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.