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.