Flashbacks and Forward Thinking: My Advice for Prospective Students

carolyn-rap-blog-picture

By Carolyn Rath, Class of 2020

In October of this year, I had the privilege to return to my alma mater, Duke University, for a recruitment event for the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy (ESOP). The event was called Graduate and Professional School Day, and was catered towards undergraduate students interested in pursuing business, law, and – my personal favorite – health professional programs. When I arrived at the event, I joined Aaron Todd, the Assistant Director of Student Affairs at ESOP (check out his Twitter if you haven’t already – @UNCpharmAaron) at the UNC table. Throughout the evening, Mr. Todd and I had the chance to talk to students about our program and the myriad opportunities available in the field of pharmacy today. And then, after many pleasant conversations with interested students, a vivid memory suddenly came to my mind.

*Flashback*

It’s late October of 2015. I am in the same room where the professional school fair is held, but it looks different. Instead of the rows of representatives brandishing brochures, there are tables scattered throughout the room where students are studying, chatting, or eating a quick lunch between classes. I am simultaneously trying to scroll through my emails, update my weekly calendar, and enjoy my plate of pasta before rushing off to Physics lab.¬† And then, just when I am about to close my laptop, one last email comes through with the subject line “UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy – Invitation to Interview.” In that moment, all thoughts (read: fears) of Physics lab disappear as I literally jump for joy, paying no attention to the stares from my peers. This is really happening!

*Flash-forward*

As I stood at the UNC ESOP table, reminiscing on that happy day, I started to think about my pharmacy school application process. While it all worked out in the end (thankfully), there are several things that I would do differently if I could go back now. If you are currently applying to pharmacy school, planning to apply in the future, or just enjoying my blog post here (which I completely understand), this list of tips is for you:

  1. Ask for advice. The process of applying to pharmacy school can be stressful! While you might be navigating territory that is unfamiliar to you, remember that many before you have forged a path to success. When you have questions or feel overwhelmed, seek help from advisors, admissions officers, and current PharmD candidates. Asking your questions now can save you from uncertainty or anxiety down the road.
  2. Show gratitude. Take a minute to think about all of those who have supported you on your pre-pharmacy journey thus far. Have you let them know how much their time and advice has meant to you? Have you kept them informed about your application and interview progress? A quick thank-you note or email update can mean a lot to your biggest fans.
  3. Celebrate the little moments. If you’re applying to schools right now, I know what you’re thinking – can’t I just get accepted to pharmacy school already?! During my application process, I was so focused on checking off boxes on my to-do list that I missed chances to celebrate the small things, like presenting myself well in an interview, receiving my first acceptance, or looking fabulously professional in my interview suit ūüôā Taking time to appreciate the small victories will help you to enjoy the process more!
  4. Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to become so wrapped up in the application process that you lose track of life a little bit. If you’re in your last year of college, don’t miss out on those invaluable, top-of-the-bucket-list experiences. If you’re working, continue to engage with your work and strive to make an impact. Spend time with your family and friends, and pursue activities that bring you joy. It might seem like your application process is the only thing that matters – but remember that your health, happiness, and relationships with others should be top priorities too.
  5. Think beyond the acceptance letter. When I received my first acceptance to pharmacy school, one of my best friends said: “You’re going to be a pharmacist!” Her simple statement reminded me that pharmacy school was not my end goal, but rather the beginning of my journey towards serving patients in the future.

I was so grateful for the chance to return to Duke as a representative of UNC ESOP. Not only did I have the opportunity to share the vision of ESOP with prospective students, but I also had time to reflect on the steps I have taken to get where I am now. To those of you who are applying to pharmacy school, I wish you the best of luck for the beginning of this promising journey, and I hope you enjoy each step along the way. And while I don’t yet have the power to flash forward to the future (still working on that), I have a good feeling about the next class of student pharmacists that will join us at UNC in 2017.

Virtual Pharmacy School Fair

One of our favorite events every year is the AACP Virtual Pharmacy School Fair. Come chat with us (and other pharmacy schools) October 4 and 5! This is a great way to learn more about pharmacy schools and the admissions process, whether you’re just thinking about applying to pharmacy school or whether you’re in the process of applying. We – current students and staff – will be available and¬†chatting both days. We look forward to chatting with you!

AACP-Evite-Student-Oct2016

All about the Supplemental Application

Do you have a supplemental application?

Yes, we do.

What is on the supplemental application?

A little bit of everything. It’s mostly information that we can’t gather from the PharmCAS application:

-Demographic and background information, academic history
-Residency for tuition purposes questions (learn more about the residency process here)
-How you learned about our School and program
-Agreement to uphold the honor code and community standards and School policies
-Military information
-Campus preference (learn more about our campuses here)

Are there additional essays on the supplemental application?

No!

Why can’t I access the supplemental application now?

When your¬†PharmCAS application is verified and released to our School for viewing, we process your PharmCAS application. We pull information from your PharmCAS application to¬†create your supplemental application. We can’t create a supplemental application for you until we’ve received your PharmCAS application.

Within one week of receiving your verified PharmCAS application, we’ll send you a personalized email with information about how to access and complete your supplemental application.

Is there a cost associated with the supplemental application?

Yes, $80.

How long will it take me to fill out the supplemental application?

It depends on how much information you have to fill it out and how quickly you can type, but probably not long. It will likely take you less than 30 minutes.

When is the deadline to submit the supplemental application?

The deadline to complete your PharmCAS application is December 1. As long as you’ve submitted your PharmCAS application by December 1, we will allow you until January 15 to complete your supplemental application.


Have any other questions about the supplemental application? Let us know.

Apply now – don’t wait!

The 2016-2017 PharmCAS application has now been open one month. We have a rolling admissions process, which means we’ve begun reviewing¬†verified PharmCAS applications.

Once you complete and submit your PharmCAS application, it takes PharmCAS 4-6 weeks to verify your application. Then, PharmCAS releases your application to our School for viewing. Allow us up to one week to process your application, and then we will send you an email with instructions to begin our supplemental application.

As we get closer to the December 1 deadline, we receive more and more applications, so apply now!

 

PCAT Q&A

We’ve received quite a few questions about the PCAT exam this week. Congratulations to all of you who took it in July!


What are the minimum scores you consider?

We recommend that students get at least 50% on the composite and sub sections to be competitive for our program. Scoring 70% and above on the composite section will make you most competitive. Our average PCAT composite score for accepted students the past few years has been 88%. Please note that is the average; many students fall below and above that score.

I didn’t do as well on the PCAT as I hoped. Should I retake it?

ūüôĀ First off, sorry to hear that.

You can, if you feel that you will do better. If you fall below our minimums (see the first sentence in the question above), you might want to study and retake the PCAT. We do superscore; if you take it multiple times, we will consider your highest overall scores.

Since you superscore…if i retake the PCAT, can I focus on the sections I did poorly on the first time, and not focus (ie-not try as hard) on the sections I did well on before?

This is not the best strategy. If we see that you aced your biology subsection the first time and significantly decreased your biology score¬†the second time around, this might be cause for concern. I would recommend focusing your studying beforehand on the sections you didn’t do as well in, and still try your hardest on all sections when you take the exam.

Which sections are most important in the admissions process?

We focus most heavily on the composite score, and the biology, chemistry, and quantitative sections. The critical reading and essay are important, but we prefer to assess those areas in other parts of your application.


What other questions do you have about the PCAT exam?

Here we go!

How is it already mid-July?! You know what that means – the 2016-17 application for Fall 2017 entry is now open (as of July 15)! Who has started their PharmCAS application already?

I’m currently attending the Admissions Workshop at the annual American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) conference. It’s always nice to see colleagues from other pharmacy schools, and learn more about updates, best practices, and what we can expect in this years’ admissions cycle. One of the presenters just shared a novel new¬†admissions¬†formula¬†to admit students. Take a look:

Admissions formula

I think we’ll stick to reviewing applications holistically and skip the formula this year!¬†ūüėČ

Note: I hope you gathered as much, but this is a joke!!

Advice from our application readers

We use independent application readers to read and evaluate PharmD applications. After wrapping up application review this past year, I asked our application readers to share their application advice for prospective applicants. 


Outside of PCAT/grades, what makes an application strong or stand out positively?

A strong essay and strong letters of recommendation.

  • Essay – do not repeat what is already in your application. Tell the reader about yourself. We want to get to know you. We know what courses you have taken, we can see that you have been involved in student organizations¬†and have shadowed, etc. Dig deeper! How were those experiences meaningful, what did they teach you, how did you deal with challenges, take us through the problem solving experience, etc. If you do want to share more about something already on your application, make sure you are sharing something above and beyond what is already included. We have so many outstanding candidates with excellent qualifications. We need to be able to get to know you through your essay. It is your opportunity to differentiate yourself.
  • Letters of Recommendation – do not gather letters of recommendation from high school teachers or a family friend who is a pharmacist. We want to learn about you as an undergraduate. We want to hear from those people who have known you well during your undergraduate experience – professors, lab supervisors, pharmacy supervisors, volunteer supervisors/advisors, etc. The main emphasis should be on asking people to write letters of recommendation that know you very well, and will write you a positive letter. Don’t ask a professor to write a letter just because you earned an A in their course. S/he will simply write that you earned an A in the course, which we already know from the transcript. Ask people who you have spent significant time with and can comment on who you are as a person¬† – professors who you have spent considerable time in office hours with, lab supervisors if you have taken part in a research project, volunteer supervisors/advisors particularly if you have had a leadership role and have been very active in supporting the volunteer organization (or any organization), etc. I want to learn something new about the applicant that no other section on the application can tell me.

Outside of PCAT/grades, what makes an application weak or stand out negatively?

  • No pharmacy/health care experiences – either shadowing, volunteering, or even participating in a Pre-Pharmacy organization. If you have not attempted to partake in any of these types of activities, how are we as the reader supposed to believe that you really want to be a pharmacist?
  • Essays and letters of recommendation that lack depth. If you don’t put effort into your essay, we can tell. If your recommenders don’t know you well, we can tell.
  • Any spelling or grammar errors. That is just sloppy! Ask someone else to review your essay or application before submitting it.
  • Plagiarism. Don’t¬†do it.

What advice would you give prospective applicants regarding their application?

  • Don’t assume…
    • …that we will figure out that you did research unless¬†you write about it in your essay¬†or¬†list it in your resume section. We see hundreds of applications from hundreds of schools, and we do not know your schools/majors well enough to realize that a 40- level course entails a major research project.
    • …that we understand what it means to be involved in a certain club or activity at your school. If you don’t have enough space to explain the activity in the resume section and it was a important part of your life or a big responsibility, make sure to elaborate on¬†it in your essay.
  • Provide context for low grades – if we see that you got all A’s and B’s and one F, that F stands out (and not in a good way!). It’s always better to explain what happened in that course.

What is your biggest application pet peeve?

  • Not completing the transcript portion of PharmCAS accurately. If you want to earn possible credits to satisfy prerequisites with AP scores, you must include those in the transcript portion of PharmCAS.
  • PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD!

What is your favorite part of application review?

Reading a fabulous essay or reading very strong letters of recommendation! Both of these areas of the PharmCAS application really help me get to know the student better.

Important admissions cycle dates

Well, it’s June! We’re getting closer and closer to the start of the 2016-2017 admissions cycle. I wanted to share some important dates and deadlines for this coming cycle.

2016-2017 Application Cycle

May 20, 2016 – Registration deadline for July PCAT examinations.
July 5, 2016 – Registration deadline for Sept PCAT examinations.
Mid-JulyPharmCAS launches 2016-2017 application
                  UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy application launches!!!
July 21-22, 2016 РJuly PCAT examination dates
September 7-9, 2016 РSeptember PCAT examination dates
October 7, 2016 – Registration deadline for October/November PCAT examinations.
October 24-31, 2016 РOctober/November PCAT examination dates
December 1, 2016UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy application deadline
December 15, 2016Fall Academic Update window opens
                                    During the Academic Update period, you will be able to log in                                                 to your application to update your Fall 2016 grades, and make                                               changes to your Spring 2017 courses
February 15, 2017Fall Academic Update closes

Monthly questions

Here are some of the questions we’ve gotten from students this month.


Which prerequisite courses do I need to complete?

If you will have a bachelor’s degree completed by the time you enroll in the PharmD program, you need to complete the math and science prerequisites. If you will not have a¬†bachelor’s degree completed by the time you enroll in the PharmD program, you need to complete the math and science prerequisites and the general education prerequisites.

Should I wait to submit my application until after I’ve taken the PCAT?

No! We have a rolling admissions process, so as soon as you submit your completed application and PharmCAS verifies it and releases the application to us, we can start reviewing it. We do not invite students for interviews until we’ve reviewed a completed application (completed includes your PCAT scores), so we will not invite you for an interview until we receive your PCAT scores, but we can begin reviewing the rest of your application.

When do I apply? I want to start the program in Fall 2017.

You should apply this admissions cycle. You apply one year before enrolling, so the application opening in mid-July 2016 is for students interested in starting the program in Fall 2017.

I transferred colleges during my sophomore year; how will my GPA be calculated?

PharmCAS will calculate a cumulative GPA based on all universities attended and all courses taken. Just a head’s up – PharmCAS calculates all courses into the GPA (even if you repeated the course and had the original grade forgiven at your school).

Can I continue taking prerequisites while I’m applying?

Yes. You can indicate on your PharmCAS application which courses you intend to take in the fall and spring semester. You will have the opportunity to log in to your application during the Academic Update period (usually December 15 – February 15) to update fall grades.
All prerequisite courses should be completed by the end of the spring semester (May 31).

Admissions lingo

When you apply to a school (whether it is an undergraduate or graduate program) you have to learn the admissions lingo to understand the process. Here are some quick definitions of words you’re going to encounter in the pharmacy application process.


PharmD: The Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD) is the professional doctorate degree required to sit for the pharmacy licensure exam in order to practice as a pharmacist in the US.

Prerequisite courses (prereqs): Prerequisite courses are required to evaluate an applicant’s preparation for a PharmD program, and¬†must be completed before enrolling in a PharmD program. Prerequisite courses must be completed at an accredited college or university with a C- or better.

Rolling admissions: We review applications on a rolling basis. As soon as an applicant submits their completed application, we start reviewing that application to determine if the applicant is competitive for an interview.

PharmCAS: The Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) is a centralized application service used to apply to  programs offered by schools and colleges of pharmacy

Supplemental application: In addition to the PharmCAS application, students applying to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy must submit a supplemental application. After completing and submitting the PharmCAS application, applicants are emailed a link to the supplemental application. The supplemental application is short and takes less than 20 minutes to complete.

PCAT: The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is the exam required for entry into pharmacy school. It covers 5 content areas: writing, critical reading, biological processes, chemical processes, and quantitative reasoning.  Each section receives a score out of 99%.

Composite: The PCAT exam is given an overall or composite score out of 99%. The composite score is based on performance in the 5 content areas.

MMI: The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) is the interview method we use to assess applicants. The MMI is a series of seven interview stations consisting of timed (eight-minute) interview scenarios. Applicants rotate through the stations, each with its own interviewer and scenario, over the course of an hour. The MMI does not test knowledge but will assess characteristics and attributes which the Admissions Committee feel are important for success as a pharmacist.