Friday, August 22, 2014

Am I too old to begin pharmacy school?

Question: At the age of 27/28, do you think I'm too old to be going on this endeavor? Do you think there will be an affect on my ability to handle the work of pharmacy school?

Answer: I know many students much older than you who have successfully completed pharmacy school.  In fact, I know many professors (and AdComs) prefer mature students because we have found that they often have a greater focus on their professional studies. Whether you can handle jumping back into a rigorous program after not having taken any courses for several years is something I cannot answer for you, but with diligent preparation and commitment, I believe that most students will be successful.

I wish you the best and encourage you to pursue your dreams.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Supplemental application question

Question: One of my Supplemental Application asks: What have you done to prepare for admission and a career in pharmacy? (Re-applicants should focus on specific things -activities, additional educational studies, etc. - which strengthen the file from the previous application.) – Limit: 2000 characters

My question is how should I approach this question? Do I try to be personal and provide some examples of what I have learned about pharmacy? Or do I just literally list things that I have done to prepare for a pharmacy career (resume-like)? I am pretty sure it should be personal, but the question can be interpreted in different ways.

Answer: My first question is: Are you reapplying? If so, I think you need to answer the question quite a bit differently than if this is your first attempt. If reapplying, you need to show what you have done to improve your application from the previous cycle. Have you taken new courses or started a masters program? Did you get a Tech license or a job in pharmacy? When I review a file of an applicant who we rejected previously, I immediately look to see what changed from the rejected applicantion. If the answer is "nothing", you've got pretty long odds that the response from the school will change.

If this is your first application to this school, you should address any pharmacy experience (volunteering, shadowing, or tech work) that you have completed, including any interaction with other health care professionals as well as volunteer experience that might be applicable (hospital, Red Cross, etc). Depending on much space you can fill with the aforementioned, referring to your academic studies could certainly be included as preparatory work for pharmacy school. However, it seems pretty clear that the school is looking for more than simply an academic update.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Financial dilemma - public vs private pharmacy school

Question: I have a dilemma, I don't want to be in 200K of debt. I've been wait listed at a public school but admitted to a private one where I have given a deposit.  What if I go to the private school for a week, and then find out I've been accepted at the public school? Do I have an outlet within a timeframe or am I stuck with the private school that will put me in a huge finanical crisis?

Response: First of all, I believe that if you make a commitment and enroll in a program that you should commit yourself to it.  However, I understand the financial pressures that students feel (I was a student once too).

Most schools have a window where you can get part or all of your tuition back one school has started. For example, if you leave school by Sept. 1, you might receive a 90% refund of your tuition; before Sep. 15, 70%; and no refund after that date. You should check with the school where you plan to enroll first.  I suspect this information is in your enrollment information or may be available on their website.

Good luck.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What classes should I retake this summer for applying to pharmacy school in 2015?

Question: I will be applying for fall 2015 and i won't be taking the PCAT until august. I need to retake a Calc class that I chose to receive an F in (peers told me to take the bad grade versus getting the W, b/c our CC replaces with the better grade) and I was planning on taking it this Fall. Right now my overall GPA is 2.7 and that's with an F in Calc I and a D in Physics I, I plan on retaking them both in the fall. I am taking organic Chemistry I followed by Orgo II all this summer. Would you advise I take orgo II in the fall and Calc during the summer? I think I need Orgo I for the PCAT that's why I think I should keep that but switch up the Calc and Orgo II? I'm not sure what to do !

Answer: I cannot speak to how your CC transcript looks, but be aware that all of your grades will be reported to PharmCas. I would encourage you to retake Calculus in the summer if you can - this will help prepare you for the PCAT also. I agree that an F on your transcript for a prerequisite (and a course the committee will assuredly look at) would paint a very unfavorable first impression and one that you might not be able to overcome.  As I've stated in multiple blog entries which you can find here, I always recommend withdrawing from a course rather than taking a D or F on a transcript.

So, I would take Orgo I and Calculus this summer. Prepare well for the PCAT - if your grades are marginal, you may need a strong PCAT score to get you in.

Best of luck.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pharmacy school interview preparation

 As my interviews are coming up one for this weekend and another one for following weekend, I really would like to ask you for specific techniques for the interview.

I've been preparing by reading reviews and reading lots of interview books and websites, also doing the mock interview.thus, I know all the basic things, like "what to do", "what not to do".

But if you can tell me your special advice/techniques that you can give me, like how I can really impress the interviewer, or how you have been actually impressed by intervewee, I really appreciate it. Or what particurally do you look for when you interview students? Anything will be a big help for me right now.

Also, is there anything I should be careful for since I'm an international student?

Answer: This is going to sound overly simple, but "be yourself". Too many applicants try too hard to impress the interviewers and it shows. Don't have rehearsed answer for questions, but engage the person asking the questions, making it as conversational as possible.

The applicants I most remember are those that won't stop talking and seem to have answers prepared rather than think about the question and have a dialogue with me. In this case, you would prefer to not be memorable.

As an international student, I assume the interviewer will be closely judging your communication skills if English is not your native language. Speak slowly and clearly. I wish you the best.

Please let us know how it goes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Need pharmacy school interview advice for a non-traditional student

I have recently been requested for interviews at my pharmacy schools of designation. Do have any advice about what one can do during these interviews? I scored above 50th percentile for my PCAT, I have cumulative chemistry GPA of 3.1 and I have some work experience as a manager for a writing center, sales person for a biotechnology firm, and research assistant for the botany department of a museum. As you may have noticed, I am not necessarily your typical candidate. As a interviewer, what questions would you have for such an abnormal candidate as I? Thank you for you time and concern.

My simple advice would be prepared to explain why you are making a career change. What has drawn you to pharmacy? If you have a family, do you plan to continue working as a full time pharmacy student? Those are things that I would be interested in. While some career changing non-traditional students do very well in pharmacy school, we do see some who immediately realize they can't handle everything required and leave the program. A school doesn't want to risk a spot in a class if they think you haven't made the appropriate plans for life outside pharmacy school.

Good luck.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I had a terrible PCAT score - should I just give up?

Question: Hello!
I applied to pharmacy school for this fall, and I have some major concerns. I just received my PCAT scores not too long ago for January, and they are HORRIBLE. And I knew they would be. I studied and have great understanding in a lot of the areas, but I was definitely very time pressured and shocked by the types of questions asked with the limited time for each question. I don't know what each pharmacy school weighs more on, so I wanted to ask what my chances are for getting accepted with such lows scores on my PCAT.
My Composite SS-382 PR-11

My GPA, that was just recently calculated by PharmCAS, is at 3.42. I currently am enrolled in my last classes for pre-reqs - Organic Chemistry II w/ lab, Microbiology w/ lab, and Anatomy and Physiology II w/ lab. So with that, if all goes well, should bump up my GPA a little more. Would this help my chances?

I have worked in the medical field since I was 16.  Will this help my chances?

I had 3 LOR written for me. If all recommendations are extremely positive, will that increase my chances?

I feel that if they were to give me a chance for an interview, they would see how serious and passionate I am about this career and take my grades into more consideration vs. my PCAT scores, as they are FAR FROM reflecting how I perform in school. I have great verbal ability and feel I have the right personality for the field since I have been working in the medical field for so long.

I'd love to hear back from you with an honest answer. I am worried, but hopeful. I hope the other factors outweigh my PCAT scores and that I am still given the opportunity to further prove myself to the school I applied to.

You ask some good questions, but unfortunately there are no obvious answers. I think your GPA is poor enough that it will keep you from being admitted despite your experience and other beneficial parts to your application. I think you need to retake it and score much better. You might ask your LOR writers to amend the letters they submitted to indicate that despite your low PCAT scores, they believe that you are a capable student with the necessary aptitude to succeed in pharmacy school. Sometimes, that helps.

Good luck-

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What should I wear to my pharmacy school interview?

Question: I wanted to know for an interview is it PC to only wear like neutral colors or can I wear something a little different. I'm wearing a suit but do I have to wear a typical white/blue collared shirt underneath or can I wear something that stands out a bit. The reason I ask this is I've worked in HR and I've found that people that come dressed extra nice and have a little color or "Stand out" I remember them more so then the typical black suit white shirt applicant. I know this is a random question but one school, one application, one shot... I have to make it the best shot I give.

Answer: I should preface my response by telling you that I am not terribly up to date on current fashion trends. However, since you ask, I would recommend the standard issue business suit. Ladies should wear something professional. A pant suit or dress would be appropriate. I would strongly recommend against wearing anything very revealing. You should consider this a job interview - and a very important one at that.

If wearing something a little bit unique fits your personality, go for it. Just don't overdo it. Wear a unique tie, but stick with the white or blue shirt.

I would probably only remember an applicant's clothes if they were in poor taste or inappropriate. What I typically remember about the student is how they answer questions and what kind of "vibe" I get from them.

Dress professionally and you'll be fine.

Good luck with the interview.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

How do I overcome a very low GPA that resulted from failing courses my freshman year?

I have come across your blog while looking for information about the strength of my application. I have a decent application - except for my GPA. I have an 87 composite for the PCAT (lowest was 51 in math), 7+ years of experience as a CPhT, and strong LoR's from 3 different pharmacists. My GPA, however, is abysmal; PharmCAS reports it as a 2.16 for overall and 2.41 for science. This is mostly due to failing two semesters my freshman year, where I lacked any direction or dedication for college. I don't have any F's in the core classes, but no A's either - mostly a mix of C's and B's. I will be completing my bachelors degree this semester, and I have a total of 204 attempted hours, so I am not in a position where I can easily raise my GPA. 

What suggestions do you have for a case like mine? Should I retake some of the core classes I received a C in before applying? Should I apply, and then if I get rejected, call and ask them what I should I do specifically to improve my application? If a school has a minimum GPA, is that a hard line that they do not cross? I feel that outside of getting some community service the only thing to boost my application is to increase my GPA, which requires another 3 years of straight A's full time just to get in the 3.0 range. Thank you for taking your time to read this, and for providing the site for those of us with these hard to ask questions.

I think you understand the magnitude of having such a poor GPA - that alone will be enough to keep you out of many schools despite the strong PCAT and your work experience. What you must do is be able to show that the poor grades that resulted in the dramatic lowering of the GPA were isolated to those first two semesters of your freshman year. If you can do that and show progress and a trend upward since that disastrous start, you might have a chance. Admittedly, however, it will be an uphill battle - one you can overcome, but it will take significant effort on your part.

As far as retaking classes, I think anything you can do to show a better understanding of the key material will help you. If you had C's or worse originally and you can now point to an "A" in the same class taken more recently, it adds to the case that you are going to have to make.

Best of luck.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Making a career change and my practice PCAT scores are low because I haven't taken the science courses yet. What should I do?

I am returning to school after 8 years (change of career). I am registered to take the PCAT in January. I have begun the PharmCas process and am currently taking necessary coursework. This upcoming semester I will be taking Chemistry and Biology. These are subsequently the low scores on the practice test (haven't had any chem or bio since HS). I am incredibly concerned. What can I do to get a snowball's chance at getting into a pharmacy school? Thanks for your help! 

This is a risk that we see sometimes when applicants make a career change and decide to retake classes (or take them for the first time) just before the PCAT. It's difficult for an AdCom to separate aptitude and potential. I suspect you have the motivation and potential to do very well in your coursework, but what the AdComs will see based on your probably low subset scores on the PCAT is that you aren't fully prepared for a rigorous academic program like pharmacy school until you have demonstrated proficiency in the core subjects like Chemistry and Biology (as well as Calculus).

My suggestion in cases like yours is to slow the process down. I know that is difficult because many applicants want to hurry and get the core classes done, take the PCAT, start interviewing and subsequently begin pharmacy school. However, what AdComs and schools see are oftentimes unprepared applicants who do not put their best foot forward because they are in such a rush. Is it better to rush and fail or take time and be successful?

If you feel unprepared for the PCAT, and I would suggest that you probably are since you haven't taken the necessary courses to be successful on the exam, delay taking it until you are adequately prepared. I would advise you to take a full year to prepare and do well in your courses and on the PCAT so you are a strong candidate rather than potentially waste the time and money applying to schools this cycle.

Best of luck. Please keep us posted.