimately, in a case such as this, your statement, LORs, and interview will determine whether you are successful in being admitted. I think you stand a good chance. Good luck.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Glimpse into the application process of a prospective student

Hello! I am a prospective pharmacy school student who is applying for admittance to pharmacy programs in 2010. I am somewhat non-traditional in my path in deciding to apply to pharmacy school. I graduated from a 4-year university in 1998 with a degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology. My work history includes working as a Patient Care Technician in a hospital, a Customer Service Manager in the financial industry and 7.5 years as a pharmaceutical representative. I've thought of applying to pharmacy school for years, but was always intimidated and scared of the process. You can't fail if you don't try! Last winter I finally decided I needed to put my fears aside and began the process of researching schools and what I needed to do to put myself in the best position possible to get accepted into a program.

One of the best things I have done in the process was to meet with an admissions counselor for the program I am most interested in early last spring. I made an appointment to meet with her in person and was able to establish a great relationship with her at this meeting. I continued to be in touch with her as often as I had questions. She made me realize the importance of getting actual experience in a pharmacy whether it was through volunteering or actually working in a pharmacy. I immediately got a job working part-time as a pharmacy tech.

I will be re-taking the PCAT on October 17th as my scores in June were not as high as I hoped. For me, the PCAT has been the most difficult part of the application process. I have not taken chemistry or biology courses since the late 1990s so relearning so much material from those courses has been daunting.

At this point in the application process I am fine-tuning my personal statement, solidifying my LORs and I will also be meeting with a faculty member who sits on the Adcom for the school I am most interested in attending. This meeting was facilitated by that wonderful admissions counselor who I began a relationship with last spring. I will meet with the faculty member in October. I am very excited about this opportunity.

I have much more I could write about my process. Please let me know if anyone has specific questions about my process or preparation. Good luck to everyone during this very intense but exciting time!

Can you recommend a school for me to attend?

Question: I want to apply for pharmacy school next year 2011. I am attending a community college in Texas currently. My family is scattered and I can move just about anywhere. Can you recommend a good school to apply to?

Answer: Sure, I could. However, I do not feel comfortable doing so. Every school has positives and negatives. What I feel may be important attributes might not mean a hill of beans to you.

I encourage you to ask around. Get opinions from pharmacists that you may know. I think it is important that you first make a list of what matters to you when making a decision like this that will impact your life. You indicated that location doesn't matter, but do you have a preference? How much can you afford? There are significant differences between the cost of public and private schools of pharmacy.

On the side of the blog, I have added a link to the AACP website (I have changed the location this links to at AACP's request). Look at the school information about all the schools of pharmacy that might interest you. Send an email to them and ask for information. Beginning a dialogue with the people who will ultimately make the decision on your admission can be very helpful in the end.

Only you can decide what school is the best "fit" for you. Rankings and the like won't matter much if you aren't happy attending there.

Good luck.

Note: If anyone has had a particularly good experience with a school or has advice for this applicant, please leave comments below.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New contributor added

We have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know many of the readers of this blog over the past year. We hope that the information we have shared has been helpful, but we also realize that it might be beneficial for prospective applicants to have the opportunity to see how another future pharmacist is preparing. Therefore, we have asked someone we think really understands the process well based on her questions, responses, and comments posted to the blog if she would occasionally update everyone on her progress. If you have questions, please leave comments for her and the dialogue will be beneficial for everyone.

I will allow her to introduce herself in the coming days. She can share as much (or as little) personal information about herself as she wishes, but I think her approach to the application process has been systematic and effective. I hope you enjoy reading her insights!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Please use "search blog" function

Thanks to everyone for their emails. I have tried to keep up and get responses to you as quickly as possible, although it hasn't been as quick as I would like since school started.

One thing I would advise is to use the "search blog" function at the top of the page. We are really excited that so many of our readers have shared the link with others and we have received some really great questions and feedback. However, many of these questions have been addressed in one manner or another and it might be helpful to you to review some of the earlier blog entries regarding letters of recommendation, personal statements, etc.

Interview season begins soon for many of you and we'll do whatever we can to assist you.

Good luck.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Should I mention "depression" in my statement?

Question: I have suffered from depression since childhood and that has played a big role in how I take tests. I have a ton of test anxiety and don't feel that some of my grades best represent my knowledge of the subjects. Is this something you would bring up in the statement?

Answer: This is a difficult question for me to answer. Is your depression/anxiety controlled at this time? Are you taking medications for it? I would only bring this up if you feel like your test scores were diminished by your condition. However, a committee would probably want to know if this was a problem that has been addressed and/or resolved.

Although no one will tell you this, committee members do consider the personality type of the applicant and the various issues one might present as a student. If someone believes your test taking issues will be problematic during your time in pharmacy school, it could work against you. This would be a case by case basis dependent on the specific reviewer - certainly no institution would have a policy on this. I have heard many times a committee member reference a past student who had an issue with something that gave him/her reservations about having a similar student. I have seen this with language issues and "arrogance" as perceived by the reviewer. Some professors would rather not have to deal with the hassle they think they might encounter.

I guess I would mention it only if you thought you had the problem resolved. Perhaps you can qualify any poor performances as being related to your depression, but indicate that you are working on it with medication or psychologic intervention.

Of course, please understand the above are my thoughts only... certainly others might give you significantly different advice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

PCAT score review / advice

Question: I am trying to apply for pharmacy for Fall 2010. I took the PCAT and here is my score:

93% on Chem
84 on math
66% on bio
10% on verbal
1% on reading
composite is 44%.

I will retake in October. I have been in the U.S. for 4 years. My GPA's is 3.9 (according to pharmcas calculation). I recieved scholarship and outstanding student in chemistry. I volunteered the hospital. Can you review and give me some advice. I am still wonder I should apply now or wait for my new PCAT score.

Answer: Thank you for submitting your inf0rmation. You certainly appear to have the scientific aptitude to be successful in pharmacy school. There is obviously a huge problem with your reading and verbal PCAT scores, however. A score in the 50th percentile would probably be acceptable. A score in the 30's would cause most committees some additional concerns. A score < 10% would be an enormous red flag. I think most schools would automatically reject your application without a thorough review.

My advice would be this: retake the PCAT first. Do everything in your power to improve your reading and verbal scores. Make sure that your personal statement and supplemental applications have perfect grammar and spelling. You need to try to minimize the impact of the uber-low scores from your first PCAT attempt.

If you can improve your reading and verbal scores, your composite will benefit and your chances will be markedly improved. If you are successful on your next PCAT and are offered an interview, we can then discuss how to best approach any language difficulties at that time.

Best of luck and keep us posted.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Will my MBA help me?

Question: In 2004 I went back to school to get my MBA. I graduated in 2006. I continued working full-time and went to school on nights and Saturdays. If I get accepted to pharmacy school, I will quit my fulltime job. However, should I use getting my MBA while working fulltime as an example of my strong time management skills, etc. in my supplemental application? On my supplemental application, the question is in regards to why I think I will be able to handle a rigorous work load and the demands of a pharmacy program.

Does the fact that I have my MBA and did fairly well in the program (GPA of 3.6) matter at all especially since an MBA program is not science based? What do you generally think of applicants with a science major (Biology) undergraduate degrees and then a Masters in totally different field

Answer: This is a very good question. I think you should definitely use your MBA program success to your advantage when applying. Particularly, if you were able to do so while working full time. Although it is not science based, many pharmacists continue their education with MBA, JDs, etc and I applaud them for doing so.

As a committee member, I am easily impressed by applicants who have advanced degrees no matter the field - it shows a desire to excel. I think you can make a very strong case for being able to handle the rigors of pharmacy school, but I would reinforce to the committee that pharmacy school will be your full time job would also be helpful.

Good luck.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does my major matter?

Question: This question actually has more than one part. First of all, I'm curious as to how important my major is when applying for pharmacy school. I've heard things about med school and I'm not sure if they apply for pharmacy school, such as: It's better to major in something in liberal arts rather that science because your GPA is more important than your major, and it makes you look more well-rounded if you don't major in science.

Secondly, if your major IS important and can be an advantage or disadvantage for you, what would be the best choice of major? My current major is Psychology, for the following reasons: I'm good at writing and I think a liberal arts degree would help my GPA in that sense (it's 3.66 at the moment), I find psychology in itself interesting, it would make graduating in 3 years possible and save my parents some money, and I thought that some of the upper division coursework (namely Psychopharmacology) would be relevant to my application. However, would a science degree be looked on more favorably, or is GPA actually more important than the degree itself?

Answer: Frankly, I don't think your major matters much when I am reviewing a file. Many of our applicants don't have degrees when they are applying, so I wouldn't overthink this one. Of the applicants with a degree, probably 50% have a Chem or Bio degree or something similar (Biochem, Microbio, etc). The others are scattered among things like psychology, exercise science, physics, and plenty of English, Math, etc.

My recommendation would be to find a major that interests you and one that you can use if pharmacy school doesn't work out. If you do well in your prereq courses and your PCAT scores in Chem, Bio, and Quant are above average, your major won't even be mentioned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Drug rep considering pharmacy school

Question: I graduated with Honors a couple of years ago with a degree in Chemistry. I had a friend's father who was a drug rep and after a few introductions and casual interviews, I decided to give it a try also. The job was great.. perks were amazing (car, trips, etc), but there have been so many reorganizations and massive layoffs that I think it is time for me to rethink my long term plans.

I have several colleagues who are pharmacists and after much deliberation I am considering applying to pharmacy school. Any advice for someone like me, who isn't all that far removed from school, but feels a million miles away? Is a background in industry helpful at all? Thank you.

Answer: Good question. I have had the opportunity to interview several drug industry / sales/ Pharma reps over the years and I always find them to be very well spoken and capable. I imagine that plenty of time spent learning how to deal with difficult doctors makes a pharmacy school interview seem relatively simple.

If you have an interest in becoming a pharmacist, I would initially suggest that you ask a pharmacist you know to shadow them for an afternoon or maybe on a weekend just to see what it's like. I hadn't really set foot inside a drug store before I started working at one my first year of pharmacy school and the indoctrination was abrupt and intimidating. My first notion was to pack up and find a new profession, but it was too late for that so I had to suck it up and make the best - which I am glad I did. If you call on local pharmacies or hospitals as a rep, you probably have an existing relationship with a pharmacist who could accommodate you.

Whether a background in industry is helpful is debatable. On one side, you have a solid science background and the ability to communicate or you wouldn't be in that field. Those will both help you in your pursuit. Being a couple of years removed from formal schooling (although I know reps have plenty of ongoing product specific education) can be good or bad. If you are eager to learn and jump back into full time coursework, you shouldn't have any trouble. If you are only looking for a stable profession, but don't have the willingness or ability to commit several years to pharmacy school, perhaps a different route is better for you.

In closing, those students I have worked with and mentored who were industry reps and then decided to pursue a career in pharmacy have become really outstanding pharmacists. If you would like more information, please ask.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What are my chances?

Question: First of all I really want to thank you for your blog and I am very fortunate to have come across it. There is a lot of useful information for people like me who are trying to pursue a career in pharmacy.I do have some questions though.

I graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Microbiology in December 2006. My overall GPA was a 2.9 with 3.34 Science GPA. My first two years in college were pretty rough as I was still deciding what to do. When i did start taking biology and chemistry classes I really enjoyed those and it showed on my transcript for the last two years. Then I was offered a job before I even graduated, in a auto insurance company. I know..completely different. So, I took that job and am currently doing that full-time. I got married right after graduation and decided to keep working full-time to be able to afford tuition for my husband's masters degree in bioengineering. I did a lot of research and also a lot of self-evaluation and I know that I want a career in the health field. My mother is a gynecologist and I was practically raised in her clinic. I did a lot of volunteer work in high school and I am going back to that.

I am now very interested in Pharmacy as a career. I have already started studying for the PCAT. I plan to apply to Pharmacy school in 2011.-Looking at my background, do you think that I have a good chance if I excel in my PCAT?-also, I have been out of school for about 3 years now and by the time I am ready to apply it will be 5 years. Will my transcripts will still be valid and do I need a Letter of Recommendation from a professor?-By my volunteering and working with a pharmacist ( a span of 1 year), I am hoping that I can get LOR from a pharmacist and a supervisor where I volunteered.

Answer: Graduating with a degree in Microbiology is something that should help your application significantly. Your solid science GPA is a plus also. Having difficulty in your early college years is not uncommon and should be addressed in your personal statement. I know there are a couple of blog entries realting specifically to this. If you have a chance to search the blog, I would encourage you to do so.

Your PCAT will determine much of what you success will be. I would say that if you haven't taken any classes in the last 3 years, obtaining a professor LOR is probably unrealistic unless you had a very close relationship with someone. Each school will be different when determining how long ago you have completed coursework and if the credits will transfer. I would not imagine 3 years to be excessively long in this regard, but 5 years might be beyond the threshold at some schools. I recommend contacting the schools you are interested in directly and asking them.

And yes, I think it would be beneficial to get some pharmacy experience and ultimately a pharmacist LOR. Much of your success (and this goes for all applicants) in gaining acceptance into a school of pharmacy depends on the sacrifices you are willing to make. You may have a "dream" school you wish to attend. Or perhaps there is a school of pharmacy in the town where you live. If you are not accepted into your one or two most desired programs, are you willing to relocate if necessary? These are the difficult decisions that you should be thinking about and developing a plan for. Good luck.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Should I mention my fraternity on my application

Question: I have a quick question.. I was wondering how much help would having any sort of experience in a fraternity have for an applicant? Obviously I know GPA, PCAT, LORs, and pharmacy experience make the bulk of the decisions... but does having any fraternity experience on the resume, keeping in mind that they do a lot of philanthropic work and community service, help make the applicant more well-rounded at all? Thank you for your time!

Answer: Personally, I think it would have minimal benefit. However, I would list any fraternal organizations that you belong to. If any volunteer work was done that you felt was particularly important, citing examples in your personal statement would also be appropriate.

You never know if a reviewer might have a similar background or fraternal association, so I would recommend listing any groups that you belong to - in most cases, I agree that it does make you a more well rounded candidate.

You might avoid mentioning that you were the official kegmeister for your frat house though (just kidding) :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

School begins... and now things get serious

Now that school has started for most of you (and for us), this is truly the beginning of the application and interview cycle for schools of pharmacy. Our committee has had a couple of brief reviews looking at the class we enrolled for the Class of 2013 and how they compare to previous classes. It is our hope every year, as I assume it to be with most institutions, to admit the highest quality of student with the best GPAs, PCATs, etc.

For the past several months we have offered to review personal statements and the final tally was nearly 400! This took a significant amount of time, but we learned a lot about many of you and hope that you have found our blog to be helpful. We think we have made a positive difference in your efforts to gain admission. The next step is completing your supplemental applications (where required) and begin interview preparation. Oh, and don't forget to study and keep your grades up during the process.

If you have questions related to the interview process, please ask them at this time. You can post questions in the comments field or send us an email: pharmacyschooladmissions@gmail.com

We also hope that you will keep us updated on your progress. If you have had communication with a school, been offered an interview, or been rejected, we would appreciate knowing so that the information can be used to assist others. We also sincerely hope that you will "follow" us on the blog and pass this blog link along to everyone you know. We have some features planned with mock interviews and online discussions that should be informative and educational. More info coming soon.

Good luck with the school year. Email us any questions you have and tell us how you are doing as we enter the next phase of what is lengthy process of becoming a pharmacist.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Retaking failed courses and academic forgiveness

Question: I got a few Fs a few years ago at the university I'm currently attending , when I was still having a hard time adjusting to living on my own. I ended up going back home and retaking two of the three failed courses over at the local CC before coming back.

At the moment, my University GPA is around 3.22, with still a year of courses left to take, so I can definitely bring it up (or down). The thing is, the UC system has an academic forgiveness policy where retaking a failed course at a UC replaces the grade, hence bringing up my GPA more so than taking another class. I understand that most pharmacy schools only take the average between the two, but is it a good idea to retake those classes at UCSD nonetheless? And how do pharmacy schools look at a third retake of a class? Would you consider that there are better things to do during the school year than to retake a class purely for boosting my UC GPA, which is the sole benefit it seems to endow?

The three classes that I failed were CHEM 6A (First course in general chemistry for the science/engineering major), PHYS 2D (modern physics for the science/engineering major), and MATH 20C (Analytical Calculus, again for the science/engineering major). I retook CHEM 6A and MATH 20C class getting B's for both classes at my CC. Grade-wise, it's not the best, and I think I can definitely do better than that now. Also, as far as I know, modern physics isn't a pre-requisite for admission, but would still be a good idea to retake it and leave no Fs in any of my courses, right?

Lastly, I want to know where I stand, GPA-wise, for applications later on. Are there any particular GPAs I should be calculating? I'm assuming overall GPA, science GPA, and possibly pre-req GPA if I have time. Also, what constitutes science GPA when pharmacy ADCOMs look at it? For MD/DO paths, I know math, physics, chemistry and biology are considered.

Answer: While your school may grant you academic forgiveness, please understand that the PharmCas transcript (if that is how you are applying) will show the course each time you enrolled. We will see that you failed the courses and the PharmCas GPA reported will count both scores rather than simply the improved score. So, retaking them again might help you improve your GPA at the university, but don't think it will beneficially impact your GPA when we review your file as a committee.

However, because the classes that you struggled with are those that a normal pharmacy applicant would never have enrolled in, I would suggest that you detail very clearly in your personal statement that you were challenging yourself with those courses and struggled. As an AdCom, I can accept that.

The grades I want to see success in are: Chem, Orgo, Bio, and Calculus. If you have good grades in those courses (and/or good PCAT scores), you should be in decent shape depending on which schools you are applying to. As noted in an earlier blog entry, because many of the California schools do not utilize the PCAT, their decision making is skewed toward applicants with higher GPAs. In a case such as that described, I am not certain if the non-PCAT / PharmCas schools will look at your entire transcript or accept the academic forgiveness granted by your university, and thus, your significantly improved GPA. For your sake, I hope the latter.

Good luck.