The PharmD program is unique in that applicants do not need to have completed a bachelor’s degree before starting. Approximately 20% of each incoming class does not hold a bachelor’s degree. They enter the PharmD program after 2 or 3 years of undergraduate study – however long it takes to complete the prerequisite coursework.
One of the most common questions we get is in regards to whether an applicant should complete their bachelor’s degree or forgo their bachelor’s and apply early. This is a challenging question, because there is no clear cut answer! Last week I posted about some of the benefits to finishing your undergraduate work early (the fast track), and this week I’m back with the benefits to finishing your bachelor’s degree on the traditional track. Next week, I’ll wrap up this series with some final thoughts.
Benefits to completing your bachelor’s degree (the Traditional Track):
- The most common reason that a younger student is not competitive in the admissions process is because they are not well-rounded. In order to fit all the prereqs into 2 or 3 years, students have to take heavy course loads (with several science labs) each semester, and sometimes have to enroll in summer courses. This doesn’t leave much time for extracurricular involvement, pharmacy or healthcare shadowing, or research opportunities. Having the chance to be well rounded makes students stand out not just in the application process, but also in the interview process. Older students typically do better in the Multiple Mini Interviews because they have more life experiences to talk about.
- Heavy course loads can be academically challenging and time intensive. We often see younger students’ grades suffer because they take on more than they can handle. Students who choose to finish their bachelor’s degree are able to spread their courses out over 4 years. In addition, students are able to take more advanced coursework as juniors and seniors, which is great preparation for our program. Having an extra year to participate in a senior capstone or research project is something we value highly.
- When you get to pharmacy school you will be taking all pharmacy courses…all the time. College is the time to explore and take classes you’re interested in – especially outside the sciences! You won’t have much flexibility in pharmacy school to take classes outside of the School. So if you want the chance to study abroad for a semester, take a theater/creative writing/political science/whatever your interest is class, or pursue a minor or second major, plan to schedule it before pharmacy school.
- Students in our PharmD curriculum are interacting with patients as early as the summer after their first year; so if young students don’t have any prior pharmacy or health care experience, it might be overwhelming to be working with patients who might be several years or decades older. Some students aren’t ready or mature enough for a professional program after 2-3 years of undergraduate work, and having that extra year to grow and mature can help.
- One benefit to completing your bachelor’s degree is just that – you complete your degree and get the diploma to prove it. For students who are on the pharmacy fast track, it might take 6 or 7 years for them to get a diploma. You want to make sure that pharmacy is absolutely the right path for you, because if you forgo your bachelor’s degree, and after starting pharmacy school realize that it isn’t the right fit, then you don’t have any degree after several years in school.
- One last thing to think about: when you enter a professional program without finishing your degree, you are going to be in your first or second year in pharmacy school when your friends from college are enjoying their senior year. You might not have the time as a graduate student to join your friends in their senior year festivities. Pharmacy school will always be there, but you only get one chance to enjoy your senior year in college with your friends.