Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is pharmacy school attainable at this point?

Question: My issue is that I do not want to pursue something that will not be attainable. I received a BA in Business about 3 years ago with an overall GPA of 2.6. After working in a retail pharmacy I made the decision to become a pharmacist. I began taking courses at a CC and am now on academic probation ( Grades are B two, Cs, F, a W, and two Ds in an attempt at the same course. On top of working full time while attending class, I was in an accident and missed many classes as a result, in addition to the fact that I had never taken courses of this magnitude and may have been overwhelmed. What can I do, if anything, to possibly be accepted into a professional program? How much will volunteering and community service help? Or should I just begin looking for a career elsewhere? Thanks for your help : )

Answer: Thanks for your email. Of course, there are no absolutes in this world, so I won't tell you that your goal is unattainable. However, you have painted yourself into a corner and don't have much room to get out.

Without knowing the courses you are struggling with or how working full time and your accident affected you, I can only speculate. Although it may be unrealistic, I wonder if you were to dedicate yourself to your studies on a full time basis if you feel that would enable you to be successful. Ceratinly, I have seen cases of individuals with less than stellar academic records who have shown significant improvement once they focused exclusively on their studies and increased their chances of admission dramatically.

At this point, volunteering and community service are not going to get you into pharmacy school. It would appear that you need to markedly improve your grades. If you believe you can do this, even if it requires great sacrifice, that would be your best opportunity. You simply have to weigh the positives and negatives and determine what direction is best for you.

Good luck.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Question about pharmacy school deposits

Question: I've been reading your blog everyday since June and its been soooo helpful! Thanks!

My interviews are coming up soon and now my question is regarding to admission deposit. It seems that each school have $500+ deposit to save your spot for entering class and some school specifically requires the deposit a few weeks later we get acceptance notice.

So my question is, if we still have more interviews coming up and don't know whether we wanna go to that school or not, we have to pay that much money for each school??? Would that be better then if we arrange the interview dates close so we don't have to worry about this kind of issue?

And if you are able to choose the date, would that be better if you arrage the eariler date?(meaning better chance?) or it doesnt matter? Because I want to be well preapared for my interviews....but its coming so soon.

Answer: Thanks for your email. I am glad that you have found the blog to be helpful.

You are correct that a school wants you to pay a deposit to hold your spot. They are willing to make a commitment to you and they are asking that you do the same in return. I am aware of some schools that require significantly higher deposits than $500 with less time to decide whether to accept the offer or not.

I don't know if there is any real advantage to scheduling interviews close to each other. There is no guarantee that the schools will notify you at the same time of their decision. Instead, I might recommend scheduling the interview at the school you most want to attend first and the latter interview a couple of months later. That way, if you get into the first school, you accept the offer. If you don't or are waitlisted, you interview at the second school and see what happens. You might end up making a deposit to School B that you forfeit if School A subsequently offers you admission, but that's a small price to pay for the peace of mind that having a secured spot will bring you.

Let us know how the interviews go. Good luck!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Should I bother applying to a public school as an out of state student?

Note: This question has been asked in several different ways on multiple occasions.

Question: I have heard that public school (state sponsored schools of pharmacy) give preference to applicants from their state or who plan to work in the state after graduation. How true is this? I live in a rural state with no public school of pharmacy. I have good but not great grades and GPA. Do I even both applying to the big state school as an out of state resident or just start with private schools?

Answer: As noted in a previous thread, I do believe it is more difficult for out of state students to get into public institutions. If you live in Montana, you have a lesser chance of being admitted to the University of Texas (for example) than someone who lives in state. Does this hold true in all cases? Of course not. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I suspect the large state institutions admit far more than half of their class from in state applicants.

For the record, I disagree with this on principle. I would encourage schools to admit a class that is more diverse racially, socially, and geographically. However, this is unlikely to change anytime soon as they are taxpayer funded to provide that particular state with pharmacists for the next generation.

There are exceptions to every rule (and you may be it). The bottom line is this: I encourage you to research all the schools where you consider applying and speak to someone in the admissions office. Ask them what percentage of their class comes from in-state or perhaps how many come from their undergraduate school (if one exists). Use this information to help you decide where you time and money are best spent during the admissions process.

Best of luck.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A pharmacist "friend" is writing a letter of recommendation

Question: I have a question regarding my letter of recommendation. My friend (who's also a pharmacist that I am working with right now. I've known him for about 10 years now, he tutored me English when I first moved to the U.S. and he was actually the person that influenced me and encouraged me to go into pharmacy...) is writing a letter of recommendation for me, but I know that many schools won't accept references from a friend. Should I ask him to submit his reference as a pharmacist and not mention that he's a friend of mine?

Answer: Unequivocally, the answer to your question is YES. He can list himself under a number of categories that would probably work, but I under no circumstance would I tell you to have him write your LOR as a "friend".

The key point here is to make sure that he understands his reference should be written from the standpoint of whatever relationship he chooses. If he selects "pharmacist", he should be writing about your promise as a pharmacist and the qualities that would make you a good pharmacist - not about knowing you and your family since you were a kid, etc.

The committees that I have been a part of take a very negative approach to applicants who use friends and family to write their letters of recommendation.. I have seen applications with letters of recommendation from parents, siblings, and friends from summer jobs. Please realize you are applying for a spot in a competitive professional school and you want to do everything you can to show the committee that you are prepared for that step. You indicated that you have worked with this pharmacist, so he should have no trouble documenting your abilities, work ethic, and interpersonal communication skilss.

For those readers of the blog who have a pharmacist "friend" that you might consider asking for an LOR, if you haven't done this already, get yourself into their pharmacy workplace and shadow for a day or a week just so the reviewer can say that you did so. That way, at a minimum, you have some experience to show on your application and it would make the relationship mentor-student rather than friends alone.

If anyone has additional questions about letters of recommendation, please let us know.