Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to address a misdemeanor charge on my record when applying to pharmacy school?

Great blog you're maintaining! Keep it up!
Anyway here's my situation. I was convicted of a misdemeanor-reckless endangerment charge in 2012. I'm currently on unsupervised probation, which will end april 2014. It was because i discharged a pellet gun in my backyard. How serious is such a thing to the admission offices? I'm concerned because my first choice is a very competitive school. How should i address it? In my personal statement? During the interview? I've been prepping hard for the PCAT in Jan and my GPA is decent (3.6). I wouldn't want it all to be for naught.

I don't think it will be a serious issue for most AdComs - I've seen worse charges overlooked by committee members before, but it sometimes also only takes 1 vocal member to derail an application.  Mention it in your statement and acknowledge that it was a foolish action. If the schools have questions, I assure you they will ask for more information. 

Good luck.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How much will previous withdrawals impact my pharmacy application?

I have five withdrawals in my transcript and they all came at a time when I was unsure of what I wanted to do (which I talk about in my personal statement). A supplemental question asked to explain any withdrawals. Does this weaken my application drastically? Should I try to explain each one and how should I approach explaining it? Some of them were due to not being happy with my grade (which is common I hear) and some were due to course load. What do AdComs consider a GOOD reason? Thanks.

Withdrawals on a transcript are certainly a negative, but what a committee looks for is a whether there is a pattern of withdrawals. Generally speaking, withdrawing from a class because you were doing poorly and anticipated receiving a less than desirable grade is not an "acceptable" reason. But these are common reasons. The best reasons for withdrawals would be due to illness or personal circumstances (ie, death of family member). A committee will forgive these without much question.

The key is how you explain the withdrawals. I would suggest being honest, yet somewhat vague. A poor explanation might be, "I withdrew from Orgo because I was overwhelmed taking 15 hours, so I withdrew and took Orgo in the summer instead." A committee will look at that and question you have the aptitude to handle the rigors of a pharmacy courseload when withdrawing from a course is not an option.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I bombed the Chemistry section of the PCAT - can I still get into pharmacy school?

I bombed my chemistry sections of the PCAT, only getting a 23. Should I even bother applying to pharmacy school with this score? My other scores were average. My last chemistry course I got an A, and am now enrolled in Organic Chemistry, and am on track to receive a B in the class. I have worked as a pharmacy tech for over 2 years now, would this help me in my application process?

You absolutely need to have good grades in the didactic courses to offset a significantly low subset score in what most AdComs consider the most predictive element of the exam. If you have A's and B's, that will help you chance, but will it be enough? I cannot promise you that it will. I think your best chance would be to ask one of the professors of record for Chemistry or Organic to write you a letter of recommendation. Inform them of your plans to apply to pharmacy school and that you scored very poorly on the PCAT Chem section. Ask them if they would feel comfortable writing that your coursework is more reflective of your aptitude than the PCAT score and maybe offer an example in the LOR of your chemistry knowledge or excellent lab skills.

If I see an otherwise strong applicant who has a very low PCAT Chem, I'd want to see what I described above. We take seriously the recommendations from professors and if one is willing to state that the student has the knowledge to be successful in pharmacy school, that will make a difference. The key is to make sure that the reviewer will actually write what you are requesting. If they tell you they cannot write such a letter, move on to the next person who might be able to. In some circumstances, we see LORs where a reviewer essentially states that the applicant doesn't have what it takes and then your grave is dug, so to speak.

Good luck.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What are my chances of getting into pharmacy school?

Verbal - 36
Biology - 80
Reading Comp - 38
Quant - 65
Chemistry - 85

Composite - 65 (terrible, only 1 month to study)

GPA 3.56 and I have tons of activities under my belt (I managed to fill up all 10 spots on the pharmcas application). I have excellent LORs from very good sources. I've been a pharmacy technician for 4 years.

What are my chances?

Your scores are far from terrible. You will need to address your low Verbal and Reading scores, but the other subsets are very competitive. With a BS and pharmacy experience in hand, you can make a strong case. As a reviewer, I would be paying close attention to your communication skills as a result of the low Verbal and Reading PCAT scores. If you do well in an interview setting, you can negate the concern.

Good luck.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How far back should I go when listing honors and awards on my PharmCas application?

I'm working on filling out the PharmCAS information for honors & awards, volunteer experience, etc. My question for admissions is how far back should I go as far as putting down that information?

I know when filling out a resume, you're supposed to delete anything from High School once you finish your freshman year of college, so does the same go for applications?

For example, if I volunteered in a hospital office my Junior year of high school is that still valid to put down? The same question goes for any awards and scholarships I got when I graduated.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Honestly, I hardly glance at that section of the application. Unless there is something truly outstanding or you won an award for something that would be very specific to performing well in pharmacy, it won't impact an AdCom's decision.

I'd say fill in something, but do overdo it. I wouldn't add high school items unless it pertains directly to health care or pharmacy.

Good luck.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Will being a part time student completing pharmacy prereqs at a community college - will this hurt my chances?

I stumbled across your blog and was hoping that you could help me. I am currently in the process of applying to pharmacy school. I am returning back to school to pursue in a career in pharmacy having previously graduated with a bachelor's of science in apparel merchandising and product development (GPA 3.3) and an associate of applied science in advertising and marketing communications (GPA 3.4). My current GPA for my pre-requisite classes is 3.9. 

I just took the PCAT and got a score of 92%. I am nationally certified and registered with the state board of pharmacy as a pharmacy technician. I have been working part time as a technician for 1.5 years. 

My concerns are as follows. I have only been a part time student since I have returned back to school. This is due to needing to complete prerequisite classes for the pharmacy school prerequisites. I know I can handle a full schedule if I am admitted to pharmacy school. I just want to know if this will count against me. Also, I was going to a private university to complete my prerequisite classes, but I had problems with my financial aid and I can no longer afford it. I have 5 more prerequisites to complete and will have to do so at a community college. Will this affect my chances of being accepted? Also, I have not taken Organic Chemistry yet. I will be taking Organic Chemistry 1 this fall. Will schools consider my application before this class is completed? Sorry for so many questions, I appreciate any insight and ways to help increase my chances of getting accepted. Thank you!

Being a part time student can impact a committee's decision. Certainly we discuss this when we review applications, however, because your transcript appears to be rather solid I don't think the impact on your review will be that great.

Taking a few classes at a community college shouldn't have much impact either. No reason to worry about it in my opinion.

Most schools will want to see your Orgo 1 score before making a decision. It is also possible that they might assume you will do well based on your academic history and could extend an offer to you without the score pending successful completion of the course (as well as all other prereqs)

Good luck.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Do AdComs frown on applicants who have taken the PCAT 3 times or more?

How does the Admissions committee feel about an applicant who takes the PCAT 3 times or more? Is it looked upon negatively when an applicant has taken the PCAT 5 times yet did not get in the 90th percentile?

Thank you

One on hand, taking it multiple times shows persistence. However, while the evidence shows that those who take the exam twice score better on the second exam, additional examinations beyond a second one do not benefit the applicant.

If you have taken the PCAT 5 times and all composite scores are less than 30, for example, there is probably enough consistency for us to know you will not succeed in pharmacy school. If your high score among the five exams is in the 80's, on the other hand, you have a better chance obviously. 

The bottom line is that you don't need to score in the 90s to be admitted to pharmacy school, so I wouldn't be as concerned as it sounds like you might be.

Good luck.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Will a low PCAT prevent me from getting into pharmacy school? Should I retake the exam?

I have just stumbled upon your blog and I wanted to say thank you for running it. I have already found answers to many questions I have.

My concern with applying to Pharmacy school this year is that I have a low PCAT score. I am considering registering to take the PCAT again in January, which would be the last acceptable PCAT for the schools I am applying to. However, I would like to go ahead and submit my application earlier in hopes of getting interviews and possible admission throughout the rolling admissions.

My PCAT is as follows:
Verbal: 43
Biology: 46
RC: 81
QA: 27
Chemistry: 56
Comp: 50

GPA: 3.68
I will graduate this coming spring with a B.S. in General Science and a B.A. in General Writing.
Science/math courses: A's and B's in most, a C in Biology 1
1 year working as a Pharmacy Tech.
LORs: Organic Chem Professor, History Professor, Pharmacist (Boss)

Would you suggest signing up for the PCAT in January and should this be expressed in early interviews with pharmacy schools, if applicable?

Any advice would be appreciated.

A higher PCAT would obviously help but may not be necessary depending on where you plan to apply. As you know, your PCAT scores are average. However, your GPA is strong and I have seen a small shift recently where AdComs have favored using the GPA when it doesn't quite match the PCAT.

There are two primary areas of concern on the PCAT: Bio and Quant. You stated that you received a C in Bio which could be a bit problematic for you, but it's also not the end of the world.  In instances of a low PCAT subset score, AdComs can be quickly convinced that it is not an issue if the didactic/lab scores are strong. Unfortunately, your Bio score more or less confirms that PCAT which indicates a lack of understanding. Your Quant score is low, so AdComs are going to immediately look to see how you performed in Calculus. If you struggled in that course, again it may raise a red flag.

 As far as the other subsets, I generally throw out a single low V/R score if I think the applicant has acceptable communication skills as evidenced in their essays and personal statement (and later in their interview). A Chem score of 56 isn't ideal, but isn't low enough to sound an alarm for an AdCom particularly if your coursework is strong and you have a prof LOR.

In summary, I tend to think you can get interview offers at some schools based on what you provided. A strong LOR from a pharmacist will help you significantly. My experience is that someone with similar scores might have to be patient on a waiting list for a while, but I suspect you can get admitted.

Hope that helps. Good Luck.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Should I be worried about applying to pharmacy schools that are not fully accredited?

So I want to send in 2 applications and the schools are Pre Candidate and Candidate status. Should this be a worry? Obviously they aren't accredited yet but I want to know what you recommend. Should I avoid these schools and stick with safer choices even if they aren't my top choices?

My feeling is that the risk is more perceived than real and I would not discourage anyone from applying to a school that is not fully accredited. If you find that a candidate school, for example, is the best "fit" for you, I would encourage you to visit and consider admission. Don't let the status be the determining factor in your decision.

Below is an explanation of each from ACPE:

Preaccreditation - A newly instituted Doctor of Pharmacy program of a College or School of Pharmacy maybe granted one of two preaccreditation statuses, depending upon its stage of development. In the instance of a newly founded College or School of Pharmacy, the program progresses through both statuses. The standards are the same as those employed for accredited status, however, preaccreditation involves, in large measure, planning in accord with standards and provision of reasonable assurances for a quality outcome.

Precandidate A new program that has no students enrolled but that meets the eligibility criteria for accreditation may be granted Precandidate accreditation status. The granting of Precandidate status indicates that a college or school’s planning for the Doctor of Pharmacy program has taken into account ACPE standards and guidelines and suggests reasonable assurances of moving to the next step, that of Candidate status. Granting of Precandidate status brings no rights or privileges of accreditation. Full public disclosure by the college or school of pharmacy of the terms and conditions of this accreditation status is required.

Candidate Following achievement of Precandidate status, and once students have enrolled in a new program, but the program has not had a graduating class, the program may be granted Candidate status. The granting of Candidate status denotes a developmental program that is expected to mature in accord with stated plans and within a defined time period. Reasonable assurances are expected to be provided that the program may become accredited as programmatic experiences are gained, generally, by the time the first class has graduated. Graduates of a class designated as having Candidate status have the same rights and privileges as graduates of an accredited program.

Full Status - The professional degree program of a college or school of pharmacy is granted initial or full accreditation if it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of ACPE that the program complies with accreditation standards, including the appropriateness of the program’s mission and goals, the adequacy of resources and organization to meet the mission and goals, outcomes which indicate that the mission and goals are being met, and the reasonable assurance of the continued compliance with standards.

Full Accreditation with Probation - A professional program of a College or School of Pharmacy that has been granted accreditation and is subsequently determined to be in non-compliance with a standard or standards will be given the accreditation status of probation. Due notice of this action, indication of the area(s) of non-compliance, and the time period within which the program is expected to bring itself into compliance with standards (not to exceed two years) are given. Graduates of a program in a probationary status retain all the rights and privileges associated with an accredited program. Probation is not an adverse accreditation action.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Major life problems impacted my grades, but will a bad year spoil my chances of getting into pharmacy school?

So in a pivotal semester I had a lot of family issues come up. My family got unemployed and we lost our home and I was forced to take up a 40 hr/week job at the last minute. Needless to say I failed a semester with an F in Organic + Lab, Statistics, PreCalculus, and a B in Biology and C in Biology lab.

Obviously this is going to nuke my GPA but I'm retaking these courses this semester. If I leave this semester with an A/B in the classes I got a F in would that semester be overlooked? Since PharmCAS averages those F classes into my GPA will schools look to see why the science and overall GPA was lower or would they throw it out by default?

I'm going to complete a degree in Biology so I'll be taking some of the higher level courses like immunology, biochemistry, endocrinology, cell biology, genetics, and etc. so I'm hoping that those courses will show that I'm capable of handling higher level content before going to school.

Do they place higher weight on the pre-req classes compared to other relevant science classes? For example, I know that having an F then a B in orgo isn't the best but if I get an A/B in Biochem afterwards would that hold equal weight to the organic class?

Sorry I know there are a lot of questions but I don't want a bad year to spoil my chances of getting into my first, second, or even third choice school, ya know? I'm handling everything else like work experience and LOR just fine but this year really screwed a lot of things up.

Thanks a ton for the help!

Doing well in your advanced coursework will help you. Explaining the events that caused the poor grades is an absolute must. If you have an advisor or mentor who can attest to family issues as the reason for academic difficulties, having them do so in a letter of recommendation would benefit you tremendously.

Every cycle there we review the files of a handful of applicants who have some pretty significant extenuating circumstances which caused major hardships that affected their transcripts.  When an applicant does an exemplary job of explaining the reasons for this in their statement and interview, I think AdComs are often impressed with the applicant's perseverance and give them the benefit of the doubt.  The onus is on the applicant, however, because without a suitable explanation such an application is often disregarded as unworthy of admission.

I wish you the best.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Does taking only 13 credits per semester hurt my chances of getting into pharmacy school?

Thank you so much for you blog. It has been very helpful as I am preparing for pharmacy school applications. I was just curious what AdComs' opinions are on course load. I've been a full time student (at least 13 units) every semester but how do they view me taking 13 units as opposed to someone who takes 15 or 16 units? I only had one semester of 13 units and the rest varied from 15-18. However, on some of those semesters, I got 4 units from working on a research project with a professor instead of actually taking classes. Is that unfavorable for AdComs?

We like to see applicants take (and succeed) in as many credits as possible. This shows us that he/she can withstand the rigors of a pharmacy school curriculum where 18 hours is the norm in many semesters. I don't know that any AdCom is going to frown upon you for taking 13 credit hours when that is enough to be considered a full time student. If most of your semesters were 15-18 credits, you are in good shape and I wouldn't worry or feel as though you need to address a semester with less than that. Getting some research experience can probably only help you (although don't count on it helping much)

Good luck.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is there a benefit to applying early in the pharmacy school admission cycle?

From your experience, does applying early decision to a school increase the chances of admission or make an applicant more favorable to admissions committees? Could it possibly also be more difficult?

Thank you!

If you are applying to a very competitive school, get your application in as early as possible. These schools have the "pick of the litter" and typically they are going to fill their classes quickly with little attrition once they make their offers of admissions.

However, if you are applying to less competitive schools (and those with rolling admissions), I think there is some advantage to applying later in the cycle. The notion is that these schools ultimately lose committed applicants who end up getting into better schools. When this happens, spots open up later in the cycle which must be filled and it's often students who have applied later and not yet made decisions who benefit from the process.

Good luck.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I failed an elective undergraduate course - should I retake it or not?

I am a returning college student who has been out of school for almost 10 years. I've been an assistant store manager at a retail supercenter the whole time, and last year I decided to switch careers and get into pharmacy because the field is very challenging, rewarding, and has a better work/life balance. The courses I took back then are all valid and I got very good grades. The only thing haunting me is an "F" I got in a computer programming course.

After starting back in school last spring, I've been getting straight A's ever since while working 50 hours a week. I've now managed to raise my overall GPA to a 3.35 and my math/science GPA to a 3.5--even with the F on my transcript. I've registered for the PCAT this October and will obviously do everything I can to do well on it. I'm confident I can round out the rest of my prerequisites with A's, which would take my GPA up to a 3.62 by next spring. I am also going to be stepping down as a manager soon and working in our pharmacy as a tech.

My question is, is this "F" in an elective completely unrelated to the field of pharmacy going to kill my chances at admission? Should I retake this class, or since it is has nothing to do with pharmacy would taking an elective that is more aligned with the health field be better?

There are times when I might suggest retaking a failed elective, but yours in not one of them. Failing a course that long ago in a field unrelated to your ability to succeed in pharmacy school shouldn't have much of a negative impact on your chances other than the obvious effect on your GPA.

My experience is that any AdCom will quickly look past your work from 10 years ago and focus on what you have accomplished since you re-dedicated yourself to the pursuit of a profession in pharmacy.

Good luck.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Should I confront a pharmacist who I found wrote out wrote a negative letter of recommendation ?

I am really upset and not sure how to handle this. When interviewing I was asked several questions that were very specific to what one of my reviewers wrote. I answered them the best I could, but didn't really understand the line of questioning. One of the last questions asked at the interview was why I thought this recommendation writer would have reservations about me being admitted to pharmacy school. I was totally stunned that the pharmacist wrote that and I wonder if I should confront him about it. I am really worried that this could keep me out of pharmacy school.

Help please.  

First of all, I am sorry you encountered this.  Personally, I think it's unprofessional for the interviewer to put your co-worker / reviewer in such a bad situation when that information really should be confidential.  

My experience is that an LOR offering negative commentary can be very damning in the eyes of the committee, particularly since it came from a pharmacist that you worked with in some capacity. It is unfortunate that this occurred and I hope that you are given the benefit of the doubt by a committee after your interview.

If you are not admitted, I would encourage you to contact the school(s) directly and ask how to improve your application. Obviously, you know that your LORs were a concern, but see if they give you any other advice. Applicants often think they know why they were not admitted, but they are mistaken. For example, a student may have a marginal PCAT score and assume they didn't get in for that reason. They work and prepare to do better on the PCAT, when in fact the committee didn't feel he/she was admittable because of a bad LOR, for example. Or vice versa. 

Asking the pharmacist who wrote the letter if there is something you can do to improve your skills would be one way to tactfully get to the point.  Stating that you know he wrote a less than flattering LOR won't improve your chances and might cause friction at work.  If you feel that a different pharmacist might be able to write a more positive review, asking him/her to do so and submitting an addendum to your application might be helpful.

Good luck.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

When should I start studying for the 2014 PCAT?

I plan on taking the PCAT next July, but I am having trouble understanding when I should begin studying for the exam. I have been told by relatives who are pharmacists that Christmas break would be a great time to hit the books (it usually lasts 6 weeks), but I plan on using that time to work as a tech and get a pesky physics class out of the way. My advisor suggested that I begin studying around the spring time, but I know my course-load will be pretty hectic by then. I'm the type of person who needs plenty of time to do well on exams, but I don't want to begin studying too early( if that's even possible). Also, I'm not sure how to study. Should I study on my own or would getting into a prep class like Kaplan be more beneficial? I want to do well on my first try so that I can make the early decision deadline. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. 

All students have different study techniques that work for them so I can't offer much in terms of how much time you will need, but I personally wouldn't overdo it. If you are in school now, much of the Bio and Chem subset should be familiar information. You should complete the online practice exams to see how the Reading and Verbal areas are tested.

I usually don't recommend classes like Kaplan due to the cost although I think there is probably some benefit to them for non-traditional students who have not been in a school setting recently

Good luck.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What should I do if I haven't heard back from a pharmacy school that I applied to?

What does it mean when you don't hear from schools for a long time (without an interview invite)? Is it a rejection or am waitlisted?

Thank you

Upon submitting the necessary paperwork or PharmCas application, were you notified that the school had received everything they needed?  If so, good.  If not, there certainly could have been an issue in transmission which you would need to call and speak with someone directly as soon as possible. If you were informed that they had received your application and supplemental (if necessary), I think it would be acceptable to send them an email or make a phone call to the Admissions Office to check the status of the application. Some schools that do not have rolling admissions will wait until late in the process and have a single interview day, so it's not impossible that they are still reviewing applications.

I hope that helps. Good luck and please keep us informed.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Should I complete by Bachelors degree before applying to pharmacy school?

I graduated with and AA degree four years ago. But I’ve been wanting to go back to school for a more stable career, so I’ve been researching the requirements for a pharmacist. So basically my question is should I go back to a CC to fulfill my prerequisites and try to get in or just go for my Bachelors and then try to get into a pharmacy school?

The only reason this is an issue is because I am married so the shortest route would be ideal, but again, if I go the first route it seems like I would be putting all my eggs in one basket.

Any advice would help!
Thank you!

You ask a couple of good questions. My answer probably depends on what your Associate's degree is in and how many prereqs you need to complete. If you are using your degree in some type of health care field and gaining some relevant work experience, it may not be necessary to to pursue your Bachelor's degree. If your degree is completely unrelated to pharmacy (ie, culinary arts), obtaining your Bachelor's degree would be advisable.

In either case, however, understand that you can apply to a school once you have fulfilled the prereqs. You do not need a BA/BS, but having one does improve your chances. Additionally, as I advise everyone, I would encourage you to apply to more than one school. I understand there may be circumstances that do not allow you to move, for example, but I have seen many applicants paint themselves into a corner by only applying to one pharmacy school. Just something to consider.

Good luck.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Can I apply to pharmacy school and dental school at the same university?

I am wondering if applying to the same school for both pharmacy school and dental school would negatively impact my chances of getting accepted?

I would advise against doing so. A part of any pharmacy AdCom's decision making process is trying to ascertain an applicant's motivation to the profession. Applying to more than one professional school at the same institution would raise eyebrows and probably red flags among many commitee members. Professionally speaking, I would encourage you to spend as much time as you have available to shadow both professions so that you can devote your energy to being admitted to the program that you feel is the best fit for you.
Good luck.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Should I withdraw from a class or risk failing it? What is the better choice for a pharmacy school applicant?

Could you let me me know how an Adcom looks at an F and a W on a transcript? I am struggling with a non preq course and I am going to need to decide whether to withdrawal soon. Is that worse than sticking with it and maybe getting a D or F? Or do Adcoms look at a W as someone who quits?

When in doubt, withdraw. As an Adcom, I have fewer concerns with a file of an applicant who withdrew from a course than with someone who failed a course. Part of the reason may be that we don't have any idea why the student withdrew, so it is difficult to hold a W against him/her (it could have been a scheduling conflict, for example). A series of W's, on the other hand, becomes a concern. In this case, a single W in a non-prerequisite course shouldn't hurt your chances.

An F, however, will jump out to any Adcom. Plus, it will hurt your GPA and that can significantly hurt your chances at gaining admission.

Good luck.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Will having an MIP (minor in possession) keep me out of pharmacy school?

Question:  I was cited for minor in possession while in undergrad almost 10 years ago. As I told my parents, I just happened to be at a party where alcohol was present and we all got MIP's In every case I mentioned this on my application when asked about any offenses. This won't negatively affect my chances at admission will it? Has you found something similar to be an issue?

Answer:  We see situations like this quite frequently and I would not anticipate any issues in your case. Problems might arise if you had multiple MIPs (indicating that you didn't learn from the first one) or if you received an MIP in the very recent past (more applicable to 2nd year undergraduate students applying to pharmacy school) as this might indicate maturity issues. A DUI would be scrutinized much more closely and anything on your record relating to possession of illicit drugs (ie, marijuana) or paraphernalia would be significantly detrimental to your chances.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Will military experience in ROTC or the reserves help me get into pharmacy school?

Do you have any experience with interviewing students with a background in ROTC or belonging to the reserves? I was wondering if having some type of military service on my record would help my chances.

I have interviewed applicants with some type of military experience several times over the year.  While I do not think that having military experience will help you get into pharmacy school, I know certain professors, deans, and other administrators who served in the military who might disagree with me. I suppose it is possible that the discipline and character developed in the military would be an advantage to your chances, but I think the real value would come in the built in networking that exists between members of the armed services.

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What should I do if I apply to pharmacy school and get rejected?

I'm looking at pharmacy as a career option since I have a passion for medicine/drugs. But I was wondering: What happens if you get rejected from all pharmacy schools you apply to? Do you wait till next year to apply again? or Do you stop pursuing that career?

The key is to identify the reasons you were rejected and try to determine if those areas can be improved. If you PCAT score was low, you can improve that. If your GPA is 2.0 and you have completed 150 credit hours, it could be very difficult for you to make a dramatic overall increase.

I think it is important that you contact the schools where you have been rejected and ask them for their feedback and suggestions on how to improve your application. I am always impressed when we review a re-applicant and the admissions office can tell me that they have been contacted by the person being reviewed and they have made the improvements we suggested.

Good luck.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How should I express my appreciation to those who helped me get into pharmacy school?

I am so happy to be starting pharmacy school this fall and feel like I should give the people who wrote letters of recommendation some sign of my appreciation because they obviously helped me out a lot. Is this appropriate or what would you recommend?

I do not think you should feel obligated to give a gift to someone who wrote a letter of recommendation for you. It is a very nice gesture, certainly, but it is not an expectation of the reviewer.

I have had students bring me a bag of M&Ms because I have a candy jar in my office. One gave me a CD because I used to make fun of the music he listened to. Cookies or a card are also very thoughful. If you have a personal relationship with the reviewer (ie, a pharmacist you work with, mentor, or college advisor) something very small is acceptable. If it is a professor or someone you voluntered with, an email or phone call to let them know you were accepted into pharmacy school to thank them for the time they spent is more than enough.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I can't get out of work to attend my pharmacy school interview. Why should I do?

I just got an interview invite for March 22nd, however I may not be able to attend that day due to work obligations. Do you think schools would be willing to let me change the interview date? I would prefer to do it after when my schedule at work loosens up more, but would a school be willing to accommodate my request?

I can almost guarantee that a school will work with you. However, please consider the following from the perspective of the school:
1) what is more important to you - work or your pharmacy school interview?
2) is it possible for you to rearrange your work schedule?

If you choose to reschedule your interview, I would not tell them the reason is because you cannot get out of work. Understand that most interviewees are missing school and/or work to attend out of town interviews and choosing not to do this could be perceived negatively by some. It's just something to consider. Just state that you had an unexpected conflict and you need to reschedule if that is the direction you choose.

Good luck.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interviewing at a pharmacy school where I was waitlisted last year

Question: I got invite for an interview with this one school (I had an interview with them last year) except this time it's about a month earlier. I was on their waitlist last year. This is my 2nd time interview at this school.

just want to know what should I expect on the 2nd time?

also, during my interview should I mention about last time I had an interview here? or what should I do to get accepted the 2nd time?

so nervous because this might be my ONLY interview for this year.

Answer:  Great question. First of all, I commend you for reapplying to the same school even though you were not accepted last year. I think applicants sometimes give up their dreams too quickly instead of persevering.

Next, I should preface my advice to you with some general guidance: I would advise all applicants who are rejected or waitlisted to contact the school and ask how to improve your application. We get this phone call occasionally, but not nearly enough in my opinion. In many cases, we really do have a solution for how the applicant can improve. It might be as simple as improving your PCAT chem score, gaining some pharmacy experience, rewriting your personal statement to better indicate why you want to become a pharmacist, or improving one's interviewing skills.

To answer your question, I think you should expect the interview to be pretty similar to what you experienced last year. In that regard, you should be relaxed relative to your peers who might not know what to expect.

My advice to you would be (and this would impress me tremendously): Let the interviewer know that you had the opportunity to interview last year and were waitlisted, but you had such a desire to attend this particular school that you worked diligently to improve your application. At this point, add in anything you did which might impress an interviewer: Did you get a pharmacy job or shadow an RP? Did you take additional courses or retake the PCAT if that was an issue? Basically, tell them why you are a better candidate now than you were at this time last year.

I might add, hopefully without sounding too parental, that if an applicant has done nothing to improve their application from one year to the next, that they should not expect a different result than was achieved the first time.

Good luck. I hope that you will let us know how the interview goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I got accepted to my top choice for pharmacy school! Can I cancel a deposit check mailed to another school?

I was admitted to a school and paid their sizable deposit with a personal check last week. Today I found out that I was admitted to my school of choice. How wrong would it be to cancel the check for the first school? Or if I notified them of the situation and asked them not to cash the check, would they agree? I assume they have the check now but it hasn't cleared and I'd hate to lose all that money. Help please!

I wish I could answer this one for you, but this really is between you and the school. I suppose you could argue that a school hasn't officially accepted the deposit until the check is actually cashed, but that might be splitting hairs. I would discourage you from simply canceling the check without any mention of it to the school.

If I had to make a recommendation, it would be to call the school and explain that you mailed them a check with the intention of attending their school of pharmacy.  Inform them, however, that in the past day or two (or however long ago), you were admitted to another school and that you would like to respectfully decline the first school's offer of admission.  During that conversation, request that the deposit check not be cashed.  Inform them that you will be canceling the check during that conversation and follow up with a polite email stating the same so that you have documentation of it.

Good luck.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Does physical appearance matter during an interview?

I am not trying to troll or anything but simply wanted to see how people react to this question... Does physical attractiveness gain you brownie points at an interview?

If the answer is yes maybe I should start pumping iron . Maybe I should worry about getting an interview first....

Interesting question.  I can honestly say that appearance (in terms of attractiveness) is something I have never considered, however, I also realize that as human beings we aren't perfect. I imagine there could be someone, somewhere who tacitly or subconsciously may give an advantage to attractive applicants.

Let me be very clear - I have never heard a committee member discuss an applicant's "attractiveness" during a committee meeting. But, I think we would be naive to assume it has never entered an interviewer's mind.

More importantly, while on this topic, if someone were to arrive at an interview dressed sloppily or unprofessionally, appearance would undoubtedly be a topic of conversation for the committee. That has happened many times.

I hope this helps.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Low GPA to start, but improving. How much will that help?

Question:  How do adcoms analyze GPA? Mine is low (3.03) because I 've so many credits that as many A's as i've been getting in my last 5 classes my GPA goes up by peanuts. It's so frustrating. I actually used a GPA calculator, and it came out that i'd have to take about 60 more credits (with 4.0) just to get from 3.03 to 3.5. So what do they care about most? 

Overall , or prereq/science , is having an upward trend good enough to compete with all the 3.6+ applicants, even though I have no chance to get there those numbers, for another 2-3 years? I'm also working very hard on finding a pharmacy where I could work/volunteer. Do pharmacies care about the tech certificate? All my friends that work in retail such as walgreens, CVS, etc none have it. I also know people that have gotten certified to increase their chances of getting hired, but have had no luck eigther. Should I put in even more time for the tech cert?

Answer:  GPA is very important, particularly science and math GPA. If you struggled early in your academic career, but did exceptionally well more recently, that should definitely work in your favor. I will say, however, that I think it helps for an applicant to "point out" the fact that their more recent grades are superior because in the crush to review files, sometimes we look at the GPA without as great attention to detail as we should.

The community pharmacists that I know do not usually hire based on certification. Most that I am aware of think it is more important to find someone that is willing to work hard and that has good people skills because they are going to be working closely with you. If you are having trouble finding a job, I suppose getting a tech certificate wouldn't hurt, but it would not be where I would allocate my time and resources.

Good luck.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Will past pharmacy experience help me now?

Question:  I am a second year undergraduate student and am a Bio. major. I've been working in a pharmacy since my junior year of high school and recently became certified. Nowadays, I am not working because of school. Will this affect how the admissions committee will overlook my application? Is it looked better upon if I work consecutively work until I graduate? Also, I was wondering what the average PCAT/GPA requirements are for getting accepted into pharmacy school.

Answer:  Good question. My honest answer would be that I would indicate to them that you have 2-3 years of pharmacy experience and leave it at that. You don't need to explain that you aren't working right now or even point it out. Simply state that you have experience and be prepared to explain how it helped you decide to be a pharmacist, and you'll be fine.

The average for every school is different. I'm just making these number up off of the top of my head, but I would say that you should have a minimum of 50 on the PCAT and a 3.0 GPA. Some people are accepted with numbers slightly lower. Obviously, you're chances increase as your scores improve. To have a stronger chance, a PCAT > 75 and a GPA > 3.5 would be ideal.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Do AdComs verify letters of recommendation with the writer?

Question:  Do Adcoms usually call to verify on a recommendation? If they do, at what point do they do it: when extending the interview or after the interview and just before deciding on the applicant? I turned in My pharmacist LOR in one of the schools after the interview, on the other one on the day of the interview. Do you think it even made a difference or they pretty much probably had the decision made already and my letter came in too late? Or maybe it didn't make a difference before of the short time that I started volunteering at the pharmacy ( just over a month). I know, many question! Ok to sum it up, both schools are meeting around these days and they have not called my pharmacist. Is that probably because they are not accepting me? I'm super anxious about the fact that they have not called him, what does that mean?

Answer: It has been my experience that AdCom will occasionally call the writers of LORs. Personally, I will do this on only a couple of times each year and it is usually with regard to something very specific mentioned in the letter itself. For example, I had an applicant who did poorly on his verbal and writing subset scores and the reviewer "Recommended with reservations" because of some communication issues. This concerned me (as it would most committee members) and I simply wanted to ask about a couple of situations mentioned in the letter.

In those cases when I have directly contacted a writer of an LOR, I did so prior to us offering an interview. As mentioned, in those cases, there was usually something in the application or the letter itself that seemed out of the ordinary or needed clarification. In these situations, I contacted the writer because I wanted to get a better understanding of what was being reported so I could give him/her an honest evaluation

On another occasion, we received two letters that were clearly written by the applicant and submitted in the name of a reviewer. Calling the reviewer confirmed this - he said that he gave permission for the applicant to do this, but it was a major ethical issue for the committee and we did not extend an interview to the applicant.

As a general rule, I would not expect your reviewers to be contacted directly by the school or a committee member. If your reviewers haven't heard from anyone, as an applicant that would probably bother me less than if they had contacted them to ask questions. I wouldn't worry if I were you.

Good luck.