Updated: May 18, 2021
Hello my wonderful readers, in today's topic I will go over the key areas that I think are essential for you to get accepted to your dream pharmacy school (or any professional grad school in general). I will also break down the steps of applying to pharmacy school and the general timeline so that you can further prepare yourself with ample time so you are not stressed out like I was! These are only pertained to my very own experience, so take it with a grain of salt please :)
Every school has slightly different pre-requisites from one another, so make sure you follow the school's website to have the most accurate information. Make sure you start this early so you can plan your courses accordingly. Keep in mind that you do not have to finish all of your pre-requisites by the time you apply. So what does this mean? This means that you just have to finish all of the pre-requisites before you enter the school in the Fall! You can choose to finish all of your pre-reqs or on your way to finish them when you apply. It's totally up to you to decide. But of course, the more courses you have taken, the more competitive you become because you demonstrate to the school that you have strong foundations on the topic. This is essentially true when you want to apply to the top pharmacy school programs. I only applied to programs that require a bachelor (BS) degree prior to applying so I can only speak to those programs.
Check the school websites for pre-reqs early. Contact the school advisor if needed.
Do not need to finish all of the pre-reqs before applying. Only have to finish all the pre-reqs before matriculation in the Fall.
Again, every school has different GPA range for incoming students. To see where you are on the list, you can visit the school websites to see the GPA of admitted students last year. Keep in mind that this is the average! If you do not have that GPA, don't sweat too much about it because they look at you holistically as an applicant. GPA is not the only thing!
Ideally, you want to keep track of the school you want to apply and include their GPA range in there as well so you can see the likeliness that you will get accepted. I would say if your GPA is around 3.0 to 3.5, you are good. If you want to take more classes to improve your GPA, you can. But I honestly think that it is only necessary when your GPA is below 3.0. I would rather focus that energy on finding pharmacy experience and other extra-curricular because at the end of the day, the question you really want to be sure is whether pharmacy is right as a career for you, not about how high your GPA is. Anyway, I digress. Lemme summarize what I was saying:
If your GPA is higher than 3.5, I'm guaranteed you are going to get accepted somewhere haha.
If your GPA is between 3.0 to 3.5, you're good. Focus on building pharmacy experience and/or extra-curricular.
If your GPA is lower than 3.0, take more classes to improve your GPA.
Also, they calculate your GPA based on all of the classes you have taken! So if you take classes outside of your university, that will also be included in your PharmCas GPA as well. They categorized your GPA into cumulative, science, by subjects, by year as well. I've created an excel sheet for you to calculate my PharmCas GPA, you can download it here:
3. Pharmacy Experience
Not every school requires pharmacy experience prior to applying. But I do think that it is essential for you to gain pharmacy experience before applying. Why?
You want to know what you're getting into. We don't want to quit half way through pharmacy school after all that blood, sweat and tears only to realize that it wasn't what we expected it to be as an undergrad.
You want to learn as much information about pharmacy as you can so that you can be confident when it comes to interviews. Also, connecting to pharmacists and finding mentorships are so helpful for you for your career down the line.
It looks good on your application. Shows that you are interested in the field and take initiative steps to learn about it.
Why I did for pharmacy experience:
Volunteered in the hospital as a hospitality volunteer - 4 hours a week for a year
Volunteered in the hospital as an inpatient pharmacy volunteer - 4 hours a week for a year
Worked in the hospital as an inpatient pharmacy clerk - 24 hours a week for a year
Follow your heart and explore what your interests and goals are. You don't have to force yourself into something only for the paper. Try everything out and if something doesn't work for you, it's ok! I'm going to first describe the perfect candidate with the perfect extra-curricular and then talk about my own extra-curricular.
Get involved in research (able to publish one or two papers as a co-author)
highlight research skills
Board member of a club (usually President or Vice President role)
highlight leadership skills
Some type of community service
highlight interests to give service to others
Working part-time as something
highlight ability to organize time and work under pressure
Worked in a bakery - 32 hours a week for 2 years
Tutor students with dyslexia (Math) - 4 hours a week for 2 years in high school and 1 year in college
Tutor elementary students (Biology) - 4 hours a week for 1 month
Involved in research for a year (did not publish any articles)
No involvement in any types of clubs
As you can see, my extra-curricular is very unrelated to pharmacy. I want to explore different roles that interest me before deciding to dedicate my life to pharmacy lol. I just really want to be passionate about my job and happy in life. I truly believe that you will work the best when you truly enjoy it. So if I want to be a good pharmacist in the future, it has to first start with the fact that I have a passion for it.
So here is my words of wisdom for you: Explore other things besides pharmacy. Make sure you really want to get into pharmacy!
Because of these other interests of mine, I realized that I love teaching and having the mentorship relationships with others. All these things boil my interests to get into pharmacy academia in the future and it pushes me to work harder everyday.
Also, I did not get involved in any types of clubs. I used to look down on myself because I feel like everyone else is doing so much more and yet, I hold no types of leadership roles. But now looking back, there is no way I would be able to handle working almost full time, going to school full time, doing all the other extra-curricular if I decide to get involved in clubs. I simply go to school and commute home to go to work lol. And that is totally okay! You don't have to push yourself to the point that you break. One day at a time my friend. Do things that make your eyes spark and your heart flutters. 😊
5. Letter of Rec
Ask early. Let them know you want to apply to pharmacy school as soon as possible. Show them how much you are interested in the field. About 3 months before letter of rec is due, ask them to be your writer. Remind them 3 weeks before it is due. You want to ask 3 writers, each from:
Anyone that is not friend and family (I asked my supervisor at work)
Extra writer (I did not have an extra letter)
If you have a close relationship with the person you are asking, ask them in person. If you don't really know them that well (for me it was with my professor because I only know him for 1 quarter- 10 weeks), send them an email. Make sure you don't force them into writing you a letter or else they will write you a crappy one. When you ask them, make sure you ask if they are able to provide you with a GOOD letter of rec. Not just a letter, but a good one!
When you send them the request email, make sure you provide them with materials to write. You want to advocate for yourself. How would they know how hard you work or how much passion you have if you don't tell them? Send them a Q-A style informations about yourself and things you want them to highlight in the letter of rec. I will go into more details of what this looks like in a second post about letter of rec alone. Because asking for a letter of rec is an art lol. The Subtle Art of Asking For a Letter of Rec, maybe I should name my blog post that and get copyrighted by Mark Manson (the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***- if you know, you know).
I was so scared when I ask my writers because (1) I feel like a burden because they are already so busy (2) I feel intimated easily and I'm always scared to ask people for something. I legit sent the request emails, closed my laptop for 2 days straight and just cringed every time I thought about it lol. But to my surprise, everyone was eager to help and really want me to succeed in life. I am so thankful for this and I truly would not be here writing this post without all the help from them and others! So yeah, if I can do it, you can do it too!
In summary, here's the thing you should do when asking for a letter of rec:
Ask in advance. Give them ample time to write. Remind them 3 weeks before it is due.
Do not force them to write you one.
Ask for a good letter of rec, not just a letter.
Advocate for yourself. Include things you want them to highlight.
Provide materials for them to write about you.
Provide personal statement, CV, resume, transcript for them.
6. Personal Statement
Oh boi, to me writing the personal statement is the second to most difficult thing, after asking for a letter of rec. I will go into details about tips on writing the perfect personal statement in another post because there are so many things to mention. But here's the gist of it: it is a persuasive essay. You are trying to persuade the admission office to admit you into their school.
What should you do?
Be authentic and genuine. Do not include things that are not true to you.
Express your why. Why pharmacy? Why this field and not something else?
Please do not say you want to help people. Just don't lol.
Don't say you are interested in pharmacy because you are an immigrant either. Lemme tell you how much immigrants and Asians are there in a pharmacy program lol.
Highlight your achievement and passion. Persuade them to admit you.
What is the prompt?
Note: this is only applicable to the covid cycle and the schools I applied. I'm not sure if they include these next year or not.
Your Personal Essay should address why you selected pharmacy as a career and how the Doctor of Pharmacy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals. The personal essay is an important part of your application for admission and provides you with an opportunity for you to clearly and effectively express your ideas. (4500 characters)
Describe why you want to attend [school] and why you are a good fit for the program. (400 words or 2500 characters)
What unique life experiences have led you to choosing pharmacy? (400 words or 2500 characters)
Please describe how COVID-19 has impacted your pathway to pharmacy school? (2500 words)
Academic: Were you able to interact with your professors? Did you have to leave an academic program stateside or abroad? Did your school require you to move to Pass/Fail systems? Did your original PCAT exam get cancelled, delayed? Other academic barriers?
Professional: Did you hold a job? Did you have to go out and seek new job opportunities? Did you lose a job? Other financial or professional barriers that you faced?
Personal: Did you have to move out of a house or dorm? Did you have to cancel travel plans? Did you modify your planned experiences related to healthcare or volunteer opportunities? Did you seek out volunteer opportunities that arose from the crisis? Did you help family members that were affected?
I will talk more in-depth on how to ace your pharmacy interview in another post. This post will include the general info about the interview.
"The interview is a 2-way process. As much as it is for them to interview to see if you are what they are looking for in a student, it is also for you to interview them to see if their school is suitable for you"- my mentor said.
The interview will consist of two types of questions:
Questions about you
Get to know you. Who you are as a person?
Answer these with honesty and with your own personality!
They will give you a scenario and ask what you would do in that situation.
They are looking for maturity, ability to analyze the situation and ability to use critical thinking skills.
Top 5 questions you are guaranteed to get:
Tell us about yourself.
Why are you interested in [school]?
An example showing how you resolve conflict/work in a team/apply communication skills.
What is the role of a pharmacist?
What does an interview look like?
Usually, interview will be broken down into 4 activities. The order can be changed depending on the school and the schedule.
Introduce the school and informations about tuitions, fafsa, pre-reqs, subsequent steps after the interview
Your interview- 3 types
1 on 1 interview: you will talk to 1 person at a time for a total of 3 times. Usually with professors or pharmacists.
2 on 1 interview: a professor/pharmacist and a pharmacy student will take turn ask you questions simultaneously.
multiple mini interview: you will have a prompt and answer the question and then move on to the next interviewer.
An essay/health-reasoning test
Essay: Usually allow 30 minutes to write about a particular prompt. It can be anything. They just want to access your level of writing. Nothing to prepare or worry about.
Health-reasoning test: No calculator. This test is like a critical thinking test. Nothing to prepare or worry about. They just want to access your analytical skills. If you want to prepare, you can google them. There are plenty of practice test. But there is nothing to prepare really.
the easiest and chillest part of the interview! You will get the chance to talk to current pharmacy students. Ask them just about anything! I definitely learn a lot by asking them questions and also get to know the school more as well. Don't be scared. Just ask any questions you have in mind.
8. Key things pharmacy school look for
Treat this as your check box. If you are able to check off all of these boxes, you are guaranteed to be accepted my friend. But of course, don't be over-confident and sound like a smart-a** during the interview lol. And if you don't get accepted after following this check box, don't come at me lol
Have decent GPA (don't have to be stellar)
if low GPA, show improvements/upward trends in GPA
Clear understand pharmacy as a profession (the more experienced you are in the field, the easier it is to answer interview questions about pharmacy)
Passionate about pharmacy
Mature and capable of making critical decisions
Goal-oriented, motivational, hard-working
Awareness of the differences of each individual/patient
July: PharmCas opens
November: Schools like UCSF, UCSD, USC close their applications
Do try to apply as soon as you can since pharmacy school is rolling-admission. I applied kinda late though lol (don't be like me)
December- February: Interview takes place
A lot of schools interview all the way to May though so don't worry if you don't get an interview within this time frame!
January- April: Admission offers
Admission offers usually take place within 2 weeks after your interview. So you know right away!
If you get a merit-based scholarship from the school, you will receive it in the offer letter as well.
You can hold multiple admission offers up until March 15
Usually a deposit payment is needed within 2 weeks of receiving the admission offer in order for you to hold your spot in the school.
March: You can only hold 1 admission offer.
April - June: Submit all of your coursework/information before a certain deadline
Update your courses
Provide immunization records to the school
July- August: Getting ready for CPR certification/Intern license
August: School starts :)
I hope these informations can be helpful to some of you. I know application cycle is approaching so I try to post this up as soon as I can. Feel free to DM me or comment below if you have any questions or need help. Let's advocate for pharmacy profession together my friends! 😋
Don't forget to check out my shop to help me pay off my student loans!
Here's a picture of me writing this post because why not 😂
Until next time,