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.