Thursday, December 27, 2012

How much do pharmacy school AdComs value volunteer work?

Question:  I'm interested in volunteering an a hospital, and for a number of reasons, one of which I've had great experiences volunteering back in high school and I know I'd enjoy doing it again. Ideally, I'd like to volunteer with the pharmacy staff, but the hospitals I'm interested in have more formalized programs and don't offer positions close to pharmacy and they don't offer shadowing positions. My strategy is to network and hopefully create the pharmacy volunteering opportunity or at least make a connection for shadowing.

But in the worst case that this doesn't materialize, I'm still interested in volunteering. My question is, how do admissions committees value this type of experience? I know that an experience like this will be rewarding nonetheless, and I think I can leverage those experience in putting together my application. And the fact that these are highly-acclaimed hospitals doesn't hurt either =) But I also need to make sure that I'm fully optimizing my free time. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Note - I work full time and am still applying for prehealth-studies programs

Answer:  I can only speak for myself on this, although I've sat in on enough meetings to have an opinion beyond my own. It has been my experience that any type of volunteering can be beneficial. It shows character and a willingness to give of oneself to help others - something every pharmacy school wants of it's students and graduates.

Having said that, volunteering at the animal shelter or something unrelated to health care won't gain you very much when a decision is being made. If you can show volunteer work at a hospital somewhere other than the pharmacy, I think it would help if you had a letter of recommendation from someone who supervised you. Otherwise, it's just something on the application that probably won't contribute much. Ideally, some pharmacy experience would be preferred if it is possible.

Ultimately, whether you have documented volunteerism or not will have very little say in the final analysis of your application. Good to have some? Sure. Better off using that time studying for the PCAT? Perhaps.

Hope that helps. Good luck.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why is the Dean of the pharmacy school reviewing my application?

QuestionI have a question on the general steps taken by an adcom to decide on someone. I called my top choice school today, where i interviewed in early october. Most of the people from the "batch" got their acceptance letters last week. I called to ask whether they had mailed out my decision letter and was told that my file is still in the dean's office. I thought that the dean only signs off the decisions already made by the committee, so why would someone's file be held up with the dean?

Answer:  Hmmmm, very interesting question. Why would the dean be reviewing your file? At our institution (and all I am aware of), the dean ultimately has the final say. However, it is rare for the dean to be involved at all unless he/she has a desire to see a particular applicant admitted. That might be because the applicant belongs to an under-represented minority or because the dean knows the applicant or someone called him directly on the applicant's behalf. Another thought might be that the dean needs to review the applications of those that the school will offer scholarships too. Too difficult to tell, I am sorry to say.

I wouldn't call back to ask at this point, but I would encourage you to ask what it means to have the application in the dean's office if it ever comes up again. If they can tell you, they will.

Good luck.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are there some pharmacy school applicants who have no chance at all?

Question: When reviewing pharmacy school applications, is there often any apps that make you scratch your head, wondering perhaps "why did they bother?" Do you ever scan through a low gpa and low pcat and make a decision to ignore the letters of recommendation, personal and supplemental apps to save time? This isn't a question of mere curiosity, nor is it meant to dissuade anyone or be offensive. A lot of the schools I applied to accept only around 1/8 applicants (200 accepted - 1600 applicants etc). I want to get an idea how long it takes to go through all the applications and what portion of those applicants I am really competing against. Thank you! 

Answer: Yes, there are some applications where it is immediately apparent that we cannot admit the student. This is usually due to a very poor composite PCAT - say, less than 30. Or a single PCAT subset score may eliminate an applicant (ie, PCAT Chem = 5). If an applicant's overall GPA < 2.0, that will probably do it too. Every school has different criteria, of course, but I believe we all have some method of thinning out those applications that just do not have a realistic chance of being admitted. I would guess than 10-20% of applications have no legitimate shot.

Thanks for your question.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Should I bother applying to a school that has an undergraduate college where most students hail from?

Question: I am applying to a private school of pharmacy that has an undergraduate college as well. I did not attend this particular school for my undergraduate studies. Do you have any idea if the school of pharmacy at this school would give preference to those applicants who also attended the undergraduate college? Are a certain number of seats set aside for them? All things being equal, I assume their undergrads would be preferred - right?

Answer: It is my understanding as well that schools of pharmacy with undergraduate "feeder" schools typically give some preference to applicants from that school. However, I don't think this should change your approach when applying at such an institution or discourage you from applying at one of these schools. While many of the pharmacy school spots will be filled by their own undergraduates, it won't be anywhere near 100%, so you definitely still have a chance.

Good luck.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What are my chances of getting into pharmacy school? Need advice

Question: I'm a 25-year-old who needs a bit of advice. I have about 115 credit hours under my belt, but they consist of various classes that can't be applied to the same bachelors degree. The truth is, I took me a while to figure out what to do, and this "trial and error" shows in my grades. Right now I have a 2.4 cumulative GPA and a 3.4 math/science GPA. I've been taking one class or two at a time for the last 2 years, but am now going full-time to take a shot at a 3.0. I have not yet taken the PCAT and have about 20 credits of pre-pharm classes left.

I desperately want to go to pharmacy school. The reasons for such are numerous, but all of them are founded on my deep attachment to the profession. My full-time job (in an unrelated field which I've had for the last 5 years) has consisted of working with a pharmacy program, so I'm pretty familiar with the faculty and staff at my school.

My question is... Do you have any recommendations given my circumstance to increase my chances? I have retaken all failed classes from 8 years ago to hopefully show the AdCom that my study habits are different now, but I now wonder if this was at all beneficial since the cumulative GPA I believe shows my previous attempts.

Thanks for any advice you can provide!

Answer: My first reaction to your question is to recommend that you sit down with someone in the Admissions office, particularly if you have an existing relationship with them. Assuming that you have a positive relationship, you need to use this to your advantage. As you noted, your overall GPA is marginal at best. However, it looks like your science and math GPA are quite respectable. A strong PCAT would help immensely.

I am certain that they will accept your grades from classes retaken, but understand that those will likley not replace existing grades on your transcript. That is a common misconception among applicants.

In the end, it is up to you to show the AdComs that your study habits are different and than you have the ability to be successful in their program. Undeniably, you have the desire to attend this program and I think if you are able to channel your efforts, you can make a legitimate case. However, I would strongly encourage you to make an appointment with someone and discuss all the items you mentioned above.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is it important where I complete my prereqs for pharmacy school?

Question: How important is the school where the prereq classes were taken? Someone I work with has almost a 4.0 from a subpar school, whereas I have a 3.3 or so from a pretty rigorous 4 year university and I had to work damn hard for my grades. I would hate to think that a committee wouldn't realize the differences between the schools and just look at the GPA which might hurt my chances.

Answer: In my opinion, this is the most difficult element when reviewing applications. It is virtually impossible for a committee to really have an idea of how rigorous a specific undergraduate programs really is. The "rank" of a school or program is one way for us to try and measure it obviously.  I will admit that I have been a part of some pretty heated conflicts on this topic. I've seen committee members discount community colleges or lesser ranked institutions. I have seen lesser students from elite schools afforded some breaks as well. Those examples are rare, but they exist. Understand, committees are made up of human beings who have preferences and opinions and this is a very subjective matter. When I don't know how to compare schools, I look at the PCAT scores and LORs for a gauge of what kind of student the applicant is.

But the simplest (and least-PC) answer to your question is, that yes - in some cases it does matter where you completed your prereqs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is age a factor when AdComs review pharmacy school applications?

Question: As a member of an adcom, would you say that age plays a role? Do adcoms tend to have preferences based on, well, I can think of various criteria that could be considered, such as young and single (as in no family) and more apt to succeed with studies because of more time/less responsibilities. Or maybe on the other hand, could an older applicant be viewed as more responsible and goal oriented? What about the fact that you already got a degree in your younger years in something science unrelated. Sometimes I feel like adcoms can be apprehensive towards someone who decided toward a particular field, and now wants to chance...I have a BS in teaching. Generally it is a good thing to have a degree but I'm wondering whether that's a plus or a minus to a pharm adcom. I was asked this question in my first interview, and while having my reasons for deciding to change, I feel a bit challenged in providing an answer that they would like. I'm also 29 and have a child. They didn't ask about that though, which I was happy because I thought they could see that as a barrier for keeping up with a pharm school curriculum. A friend of mine who's also a mom, and already in the program told me she lied about not having kids.

Age may play a minor role in my perception of a applicant. I probably give a younger student, say one applying after 2 years of undergrad, a break if he/she doesn't have pharmacy experience, for example, simply because they've had less time to get it compared to a 30 year old applicant looking for a career change.

In your case, I would think that having some type of pharmacy experience would be very helpful to your chances. That is, when asked what made you want to switch careers, you could indicate that you had spent a great deal of time and effort into procuring a decision and that your time spent in the pharmacy reinforced that pharmacy was what you wanted to do.

I will point out that a number of AdComs do give "credit" to those with degrees (in any field) as well as those who have dedicated the time necessary to take the necessary courses to apply to pharmacy school while working full time and having family and parental responsibilities. I think it is illegal for us to ask about families. marriage status, and children. We can ask if there is anything that might prove to be difficult for student when they are in school, but not, "how many kids do you have and what will you do with them while you're in school".

In summation, issues surrounding an applicant's age / maturity, are things we might consider.  It is rare however, that I have seen this keep a student out of pharmacy school.

Good luck.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Question: My preferred school only accepts one letter of recommendation.  My choice is between my chem. teacher and the lead pharmacist at a state mental hospital. My chem. teacher and I have kept in touch and he has had an opportunity to get to know how great I truly am. The pharmacist is from a my hometown area. She was very supportive and offered exceptional insight. She is the type of pharmacist I'd like to become. Which LOR would be better for this application?

Answer:  Tough question. I would say if you have actual work experience with the pharmacist, a letter of recommendation from her would probably carry more weight with a committee. She could speak to the specific attributes that would make you an excellent pharmacist having witnessed your work in the pharmacy. To me, that is probably what I would most like to see as a reviewer.

If the pharmacist is simply a friend/advisor, I think the LOR needs to come from your chemistry teacher.

Best of luck.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How do pharmacy school AdComs view cases of academic dishonesty?

Question: How does the committee view cases of academic dishonesty such as plagiarism.  I understand pharmacy is a discipline with firm roots in trust and honesty.  How would you like such cases to be presented to the admissions committee?

Answer: Well, it wouldn't be looked upon favorably.  Are you referring to the PCAT question on the topic of academic probation, misconduct, etc or specifically about a question asked on a supplemental or during an interview?  Or has this not yet been addressed and you are seeking advice?

I would imagine if it was an isolated event, a committee might be lenient.  Particularly, if there was a seemingly valid excuse.  My alibi would be that I simply forgot to cite a reference and see how it went.  If an applicant plagiarized an entire paper, on the other hand, that case is certainly more difficult to argue. Now that PharmCas screens essays and statements for copied material, it is more difficult to pass something off as your own.

At my institution, if there was a concern about the student's veracity in explaining the issue, I believe a member of the committee would probably contact the school and speak with the professor or dean responsible for the misconduct penalty.  Of course, we would prefer an applicant be forthcoming with a (hopefully) appropriate explanation, but contacting the school would be one way the committee might proceed.

To be clear, a transcript with misconduct is a red flag for all AdComs and that alone could keep someone out of pharmacy school.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Please read: An Update from Admissions

To the readers of this blog and the members of our forum,

Three years ago we started this blog along with our discussion forum with the goal of demystifying the pharmacy school application process and helping prospective students achieve their career goals. I sincerely appreciate the many visitors and users and I want to to express my sincere appreciate to the site moderators - current pharmacy students - who have assisted others through this process by sharing their advice and guidance.

As some of you may have noticed, I have spent less time on the forum answering questions in recent months than I did previously. I apologize to those of you who have asked me to review personal statements and essays if I have not provided you an adequate response. I have had an increase in my current responsibilities, both personal and professional, and my free time has been reduced to the point where I have to make a decision on the future of this forum

I have made the very difficult decision to place the forum on indefinite hiatus. I will retain the site domain in the event that I am able to re-dedicate the time and resources to it. More importantly, I will continue to provide answers to emails, so I hope you will continue to share them with me and allow me to post them here to help guide other pharmacy school applicants.

My email address is posted below. I will personally respond to your question as best that I can. I hope that you will pass along this blog to your friends, classmates and colleagues.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How should I answer these pharmacy school application supplemental questions?

Questions: 1) I'm working on a supplemental application essay and would like to get your input. The question is "Please explain briefly why you wish to attend XXYY university?". I wrote the essay based on three criteria: ranking, location, and curriculum. I'm not sure if that's enough to answer the question. I feel like the question is not that simple. I need to elaborate more somehow. Please advise.

2) I graduated in 2005 with a very dissapointed overall GPA of 2.6. I started to take pre-pharmacy courses in 2008. I've been doing very good so far because I'm more focused now. Calculus(A), English(A), Anatomy(A), Physiology(A), GChemI(B), GChemII(A), OChemI(A), Microbiology(A). My pre-pharmacy GPA is about 3.9. However, Pharmcas's cummulative GPA is only 2.75. I have 3 LORs (pharmacist, physiology and Ochem professor). I have volunteer experience at a local pharmacy. I'm afraid that I won't get accepted because of my low cummulative GPA. I know some schools tend to look at GPA of the last 45 semester credit or at the grade trend to determine. What do you think of my chances are?

Answers: 1) Your answers are valid, although I would focus your response on rank and curriculum rather than location.  Do you know anyone who attended the school? Have you worked with or shadowed an alum? A personal recommendation from a graduate is always something nice to hear as a reviewer. If the school has something specific that makes them unique (ie, religious component, focus on a certain type of research, etc), knowing that can be useful also.

2) You are correct that your GPA is probably below the average of most schools. You need to impress upon the reviewer that your pre-pharm grades are a more accurate reflection of your abilities than your undergraduate GPA. You can add that your focus is solely on attending pharmacy school and your more recent grades attest to that. Obviously, some schools are much more competitive than others so where you plan to apply will impact the result.  Personally, I tend to place a greater emphasis on what you have achieved in your pre-pharm work and your motivation to gain pharmacy experience.

Good luck.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What are my chances of getting into pharmacy school with low verbal/reading PCAT scores?

Question: I was looking at your blog, and I have a question for you please. I too the PCAT for the second time yesterday, and i dont know if i should retake. I took it the 1st time in January, here is the two different scores:

January 2012
Verbal Ability :7
Chemistry: 93
Quantitative Ability: 27
Reading Comprehension: 43
Biology: 27

September 2012
Verbal ability:25
Chemistry :88
Quantitative Ability :61
Reading Comprehension :16
Biology :84

My gpa is 3.80 , and English is my second language, and I volunteered for medical missions, has been on the Dean's list 6 times, getting my bachelor of science in Chemistry minor in biology this coming December, been the secretary of local American Chemical Society at my school, member of Alpha Chi and Phi Theta Kappa honor society, member of International student association and residence association, been Teaching assistant for organic chemistry two semesters, genetics, principles of biology, basic chemistry and dissect.
I really need your advice.

Thank you

Answer: It sounds to me like you are a very competitive applicant in almost every way - congrats on the considerable increase in your Bio and Quant scores on the September 2012 PCAT.  The only issue is that your Verbal/Reading scores are not ideal, obviously.  Personally, I wouldn't be all that concerned and we see cases similar to yours every year.  I do know some AdComs, however, who place a greater emphasis on what the PCAT says and some of them might focus on those scores when the file is reviewed.

I would recommend that you find a writer for your LORs who can comment on your communication skills.  He/she might say that English is not your first language, but that you were able to process the information presented in class without difficulty.  As an Adcom, that would ease my mind.  Having a strong interview when you can exhibit adequate communication skills is also a must.

Good luck.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What does as AdCom look at first when reviewing pharmacy school applications?

Question: I know this question has nothing DIRECTLY related to the review process, but I just wanted to know what it is like to be in your shoes. If I were on the admissions committee, I would probably get tired of reading hundreds of personal letters and all these GPAs and numbers.
1) Do you get tired after a while and just let some things slip?
2) Finally, do you feel bad that some really eager and qualified applicants might get rejected because the reivew/interviewer might just be having a bad day?
3) When you open the file of an applicant, what is the FIRST thing you look at? I know this has NO importance to the whole process but, again, I'm just curious. Do you look at the GPA/PCAT or just go straight to the personal statement or even just start off reading their background? I know everybody is different, but what do YOU usually do?

Answer: Variations of this question have been asked multiple times, so I will discuss thoroughly again since it has been a while since we posted on the topic:

1) You are correct that it can be mundane to review the number of applications that we do. At some point, the personal statements become indistinguishable and the PCATs, GPAs, core science GPAs, etc are just a blur. That being said, I do (and I know my colleagues do as well) take this responsibility very seriously. We don't want to waste our time, the time of the people working in the Admissions Office and certainly not the time of the applicant.

2) I'm not sure if a reviewer or interviewer having a "bad day" is enough to fell an otherwise worthy applicant. However, every reviewer has pet peeves and if you say something or write about something that is a trigger for him/her, "bad luck" might get you. One example I saw last year was an applicant who indicated on his personal statement that he struggled in some of his undergraduate science courses because the professor was from India and had a very strong accent that he could not understand. Well, as you might imagine, one of his primary reviewers during his pharmacy school applicants was a professor from India.  Oops.

3) When reviewing a file, I 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. Just looking at those items allows me to reduce by about 1/3 the number of files to review. Some are "slam dunk" applicants, whereas others have no realistic chance of being admitted. I don't want you to think that the personal and supplemental statement don't matter - THEY DO MATTER! However, a quick glance at "the numbers" usually gives me a snapshot of the applicant's profile before getting into reading the statements. That is what I look at first, but isn't what I spend the greatest amount of time on.

I hope that helps.  Good luck.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Open file vs closed file interviews

Question: I have a question regarding the interview process. I was wondering what the pros and cons of open vs closed file would be. Also, I would consider myself a shy person. I don't talk very loudly in situations where I am nervous and I'm sure I would be for something as important as this. I know I'm going to have to practice a lot for this when the time comes but do you have any advice for someone who is not the most outgoing type. Would closed file interviews be worst off for me?

Answer: I prefer closed file, which means the interviewers know little if anything about you before you enter the interview area. They don't know your GPA, PCAT, etc. They are there to see what kind of person you are and if you would "fit" at their institution. In closed file interviews, my experience is that the committee has probably decided in advance what your status will be (accept or waitlist) and the interview will confirm or deny it.

Open file means the interviewers have your information during the interview. They might see that you struggled with Orgo and ask questions about how you handled a difficult situation like that. Or perhaps an LOR mentioned something negative or concerning and that will direct the conversation. I feel that open file requires the applicant to sell him/herself a little bit more than closed file.

Therefore, if you are shy or not outgoing (as your questions states), I would think closed file would suit you better as it seems a bit less stressful.  You might also ask if the interviews are done individually or as a group.  More and more schools are using group style interviews and Q&A sessions with applicants.  In such a case, you may need to make an extra effort to be heard.

Best of luck.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Should I take the PCAT again?

Question: Thank you for your very informative blog. I took the PCAT recently for my third attempt and got a composite 80. I understand that pharmacy schools only look at the highest score out of my three attempts, and I wanted to take the PCAT one more time in hopes of bumping my score up to an 84 or higher.

Would it look bad to the admissions committee if they saw my app. and were appalled I took the PCAT so many times? I understand this may vary at different schools, but how would you view it? And how bad would it look if I took the PCAT a fourth time and did worse than before?

Answer: Thanks for your question. It is incorrect to assume that all schools looks solely at your highest PCAT score from your three attempts. I have been involved with the admissions process at institutions that handled things very differently.

My previous school took the highest of the subset scores when reviewing files. For example, you indicated that you have taken the exam three times. This school would take the highest Chem score of the three, the highest Bio score, etc. They would generate their own Composite score from the best subset scores. Obviously, that would boost an applicant's overall "composite" and make it appear that the school was admitting students with better PCAT scores than they really were. Whether they admit it or not, schools do look to see what caliber of students their comparative schools are admitting. If there are 3 or 4 schools in one geographic area, I can guarantee you they know what the average PCAT is of the incoming students at the other schools.

My current institution looks at each exam uniquely, but comprehensively. You may have a composite of 40, then 80, then 60. We would see what the areas of strength and weakness are and determine if your corresponding grades matched what the exam showed. If you scored a 10 on the PCAT Chem every time and had C's and D's in Orgo, you are in bad shape even with a composite of 80. Similarly, if your composite scores are 20, 20, 80 - the committee isn't only going to look at the 80. In this example, your lower scores will be looked at extensively instead of simply accepting your highest PCAT as the final word.

Back to your original question, taking the PCAT multiple times can be good or bad. Not knowing what your first two scores were or where you plan to apply, I would say that your composite score is adequate for most schools. If you did worse on a 4th exam, it would certainly be considered when reviewing your application. That is the risk you take, in my opinion.

Good luck.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Should I be concerned about the future of pharmacy, job prospects, etc?

Question: I was just curious since I've been reading intensely about pharmacy ever since I chose of making it my career. I have been reading that jobs have been declining (especially on the east coast where I live with my family) with all the new pharmacy schools opening up. I was wondering how the job market will look like in 2018 and should I consider a new career path? I want to do this, but I'm not sure if it's worth the potential debt I'm going to face and uncertainty even with a doctorate in pharmacy. What does the future hold and will the wages decline greatly?

Answer: I have been asked this question (or a variation of it) many times in the past year or so. The job prospects for grads in the past couple of years have not been as plentiful as they were in the preceding decade. However, I do not blame this on additional pharmacy schools - even 10 new schools would only produce about 1000 grads a year. Instead, place blame on the economy. A decade worth of bad economic times has forced tens of thousands of practicing pharmacists to extend their careers when they might have retired previously. I feel that is why there are less jobs available right now. Still, compare pharmacy to almost any other profession and it compares favorably.

Look at the demographics of the United States and you will see that the population is aging. Over 65+ in the fastest growing segment of our population and these are the folks who use the most medications. I believe there will be an increased need for pharmacists in many roles in the coming decade.

I wouldn't let the current economic environment sour your view of the profession.


Friday, August 3, 2012

What are my chances at getting into pharmacy school with a low GPA?

Question: I am in my 4th year of undergrad and overall my GPA is a 2.7. I had a tough first year of college, and have slacked myself into the situation I'm in now. A 2.7 is not exactly competitive, but I've seen some pharmacy schools with a minimum GPA requirement of 2.75, and some with a 2.5. I still have a few more pre reqs to take (O. Chem, Calc, Bio II) and I want to make As but being real with myself, I would be lucky to get a high C or a low B. I also have a couple Ds (A&P I, Gen. Chem II) but I retook A&P and got an A, and am taking Chem II. again this upcoming semester. Im going to take the PCAT, probably a semester before graduation and then see where it takes me. How often do these students like myself with below average GPAs get considered for admission against peers who posses much higher GPAs? And what other factors do admissions put an emphasis on other than just your GPA. 

Answer:  Good questions. A very strong PCAT (>90) will do you wonders. Plus, obtaining A's in any courses in progress or retakes would help. If you have pharmacy experience, a strong letter of recommendation from a pharmacist is a must.

Ultimately, you need to convince the AdComs to overlook your first year of college. If you can show improvement after that year, your can make a case that once you decided to pursue pharmacy that your grades improved. Every year we have situations exactly like this where we need to decide what matters most - overall transcript or more recent work.

It's hard to give you guidance on your chances. At some schools, it is probably close to zero, but there are others that might be willing to look past your shortcomings. Your advantage is that there are enough unknowns at this point -PCAT, OChem, Calc grades - that you can still improve your chances.

Good luck.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Asked to write a letter of recommendation for pharmacy school - help requested.

Question: I was asked to write a letter of recommendation for one of my employees who is applying to pharmacy school.  He is a great employee and I want to focus on the right attributes that will help his chances of admission.  Any suggestions on what attributes or qualities that pharmacy schools will value more?  Thanks for your time and help! 

 Answer: Thanks for your email.  I'd recommend a different approach for various writers depending on the relationship you have with the applicant.  A professor, for example, should focus on academic ability and aptitude.  A mentor might reflect on character and willingness to lead others.

In your case,  an employer might write about timeliness, work ethic and ability to deal with difficult situations.  I like to read about applicants who have made a contribution to a team and improved some aspect of the workplace.  You might cite an example how the applicant impacted someone positively.

I hope that helps.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Please respond: A question for prospective pharmacy school applicants

We have operated this forum for several years now and some of our earliest users are almost finished with their schooling. It has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience.  As many of you know we originally started  by answering questions on SDN and then decided to create our own path where we could help more pharmacy school applicants without their restrictions.

We have come to a crossroads about how best to proceed with our discussion board (see: Pharmacy School Admissions forum).  Currently, we are entertaining the idea of providing additional support to prospective applicants by adding a fee based service.  To this point, we have never requested or accepted any compensation for the many hours devoted to providing advice and guidance and our intent was never to do so.

You may recall that during our first year, we reviewed several hundred personal statements and essays for applicants. I had to cut back after a year or so due to time limitations and an overwhelming number of requests.  I have discussed with several people who could assist me in adding a premium service to this site if the users of the site are interested. The thought is that for some fee, we could essentially walk an applicant through the process, provide support, answer questions, review statements and essays, maybe conduct mock interviews online. The options are really endless. We might be able to offer tiers of service depending on how much help each applicant desired.

There is no question that the process of applying to pharmacy school is time consuming and expensive. Considering that investment, would there be interest from prospective applicants in such a service?  We would try to keep any fees very reasonable, but I also understand that asking other AdComs to assist in providing guidance requires compensating them for their time.

I'd appreciate your input.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Share your thoughts on the July 2012 PCAT

Good luck to all applicants taking the July 2012 PCAT!  We hope that you will take a moment to share your experiences with the other users of our discussion forum.

 Link to forum: Pharmacy School Admissions forum

There is also a section created for you to post your PCAT score, GPA, etc and get feedback from the AdComs.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Took the MCAT, but now pursuing pharmacy. Should I wait to take the PCAT or apply now?

Question: I am considering applying to Pharmacy School this year.  However, I have only recently decided to pursue the profession after realizing that I wasn't excited about going to med school.  I looked into Pharmacy and it seems to fit me perfectly.  I took the MCAT last summer and scored decently (32R), but I have not yet taken the PCAT and therefore am a little wary of applying to Pharmacy school this year.  My GPA is good (3.95 w/ full course load each semester, 'A's in all of the pre-reqs), and I have very little experience actually shadowing/working/volunteering in the pharmacy field (which I plan to do this summer and fall).  

My question is this: Should I risk a low PCAT score/low experience application this year or apply next cycle after I have had the chance to study for the PCAT longer and gain some experience.

Answer: If I had to guess, I bet you can do well on the PCAT without the additional preparation time.  The next exam that you could register for is in September 2012 (and then January 2013).  I would recommend planning on taking the exam in September - that's two months of prep time.

Your GPA and strong prereq grades make you an excellent candidate and I would think that even with an average PCAT score that you will be a competitive applicant at most schools.  I'd say go ahead and move forward without delay.

Good luck and please keep us posted.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How important is experience when applying to pharmacy school?

Question:  I am a rising senior who recently decided that I would like to go to pharmacy school. I have the prereqs finished and feel that my application would be well-rounded with the exception of one thing- I have no experience in healthcare or pharmacy. Should I wait a year to apply to pharmacy schools to strengthen my application and gain pharmaceutical experience, or should I apply this fall? How much weight do schools place on volunteer and pharmacy experience?

Thanks for answering my questions!

Answer:  I would advise you to go ahead and apply now... waiting a year won't serve the desired purpose.  Start making contacts with independent pharmacies in your area and explain your interest in pursuing the profession. Ask if you can shadow or volunteer one day a week for the rest of summer.  If that doesn't work and you have a school of pharmacy nearby, inquire with them to see if they have an alum who would allow you to shadow for a day.  Lacking experience will not keep you out of pharmacy school, but having some might get you in.

Good luck.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

More important GPA: prereq or overall?

Question:  I have a question. For pharmacy schools, do they look more at your pre-req GPA or your overal GPA? I guess it depends from school to school right? Thank you in advance for your help.

Answer: The simple answer is we look at both.  Not only are both important, but I have found that AdComs weight them differently.  

Let's start with your prereq GPA.  To me, this ranks along with your PCAT score as the most important objective data used to determine application success.  If you have a strong prereq GPA, that would mean your grades in the basic math and science courses have been better than average which is a plus.  If your PCAT subset scores reinforce the GPA, even better for you.

In some cases, an applicant has a poor overall GPA but has acceptable prereq grades.  Maybe he/she did poorly in another field of study or struggled early in their undergraduate studies taking basic history or philosophy courses.  However, when they began prerequisite pharmacy school preparation, the applicant excelled.  This would be a case of the overall GPA being a poor predictor of success in pharmacy school.  The have been many occasions where I and others have simply said, "the applicant has a 2.5 overall, but their prereq GPA is 3.6.  Let's focus on the courses that matter and give him/her the benefit of the doubt and grant them an interview".  

I hope that answers your question.  Best of luck.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Be aware of new PCAT requirements at certain pharmacy schools

Thanks to ellev for posting this on the forum -  

This is an excellent example of why it is so important to keep in contact with all of the schools of pharmacy where you intend to apply.

"So I went to my first choice's website, and noticed a little note saying that because of the new changes to the PCAT they will not be accepting or looking at scores from prior to this PCAT cycle"

From the University of Florida:

Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)The Admissions Committee will accept PCAT scores for tests taken from July 2012, September 2012 and/or January 2013. The PCAT content has been changed effective for tests beginning in July 2012. PCAT scores from tests prior to July 2012 are not acceptable. All test scores will be viewed by the Admissions Committee with primary attention to the highest one set of PCAT scores. Applicants are required to submit official test scores directly to PharmCAS each time the test is taken.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What are my chances of getting into pharmacy school - low GPA, high PCAT

Question: I have a cumulative GPA of 2.71, a composite PCAT score of 90, and about a year of pharmacy tech experience. I realize my GPA is very weak and not exactly competitive. Now I was wondering how strict is the minimum GPA requirements? I understand this will most likely vary between schools, but does that mean my application will automatically be rejected if I apply to schools that have a minimum GPA greater than mine? Applications are expensive and I just want to make sure I have a chance to a school before I apply. 

Answer: Great question. Every school is different and will look at this differently.  Our school has a minimum GPA requirement, but every year we interview and offer admission to some students who do not meet the minimum.  An example might be an older applicant who is changing careers - he/she might have failed out of college as a freshman, only to resume 10 years later and do exceptionally well.  The overall GPA in a case like this (which is so weighed down by F's a decade ago), may never meet a school's minimum threshold.  I have always felt that we should probably throw that first year out the window and see what he/she has accomplished since.

In your case, AdComs are going to want to see your prereq grades.  If you achieved decent grades in Science and Math related courses and had a relatively full semester load, that helps you out.  A 2.71 means you're a C+ level student.  If I review an application with a couple of C's and a couple of B's, I'm not going to automatically disqualify your application simply because you didn't meet the minimum.  I would hope other schools would not either. Obviously, you will be downgraded compared to some of your peers who performed better in those courses, but you can make up for it in other areas (such as by having a strong PCAT, pharmacy experience).

I would encourage you to contact schools where you plan to apply and ask them for their guidance.  Establishing dialogue with an Admissions counselor go really help when AdComs are making their decisions.

Good luck.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

PharmCas question about "special life circumstances"

Question: In the PharmCas application there is a section under the 'Personal Data' section titled 'Special Life Circumstances'. It asks to "describe any special life circumstances. These include but are not limited to the following: raised in a single parent home, socioeconomic status of family, first generation attending college, overcoming adversity, resident of an under-served area or an area with a health professions shortage, race and ethnicity, and cultural background". The information is not required for the application, so what is it used for? Should I put forth an essay type answer and go into a lot of detail or skip it?

Answer: Thanks for your question.  Schools can use it for any purpose they want (or none at all).  They might use this information to award scholarships, for example.

I have never seen this information used negatively against an applicant, but I have seen cases where applicants have greatly benefited from giving a thorough response.  I would strongly suggest that you complete it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How many pharmacy schools should I apply to?

Question: I will be applying soon in hopes to gain admission to pharmacy school for this upcoming cycle. I was wondering how many schools do you think I should apply to? My GPA is 3.25 and I just took the PCAT. I am able to move just about anywhere and just want to make sure I get in so I don't have to repeat this cycle again next year.

Answer: How deep are your pockets? The application and interview process can be quite expensive, so I recommend choosing the schools that you apply to wisely. If you live in California, you can apply to a number of schools and make visits and interviews less expensively than if you live in a state with fewer nearby options.

The last results I saw indicated that 2/3 of the applicants that applied to only one school did not gain admission. So, I would encourage you to identify 8-10 that you are most interested in and contact them. Do a little homework and see if your GPA and academic background fit what their accepted students typically look like. From that list, applying to 5-6 schools is probably reasonable for most applicants.

Best of luck.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Does attending a top tier university help gain admission to pharmacy school?

Question: I recently stumbled upon your blog while avidly google-ing pharmacy school questions, and I am so glad I've found your blog! I will undoubtedly be re-visiting this site in the future.

My question is about whether pharmacy schools take into consideration at what type of institution I complete my pre-requisites. I recently completed my freshman year at top-tier university with a 3.28 GPA. I know my workload will only get tougher, but I'm prepared to take on the challenge. My parents, on the other hand, worry that at the rate I'm going, I will not have an adequate GPA to be considered  for pharmacy school. They prefer me to transfer to a local university to finish out my pre-requisites and hopefully better my GPA. That plan does not appeal to me as I really enjoy my current university. I was wondering if pharmacy schools will take into consideration that my lower GPA is due to more rigorous courses at an accredited university when comparing me to say another applicant with a 4.0 at a local university or community college, or will they disregard which university I come from and only look at GPA?

Thank you so much for your time.

Answer: Thanks for your email.  This is one of the more commonly asked questions and I understand why as schools typically don't want to turn off students by saying it does matter.  I touched on this briefly in a blog entry some time ago:

In general, we do consider the school attended and it does impact AdComs.  If you are able to remain at your current school, I would probably recommend continuing there.  It is impossible to know how it will impact your admission chances, but I must admit that I am impressed by students from elite schools and usually do give them a bit of latitude as far as GPA goes.

Two other questions to consider that will have a major impact on your chances: Where do you plan to apply?  Have you taken the PCAT, if it is required?

Best of luck and please keep us posted.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What are my chances to get into pharmacy school?

Question: I was wondering what my chances were to get into pharmacy school. My freshmen year i worked 2 jobs, one was working as a pharmacy tech. During the year i made A's, B's, and C's. The following year was hard for me
because I was severely sick so my whole freshmen year is full of F's and W. Of those, only two were pre-req classes, the rest were electives. My Junior year I made all A's and B's. I will also be receiving my bachelors
in Chemistry next year. Is there still hope for me to get accepted?

Answer: I can only suggest that you be very clear in your personal statement that your poor grades were due to issues beyond your control (illness).  After doing so, point out the more successful semesters you had before and after that year.  It would probably be worth your time to find a professor or advisor familiar with your illness who might be able to share with the AdComs what you did to overcome it and how it impacted you.  If you are able to successfully convince the AdComs, I think you stand a decent chance of being offered interviews,  From that point, it's up to you to sell yourself to the school.

Good luck.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Changing careers to pursue pharmacy school - should I retake old courses?

Question: I have been preparing to change careers and hoping to attend pharmacy school. My question is this: I have a degree in Computer Engineering, but I have several D's on my transcript from my studies in that field (Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, Material Science). I am concerned that my overall GPA will be weighed down by those poor grades and may not meet the minimum (3.0) for some schools even though my pharmacy pre-req grades are excellent. Should I retake those courses to help my GPA even though they are unrelated to pharmacy? Please advise.

Answer: You make a good point about the minimum GPA at some schools and that should be a consideration.  However, I think it is imperative that you make it very clear in your personal statement that this is a career change and you are focused on pharmacy and are doing well in your pre-pharmacy curriculum. By doing this, I believe many committees will start by looking at your pharmacy pre-reqs and give you the benefit of the doubt rather than dwell on courses that most pharmacists will struggle with. Our goal as an admissions committee is to find applicants who will be successful in this course of study and who fit well in our institution.

Are you certain that retaking difficult courses like those will yield substantially better scores now than previously? Unless you are 100% certain that you can get an A, I wouldn't even consider doing it. Even if I know you would get an A, I may not advise it.

Think of it this way, you could struggle through Linear Algebra and get a B and that would improve you GPA less than if you took a 4 credit course in Astronomy and scored an A. You might consider adding a summer course or two with a high credit value that will be more beneficial to your overall GPA than retaking courses with D's. Just a thought.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Leaving research fellowship to pursue pharmacy school

Question:  My GPA in undergraduate was not good ( 3.0 ). I was awarded a fellowship to
conduct research in Pharmacology and get my PhD, but I decided to leave the program

because I was not into research and development.

Now, I am choosing to go to pharmacy school because I feel that this will
be a better career for me.  Two reasons for choosing pharmacy school : 1) I
still love the science and pharmacology 2) I want to be in an environment
that will allow me to interact with patients.

I fear that my undergrad GPA will hurt me and my lack of experience in a
pharmacy setting will not help either. On the other hand, I feel that my
background in scientific research will benefit me. My graduate school GPA
is 6.0 out of 8.0. What is the best route for achieving my goal on becoming
a pharmacist? Has anybody else taken this route?

Answer: Your path, albeit not typical, will not be a concern for pharmacy schools.  We have all seen plenty of applicants who have pursued other careers and/or been successful in other fields prior to pursuing a PharmD.  Most AdComs will want to hear from you why you decided not to finish your fellowship (your reasons seem legitimate to me) and anytime someone makes a change like this, having some sort of practical experience can bolster your chances.  It's hard for an applicant to explain why they want to make a change to pharmacy without having any volunteer, shadowing, etc to reinforce their belief.

Your GPA will be on the lower end of what most schools admit and I would encourage you to look into and apply to several schools.  Begin contacting admissions counselors now and initiate dialogue with them.  Ask them for their advice - that is my best suggestion in your case.

I hope that helps.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Please use a professional email address when applying to pharmacy school!

Note: This is a reprint of an email received a couple of years ago by a colleague at another school.  I wanted to repost it as I probably saw a dozen inappropriate email addresses again this cycle.

Suggestion: I am on the admission review committee at _______ (name of school removed), and we enjoy this website - several items have made me chuckle. I have a suggestion to make regarding the use of email addresses when applicants are registering through PharmCas. Applicants - please use your school/university issued email address or one that is professional in nature. Occasionally, we see applicants using semi-inappropriate names and words in their email addresses and it does make us question the maturity of the applicant.

I would suggest not using slang terms, nicknames, or body descriptions in an email address that you are using to apply for professional school. Don't use: sexybaby@ or whosurdaddy@ You get the idea.

Will you be rejected for using such an email address? Undoubtedly, no. But, please be professional in your approach.

Thank you and keep up the good work.

Response: Thank you for the advice. I agree 100%.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Question about Letters of Recommendation (LOR) for pharmacy school

Question: I am applying to multiple schools through Pharmcas.  Some require 2 letters and others require as many as 4.  How do I choose what schools get the right letters?

Answer: Simple answer - you cannot.  If you are applying to a school through PharmCas that requires 4 LORs, each of the PharmCas schools will see all four letters even if they only require two.

Hope that helps.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Questions about getting into pharmacy school

Question: I didn't do to well in high school, and i decided to take some college courses at the same time. They were only electives and my college allows u to retake the class and replace it with the higher grade.Do pharmacy schools look at repeat attempts as a bad thing? Also my first semester of college i only took 2 classes per term but now i started taking 5 almost every semester. Will my first year of college be frowned upon? My science and math GPA is a 3.6 and my overall is a 3.7 and i am at a community college with on of the top science programs in the state, do pharmacy schools care if you finished your pre reqs at a community college and are you favored more if you went to a university? I am finsished with 2/3 of my chemistry and biology and done with math, would now be a good time to apply for pharmacy school? I would appreciate your advice on all of this, please and thank you.

Answer: There are a lot of questions here and I will do my best to answer them piece by piece:

-Do pharmacy schools look at repeat attempts as a bad thing? It depends. 
 If I see an applicant has taken Organic Chemsitry 4 times because he/she failed twice and then withdrew before passing the course, it is safe to say that this would have a negative impact on the applicant. We look at an entire transcript, so even though your school might replace a low grad with a higher one, your transcript will show them all and everything will be factored into our decision.

 -Will my first year of college be frowned upon?
The courseload you take is important and many of us feel that an applicant is more apt to be successful if he/she is accustomed to completing a rigorous schedule as you will face in pharmacy school. It sounds like your more recent semesters would provide enough evidence that you are capable.

-do pharmacy schools care if you finished your pre reqs at a community college and are you favored more if you went to a university? I am finsished with 2/3 of my chemistry and biology and done with math, would now be a good time to apply for pharmacy school?
Yes and No. This is a tricky question. What we are concerned about is the applicant's ability to successfully complete our program. If your grades and test scores are close to what the average admissions statistics are for a given school, you should be competitive and applying now would make sense.

 Good luck and please keep us posted.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Can I overcome poor grades and get into Pharmacy school?

Question: I recently saw your blog and decided to ask for your opinion. I still have a lot of pre-reqs I need to take, however, my GPA is extremely low right now and I feel as if my transcript has to be one of the worst I've heard of in a while. I'm not sure what my exact GPA is as I have transcripts from a few different schools (i'm a military spouse and we've had to relocate many times) and have never put them together. The main worries about my transcript: I have 6 C's three are in elective classes, another is in General Chemistry (I retook this class and originally had a D), one in Economics, and the last was in a Pre-Calculus course but that one isn't considered a prerequisite. I got an F in General Biology so I'm obviously retaking this course soon. I also have 4 W's all which have valid reasons for. I am currently taking Anatomy & Physiology I but from how things are going it seems like I'll be getting yet another C. As this is quite embarrassing, I am in desperate need of advice. My first question: With my Anatomy course, should I add it to the list of C's or should I drop it and receive another W? I still have all of the other science pre-reqs to take and I still have not taken the PCAT. ANY advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated. I just don't know where to go from here, or even if I should continue. Please help!

Answer: I am going to be honest - you have an uphill battle in front of you. It will be impossible for any committee person to overlook all of courses that you seem to have struggled with. When I see a W or a D in a class, I can live with that. However, multiple W's and poor grades spells trouble for an applicant. The concern would be that once in pharmacy school, you don't have the option of withdrawing and trying again - it's pretty much sink or swim.

It is not my position to tell you that you can't get admitted, but pharmacy school is very competitive and you've placed yourself at a disadvantage. My sincere suggestion would be to contact the nearest school of pharmacy (or one that you might want to apply to) and ask to meet with an Admissions counselor. Bring your transcripts and ask him/her for an honest assessment of what your chances would be at that school.

Good luck.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How do pharmacy school admissions view young applicants?

Question: I am going to apply to pharmacy schools at the end of this year,
and I was wondering, how does the committee view young applicants? I
went through a program which allowed me to finish
my junior and senior year of high school at a community college, while
earning college and high school credits at the same time. My first
year and a half was pretty rough--I was immature. But life changing
events occurred and I grew up; so now my grades have been great, my
GPA over the last 4 quarters has been a 3.7, pulling my cumulative GPA
to a 3.5. I received my Associates of Science within two years and by
the end of this year, my third, I will be done with all pharmacy
pre-reqs (except for 2 classes). I am currently 18 years old and by
the time I apply I will be 19, so I am wondering, do pharmacy schools
have concerns about my age? And will this negatively affect my chances
of getting into pharmacy schools?

Answer: Good question. As a committee, we have this discussion every now and then and I don't think there is a simple answer. Obviously, we cannot use age when making decisions.

Here is an example where age may be considered:

A young applicant writes a personal statement that sounds immature and lacks depth. He/she has no pharmacy experience, however, his/her grades and test scores are acceptable. There is concern that he/she may not be ready for pharmacy school.

Should we look at the academic prospects and admit him/her or encourage the applicant to gain some experience and mature another year or two? I usually assume (sometimes incorrectly), that the applicant will "get it" once they are immersed in pharmacy school, but I have colleagues who feel otherwise. If a 40 year old applicant writes a personal statement that sounds immature, I'm less likely to give him/her the same benefit.

In summary, if you present yourself as a mature applicant who is capable of successfully managing the rigors of pharmacy school, age should not be an issue.

Good luck.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Question about pharmacy school prerequisites

Question: I have noticed some schools state you must receive a grade of C or better in all prerequisite courses as one of the admissions requirements.. Can I assume that for the schools that don't say this would accept prerequisite courses with a grade lower than a C, as long as you did not fail the course? For example, if you had received a D in biology, would a school accept this as a completed prerequisite course if they do not state on their website you must receive a C or better? I hope this makes sense. Thanks for your time.

Answer: My recommendation to you and everyone with a question about what satisfactorily meets a prerequisite requirement is to call the school and ask an Admissions counselor. Every year we see applications that do not meet our criteria because the applicant simply overlooked something or didn't take the time to ask a question. Keep in mind - every school is different and we all have different criteria, so don't assume School A is the same as School B.

Thanks for your question and good luck.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I've been accepted, but my grades this semester are my worst yet

Question: I was accepted to my top choice pharmacy school and I am really excited to start in the fall.

However, this quarter my grades are the worst they've ever been. This is my last quarter as an undergraduate and my last final is a week tomorrow. Superficially, the school might look at my transcript and interpret my low grades as senioritis.

Since my sophomore year, I've managed to get on the quarterly dean's list. This quarter I'm not even sure if I'll pass all of my classes. My grades this quarter aren't consistent at all....

How do I approach the school about this? I sincerely value my acceptance and don't want to be dropped.. What should I do?

Answer: Unless you are in danger of not passing a prerequisite course, I do not believe you should have any concern if you have already been admitted.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How do I explain low grades during an interview?

Question:I have received one interview of the schools I applied to. I was surprised (and SO excited) when I got the letter because my grades are not very competitive, however, I have a lot of experience (5 years as a pharmacy technician), I have had two jobs while carrying a full course load, a lot of volunteer work, including an emergency center volunteer in a hospital, a great personal statement, 3 good LORs from 2 pharmacists and 1 science professor, and a genuine passion for the career, which I feel I have displayed in my personal statement and my supplemental application.

My question is for the Admissions, do I really have a chance of being accepted? I am trying to go into the interview confident and I feel I will interview well as long as I am honest and display my reasons for being there. Also, my main concern is the AdComs will ask me to explain my low GPA and PCAT and I'm not sure how to word this to say that I have tried very hard in my classes and studied hard.

Per PharmCAS:
cumulative GPA: 2.77
science GPA: 2.41
math GPA: 2.84
non-science GPA: 3.12
I still have one core class that I am taking now, Gen Chem 2, hoping to raise my sGPA.

Do you have any advice as to how I would go about explaining such a low GPA? I don't have any failing grades. It was mostly an accumulation of C and B- grades. I did study hard. I just don't want to make it sound like I am making excuses. Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer: It's hard to offer you much, but as I have advised many before, you wouldn't be offered an interview if the school was not considering you as a potential applicant. I wouldn't be surprised if you were slotted as an alternate and you might have to wait a while before you know anything definitive, but that's not the end of the world either.

I think your best explanation explaining poor grades would be to honestly state that you had two jobs while in school and your grades suffered because of that. If you choose this explanation, however, you must tell the interviewer that once you are in pharmacy school that your studies will be your full time job.

Good luck.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Multiple interviews, but my top school is the last one. What to do?

Question:: Hi, I found your blog when looking for tips on pharmacy school interviews and was very pleasantly surprised by the wealth of information you have accumulated there.

I am currently in the midst of interviews, having been through two so far, with two more in the next two weeks. I did not feel like the first interview went very well, but it was not one of my top choice schools so I considered it a good learning experience and practice. The second interview felt much more successful and I left feeling positive and confident. The last interview I have scheduled in two weeks is for the school I most want to attend. My dilemma is that I will be receiving notification about acceptance to the first two schools before I even interview at the last school. I don't want to decline an invitation from an early school only to find out later that I was not accepted to a later school I would rather go to. I'm prepared to put down the nonrefundable deposit on one of those schools to ensure admittance to at least one school, but I'm uncertain of the proper behavior for this situation. Is it bad form to accept and then later cancel an invitation if I get admitted to a more preferred school?

Answer: First of all, congratulations on receiving multiple interviews. Trust me, there are a lot of applicants who would really love to have the dilemma that you are facing.

Your circumstance is not all that unique and I am sure that every school of pharmacy encounters exactly this many, many times each application cycle. My advice to you is to be honest with all parties. If one of the schools where you have already interviewed offers you a spot in their class, but you are reluctant to accept in hope that the upcoming interview produces an offer, I would suggest asking for an extension to deposit. If they refuse and you have the means to pay and potentially lose the deposit, that would be unfortunate but not uncommon.

I always appreciate when a student informs us that we are his/her top choice and that he/she has been admitted elsewhere, but would accept our offer if it was extended. For the upcoming interview, communicating that with someone in the Admissions office might help expedite their response.

Good luck.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What are my chances? Low GPA, but improving. Good PCAT.

Question: I stumbled upon your blog and am so grateful to you for creating this discussion board. I have found all of your answers informative and somewhat reassuring.

Statistically, I am aware that I am not a great candidate for pharmacy school.
Current Cummulative 2.25
PCAT: tentative score in the 90's
Pharmacy Tech: 2 years.

After graduating top 5% with Honors at a competitive High School, I completed all my undergraduate coursework; but was academically disqualified as my GPA (1.8) was not enough to graduate. I had significant family problems and my grades following this period were pretty much F's and D's.

Since then I have moved closer to home, attended a CC, and restarted the prereq with a CC GPA of 3.5. I am also shadowing and working at a specialty pharmacy. I have obtained LOR's from important personnel ( Ochem, speech, Bio professors, and Pharmacist) basically vouching on my behalf. Is this decent enough to show admissions I am more than capable of excelling in their competitive pharmacy curriculum?

Pharmacy has always been my dream career; and after working at the store, I have loved it even more, not with just the chemistry/biology aspect of the job but with helping and developing a connection with those in my community.

My final and most important topic/question to you are as follows:
What can I do to improve my chances of getting in?
How likely is it for me to be accepted with a 2.2 and tentative high PCAT scores and experience?
Since my semester hours are so high, it would take me about 150 semester hours (averaging 5 yrs) with a 4.0 to bring my GPA to a 3.0. I would have to retake A LOT of courses for the third time some of which I have already received A's for- how would this affect admissions?

Thank you.

Answer: Thanks for your question. Your poor GPA will undoubtedly have an impact. However, you are not the first and will not be the last applicant to be in this situation. I can only advise you to completely "own" what occurred and do everything you can to explain the situation and how you have grown from it. I would strongly suggest that you have a letter of recommendation from an academic advisor at school who can attest to your motivation to the profession and explain how you have overcome the initial setbacks.

For your sake, I hope that your PCAT will be your saving grace. I would expect that you will get some interview invitations based on that alone and the AdComs interviewing you will try to make a determination whether you are admittable based on that. Obviously, you will need to sell yourself to the school because some will simply not be able to look past the poor transcript.

Your chances at being admitted at the most prestigious, competitive schools are poor. That doesn't mean you cannot (or should not) be considered a strong candidate for pharmacy school. You need to make sure that every part of your application is stellar to have a chance. I wouldn't consider retaking many classes unless your prereqs are in dire need of improvement because improving your cumulative GPA will be rather difficult. Instead. begin communicating with the schools where you will consider applying and explain your situation to them and how much you would like to attend their school. See what advice they can share and do what they ask of you.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why do they ask for parents info on PharmCas

Question: How important is the parent information requested on the PharmCas application? Do schools look at this?

Answer: It is my experience that this information is unimportant unless:
1) The school gives preference to under represented minorities, including first generation college students, and you indicate that your parents did not attend college.
2) Your parent was a graduate of the university that you are applying to.

Even if this does not seem to impact you, I would fully complete this section of the application.

Thanks and good luck.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What should I not say in my personal statement?

Question: Can you give me advice on what "not to say" in my personal statement?

Answer: I think personal statements are an opportunity for the applicant to really show why they want to be a pharmacist. There are a lot of outstanding things you can mention, but several things I suggest you NEVER mention.

1) "I want to be a pharmacist because I'll make a lot of money". Now most applicants don't use this verbiage, but this is what they are getting at. Often referred to as a "secure financial future" in personal statements. Although you may be thinking this, don't write it. It isn't looked upon favorably by any committee I have ever been a part of.

2) "I couldn't get into medical school, so I decided to try pharmacy". You might think I am joking, but I'm not. Every year, I read this multiple times. Your personal statement should explain why you want to be a pharmacist, not why you fell into this choice.

3) "I've always liked Chemsitry". Although not as agregious as the previous two, I would suggest avoiding such a generic reason. We see this one far too often. The joke in our committee is that if you like chemistry so much, you should be a chemist. Pharmacy involves a lot more than just learning the periodic table.

Please email with any questions or feel free to post them on the forum (link at right):

Also, I would appreciate you mentioning this blog to anyone interested in the profession of pharmacy.

Thanks and good luck!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Supplemental questions similar to PharmCas

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: Thanks for your email. 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.

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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Former pharmacy student reapplying

Question: Firstly, I want to thank you very much for your blog. Your advice and answers to many questions have really helped me a lot.

I recently received my PCAT scores-
Verbal - 89
Biology - 60
Reading Comprehension - 73
Quantitative Ability - 73
Chemistry - 43
Composite - 73

Do the chemistry and the biology scores significantly reduce my chances of admittance?
I finished 2 years pre-pharmacy at a 6-year pharmacy program but had to leave due to my family relocating. During the 1st year, I was doing very well with As and Bs. The 2nd year, however, was mostly Bs and Cs (in Organic Chemistry and Physiology), as well as failing a MedMicro course. I have an overall 3.03 GPA, but will my 2nd year of science courses and biology and chemistry PCAT scores really be looked down upon even if I stress in my personal statement that I am willing to push myself much more?

Answer: The first question I have, and one I imagine most AdComs will have, is, "Are you eligible to return to your former school of pharmacy"? If so, you stand a much better chance of being considered. If not, things get a little more difficult for you. You will likely need a letter from your former Dean acknowledging that you are eligible to return to your previous school.

I would advise you to explain your family situation and the decision you made to leave school. Some members will question whether or not you are committed to being in pharmacy school considering your past experience. Your PCAT scores are probably acceptable for most schools, but you are correct in assuming that your Chem score might hurt your chances a bit. Do you plan to retake the PCAT? At some schools, a PCAT Chem < 50 will automatically be rejected.

Your GPA and poor academic history needs to be addressed also in as positive a way as possible. I agree that your statement needs to offer more and explain your circumstances in greater detail. Try to use your early pharmacy school experience to your advantage, mentioning that you found it challenging and rewarding, but life circumstances required you to take a leave from school. It's worth a shot.

Good luck.

Academic vs Financial aid probation

Question: I had a question regarding academic probation on pharmcas. It specifically states this: "Were you ever the recipient of any action (e.g. dismissal, disqualification, suspension, probation etc.) by any college oruniversity for unacceptable academic performance or conduct violations? "

I have only taken one semester at a University I received financial aid during it. Anyways, due to struggling financially, I withdrew from two courses (a lab/lecture) and worked full-time again. The next semester, I went back to a CC and I saw on the University website today that I was on financial aid probation in Fall of 2008. I'm not sure what the difference is between financial aid probation and academic probation or if it is one in the same?

Does this qualify for the action that pharmcas is referring to? Do I need to report it?

Answer: I doubt that financial aid probation would be a concern for any committee when reviewing your file. In my opinion, unacceptable academic or conduct violations refer to those specific areas (ie, poor grades and/or conduct) only and not to any issues relating to your failure to make financial remittance. I would not report this on your PharmCas application.