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.