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.