Monday, December 26, 2011

What are my chances at getting into pharmacy school?

Question: I just finished my final semester of undergraduate work and my cumulative gpa should be around 2.9. I know that isn't great and unfortunately I went through more family problems than I care to admit and that caused me to have a couple D's and F's on my transcript. Most of them came in the ochem area. I will graduate with a biology degree and don't plan to start applications for school till this summer for fall 2013. I also know that my school throws out my old grades if I retake a course so I'm assuming that my gpa through pharmcas won't actually be as high as it says on my transcript. I have also taken the pcat twice with my composite scores in the 60's, but I do plan on preparing all spring and taking it one more time this summer hopefully scoring in the 80's or 90's. I also work full-time in a hospital pharmacy as a pharmacy technician and will have numerous letters of recommendation from pharmacists as I work with 15-20 of them regularly.

I know that my gpa and grades are a huge obstacle, but I know that I want to go to pharmacy school so I will stick with it either way and am willilng to work as a technician until I do get in. I do also plan on applying to 15 or more schools during the summer as I have read that some people have gotten consideration based on the fact that they showed through submitting so many applications that they were very serious about getting in. I do also plan on making most of those applications to schools that are in the candidate or pre-candidate status as I'm hoping that will also help things out.

Please let me know what you think my chances are as well as anything that you think that I could do to improve my chances going forward. Thanks for reading everyone and I appreciate the feedback.

The key for an AdCom will be your Organic Chemistry grades. I know my primary concern would be your ability to succeed in a chemistry heavy curriculum. That being said, every year we admit applicants who have struggled with various courses before "getting it" and your case sounds similar. Use your statement to acknowledge the earlier difficulties but then use your experience to show how you persevered and succeeded despite the initial setback. This will show your determination and motivation for the profession. A letter of recommendation from an OChem professor would certainly augment that as well.

I think you have a decent chance of being offered interviews and, therefore, a chance at being admitted. I wish you the best and hope you will keep us posted.

Good luck.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When should I begin my pharmacy school application?

Question: When should I begin my pharmacy school application. I just completed my first semester of my sophomore undergraduate studies but do not plan to apply until next cycle at the earliest.

Answer: It really depends where you want to apply and when you will have the necessary prerequisites completed. I would suggest that you begin identifying schools of interest to you and contacting them now to begin a professional dialogue with the Admissions office. request materials be sent to you and set up campus visits if time permits. Begin looking for volunteer / shadowing / work experience in pharmacy sooner rather than later.

The application process begins long before you actually submit your application.

Good luck.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Terrified of interviews - suggestions?

Question: I have an interview scheduled and I am absolutely horrified. I get extremely nervous and have a hard time formulating a decent response under pressure. I was wondering if you had any advice? And I was wondering just how important an interview is? How much is the oral interview weight in comparison to the written portion of the interview?

Thank you for your help.

Answer: The interview is pretty important. I think most Adcoms expect applicants to display some nerves, but try to relax as best you can. I've seen an interviewee answer a single question for 5 straight minutes without stopping because he was so nervous... just take your time in responding and try to keep your answer somewhat brief if you can.

The written portion is simply to see if you can formulate thoughts and put them into writing without having a week or month to do so (as you would when submitting your personal statement). I think the oral portion is much more important personally.

Good luck with the interview and please keep us posted.

Monday, December 5, 2011

PCAT 92 - What are my chances?

Question: I am a seniordouble majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry. I am currently applying for pharmacy school and was wondering how competitive I am.

I took the PCAT over the summer and my composite percentile rank was a 92, my current GPA is 3.810, and I have A's in all the prerequisite science classes (Bio, Organic, etc).

I feel like academically I am competitive, but I don't have a lot of pharmacy experience. I have shadowed a few pharmacists, but nothing too extensive. I also feel like my volunteer work is lacking. I have been very involved in undergraduate research since my sophomore year and haven't had much free time outside that. I have done some volunteer work like tutoring and random other projects here and there, but nothing too consistent.

Any input would be very helpful. I just want to make sure my lack of community service isn't going to keep me out.

Answer: Based on the information provided, I think you will be a very strong candidate. Grades, PCAT, etc are all top notch it appears. You're as ideal a candidate as anyone will get in those areas to be honest.

As far as experience and volunteerism, I'm not one who dwells on it much when I review applications although I have some colleagues who place greater emphasis on it. If you have some shadowing experience, you should at least mention it in your statement or essays to point it out. If you can share a story or something you witnessed during your shadowing, that's even better.

I hate to say this, but I put virtually no stock in volunteer work outside of health care or pharmacy specific work that is well documented - I've found that much of what is listed by applicants is somewhat exaggerated anyway. Again, that's my opinion of it.

All in all, I think you have an excellent chance of being offered interviews and likely admission to pharmacy school this year.

Good luck and please keep us posted.

3.1 GPA - What are my chances?

I have not taken the pcat yet, I plan to this summer.
That being said I will be applying for schools next year and as of now my gpa is around a not phenomenal, but it is at an academically challenging liberal arts institution (i don't know if that is put into consideration at all).
I don't have pharmacy experience, but I do volunteer a decent amount. I also have undergraduate research experience in microbiology dealing with bacteria, of which I presented at a small university conference and was published in a minor journal.
I am curious how I would fair in the process and what I could do to help insure my success in applying?

Answer: A GPA of 3.1 is good enough to get you an interview at a lot of schools - where do you plan to apply? Obviously, you should spend as much time as possible preparing for the PCAT as this can help you tremendously. Although significant experience is not required, I would encourage you to at least get some experience shadowing a pharmacist. This will help you when you write your personal statement and supplemental essays as well and give you talking points during a pharmacy school interview.

I imagine you will be a strong candidate, but there are many variables involved so it's hard for me offer anything confidently. I wish you the best and I hope that you will consider contributing your thoughts and experiences on the application process to others via the forum.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend. I certainly appreciate everyone who has contributed to this site and to the forum. We hope that you will share the site with a classmate, colleague, or friend.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What are my chances #3

Question: I'm a community college student and I'm planning to apply for a pharmacy school.

I took the PCAT last September and the result was:

Verbal ability: 412/68
biology: 417/75
Reading comprehension: 396/38
Quantitative Ability: 447/95
Chemistry: 405/53
Composite: 415/73

Conventions of language: 2.5/2.74
Problem solving: 2.5/2.77

My GPA is 3.58 and I don't have any experience in pharmacy retails.

Here is my question: My chemistry and reading comprehension are awful, but I belonged to the top 3% on national organic chemistry by which the head of chemistry department is going to write a really good LOR for me. Is it considered helpful and to increase my chances? If I have some other volunteers at church and non-profit art organization, do they also help?

I don't know whether I'm qualified to apply for pharmacy school. Overall, I feel like something is missing.

Answer: To be clear, your Chemistry and Reading scores on the PCAT are not "awful". The average score of admitted students is probably higher, but I have seen many, many applicants get interviews and offers of admission with worse PCAT results than yours.

Your GPA > 3.5 and this is a huge plus for you. Plus, a composite score of 73 is very good. Performing as well as you've indicated in Organic Chemistry will definitely help your chances as would a letter of recommendation from a professor (or chair) in that area.

I think you might be surprised at how strong of an applicant you are. That being said, and as I advise all students, I would encourage you to apply to more than one pharmacy school to increase your chances. It is never wise to put all of your eggs in one basket.

Good luck.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What are my chances #2

Question: Hello, I applied to pharmacy schools and interviewed with one of the schools recently.
I am really worried about my chances of getting admitted to the school since my stats are not that great.
Can you comment on my stats as a member of admission committee point of view?

My PCAT scores are > 80 except a low reading.

My GPAs are > 3.0

I am really really worried because my verbal and reading section are way too low since I am an international student.

Can you please comment on these?

Answer: Assuming the rest of your application is acceptable, the primary issue that an AdCom would have is with your Verbal and Reading scores, as you pointed out. However, I think most of us use the score primarily to help us identify an area that might be a concern rather than to keep someone out of pharmacy school. In your case, because your other areas are so strong, I would have no trouble admitting you assuming that your interview went well.

One of the main concerns that pharmacy schools have is the risk of sending students into clinical sites who might not be able to confidently ask and answer questions due to a language barrier. If we sense that this might be an issue, it is usually because of low PCAT Verbal/Reading scores, a poorly written personal statement, or perhaps a letter of recommendation notes a concern. The only way we can confirm or deny this is during the interview.

My personal experience is that only on very rare occasions have I felt that a student was ill equipped to be a pharmacist due to communication issues. More frequently, students (even those who are not native English speakers) perform just fine during the interview and put these concerns to rest.

I hope that helps. I wish you the best.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What are my chances?

Question: I recently took the PCAT and submitted my application for admission into a pharmacy school. I have a question regarding my GPA and PCAT scores which are as follows:

Verbal Ability: 432/89%
Biology: 435/91%
Reading: 450/97%
Quantitative: 403/47%
Chemistry: 449/95%
Composite: 434/94%

Conventions of Language: 2.5, Mean~2.74
Problem Solving: 2.5, Mean~2.77

My question is: Although my overall GPA at 3.59 and composite PCAT score at 94 percentile are decent, will my quantitative score of 47 and writing scores at 2.5's make me less appealing as a pharmacy school candidate? I didn't have time to finish these sections adequately. I would greatly appreciate your insight regarding my chances of getting into the pharmacy school of my choice.

Asnwer: Your GPA and PCAT scores are excellent and you will be a very competitive applicant at any school of pharmacy. Personally, I do not think that you need to be concerned about your average Quant score or writing score. As long as your statement and letters of recommendation are outstanding, I think you will have multiple interviews and likely admission offers.

Congrats and good luck.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Should I finish my prereqs at a 4 year school or at a community college

Question: I am looking to take classes to become eligible for pharmacy school. I'm 27, have an BS biology and an MS in secondary science education. I currently work full time. The classes I still need to take are:

Ochem 1 and 2
Micro biology
Anatomy and physiology

I need to choose between taking these classes ( probably 2 at a time for work reasons) at a 4 year university and and a community college. The university is over twice as expensive. From an admissions standpoint taking in my non traditional status is it worth my while to pay more for the state university over the cc?

Thanks for your guidance!

Answer: Most applicants in your situation choose the community college route. I think Adcoms are conditioned to understand why this is the case and typically aren't overly concerned with it. My recommendation would be to go that route as well. Make certain, however, that you excel in those classes.

Thanks for your question and good luck.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When should I start preparing for pharmacy school interviews?

Question: I have submitted my PharmCas info and supplemental applications. I have a GPA of 3.9 and my June PCAT was 95. I anticipate receiving interviews although I am trying to keep my expectations muted. at what point should I start preparing for interviews? Will you be available to offer any preparatory advice?

Answer: Thanks for your email. As you know, the admission process is broken into several steps. The first is your application, then inteviewing, then decision making.

Since you have registered with PharmCas, taken the PCAT, and completed your supplementals, etc, you can probably start thinking about the interview process. Each school (usually depending on whether thay have rolling admissions or not) will have a different schedule for inititating interviews.

Interviews are usually a bit stressful for applicants as evidenced by the beads of sweat and the sometimes non-stop chatter they give us during the interview. Understandably so, but most interviewers are trying to sell the school to you as much as you are trying to sell yourself to the school. I've not met any interviewers who were difficult with an applicant intentionally.

As far as your question, we are always happy to answer question about interviewing - whether it be preparation or things that you wonder about after the interview. In my opinion, as a reviewer, interviewing is where the fun starts.

If you have questions, please post on the forum in the interview section.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PCAT score review

Question: just took PCAT- preliminary score report shows as the following:

Verbal Ability: 427 86%
Biology: 430 88%
Reading: 381 18%
Quantitative: 457 97%
Chemistry: 443 93%
Composite: 428 89%

40y old trying to change careers. Already have the following degrees:
- BS in Polymer chemical engineering
- MS in Chemistry
- MS in Computer Engineering

would like to know if this PCAT score is enough or to retake the exam.

Answer: The PCAT score is great... the odd low Reading score probably won't count against you too much, particularly considering the Verbal score is oustanding. Personally, I wouldn't retake the exam.

The key (and I cannot emphasize this strongly enough) is to adequately describe your motivation for the career change - that is what an AdCom will want to see expressed in your personal statement, essays, and interviews. The questions you need to be prepared to answer Why Pharmacy? What makes you think that pharmacy is a good fit? What have you learned in your previous career that you can apply to a career as a pharmacist?

Good luck.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ahhh, the pharmacy school application season begins again

As many of you know, we have run this site for the past couple of years in an effort to demystify the pharmacy school application process while providing objective and honest answers to your questions. We have reviewed countless personal statements, essays, and answers to supplemental questions and responded to more emails than we can count. I have personally enjoyed getting to know many of you and seeing you through this process.

Now that the application cycle has again begun in earnest, I hope you will understand that we now have very little time to review statements on a request by request basis from the users of the forum for the next several months. There have been a number of users and current pharmacy students who have offered their help and if you look in this erea of the forum, hopefully you can find someone willing to assist (link:

We will always respond to emails sent to us directly, but we again appreciate your patience as do get backlogged from time to time. We ask that you include your forum username along with your email.

We'd like to think that we are different than many of your other sources of information and we believe that we can offer constructive advice from a perspective not available to many of you on a large scale.

We wish you the very best and hope that you will share our site with a colleague, classmate, friend, or anyone who might benefit from the site.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Am I kidding myself?

Question: Hello, I just stumbled upon your blog and found it very interesting. I am 29 and have a bachelors degree in business admin. I always wanted to do Pharm, but as a teen picking a major, I was pushed to buisness by my parents. I didn't do well in school like many 18-19 year old kids do in the first few years, and had to really turn it on my last few semesters to finish with a 2.7.

I really want to go back and do what I should have from day one, but now with a family and other obligations it makes it difficult. I have looked into all of my options and have found a way to do it, but it involves me moving my family and basically leaning on my wife and her family to make it through the 3-4 years. We are willing to do this but it can only work with 1 school. Once I take a few pre-requisites, I will meet all of the requirements, but they get 1700 applications for 140 seats, and I will be on the low side for GPA. I would hate to take 4-5 courses in Bio and Chem and then apply to get shot down. With really needing the perfect storm to be able to make this work, am I kidding myself?

Answer: Hmmm... are you kdding yourself? No. Will it be easy? Definitely not.

Every year I interview applicants who are in a similar position to you who are willing to make major sacrifices to pursue their professional goal. It can be done although I am often amazed at how students manage school, family, children, work, etc in a place far from home.

Of course it's impossible for me to offer guidance without knowing much more about your circumstances and what school you would like to attend. I think before doing anything you need to contact this particular school and speak with an Admissions counselor. Make a list in advance of all the questions you have about prereqs, admission requirements, incoming class statistics, financial aid, etc. I have found that most people in the Admissions arena can usually give you a pretty good idea where you stand when it comes to likelihood of being admitted so that would be the place to start.

Best of luck and please keep us posted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How should I address a DUI?

Question: After graduating I made a HUGE error in judgment and was arrested and was charged on a misdemeanor DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol). Should I mention this in my personal statement that is part of PharmCas? I have already fully disclosed this information to several supplemental questions for certain schools that ask of this but I haven’t for schools that did not. I understand that having a record is highly looked down upon and have definitely learned a lot from my experience. So I was wondering what the best course of action would be.

Answer: You can't change what has happened obviously, so you need to impress upon the committee that you have learned and matured from your error in judgment. Whether you do that in your personal statement or in the supplemental application probably doesn't matter.

Keeping in mind that you will be required to list any criminal offenses, there really isn't any way to completely avoid discussing it. However, I wouldn't belabor the point. I do think it is important that you address it head on but I should also add that it has been my experience that committee members view issues like a DUI differently depending on the age at which it occurred. Whether right or wrong, I think you'd be given a little bit more latitude if this occurred at age 21 rather than at age 41. Either way, you should address what you learned from the experience. If you did community service, such as working with young adults to educate them about the dangers of drinking and driving, include that as well.

Good luck.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is a "good" GPA to get into pharmacy school?

Question: What is a good gpa for pharmacy school?I don`t know if you are the right person to ask, but any advice/pointers you might have would be very much appreciated. Please help

Answer: There are many factors involved when a committee is reviewing an application and one of the more important ones is the applicant's GPA. It is difficult to say what a "good" GPA is, but the higher the better of course.

If you are able to maintain a GPA > 3.5, you have an excellent chance at receiving an interview if your PCAT scores are comparable and your statement and LORs are deemed sufficient. If you have a GPA = 3.0-3.5, your chances are probably diminished slightly. Please understand, however, that it has been my experience that a GPA = 3.0 with a PCAT = 99 would have a better acceptance rate than an applicant with a GPA = 3.5 and a PCAT = 50.

When we start reviewing applicants with an overall GPA < 3.0, there is less chance that these prospective students will be granted admission. Certainly, some will receive interviews and others will be waitlisted, but a GPA at or above a 3.0 is a threshold I would encourage you to stay above if at all possible.

On occasion, I have even encouraged my advisees to add an additional unrelated course (cooking, pottery, etc) before applying to pharmacy school in cases where they are teetering on a 3.0. By doing so, you might be able to add 3-4 credit hours of "A" work to help boost your GPA ever so slightly and stay above 3.0. So, to answer your question, do everything you can to stay > 3.0.

Good luck.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Should I apply to pharmacy school now? Or wait?

Question: I would really like to thank you for creating a blog that answers the questions of the pharmacy school hopefuls. I have already gained much knowledge just by reading some of your recent answers to questions. It sounds like an attempt at flattery to gain your favor, but I truly am grateful. My local school's advisory department are either too booked, or lack the experience, to help me guide in the direction of pharmacy school, so your blog was extremely helpful. My only wish is that I have found this site when you started it. Now to my questions...

I am not sure how confident I should be about my eligibility, hence my question:

How eligible should one make him/herself before initiating the application process?

I graduated with a BA degree in Philosophy and English 9 years ago with a GPA of about 3.3. I have completed most of the science, math, and economics prerequisites at a community college, with GPA of about 3.9, but I divided out the load over the span of 4 years. I am planning to take some upper division course at a four year school to augment my prerequisites, which should allow me to broaden where I can apply, and hopefully show that I can handle tougher classes. (This has been quite confusing because many of the schools require the same courses, exception of one or two),

Most of my healthcare volunteer experience were attained at hospitals. Though it may not be relevant, I have been committed to volunteering at my church for about 10 years as a teacher, coordinator, and director of high school programs. I have been phasing myself out of our programs in hope to develop my own career. I have no lab research experience and no experience in the pharmacy. I have just started looking for shadowing experiences and volunteer research opportunities since pharmacy technician positions are still quite scarce.

I am planning to take the PCATs, though most of the school I have looked into do not require them. Since my course were done at community colleges, I am hoping the PCATs can help.

I wanted to know if you would advise me to withhold my application until next year to make myself more eligible to become a pharmacy student. I feel like I am trying to rush into the application process because I am 32 and I am worried that I may have to redo my prerequisites since they are getting older. I am hoping to gain experience in the lab and the pharmacy this upcoming season but also feel that it may be insufficient because applications deadlines for some of schools start in November (which would give me about a month or two of experience at best).

What would you recommend?

Answer: Thanks for your email (and flattery). Hopefully. I can answer your questions adequately.

I have advised a number of students in your situation over the years, but each case is unique so I apologize for any generalizations. Because your grades appear strong through your initial degree and now your prereqs, I don't see any reason why you should withhold your application for next year. Make sure you contact the schools that you are interested in and get as much information as possible as to what you need to do to become eligible to apply. Make sure that you can complete the necessary prereqs for each program in time.

In a situation like yours, pharmacy experience would help. The question that we often discuss when someone is making a career change is why they are choosing pharmacy. It would help you discuss your motivation if you had some shadowing or volunteer experience to reference when you are asked this question. I know I sometimes roll my eyes when an interviewee tells me they have always wanted to be a pharmacist and that it is their life's calling, but they seem to have no idea what a pharmacist actually does.

In summary, as long as the schools where you want to apply will accept your prereqs, I would encourage you to apply this cycle. One word of caution: if you are going to take the PCAT, make sure that you are well prepared. I know applicants who had admittable grades and then they took the PCAT without adequate preparation and they really damaged their chances with terrible PCAT scores. Just something to keep in mind.

Good luck and please keep us posted.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I got my degree in 3 years, but my GPA suffered because of it.

Question: During my undergraduate studies, I was a little bit worried about how I was going to afford four full years of college, so I tried to go lightspeed and finished my degree in three years instead of four by averaging about 20 units a quarter and doing four summer sessions at my university (not community college). I think that as a result of this, my GPA suffered somewhat (~3.5). Do you think that the admissions people will take my heavy course load into account positively to counter my less-than-ideal GPA, or could they hold it against me for making such a foolish decision?

Answer: First of all, a GPA of 3.5 is pretty good. In most cases, it is above average of the admitted class. If you have a degree as well, that will be beneficial to you.

As a rule, we do look at how heavy an applicant's course loads are. I think most committee members would be impressed by your efforts and know that you are prepared for the rigors of pharmacy school. I would address your heavy course load in your personal statement - use it to your advantage. State something like this, "I was focused on finishing my degree in three years and I challenged myself by taking heavy course loads. While this may have affected my ability to earn all A's, I was still were able to maintain a 3.5GPA while completing a degree in three years at a major institution of learning."

Best of luck.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How should I address past academic struggles?

Question: I used to attend a decent university in my area several years ago to study management. But my interest was never in management. My first semester ended ok (a few Bs and a C) but at this point I was already sure I didn't feel like being in school anymore. The next semester began and I was going to class but somewhere down the line I started skipping classes and eventually just stopped going. I received 4 Fs for the semester. I was thinking of maybe squeezing in those classes into this summer and next so I can show the committees that I can do well in those classes, but is that really necessary? I don't really know what to do. How do I make my past disappear? The student I am now is not the student I was. Sometimes I wonder how I'm even going to write a personal statement to explain my situation.

Answer: I will be honest with you and let you know that your past academic transgressions with work against you strongly. However, it isn't impossible for you to gain admission. You need to very specifically address in your personal statement the causes of your academic failures. As you know, your overall GPA will be significantly lower than most of the other applicants because of the Fs you had early on. You want to point out the positives: greater focus and resolve since determining you wanted to be a pharmacist. Point our you vastly improved grades in your science courses compared to your management courses. There would be no benefit of retaking managment courses at this time.

I strongly suggest that you get experience in pharmacy, whether shadowing, volunteering, or beginning a technician job. This will help show the committee that you are committed to the profession and a strong LOR from a pharmacist there will help more than you know. Depending on where you plan to apply, your PCAT score could really make a difference.

Good luck.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Can I use the same experiences in my personal statement again and a supplemental answer?

Question: One of the supplemental questions that I have encountered is "What unique, personal qualities and/or life experiences will you bring to your pharmacy career?"
My question is: If I already talked about an activity or a life experience that answers this question in my PharmCAS personal statement, would it be advisable to talk about it again for the supplemental?

Answer: I think it is fair (and expected) to use elements of your personal statement in your supplemental application responses. However, do not copy and paste them verbatim! I have seen reviewers literally throw files in the reject bin because the applicant didn't take the time to specifically answer the questions asked on a supplemental application. School officials, administrators, and deans can spend a great deal of time determining what to ask on their supplemental applications. These are important to their institution. Take the time and give an answer that incorporates some of what you have said in your statement, but take a slightly different approach to reinforce what you feel are your most important attributes. You owe it to yourself and to the school to thoughtfully answer the specific questions designed to find a "good fit" for their program.

Thanks for your question.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Do extracurriculars matter?

Question: I have been filling out my application on PHARMCAS and was curious on your thoughts about extracurricular activities. Do you put much emphasis on this? I have many, many examples from my years in undergraduate school but since I have been out in the professional working world for 10+ years, I do not have as much in way of extracurricular activities in recent time. I do a lot of volunteering with my church, but that is about all. Do I even bother putting all my extracurriculars from college?

Answer: Every institution and committee will tell you that they want well rounded applicants. That being said, my honest reaction to your question about extra curricular activities is that they won't make or break your application.

I usually look through that section of the PharmCas report pretty quickly and don't focus on it much. You should use your church volunteering, of course. I would say you might as well go ahead and list of the ECs you did in college, particularly if they had any relationship at all to health care. If you helped at a blood bank, use it. If you did a Alzheimers Walk or Race for the Cure, use it.

In the end, will it make a difference one way or the other? Probably not, but listing something is probably better than listing nothing. I wouldn't fret about it or spend too much time on it, however.

Best of luck.

Friday, July 29, 2011

AdCom online web discussion #11

I am in the process of setting up another pharmacy school adcom online web discussion. If you are interested in participating, please reply to the thread on the forum at the link below:

Date and time to be determined.


Monday, July 25, 2011

99 followers of this blog... and counting

I thought by now I'd have at least one hundred :)

I hope that you will please take a moment to follow the blog and to register on the forum so you can share your pharmacy school application story. We are humbled by the wonderful response we have received and the many emails from students thanking us for our assistance after they've been admitted to pharmacy school. Please let us know how we can help you achieve your dream also!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PCAT July 20, 2011 - share your thoughts and results

We hope everyone performed their best on the July 2011 PCAT! Please take a moment to share your experiences with the forum.

Link to forum:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Overall GPA = 2.48 - what do I do?

Question: Hello, I am about to be a senior and i'm pre-pharmacy. However, my gpa is very low (2.48) and I failed Organic I twice. I'm currently retaking Orgo I and will likely get a B in the course and I plan on taking Organic II w/ the lab in the fall in hopes of getting an A in both. I was wondering what I could do to overcome that hurdle? What would I need to do this year to get back on track? I have been really stressed out because I feel like I messed myself up BIG time. I have also been making C's in my science pre-pharmacy courses as well. I am not finished with all of those courses yet. Do you recommend me retaking those courses after I graduate next summer?

There is no question that your chances at being admitted to pharmacy school are damaged by poor academic performance, but don't give up hope. The factors that weigh heavily are your overall GPA and failing Organic Chemistry twice. It's pretty dificult to overcome that, but this is what you need to do to even have a chance:

1) You will need to improve your Orgo scores (obviously). The B and A that you expect/hope will help tremendously.
2) Whatever you can do to get your overall GPA > 3.0 is worth the effort. That may mean taking a couple of extra courses, but a GPA < 3.0 is below the minimum threshold for many programs.
3) Take the PCAT and do extremely well. Depending on where you plan to apply, this may be your saving grace. In light of poor grades, a strong PCAT can tilt the scales in your favor.
4) Begin dialogue with admissions counselors at the schools where you might consider applying. Explain your situation and that you are doing everything possible to make yourself a competitive candidate for their program. Ask for advice and any recommendation they may have.
5) Use your personal statement to explain your motivation for pharmacy and be forthcoming about your academic troubles. If there is a reason for your struggles, be honest about it. Tell the committee that you lacked focus or partied too much as an undergrad and it hurt your grades - hey, we've all been in college before and understand that good students can get themsleves into a bind when they are away from home for the first time. Most importantly, tell the committee how you have learned from whatever caused the difficulties and what you have done or will do to be a successful pharmacy student.

Good luck!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A message to pre-pharm clubs and student organizations

Thank you to the many university and community college students who belong to pre-pharmacy clubs and organizations and who contribute to our forum. Many of you have been very helpful in distributing information from our blog to others in your group and we appreciate it.

If you belong to a pre-pharmacy organization at your school, please forward a link to this blog and to our pharmacy school admissions forum 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!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Application question about being a "Native English" speaker

Question: I haven't had the chance to say thank you! Thank so much for reviewing my personal statement, it truly boosted the quality of my personal statement to a whole 'nother level! :) I have another question for you, and this is regarding language. On PharmCAS under the Personal Data section, it asks, "Is English your native language?" while some other supplemental applications ask "Is English your first language?"

I was born into a Korean family, and didn't speak English until I entered pre-school, and from then on I spoke primarily in English, although I spoke in Korean with my parents at home. That being said, I'm more fluent and use English more often than I speak Korean.

Would I click "yes" or "no" in regarding the question on PharmCAS? My gut feeling is telling me to click no, but because I speak English better than I do Korean, I'm somewhat confused on what I should do.

What constitutes a person's "native language" and what distinguishes a "native" language from a person's "first" language? If I answer no, then I am required to take the TOEFL exam for certain schools for their "english proficiency requirement". If you could clear that up for me, I'd truly appreciate it.

Answer: Good question. My hunch would be that it would be best to identify yourself as a native English speaker. You might indicate that you are bilingual, but consider yourself more fluent in English. I have seen a couple of examples of public universities (not necessarily schools of pharmacy) that will require TOEFL if an applicant doesn't indicate being a native English speaker. I am unaware of any benefit that claiming being a non-native English speaker would afford you.

It would be my recommendation to say you are a native English speaker if you are comfortable and fluent with the language.

Good luck.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Does nepotism exist when reviewing pharmacy school applications?

Question: A friend and classmate of mine was accepted into a school of pharmacy where one of her parents is a university researcher. I was waitlisted. I know for a fact that her PCAT and GPA were substantially lower than mine and I was frankly surprised that she was even given an interview based on what I know about her application. Is it unfair for me to assume she got in because of nepotism?

Answer: True story, several years ago we had rejected an applicant whose grades were just not acceptable. A rejection letter had not been sent out yet, however. Shortly after the decision was made, one of the committee members came back to the group and asked that we look at this particular application again, which we did. At this point, someone in the admissions office indicated that the applicant was the child of a professor.

There was great disagreement whether we should even reconsider the application simply based on her parent's connection with the school. I was quite unhappy when some of the same committee members who were quick to dispatch the application as a rejection now wanted to grant an interview (and subsequently admit) this individual. I give credit to the applicant and her parent, however, for neither had mentioned to anyone that there was a relationship between "Applicant Smith" and "Professor Smith". They wanted the decision to be made on merit only, but one of the committee members recognized the name and home address on the application and asked the parent, which set off the aforementioned chain of events.

So, in a politically correct world, I would tell you that nepotism does not exist. That all applicants are judged purely on their merits and nothing else. That everyone has a equal chance. At most institutions, I believe that to be true. However, I have seen firsthand that nepotism or favoritism can play a role in the decision making process and I agree that it is not fair. I do my very best (as most committee members do) to create a level playing field for all applicants, but sometimes there are flaws in the system and you may have exposed one. I hope that you are also granted admission and don't feel that his/her acceptance is the reason you were not admitted at this time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to answer a question about religion?

Question: I am applying to school of pharmacy that has a religious foundation in Christianity. I am Jewish. One of the supplemental application questions specifically asks how I will use the values of the school. I'm not sure how to answer this as I don't have the same belief system. Help please.

Answer: This is an excellent question. Without knowing how the question is worded, my answer would be this: As administrators and admissions committee members, I suspect we all want to attract the best students regardless of belief system. I imagine if you asked the school what percentage of the students accepted each year were Catholic, you might be surprised at how low the figure is. So, don't let the question deter you.

In answering a question that appears to have a religious component, I would suggest visiting the school web site and familiarizing yourself with their mission statement and goals. If the school emphasizes caring for the poor, for example, perhaps you can share any life experiences where you volunteered or exhibited these values. I imagine that as prospective health care professionals, most applicants share a core set of values including, but not limited to, helping others. If you can apply that philosophy into your response on a supplemental application question that you feel is religious in nature, I'm sure you will be fine.

Good luck.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How can I overcome poor grades in undergrad?

Question: How do pharmacy schools view applicants who have already done poorly in pre-requisites but then retake them in post-baccalaureate programs? Should I retake these courses only, or should I also take other upper-division courses I've never attempted (as in academic enhancer track type versions of post-bac programs)? Or am I just taking this all too seriously?

Answer: We have many applicants who are transitioning to pharmacy from other professions and we also have many who always had an interested in pharmacy, but were unprepared or unqualified during their undergraduate studies. I appreciate the way that you acknowledged and accepted the reasons for your struggles and I think it will help to explain them in your personal statement. I have no problems admitting a more "mature" student who might have had issues when they were younger if it is apparent that they have learned from those experiences and have now shown their aptitude and motivation to pursue pharmacy school.

If your sole purpose is to attempt to get into pharmacy school, I would probably advise against taking new upper division courses as I'm not sure you are going to get the added benefit that you think you might. Instead, if you retook some of the core sciences that you did poorly in, you put yourself on a level field with many of the applicants you will be compared with and that should probably balance the playing field for you. These courses would also probably help some in your PCAT preparation.

Ultimately, you need to stress the aspects of your application such as starting a pre-pharm club, etc. Show the committees that you have made attending pharmacy school your #1 priority and you have dedicated yourself to that goal. Gain some pharmacy experience or shadow a pharmacist who can write you a positive letter of recommendation. If you can do all of those things successfully, I see no reason why you wouldn't be a strong candidate for pharmacy school.

Good luck and please keep us posted.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Working as a 1st year pharmacy student - retail vs hospital

Question: I will begin my first year of pharmacy school this fall without having any type of pharmacy experience. I would like to get some hands on real world experience while in school. Would you recommend I look for a job in a hospital or a drug store?

Answer: Based on my own experience as well as conversations with many, many students and pharmacists over the years, I would probably recommend your first job be in a hospital pharmacy setting. Here is the reason why: Hospital pharmacy requires a set of skills that if learned early will help you tremendously as your education progresses. Being familiar with various injectable drugs and how to prepare admixtures is something that many pharmacy students never learn until they begin a hospital pharmacy clerkship.

In my opinion, it is "easier" to learn how to be a community/drug store pharmacist than it is to be a hospital pharmacist. Please understand - I am not saying that one profession is better than the other. If I had to do it all over again, I would start my intern work at a hospital pharmacy and try to learn the business of retail pharmacy with an additional part time job (maybe with an independent pharmacy) in the summer.

Thanks for your question.

A follow up on writing to pharmacy schools when on a waitlist

Another follow up regarding waiting lists:

Pepcid PharmD said...
I was waitlisted at my top choice until recently. I was fortunate enough to have other options. After I got into my first school, I wrote a letter of intent talking about how impressed I was by Top Choice, I'm up to this and that, I got into another school but if accepted I will absolutely attend Top Choice. The school ranked its waitlist a few weeks ago, and I was accepted the very next day.

Was it because I wrote a letter? I can't say for sure. My school has been known to string along waitlisted candidates through the summer. I do think that the letter helped, particularly because I was accepted immediately upon the AdCom ranking the waitlist.

I congratulate you on your acceptance. I am always impressed by succinct well written letters of intent and thank you notes - for those who have followed the blog for some time, you know that I encourage applicants to do this. If anyone has additional questions on the topic, please let me know.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What do I do while on a waiting list?

In response to a post I made last week about being waitlisted, was the following commnent:

Peggy said...

I can appreciate that being waitlisted is better than being completely rejected, but how is someone supposed to plan? What if their preferred school is across country? There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration, especially if someone has more than just themselves to worry about.

As AdComs, we realize the stress that comes with being placed on a pharmacy school alternate or waiting list. It is our hope and intent to fill our classes with the most qualified candidates as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, for many schools, that process can take a long time. It is my recommendation that you contact the schools where you have interviewed and have been placed on a waiting list with a succinct email (preferably to the Director of Admissions) such as this:

Dear _____,

My name is ____________ and I am a prospective student for the _________ Pharmacy Class of 2015. I interviewed at ________________ on _____ and was immediately impressed by the faculty and facilities of your institution. I am currently on the waitlist for the class matriculating this fall and hope that you will consider me as a strong candidate for admission. It is a dream of mine to become a pharmacist and I would represent _____________ in an exemplary manner as both a student and future graduate. I hope to hear from you soon.



Good luck to everyone and please keep us informed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Being waitlisted isn't the end of the world

As many applicants start to get anxious as they wait on alternate lists for pharmacy school admissions, I thought it appropriate to re-post my thoughts on the subject:

I recently had a conversation with someone I have been advising through the process. She applied and interviewed at her preferred school, but was then informed that she was going to be "Waitlisted". She was extremely disappointed and I understand that, but I would also remind you that it is not uncommon either. A significant number of applicants who are ultimately accepted were waitlisted (or designated as an alternate) by a school at some point during the process. Don't despair if you fall into this category. There are several months between now and school starting next fall and lots will happen between now and then. I have seen students get admitted the day or the week that school starts before.

Hang in there. Regularly contact the school(s) to let them know that you are still interested and would love to matriculate there if the opportunity exists.

Keep us posted on your status and please consider sharing your experiences on our forum -


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Are my grades good enough to apply to pharmacy school?

Question: I'm a Sophmore and I was planning on taking my PCAT this upcoming October 2011 and applying for pharmacy school. However I have doubts that my overall grades are not good enough to get me accepted. I have repeated 2 courses and recieved a B in both, I was wondering if I would be better off waiting until next summer to apply, yet I do not wish to waste a year floating around in ungrad only taking a few classes here and there if unneceassary. What should I do? Should I just take the risk and apply this year or should I wait it off another year?

Answer: What is your overall GPA and your math/science GPA? Those are two significant factors in determining your chances. What are your grades in the following courses:

Gen Chem

The above are the "core" classes that are very predictive of success and any committee will hope to see success from their applicants. With that info, I might be able to better assist you. Since you have already retaken a couple of the classes that you struggled with and completed then with a satisfactory grade, I'm guessing that applying this year would be plausible. Much will be determined by where you want to apply.

Good luck.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Question about the interview process

Question: Could you provide some insight into how the interview process works? Some schools say individual interviews conducted with faculty, some don't describe their process, some say that interviews are conducted with faculty, students, and/or by a committee of both. Will information usually accompany the offer to interview or does this vary by institution? Thanks so much for your incredibly helpful site.

Answer: I am aware of a multitude of different types of pharmacy school interviews. Initially, you should try to find out if it is open or closed file (for more information, you can review previous blog posts on this topic). In most cases, I have found that someone in the admissions office would be more than willing to assist and answer these types of questions. Trust me, a lot of people ask and you should not hesitate to call if you have questions.

You are correct that the way an interview is handled is very institution specific. At one school you might have a couple of interviews with staff and students and at another you you might only interview with an admissions director. Some interviews have a written component. In the end, ask the school for as much information as you need. If you are looking for specific school information and can't seem to get the answers you are looking for, perhaps we can help if we know where you are interviewing.

If you are interested in becoming a pharmacy technician,
here is a great place to start.

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Forner pharmacy student wants to re-enroll

Question: I was once a pharmacy student. I finished all the pre-reqs and 1 semester of the third year before I failed out. My pre-reqs were mostly C's. This was due to personal problems that have been resolved now. Currently, I am about to get a BS degree in Biology at another school. My cumulative GPA is 3.0, but my science GPA is 2.5. I got a C in Genetics and a C in Microbiology w/ lab, although I received a B in medicinal Microbiology in Pharmacy w/o lab. The highest GPA I could get before I graduate is 3.3. I have already gotten a pharm tech license, and worked as a pharm intern (not tech) in 3 different pharm settings, but haven't taken the PCATs yet. Do you think there is a slight chance I could make it back in?

Answer: Good question - every year we have several students who were once in pharmacy, medical, and nursing schools apply to our institution and I have seen students with similar experiences as yours be readmitted to pharmacy school. What we would look at was whether or not you were eligible to resume your coursework at your previous institution. If you left on decent terms, but the personal problems were the primary factor in your academic failures, that would probably help your case. If the school considers you ineligible to re-enroll, our committee would consider that as a significant negative against you. In either case, you must use your personal statement to explain your reason as best you can.

Because your grades are marginal, you will need to show your desire to resume your pharmacy studies and hopefully score very well on the PCATs which would help offset some of the earlier not so stellar grades. Point out that you have matured since your early studies and that you have foucsed on earning your BS in an attempt to re-enroll in pharmacy school. There is something to be said for perserverance. Good luck.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pharmacy Scool - what are my chances?

Question: I recently discovered the blog and was spurred to ask a question. I would appreciate your input on my applicant strength in regards to the average applicant you come across. Here are a few stats:

GPA: 3.01, science/math GPA: 2.7

PCAT taken August 2009
Verbal 97
Biology 99
Reading 83
Chem 90
Quant 91
Composite 98

I am a certified pharmacy tech although I have no pharmacy experience as I could not find a job in pharmacy. I have over 200+ volunteer hours at the local Boys & GIrls Club, as well as various charities. I have also worked at various retail jobs (none relating to pharmacy however) since college started 3 years ago.

In regards to my GPA, I know it's low, and its due to my lack of focus my first two years of college. I have averaged roughly a 3.5 the past two semesters, and I feel as though my PCAT scores show I have a handle on science and math. Also, I know I can count on getting a glowing LOR from my current boss, and one from an economics professor (economics is my degree, which I will obtain this year). However, I need to get one from a pharmacist, and I am currently trying to arrange a shadowing visit or two.

So, I know that this is a very long email, and for that I apologize. However, I feel like this gives an accurate snapshot of myself. I'm contemplating retaking a few classes (mostly freshman level biology's) to boost my GPA, but I'm not sure I can fit it into my schedule. I would greatly appreciate if you could advise as to what I could do to add to my application or just comment on the general strength of my application.

Answer: My succinct response is this: You have excellent PCAT scores and those alone will probably get you in to most schools. As noted,your GPA is marginal, but you can address this in your statement. I wouldn't be too concerned in your case and I wouldn't retake lower level courses unless you did very poorly (D or lower) in classes like Gen Chem, Orgo, or Bio. Just try to keep your overall GPA > 3.0.

You seem to have plenty of good work and volunteer experience, so lack of pharmacy experience won't be all that important. Shadowing and an LOR from a pharmacist would be more than enough in your case.

Just make sure that your statement is good and that your LORs are solidly supportive. If so, you have an excellent chance of being admitted to multiple schools.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Make sure the school knows you are committed to pharmacy!

While noting your attributes, oftentimes applicants will point out their rigorous work schedules and course loads - I think it is a fine idea to do that. In pharmacy school you will have 16-18 semester hours (mostly difficult science courses), so if you have been successful in your undergraduate studies handling similar classes, mention it. However, make sure the committee knows that you are committed to be a full time pharmacy student.

Here is how one potential applicant references her work load:

Persistence has defined who I am in recent years; I have managed to be
financially independent with two part-time jobs resulting in fifty-hour
workweeks: working at a pharmacy and also as a research assistant.
Simultaneously, I am continuing my post-baccalaureate studies and community
service that I enjoy.

This paragraph would concern me as I wonder if you would be able to succeed with your courses if you plan to work part time jobs and keep yourself as busy as you have in the past. I know that pharmacy school is a major financial investment and that many students need to work to pay the bills. Trust me, we understand that. School officials, however, want to make sure that the students they admit will be successful so explain the sacrifice you are willing to make if given this opportunity.

Be very clear in your statement how you plan to handle the rigors of a professional program. Do you plan to cut back or resign from your current position? While volunteering is fantastic, perhaps you might tell the committee that you plan to seek part time employement in a pharmacy instead. Stating that you are 100% committed to being a pharmacy student and will eliminate any unnecessary distractions might be viewed as a positive when decisions are made.

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Should I send a thank you note after an interview?

I am reposting this question because it comes up from time to time. If you have a different opinion than mine, please let me know.

Question: Should I send a thank you letter following a pharmacy school interview?

Answer: Some years ago, I received a thank you note or email from what seemed like most of the applicants that I personally interviewed. Today, however, I receive very few.

What I will point out though, is that I tend to remember those applicants who did send the note (which is the point of sending the note, right?). On several occasions when discussing a file, I have heard a commitee member comment that they received a nice card or email from the applicant being discussed. While it might not sway anyone's opinion, for the time it took to send the note, I'd say it was worth it.

I might also add that if you have been working with someone in the admissions office closely, it would be very polite to send them a thank you email as well following an interview. Sometimes I think they get overlooked

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pharmacy School AdCom Online Discussion #10

Friday, February 18, 2011

Basic Pharmacy School Interview Preparation

Question: Hello, I am one of many students who are finding great information in your blog. Thank you so much for your valuable advice. I just got a call for an interview that will be in 2 weeks. Could you give me some advice for interview preparation? And sample interview questions and essay topics?

Answer: Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you have found the blog to be useful.

My advice regarding the interview is to dress professionally, of course. First impressions are very important - you need to look the part. I suggest you research the institution.. How do their graduates fare on boards? How many pursue residencies, etc? Anything that you can knowledgeably discuss with your interviewers will be helpful to you and show that you prepared for the interview.

Most of the questions will probably be about you and why you want to attend their school. They will want to get to know you. Some might be institution specific, particularly if there is a religious affiliation to the school. If it is an open file interview, you should be prepared to explain any red flags in your application such as poor grades or substandard PCAT scores.

At an absolute minimum, you should be prepared to thoughtfully explain why you want to be a pharmacist and why you want to attend this particular school. Those are the $1,000,000 questions for any reviewer.

Good luck!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Questions about the supplemental application

Question: First of all, I really appreciate you guys for creating this blog. It has answered a lot of my questions already =). I have a question about the supplementals. I noticed that some of the supplemental questions are similar to the Pharmcas personal statement question. Do you think we could use the same ideas from the Pharmcas personal statement but just reword it?

Thanks a lot for your guys' help!

Answer: Thank you. I am glad that you have found the blog to be useful. To answer your question, you can certainly use some of the same "ideas", but be careful. I am attaching a link to an earlier blog entry on this topic -

If by "ideas" you mean the desire to help people, etc... of course you should reinforce this. However, don't use the same examples and stories, etc. I have seen this occur many times and committees always look at this with disdain. Take the time to put your thoughts and feelings on paper, doing you best to answer the questions asked on the supplemental application.

If your supplemental answers answers overlap some of what was said in your PharmCas personal statement, that is probably to be expected. Just don't overdo it.

It's worth emphasizing this one last time:

Do not copy and paste verbatim from your PharmCas statement into your supplemental essay! I have seen reviewers literally throw files in the reject bin because the applicant didn't take the time to specifically answer the questions asked on a supplemental application. School officials, administrators, and deans can spend a great deal of time determining what to ask on their supplemental applications. These are important to their institution. Take the time and give an answer that incorporates some of what you have said in your statement, but take a slightly different approach to reinforce what you feel are your most important attributes. You owe it to yourself and to the school to thoughtfully answer the specific questions designed to find a "good fit" for their program.

Good luck.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Accredited vs non-accredited schools - explain

Question: In an earlier post, you mentioned to a student that he might consider looking at non-accredited schools of pharmacy if he thought he couldn't get into an accredited school Could you explain the difference?

Answer: ACPE accredits schools of pharmacy. In most cases, schools are "fully" accredited. However, there have been a number of schools that have opened in the past several years and before they can be accredited, they must go through a multi-year accreditation process. Thus, some are considered "pre-candidate" or "candidate" depending on if they have students enrolled yet or have yet to graduate a class. Here is a listing of schools and their current status.
In rare instances, schools can be placed on "probation" or have their accreditation denied or withdrawn.

Additional information from ACPE:

For some applicants, the thought of attending an "non-accredited" school is concerning because of the theoretical risk that upon graduation the degree will not be accepted by their respective state board of pharmacy. I believe this "risk" to be more perceived than real and would not discourage an applicant from choosing this route if it enabled entrance into the profession, particularly if they feel admission is more likely at a non-accredited school than an accredited school.

Please send me an email or add a comment for more information.

Friday, February 4, 2011

When should I just give up?

Question: This will be the third cycle I have applied for pharmacy school. Once, after two years of undergrad and then again after I finished by BS. My grades are average and my PCAT scores aren't great - composites between 44-58 on three attempts. I have wanted to be a pharmacist for a long time, but I am getting to the point where I need to get on with my life if this dream isn't ever going to happen. What would you say to someone like me who might never get accepted? Should I just give up?

Answer: This is a question that makes me a bit uncomfortable responding to. Of course, in an attempt to be supportive of your goals and dreams, I want to say that you should never give up. I know a young man who desired to go to medical school and applied numerous times only to be rejected year after year. He completed two masters degrees and ultimately a PhD in a science field, but felt unfulfilled and decided to again take the MCAT and apply to medical school one last time. Wouldn't you know he was finally accepted (to his first choice even) and is now in his third year of medical school. So, never say never.

If you have taken the PCAT many times and feel that your scores are keeping you out, you might be right. However, there can be other reasons as well. I have seen applicants with PCATs in the 50's get admitted every year. It can and does happen. What you need to make sure of is that every other detail in your application is outstanding. You want to have the best personal statement possible, the best references for your letters of recommendation, and hopefully you have gained some pharmacy experience. Maybe you could begin a masters program, which will help your job prospects as well as better prepare you for professional school.

If you had no chance based on the information provided, I would tell you. I actually think you can get in and hope that you stick with it. It would be my recommendation to expand the list of schools that you are applying to and start contacting the admissions office at those schools to see what they recommend in a case such as yours, which is not all that unfamiliar.

Best of luck.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How do I overcome a language barrier and get into pharmacy school?

Question: I have a strong accent because English is not my native language. I'm afraid that if the interviewers do not understand due to my accent, they would reject me. Will this happen?
Btw, your blog is great. I really appreciate every single piece of information you have post so far. Thanks.

Answer: Let's start with the obvious: Our committee initially learns about you by reading your application and personal statement, so an accent or difficulty with oral communication will not become evident until later in the process.

However, if you apply to a school that requires the PCAT, the committee will see your reading/verbal PCAT scores and your writing PCAT score. I have seen scores in the single digits which will have killed applications. Secondly, a committee will see your PharmCas letters of recommendation where the reviewers are asked to grade you on your communication skills. Lastly, the committee will read your personal statement. If you have grammatical issues or difficulty with written communication, it will be known by this point. Assuming you have a satisfactory application after all this is considered, you might be asked to interview.

The interview will be the critical element and you will need to be prepared to answer the questions the very best you can. I know that we have asked candidates to interview for the sole purpose of determining their communication ability. I cannot stress the importance of the interview enough and encourage you to do "mock" interviews with family, friends, co-workers, or even a professor or advisor if they are willing. Research the institution and learn what their interview process is like and determine a plan to maximize your abilities, while minimizing communication shortcomings.

I have taught and precepted many students who spoke English as a second language and many have done very well and been very successful. Focus on what you want to say and how you want to say it and you'll be okay.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PCAT discussion - January 22, 2011

If you have questions or comments on yesterday's PCAT examination, please share your thoughts with us by adding a comment below or by posting on the forum in the PCAT section.

Monday, January 17, 2011

3 year pharmacy schools

Question: Do anyone of you pharmacy geeks know of any 3 year pharmacy schools? I know of two- Appalachian and LECOM, are there any more? is it okay choosing a 3 year school over 4? or does it have its own side effects? I was also wondering if there are any schools that do not require you to take PCAT, except for LECOM, if you have a bachelors degree?

Answer: Yes, there are several pharmacy schools that have an academic calendar that runs year round and allows completion within 3 years. Someone compiled a list and posted it here:

I do not believe that one format is better than another. Students should find the program that best suits their particular interests and familiarize themselves with the differences (including length of the program) to make the most informed decision they can.

Good luck.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A comment about academic transcripts

We have received a number of emails over the past couple of weeks asking us to review PCAT scores and personal statements. I want to make sure everyone also understands the importance of the academic transcript that the Admission Committee receives.

When reviewing a file, there is a lot of information for a reviewer to process. Obviously, not everyone is the same and no two people probably look at things the exact same way. What I offer are my thoughts based on my experiences working with Pharmacy School Admission Committees for a number of years.

That being said, I have had prospective applicants ask why they haven't been given interviews based on the PCAT scores they send me. As many of you know, I think the PCATs are important, but so are the LORs, GPAs, personal statement and your academic transcript. If I am reviewing a file that has a number of withdrawals, F's retaken for better scores, or it appears that a student is "ducking" the most difficult prerequisites at their institution to take them at a lesser school or as a summer course, that can influence my perception of the student.

For example, last year I reviewed a file of an average applicant. PCAT was around 70. GPA was 3.2-ish. Had some pharmacy experience and decent LORs. In many cases, we would have waitlisted the file to see how the class shaped up and we would then revisit this application. Instead, when the committee reviewed the transcript, we saw 10+ withdrawals and D's in GenChem from the 4 year school which were retaken during the summer at a community college (Orgo wasn't attempted at the 4 year school, but were taken at the community college).

What do you think of this file. At face value, the PCAT and GPA were probably acceptable for admission at a number of schools. But, looking deeper into the file raised a number of questions about the applicant's ability to perservere through difficulty. It appeared that every time a course was challenging, he/she chose to drop it. Instead of retaking Gen Chem at the same school, the applicant took it as a single summer course at a less difficult (in this case) school. Ultimately, the committee decided that this applicant probably didn't have the constitution to "gut it" through pharmacy school and she was rejected.

If you have something in your transcript that might be a concern to a reviewer, I suggest you address it. It is possible that the W's were related to an illness or family crisis? Sure. If they had been, we would have considered that. However, forcing the reviewer determine the cause of your difficulties is something I would advise against. If you have a question about whether you should specifically address a transcript "red flag" post a comment below and we'll try to assist.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

No pharmacy experience - need guidance

Question: I work full-time, take full-time courses, and have a large family (with a supportive husband). I have been lucky to secure a weekend, night position so that my weekdays are free for family and college courses. I have no pharmacy experience at all, including shadowing. I do have one day a week free this upcoming semester to do research. Would it be beneficial to me to work with a researcher that I have known for several years in the medicinal chemistry lab, and secure a legitimate letter of reference? Would my time be better spent volunteering on this "free" day at a pharmacy? If I choose the research route, I will not have a reference letter from a Pharmacist.

Answer: In a case such as yours I have often heard adcoms ask the question why someone in your situation wants to become a pharmacist. The catch here is this - if you have no rx experience at all, the question of what motivates you to apply to pharmacy school becomes tricky. I've had applicants such as yourself tell me that they've dreamed of becoming a pharmacist and have sacrificed many things to apply to pharmacy school. However, it always seems odd to me that someone would be willing to do so much for a profession they seemingly know so little about. Spending even a day shadowing a pharmacist would give you some talking points and eliminate some of the concerns an adcom might have. I think you could keep your research position and get your researcher LOR and still take a little time to shadow a pharmacist.

If you are looking for more info about pharmacy programs, check
accredited degrees.

Good luck.