Monday, June 28, 2010

Will Pharmacy Tech licensure help?

Question: I am planning on reapplying to a school this fall. I got my rejection letter from them in the mail in April. Does having a pharmacy tech license increase my chances of getting accepted? And if I do plan to pursue a pharm tech license by completing a 29-wk program starting in July, I will not get licensed until beginning of next year. But I plan to apply to schools as early as possible. This means that I will apply starting next week. Now would the admissions at the pharmacy school see that I am improving myself and am more dedicated towards pharmacy? Would I just have to state that I am pursuing a pharm tech license in my personal letter? My other reason for getting a pharm tech license is so that I can work in a pharmacy in the meantime if I do not get accepted for the Class of 2015.

Answer: I am sorry that you were not accepted this year. Taking the necessary courses to become a licensed Pharmacy Technician will not hurt your chances, but I think it will provide minimal benefit on paper. However, if receiving your licensure allows you to get a position at a pharmacy (which I am not certain if you had previously), then it is well worth it because it has opened to door for you to gain valuable work experience and a letter of recommendation from a pharmacist.

I think you should mention in your PharmCas statement that you are pursuing your technician licensure with the hope of achieving your goal to be accepted into pharmacy school. Committees like to see perserverance and it sounds like you have it.

Best of luck.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Does school attended matter to the committee?

Question: I have a quick question about one of the blog postings you made recently. In response to someone's question regarding how you filter through applicants, you said you "look at the PCAT score first, followed by the overall GPA, prereq GPA (particularly Orgo, Bio, and Calculus), and then the school the applicant attended."What do you necessarily mean by the school the applicant attended? Is a student that attended an Ivy League or other type ofprestigious school shown preference over one that went to a publicor community college?

Answer: Thanks for your question. I wouldn't say the committee universally gives extra credit for attending an "Ivy League" school, but it is undeniable that there is a diference between the level of education at Harvard and the local CC. The subjectivity and determining the "whole" application is one of the more difficult aspects of the process. While it is a factor, as I noted, there are several things that I personally look at before I get to the school attended.

We are frequently challenged by this question. Is a 3.0 at Harvard better/equal/worse than a 4.0 at a local CC? There is no right or wrong answer, which is why the rest of the application is so important. Have excellent LORs, better than average PCAT scores, some pharmacy experience and I think you'll do fine.

Best of luck.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Should I apply now or finish my degree first?

Question: I just finished my first year of undergraduate studies and want to become a pharmacist. I can complete the necessary courses and apply this year but I wonder if I would be better off finishing a degree and then applying? Suggestions?

Answer: If your focus is to become a pharmacist, I see no reason why you shouldn't apply for classes matriculating in Fall 2011. Do you have a better chance of gaining acceptance if you have a bachelor's degree? Probably. At some schools, great value is placed on possessing a degree. However, a large number of students are admitted every year without a degree so don't let that deter you if you want to apply now. It is my opinion that the number of schools requiring an undergraduate degree before applying to pharmacy school will increase in the coming years.

My suggestion is to apply now and see what happens. If you aren't accepted during this coming cycle, complete your degree and apply again in two years.

How important are supplemental essays?

Question: My question is, how important are the supplemental application essays compared to the pharmcas one? Should I just answer the question they ask directly? Should I spend as much time on it as I did with the Pharmcas?

Answer: I think the supplemental essays are probably more important that the PharmCas essay. Think of these as first and second interviews. If you pass the screening interview (PharmCas essay), you get to meet the boss and interview with him/her (supplemental essay).

My experience is that institutions spend a great deal of time and effort to develop supplemental questions that the school feels are important to them in determining which students are the best possible candidates for matriculation. This is particularly true if the institution has a religious affiliation, where you can assume one of more supplemental essay questions will relate to values, etc.

Students who copied and pasted portions of their PharmCas essay or who wrote single sentence answers in their supplemental applications were downgraded significantly. Do not take this portion of the application process lightly.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

PCAT feedback - June 19, 2010

I'm not sure how many of our followers took the PCAT today, but if you did, please provide feedback in the comments section below. Your thoughts or observations would be appreciated by many. How did you prepare? Do you plan to take it again? Please do not post actual questions asked on the exam - they will be deleted.

Please note: Candidates cannot disclose--in whole or in part--any exam questions or answers to anyone during or after the exam, whether orally, in writing, in any internet "chat rooms or blogs", or otherwise. The PCAT is a secure examination, protected by U.S. copyright laws, and any unauthorized disclosure of the exam's contents could result in civil liability, criminal penalties, and/or cancellation of test scores. Examinees are encouraged to report any internet activities that disclose information about test questions, so that Pearson may investigate and take any necessary action.

We hope to hear from as many of you as possible.

Thank you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

PCAT - June 19, 2010 - Advice, comments, suggestions

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.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do pharmacy school AdComs frown on taking online courses?

Question: How do you admissions committee feel about online classes? I have checked with the schools, and some have said it is fine for me to take them. My reason for taking online courses is because during my undergrad years, I did great on the labs, but needed to improve my lecture grade (we got separate grades for this at my undergraduate institution--lab and lecture). Most schools have said that is fine for me to take the lecture since I have demonstrated proficiency in the laboratory part of the course, but in general how do schools feel about them?

Answer: This is an excellent question: As long at the courses are taken through an accredited university and the credits transfer, there really isn't a problem. I would guess that in a lot of cases the committee wouldn't be able to discern that a class was taken online depending on how it is listed on your PharmCas transcript. As we enter an era where more and more courses (including pharmacy degrees) can be completed online, I think there is less of a negative stigma associated with this type of instruction.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Looking for some advice

Question: I need some volunteering advice. I plan on becoming certified and probably working at a hospital. I've already volunteered before at a hospital pharmacy. Would it make sense to add more volunteer work? I really need backup to my low GPA which I plan on bringing up in the next year. I'm also going to take the PCAT in August, but it might take me 5 years to graduate with a Bio degree..does that hurt me?

Answer: If you have some volunteer experience, I don't think you will improve your application by adding more. However, if you were to gain work experience as a tech, that would be helpful. Once working, I would strongly suggest finding a pharmacist that you work well and use him/her for your LOR when the time comes.

The length of time it takes to earn your degree will have no impact on your application - if it takes 5 years, it takes 5 years. We have seen applicants on the 10 year plan before. What you need to focus on are your prereq grades and the upcoming PCAT. If you can be successful on the PCAT, that will stand out even in light of some course struggles if your GPA is low.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How can I get a volunteer position at a pharmacy?

This question has been asked several times in various forms the past couple of days, so I decided to simply add it to the blog.

Question: I contacted a lot of hospitals in my area about volunteering in their pharmacy, but the response was that either they didn't allow volunteers, I had to be a certified tech, or volunteering is only available during the daytime on weekdays. I'm stressed out trying to figure out how to meet this requirement so any suggestions would be helpful.

Answer: If you don't have a connection with a pharmacy or know a pharmacist personally, here are a couple of suggestions that I have found to be successful:

1) Contact a small, independent pharmacy in your area. Ask to speak to the owner or pharmacist in charge. Mention that you are planning to apply to pharmacy school and would like to gain some volunteer experience if they could accommodate you. You may have to be flexible in the hours you are available for them, but this approach might work.

2) Contact the school of pharmacy that you are applying to and ask if they have alums in your area who would be willing to host you. I receive emails from my alma mater occasionally looking for pharmacy sites for potential students.

If you have any additional questions, please leave comments below or send me an email to followup.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reapplying - do I need to start from scratch?

Question: I was waitlisted and ultimately not admitted to my school of choice last year. I decided to finish my Biology degree and will be reapplying in 2011. Do I need to obtain new letters, write a fresh personal statement, etc?

Answer: Yes, start over. One of the first things I look at when reviewing a re-applicant is what has (s)he done to improve the application. Finishing a degree would be a significant improvement and I applaud you for doing so. However, any committee who reviews applications closely will look at your previous file as well as the current application. If the personal statement is a "copy and paste" from your previous application, it reflects poorly on your desire. Although it might not be cause for rejection, I think if you are serious about putting your best foot forward, you should certainly rewrite your statement to reflect the improvements you have made in your application and what has led you to this point in your academic career.

Good luck.