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.