Thursday, December 27, 2012

How much do pharmacy school AdComs value volunteer work?

Question:  I'm interested in volunteering an a hospital, and for a number of reasons, one of which I've had great experiences volunteering back in high school and I know I'd enjoy doing it again. Ideally, I'd like to volunteer with the pharmacy staff, but the hospitals I'm interested in have more formalized programs and don't offer positions close to pharmacy and they don't offer shadowing positions. My strategy is to network and hopefully create the pharmacy volunteering opportunity or at least make a connection for shadowing.

But in the worst case that this doesn't materialize, I'm still interested in volunteering. My question is, how do admissions committees value this type of experience? I know that an experience like this will be rewarding nonetheless, and I think I can leverage those experience in putting together my application. And the fact that these are highly-acclaimed hospitals doesn't hurt either =) But I also need to make sure that I'm fully optimizing my free time. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Note - I work full time and am still applying for prehealth-studies programs

Answer:  I can only speak for myself on this, although I've sat in on enough meetings to have an opinion beyond my own. It has been my experience that any type of volunteering can be beneficial. It shows character and a willingness to give of oneself to help others - something every pharmacy school wants of it's students and graduates.

Having said that, volunteering at the animal shelter or something unrelated to health care won't gain you very much when a decision is being made. If you can show volunteer work at a hospital somewhere other than the pharmacy, I think it would help if you had a letter of recommendation from someone who supervised you. Otherwise, it's just something on the application that probably won't contribute much. Ideally, some pharmacy experience would be preferred if it is possible.

Ultimately, whether you have documented volunteerism or not will have very little say in the final analysis of your application. Good to have some? Sure. Better off using that time studying for the PCAT? Perhaps.

Hope that helps. Good luck.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why is the Dean of the pharmacy school reviewing my application?

QuestionI have a question on the general steps taken by an adcom to decide on someone. I called my top choice school today, where i interviewed in early october. Most of the people from the "batch" got their acceptance letters last week. I called to ask whether they had mailed out my decision letter and was told that my file is still in the dean's office. I thought that the dean only signs off the decisions already made by the committee, so why would someone's file be held up with the dean?

Answer:  Hmmmm, very interesting question. Why would the dean be reviewing your file? At our institution (and all I am aware of), the dean ultimately has the final say. However, it is rare for the dean to be involved at all unless he/she has a desire to see a particular applicant admitted. That might be because the applicant belongs to an under-represented minority or because the dean knows the applicant or someone called him directly on the applicant's behalf. Another thought might be that the dean needs to review the applications of those that the school will offer scholarships too. Too difficult to tell, I am sorry to say.

I wouldn't call back to ask at this point, but I would encourage you to ask what it means to have the application in the dean's office if it ever comes up again. If they can tell you, they will.

Good luck.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are there some pharmacy school applicants who have no chance at all?

Question: When reviewing pharmacy school applications, is there often any apps that make you scratch your head, wondering perhaps "why did they bother?" Do you ever scan through a low gpa and low pcat and make a decision to ignore the letters of recommendation, personal and supplemental apps to save time? This isn't a question of mere curiosity, nor is it meant to dissuade anyone or be offensive. A lot of the schools I applied to accept only around 1/8 applicants (200 accepted - 1600 applicants etc). I want to get an idea how long it takes to go through all the applications and what portion of those applicants I am really competing against. Thank you! 

Answer: Yes, there are some applications where it is immediately apparent that we cannot admit the student. This is usually due to a very poor composite PCAT - say, less than 30. Or a single PCAT subset score may eliminate an applicant (ie, PCAT Chem = 5). If an applicant's overall GPA < 2.0, that will probably do it too. Every school has different criteria, of course, but I believe we all have some method of thinning out those applications that just do not have a realistic chance of being admitted. I would guess than 10-20% of applications have no legitimate shot.

Thanks for your question.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Should I bother applying to a school that has an undergraduate college where most students hail from?

Question: I am applying to a private school of pharmacy that has an undergraduate college as well. I did not attend this particular school for my undergraduate studies. Do you have any idea if the school of pharmacy at this school would give preference to those applicants who also attended the undergraduate college? Are a certain number of seats set aside for them? All things being equal, I assume their undergrads would be preferred - right?

Answer: It is my understanding as well that schools of pharmacy with undergraduate "feeder" schools typically give some preference to applicants from that school. However, I don't think this should change your approach when applying at such an institution or discourage you from applying at one of these schools. While many of the pharmacy school spots will be filled by their own undergraduates, it won't be anywhere near 100%, so you definitely still have a chance.

Good luck.