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.