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Applying to pharmacy school, PCAT: tips, advice, questions

ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in Careers in Medicine
One thing I always wished I had when applying for pharmacy school was someone to ask questions! That being said, I am offering myself to (try to) answer some questions since I have recently "been there, done that." I have recently been accepted into several pharmacy schools after completing a BA in biochemistry, and will be starting my first year of the PharmD program in a few weeks. I was co-president/re-founder of my undergrad school's pre-professional program, so I was sort of like a student adviser to pre-pharm, pre-vet, pre-med, etc. students.

That being said, if I don't know something I will tell you and not make things up, but I will also try to suggest how to find that information. Your undergrad counselors should be helpful and you should never underestimate the knowledge you can get from PharmD admissions staff and websites. I also know next to nothing about 0-6 programs, so I can't really help you there. I do know some about 2-4 programs, but I am most familiar with going for a BA/BS and then applying to the PharmD program (I recommend this because then you have a backup degree in case you do not get into pharm school, but different programs suit different people better).

Here's a website I stumbled upon recently that answers a lot of common questions about applying to PharmD programs. It's pretty current: PharmApplicants.com - Pharmacy School Admission Statistics

You can also PM me if you'd like. I hope I can help!
Post edited by ranza003 on
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Replies to: Applying to pharmacy school, PCAT: tips, advice, questions

  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    Here's something to get this thread started. If anyone else works on an admissions committee or has also applied recently and has things to add, please do!

    * If you have not started your PharmCAS and are applying for the 2012-2013 school year, start it now. Right now. It takes a while to fill out all of the information, send in transcripts, send in LORs, proofread it thoroughly, and write your essay, and you are supposed to allow for up to six weeks for processing the PharmCAS. If you are applying to any schools that have a November 1st deadline (I believe this is the earliest deadline not including early decision, but this also includes your supplemental app) and you have not submitted your PharmCAS, you will probably be cutting it close. Make sure you have someone else proofread the entire thing as well. I realized about 30 seconds after I submitted mine that I spelled my state's name wrong twice. TWICE. Who does that? I proofread mine myself four times before submitting it and did not catch that.You cannot go back and change anything at all once it is submitted.

    * Double check that there aren't weird requirements or loopholes regarding your classes and the prereqs for your potential schools. Some don't take AP classes, or they only take a certain number of credits of AP classes. You took a 2 credit speech class instead of the required 3 credit speech class? Check with the school to make sure that's OK.

    * Research the schools that you are interested in. In your interviews they WILL ask why you want to go to that specific school. It's better to say something like "I am very impressed with the XXXXXX program/my experience with XXX here/research at this particular school" than to say "Well... um... stammer... it's close to home and is cheaper?" ...

    * ... which leads me into another piece of advice. Practice common interview questions. Have someone actually mock interview you several times. You don't want to sound rehearsed, but you also don't want to be caught off guard. Interviews range from informal conversations to being drilled, so be prepared for anything regardless of what the people tell you the interviews for the school are like. For example, I was told that the interview for XXX school was informal and more like a conversation, but I ended up getting the intense interviewer who drilled me instead. Also have questions for your interviewer about the school and program prepared.

    * Once you submit your supplementals, follow up with the school regarding offers for interviews a few weeks before they tell you to expect to receive a notice. If you don't hear from them close to said date, follow up again. I say this because a friend and I had one school offer us interviews, but we were never notified. We called around the time we thought we were supposed to hear from them and found out they had offered us interviews but neither of us got the email and we missed the RSVP date. There goes over $150 worth of application fees for nothing. I check my junk mail every day and the other person didn't have junk mail on her university account, so we figure something screwy happened in the emailing process, not to say that we were completely faultless ourselves since we didn't check in earlier.

    * Apply to multiple schools. You may be 100% certain you will get in to a certain pharmacy school, and then not get into it. I had my heart set on one particular school, but I applied for multiple schools because I figured it'd be better to go to a pharmacy school than no school at all. If you are really dead set on one school, have a backup plan in case you don't get in that year. It's better to be prepared for any situation than to find out in April that you didn't get into said school and then have no backup plan. It happens.
  • MelansizMelansiz Posts: 4Registered User New Member
    Will a D or F (or maybe even both) in science/math classes keep you out of pharmacy schoo?
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Posts: 6,646Registered User Senior Member
    If you are applying after 2 or 3 years undergrad--almost certainly. If you are applying after a re-take and a completed 4 year undergrad--still very likely unless all the rest of your science/math grades are exceptional.
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    "Will a D or F (or maybe even both) in science/math classes keep you out of pharmacy schoo?"

    It probably will. The only way I can see you really getting around that would be if you retook the classes and got As or if your PCAT score is spectacular. If it is a prereq class for the school, it will probably disqualify you right away unless you retook it and got a better score. However, if you retook the class I believe you still need to report your original on your PharmCAS and it will still be on your transcripts.

    If you are really concerned about this or would like more concrete information, I would call a few school's admissions counselors and ask them if it would 1) disqualify you right away and 2) how could you get around that grade and still be considered a strong candidate.
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    * Take a practice test and time yourself. I found the online test through Pearson to be the closest to the actual PCAT (it is actual old PCAT questions) and they give you the reasoning behind why certain answers are right or wrong, which is especially helpful in subjective subjects. It does cost about $40 for the test (that's what it was last year) but I thought it was well worth it. It was way better than any I saw in commercial PCAT books. You can go back and review the questions, but you cannot retake the same practice test again. You can also get decent PCAT prep books with example questions, tips, and tests.

    * TIME. The general consensus on what really gets people on the PCAT is timing. You have a very limited amount of time to finish each section and you cannot go back once that section is done. *IF* the computer format is the same as the written format (I took the written format), it is beneficial to skip the questions that take more time and come back to them since each question has the same value. You'd be better off answering a bunch of easier questions than wasting your time on a few longer, more difficult questions. I would guess that the computer version lets you go back to review questions you skipped, but I am not sure. Does someone know?

    * Know your O chem mechanisms

    * Know trig and calc identities

    * Practice math word problems. You may think you remember how to do the easy stuff from junior high and high school, but you are probably pretty slow at it now. Most PCAT books have decent review of these types of problems.

    * If you are studying from a Kaplan PCAT book, make sure you review extra for the O chem and calc sections. They were very, very poor in my Kaplan book. Kaplan also had a ton of typos. Who knows... maybe they fixed them for this year's version.
  • fatal1030fatal1030 Posts: 47Registered User Junior Member
    have u heard of Dr. Collins PCAT Study guide? WOuld u recommend it? Or what other study guides would u recommend?
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    I've heard of the Dr. Collins book but have never cracked one open myself. I used my old class notes and the Kaplan book to study. HOWEVER, Kaplan has a very poor organic and calculus section, so if you go that route I would make sure that you have supplemental information for those topics (unless they've improved it in the last few years). Plus, I found many errors in the book as I was studying. It also seemed like it was pretty heavy on the physiology and glazed over some of the other biology topics. The inorganic/gen chem sections and the math were pretty good though, and so were the reading comp and vocab sections. It had practice questions for each section as well as a half PCAT length pre-test and a full length test at the end.

    I would check to see if your local bookstore has copies of any PCAT books (my local Barnes and Nobel did). If they have them, skim through them to see which you would prefer to study from. Some university and local libraries also have copies of PCAT books that you can check out.

    Whichever book you go with, make sure you read reviews of it to see what its strengths and weaknesses are and compensate for them with other study materials. Keep in mind that the only "official" practice exams are on the Pearson website and that any that are covered in study books are not endorsed by Pearson. I would recommend taking at least one of the Pearson online practice tests and timing yourself. Test-taking strategies are important for the PCAT, so pay attention to those tips in the study books!

    Good luck!
  • ackattackackattack Posts: 130Registered User Junior Member
    but what was ur stats, what did u do, plz give me some tips for getting in these places!
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    Well, my specific stats don't matter. I will say that my PCAT, GPA, leadership and volunteer experiences made up for my lack of experience in the pharmacy field.

    First of all - what kind of pharmacy program are you trying to get into? 0+6? 2+4? Undergrad degree then pharmD? Every program looks for slightly different qualities and emphasizes different admission criteria.

    Unfortunately, I know very little about 0+6 and what it takes to get into such a program. My guess would be that you need excellent SAT/ACT scores, good grades, initiative in leadership and volunteering, and an idea of what the pharmacy field is. I would guess that they require letters of recommendation as well. Most schools look for these qualities (replace SAT/ACT with PCAT, although some schools don't require the PCAT). However, I think as the school's applicant pool matures/ages in general, they weigh your life experiences and experience in and knowledge of the pharmacy world more heavily. This is all just speculation and conjecture on my part, though. Contact schools directly for more information or just check out admissions pages on the PharmD websites.

    Just to give you an idea, here's the selection material from my school's website:
    Academic achievement, including GPA, PCAT score, course selection, and course load. Bachelor's degree preferred. Minimum overall GPA of 3.00 (or 3.2 over the most recent 60 sem. credits) required.
    Work experience
    Three recommendations, from people that people that know you well in a professional or academic capacity, such as college instructors and work or volunteer supervisors. Must be of professional/academic and not personal nature.
    Participation in community service, college extracurriculars, and activities showing leadership
    Understanding of and motivation for the profession of pharmacy
    Application essays
    On-campus interview
    Diversity factors including but not limited to: academic background, professional background, race/ethnicity, geographic diversity, first generation college student, challenging or disadvantaged background, and ability in multiple languages.
  • panicbuttonpanicbutton Posts: 86Registered User Junior Member
    i already transferred from a cc to a four year university a year ago and am currently enrolled in my last semester. After graduating ive decided to go back to a cc to take some more prereqs and apply to pharm school. So now i was just wondering if anyone knew what goes into the GPA calculation for pharm school. does my first 2 years at cc count averaged out with my 2 years at the 4 year university? and do the pharm prereqs i take this next year count as well? im just a little confused on this process. ohhh and also does anyone know if this is a good idea? heh. any help is appreciated! thanks!
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    @panicbutton -

    I think each school does their own thing as far as CC credits and GPAs go. Some schools have a maximum amount of credits that you can take from a CC, some schools consider prepreq GPA, sGPA, cGPA, or your GPA from the last two years. I think (not sure) that most schools mostly consider your cumulative GPA.

    For example, my school has a minimum requirement of a 3.0 cGPA or a 3.2 over the most recent 60 semester credits in order to apply. I think several people came in with 100% CC education.

    Each school varies, so I suggest that you check out the requirements of each individual school that you are interested in. Check out schools' webpages and PharmCAS - Colleges/Schools for specific school information. I hope this helps!
  • kapatel7kapatel7 Posts: 1Registered User New Member
    Hello, I have purchases the PCAT 2012-2013 book. Could you tell me the strong points of the book and the weak points of the book?

    In addition, they have changed the content of the PCAT starting Jul 2012. I believe there will be more anatomy and physiology & new biochemistry process questions. Would you happen to know if Kaplan will create a supplemental book for the revised content?

    I plan to buy the pearson exams. I hear they have already adjusted to the new content starting in Jul 2012.

    I got my BS in engineering 4 years ago and am trying to determine my study plan for the PCAT. I thought it would be better to review through Kaplan book and then take pearson tests. However, I have heard that it may be helpful to take the 1st pearson test to see where my gaps are and then take the 2nd exam. Any suggestions?
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    Well, unfortunately I can't really tell you anything about the new Kaplan book or the new PCAT. Hopefully they have expanded the organic chemistry and calculus sections (on top of the new subjects), as they were very poor in the 2010 book that I had. I would DEFINITELY suggest having supplemental study material for both of those sections. I remember Kaplan being pretty thorough with physiology. I’m guessing they just used the physio section from their MCAT book, and the MCAT has a lot more physio than the PCAT does. Sorry I cannot really comment any more on the new material.

    If you do at least a bit of prep before the first exam, then I think you'll get better results as to what you need to brush up on the most. For example, I was still pretty decent at calculus when I started studying, but had I not practiced the basic math word problems before taking a sample exam my math score would have been really low. Why? The math was easy, but I hadn't applied it to anything besides calculus, chemistry or physics for years so it took me a lot longer to get through the easy stuff. I could reason my way through it all, but it took me way more time than I would have had on the test. By working on that before the Pearson test, I was closer to my actual exam-taking potential.

    Different things work better for different people, but if I was starting over again and was planning on taking both Pearson exams and studying from the Kaplan book, this is how I would do it:

    1) Read through the book's intro to get an idea on how the PCAT works. Some questions don't count, time management, tricks and tips, etc.
    2) Take the Kaplan "pre-test" (if they still have it in their book). It's not like taking the PCAT, but it will still give you some idea of where you stand without spending an extra $40 on it right away.
    3) Skim the sections of the book. Prioritize what you think you'll need to spend the most time on and come up with a general time frame for your studying.
    4) After you have done a quick run-through and have a basic understanding, take the first Pearson test. Since I don't know how many hours/weeks/months you plan on studying, I would say take it once you're a third or half of the way through studying or once you have touched on all of the subjects. Make sure you actually do it all in one sitting with no distractions and follow the time limits to mimic the "real deal" the best you can. Stamina and time management are key.
    5) Figure out what you need to work on most, reorganize your study plan, etc.
    6) Take the Kaplan practice exam (I think it's a half-length exam) when you feel like you're pretty solid with all of the material.
    7) Finish studying and do a quick skim of all of the notes you may have made.
    8) Take the second Pearson test a several days to a week or two before the PCAT (allow enough time between this test and the PCAT to cover last-minute things) or whenever you feel like you’ve thoroughly covered all of material you are going to cover. If you take it relatively close to the PCAT date then you'll remember
    9) Do your final cramming/studying.

    ...I was not nearly this organized when I did it, but if I was actually this organized and capable of staying on schedule this is what I would do.

    Good luck!
  • AwkwardBear2016AwkwardBear2016 Posts: 31Registered User Junior Member
    How is the pharmacy job market? Is it really hard? I've heard people say the pay is low and finding a job is really hard; is it true?
  • ranza003ranza003 Posts: 139Registered User Junior Member
    I am really not the best person to ask as I have not had to search for a job in pharmacy (still a student). Schools definitely preach that the job market is increasing, pharmacists are becoming more valuable, etc. (of course they say this because they want your money) but others will tell you it's next to impossible to find a job, and some say it's just like every job market right now. After all, we're still in an economic slump, so extremely few jobs have a great outlook for employment.

    I think it varies a lot with location. The less schools there are in the area you want to work, the better. California and Chicago are both very saturated (from what I hear) and other areas are doing OK. Unfortunately, I cannot give you accurate information regarding the job market, but the general vibe is that jobs are harder to come by than they used to be and pay is decreasing or stagnant and hours are being cut (32 hour weeks are becoming more common in some retail pharmacies). Pharmacy is not the cash cow that it used to be in the not-so-distant past. I would talk to pharmacists and fourth year pharmacy students in your area to try to get a better outlook on the job local job market. You can always check out the Student Doctor Network pharmacy forums, but I think they're a bit over-the-top with the doom and gloom.

    I wouldn't say the pay is low, but relative to the amount of debt and salary-earning year lost from school it can be considered "low." I'm personally not one to stick my nose up at a salary that's about double the national average on the lower end.
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