Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pharmacy school interview preparation

Question:
 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

Question: 
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.

Answer:
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.



Answer:
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?

Question:
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.

Answer:
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?

Question:
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! 

Answer:
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.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is it frowned upon to call the Admissions Office to ask about the status of an application?

Question:
Is calling the Admissions office frowned upon to check on the status of one's application? For example, checking if anything is missing; being reviewed...etc. Also, if one does call should one leave a voice mail and wait to be called back or talk with somebody direct...appreciate any feedback tks.


Answer:
I think it is very appropriate for applicants to contact schools when they have questions about the status of their pharmacy school application. Of course, be respectful and appreciative of their time, but the admissions staff is there to answer your questions. Because many who work in these offices are sometimes traveling, you may be better served by sending an email, but my experience has always been that if you need to leave a voicemail, someone will call you back.

Good luck,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to address a misdemeanor charge on my record when applying to pharmacy school?

Question:
Great blog you're maintaining! Keep it up!
Anyway here's my situation. I was convicted of a misdemeanor-reckless endangerment charge in 2012. I'm currently on unsupervised probation, which will end april 2014. It was because i discharged a pellet gun in my backyard. How serious is such a thing to the admission offices? I'm concerned because my first choice is a very competitive school. How should i address it? In my personal statement? During the interview? I've been prepping hard for the PCAT in Jan and my GPA is decent (3.6). I wouldn't want it all to be for naught.



Answer:
I don't think it will be a serious issue for most AdComs - I've seen worse charges overlooked by committee members before, but it sometimes also only takes 1 vocal member to derail an application.  Mention it in your statement and acknowledge that it was a foolish action. If the schools have questions, I assure you they will ask for more information. 

Good luck.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How much will previous withdrawals impact my pharmacy application?

Question:
I have five withdrawals in my transcript and they all came at a time when I was unsure of what I wanted to do (which I talk about in my personal statement). A supplemental question asked to explain any withdrawals. Does this weaken my application drastically? Should I try to explain each one and how should I approach explaining it? Some of them were due to not being happy with my grade (which is common I hear) and some were due to course load. What do AdComs consider a GOOD reason? Thanks.


Answer:
Withdrawals on a transcript are certainly a negative, but what a committee looks for is a whether there is a pattern of withdrawals. Generally speaking, withdrawing from a class because you were doing poorly and anticipated receiving a less than desirable grade is not an "acceptable" reason. But these are common reasons. The best reasons for withdrawals would be due to illness or personal circumstances (ie, death of family member). A committee will forgive these without much question.

The key is how you explain the withdrawals. I would suggest being honest, yet somewhat vague. A poor explanation might be, "I withdrew from Orgo because I was overwhelmed taking 15 hours, so I withdrew and took Orgo in the summer instead." A committee will look at that and question you have the aptitude to handle the rigors of a pharmacy courseload when withdrawing from a course is not an option.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I bombed the Chemistry section of the PCAT - can I still get into pharmacy school?

Question: 
I bombed my chemistry sections of the PCAT, only getting a 23. Should I even bother applying to pharmacy school with this score? My other scores were average. My last chemistry course I got an A, and am now enrolled in Organic Chemistry, and am on track to receive a B in the class. I have worked as a pharmacy tech for over 2 years now, would this help me in my application process?

Answer:
You absolutely need to have good grades in the didactic courses to offset a significantly low subset score in what most AdComs consider the most predictive element of the exam. If you have A's and B's, that will help you chance, but will it be enough? I cannot promise you that it will. I think your best chance would be to ask one of the professors of record for Chemistry or Organic to write you a letter of recommendation. Inform them of your plans to apply to pharmacy school and that you scored very poorly on the PCAT Chem section. Ask them if they would feel comfortable writing that your coursework is more reflective of your aptitude than the PCAT score and maybe offer an example in the LOR of your chemistry knowledge or excellent lab skills.


If I see an otherwise strong applicant who has a very low PCAT Chem, I'd want to see what I described above. We take seriously the recommendations from professors and if one is willing to state that the student has the knowledge to be successful in pharmacy school, that will make a difference. The key is to make sure that the reviewer will actually write what you are requesting. If they tell you they cannot write such a letter, move on to the next person who might be able to. In some circumstances, we see LORs where a reviewer essentially states that the applicant doesn't have what it takes and then your grave is dug, so to speak.

Good luck.