By: Jessica Ngo, UCSF School of Pharmacy
In addition to the personal statement, there are other parts of the application that you can get a head start on. You can create an account on PharmCAS.org and browse through the entire application from the previous cycle. That way, you can get a head start on things like writing short descriptions for your extracurricular activities and work experience. (Believe it or not, the character limits on these descriptions are extremely short, so it can take a lot of editing to fully capture everything you want to say in just a few sentences.)
By familiarizing yourself with the entire application, you will have an advantage once the new application opens. Although you will have to create a new account when the new application opens in July, you will already know exactly what to expect!
Here are a few more tips for starting the pharmacy school application:
1. Start requesting transcripts early!
Unfortunately, there are a few things out of your control when it comes submitting everything on time. One thing is how quickly your transcripts will be received from your respective institutions. This is why I highly recommend requesting your transcripts early. I attended three different colleges to complete my prerequisites. For two of these schools, I only spent one semester/quarter there, but your PharmCAS will require you to submit transcripts for ALL institutions in which you report any college coursework on.
Some schools will require you to mail in a request, others will allow you to submit a request online. Allow enough time for the institution(s) to receive your request and send your transcripts to PharmCAS. Even though PharmCAS will forward transcripts if they arrive after the deadline, some pharmacy schools will not consider your application if the transcripts are received past the deadline. Better to be safe and arrange them early!
Note: If using AP scores to fulfill certain pharmacy school requirements, PharmCAS will require you to report these scores in your application, but you will ONLY need to send the score reports from College Board directly to the pharmacy school institutions if accepted.
2. Get your letters of recommendation in early!
When requesting letters of recommendation, be sure to give ample time for your recommenders to prepare. It would also be wise to provide each of them a packet or folder that includes your resume, a cover letter, draft of your personal statement, and copy of your unofficial transcript. In addition to this, it’s always good to be ahead of the deadline. If possible, give a date you would like your recommenders to send in their letters by, ideally about a week before you want submit your application. That way, if they are running a bit behind schedule or there are any difficulties with submitting the letters, you have some extra time to fall back on.
3. Treat each school's set of requirements uniquely.
After coming up with a list of schools you are applying to, contact a member of admissions to make sure your prerequisite courses transfer and that they fulfill the correct number of units. After coming up with a draft of schools to apply to, I found out I was unable to apply to 2 schools because I was less than 1 unit short after converting semester to quarter units.
While some schools are willing to round up units, some are not, so it’s important to contact each school individually. For example, University of Illinois, Chicago requires 3 semester units of biochemistry. However, if you’re coming from a quarter-system school, 1 4-unit course of biochemistry is not acceptable. Double checking before submitting to each school could save a lot of time and money in the long run.
Note: Try to contact the schools via e-mail. That way, you can reference back to it in writing as opposed to recalling a phone-call from memory.