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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I got the interview! Eeeks! I'm scared. Now what?

(I know the interview process can create a great deal of stress in applicants. This is no secret. We all know this. Given that our program utilizes the Multi Mini Interview (MMI) format can add another layer of stress -- and uncertainty -- in those who participate in our interview process.  I asked several first year students to provide their thoughts on participating in the UCSF interview day. These students are not very far removed from the interview process so, hopefully, their experiences are still somewhat fresh in their minds. Remember, every experience is different. For applicants who participate in our interview day, we provide a comprehensive on-site orientation the day of the interview. We believe the orientation provides interviewees with all the information they need in order to have a successful and productive day. Remember, each person has a different experience. Below are just a few of MANY.  ~Joel)

Steven (Sacramento, CA)
What do you wish you would have known prior to your UCSF interview day?

I wish I had a better plan for how to spend my time waiting when I arrived very early to campus. I mostly wandered around and grabbed a small bite to eat. Most interviewees I saw chose to spend their time anxiously waiting in the lobby with the others. There's no benefit to arriving before your scheduled check-in time. They build in time for you to relax after you've checked in and before the formal program begins.

What was your biggest fear about interviewing at UCSF? Was the fear validated by your experience?
I was afraid of blanking-out or having no idea how to handle an MMI station. It turned out that for each station, I had experienced a similar situation before in my life or was able to think of some way to tackle it.

What surprised you most about the UCSF interview day experience?
I was surprised by the pace of the MMI. It's a very different kind of interview stress -- to handle a situation or question, act it out, then clear your mind for the next room -- instead of dwelling on what you just did.

What piece of advice do you have for someone who is interviewing at UCSF?
UCSF admissions knows much about you from the comprehensive application/essays. Approach the interview as a chance to show off your skill sets and personality in both the MMI and essay portions.

What did you enjoy most about your UCSF interview experience?
I honestly enjoyed the MMI because it was exciting and interesting to see what qualities they were looking for in each person.

Jefferson (Franklin Park, IL)
What do you wish you would have known prior to your UCSF interview day?

I wish I would have known how many candidates were being interviewed with me. I remember feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the sheer amount of interviewees who accompanied me on my interview day. I decided when I arrived to just stay focused on my own experience and not get overwhelmed by the stress I saw in others. It worked for me!

What was your biggest fear about interviewing at UCSF? Was the fear validated by your experience?
I felt that the quick pace of the MMIs would prevent me from opening up in the small time allotted, but I learned that the MMI scenarios helped me showcase my skills and personality efficiently.

What surprised you most about the UCSF interview day experience?
The level of organization on the interview day impressed me. I remember the day being divided into multiple components such as the interview, the essay, a student chat room, and a campus tour. Combine that with the number of people being interviewed, and I was confident a delay was inevitable. To my surprise, everything went smoothly, which I appreciated because it helped me focus on doing my best.

What piece of advice do you have for someone who is interviewing at UCSF?
I would advise interviewees to think about their experiences (both personal and professional) to find something unique about themselves, something they can use to contribute to the UCSF community.

What did you enjoy most about your UCSF interview experience?
I enjoyed getting acquainted with other candidates during my interview day. Everyone had a story to share about how they ended up at the UCSF interview. While some candidates' credentials intimidated me, I found commonality with many others, giving me confidence that I was where I was supposed to be that day.

Pia (Lakewood, CA)
What do you wish you would have known prior to your UCSF interview day?
I should have realized that the school is situated within a busy neighborhood in San Francisco. A lot of the stress I had during interview day could have easily been avoided had I done some homework familiarizing myself with the location of the school. If you live relatively close to the area, I highly suggest driving to UCSF beforehand, just to familiarize yourself with where the building is and to get a good feel of the streets surrounding the school. If you are planning on taking Muni or BART (public transportation), practice getting to the school once. If you are nowhere close to the Bay Area, even just looking at online maps and locating exactly where the building is, before the interview, could prove to be helpful. 

What was your biggest fear about interviewing at UCSF? Was the fear validated by your experience?
My biggest fear was the MMI format. Why? There were two reasons: (1) I had no clue how to prepare for it and (2) I've always considered myself a terrible interviewer, because I hate the idea of talking about my personality traits and achievements. However, after completing it, I realized that the MMI format was actually advantageous for me. Without going into too much detail, the MMI allowed me to show the admissions committee my true "self," without any pretenses, in ways that the conventional interview could not. The format allows you to "show" instead of "tell." With that being said, please do not be nervous about the MMI. The point of the interview is for the admissions committee to see you as a three dimensional person, not just a grade point average or words on a paper. The MMI is an efficient platform on which the committee can have a feel of who you are. Letting go of your nerves and apprehensions and allowing yourself to be vulnerable could work to your advantage.

What surprised you most about the UCSF interview day experience?
The interview day experience was well organized, and I was surprised by how much effort the school took to accommodate the interviewees and to provide us with opportunities to learn more about the school. I quickly learned during UCSF's interview day that the interview process is also about you, the interviewee, ensuring that the school is the right fit for you. While UCSF School of Pharmacy is the top-ranked pharmacy school, the decision to attend it is a personal one. Fortunately, campus tours and informal chats with current UCSF students are part of the interview process. Not all pharmacy schools provide this. Take advantage of the resources they provide you on interview day. Ask questions and learn whether this school is the right fit for you. Take the campus tour. Look around you and ask yourself whether the campus is a place where you could see yourself succeeding for four years.

What piece of advice do you have for someone who is interviewing at UCSF?
Do not be nervous! I know it is difficult not to be, especially if UCSF is your dream school. However, don’t be that hyperventilating interviewee sitting in the corner practicing potential interview questions. Make friends with other applicants and current pharmacy students you might encounter, and try to have a good time. Remember that the committee invited you here for a reason. Everyone is excited to meet you!

What did you enjoy most about your UCSF interview experience?
I enjoyed how the school organized the day for us. Transitions towards the different stages of the interview were seamless. The school really goes the extra mile to make sure that your interview day is as successful as can be. As long as you take the time to prepare adequately (e.g. dress professionally, be punctual, do some research on the school), expect an organized and well-coordinated day.

Micah (Lafayette, CA)
What do you wish you would have known prior to your UCSF interview day?
I wish I had known how much energy was required to interview. You want to be alert all day, even during the campus tour, so I would get a good night's rest prior.

What was your biggest fear about interviewing at UCSF? Was the fear validated by your experience?
I was afraid I would be asked about detailed questions about the Affordable Care Act or SB493. No, it was not validated – thankfully! 

What surprised you most about the UCSF interview day experience?
The other students were nice. I actually got a ride across the bay from one of the other interviewees. 

What piece of advice do you have for someone who is interviewing at UCSF?
Pace yourself through every portion. I rushed through my essay thinking I wouldn't have enough time to complete it. However, if I'd paced myself better, I would have been able to edit some more and turn in a better essay. 

What did you enjoy most about your UCSF interview experience?
The MMI was a new experience for me, and was also my favorite part of the day.

Brandon (San Francisco, CA)

What do you wish you would have known prior to your UCSF interview day?
That when they tell you not to obsess over the interview and that you really can't prepare (at least not in the conventional sense), they're not lying! It's an important part of admissions, but the school really does want you to enjoy the experience. This day is also your chance to get a feel for the school itself, and you can't focus on that if you're too stressed out over the MMI component.


What was your biggest fear about interviewing at UCSF? Was the fear validated by your experience?

The MMI, of course! It turned out that my fears weren't at all warranted, but nothing short of divine proclamation could have convinced me of that in the weeks leading up to interview day.

What surprised you most about the UCSF interview day experience?

How everyone bends over backward to make the day as pleasant and easy as possible. They know we're all incredibly nervous and stressed-out, and they do everything they can to avoid conveying the menacing, almost judging air you might see at other programs.

What piece of advice do you have for someone who is interviewing at UCSF?

Learn how MMIs work before you show up, but don't obsess about "preparation," per se. Be able to talk intelligently about why you chose the profession and what you hope to 

accomplish, but hey -- if you can't really do that, then you probably won't be interviewing in the first place. And, if something seems to go awry during one MMI, roll with the punches and put it behind you. I thought I really bombed one of my MMI stations, but in the end it turned out not to matter, and here I am!

What did you enjoy most about your UCSF interview experience?

I still cannot believe how much I learned about myself on the interview day. Because of the nature of the MMI and onsite essay, the real you WILL come out -- and this is what UCSF wants to see, not your highly-polished interview persona. The fact that I could be real, that I could be 100% in-the-moment, gave me confidence that I can succeed even in highly stressful situations with patients in the future. You might say it was my first real learning experience of pharmacy school -- and I hadn't even been accepted yet! It still blows my mind.


Mercy (Escondido, CA)

What do you wish you would have known prior to your UCSF interview day?
I wish I would have brought an umbrella...it was raining! Definitely be prepared to dress appropriately.

What was your biggest fear about interviewing at UCSF? Was the fear validated by your experience?

My biggest fear about interviewing was the fact that I was interviewing with a lot of amazing and talented individuals at the best pharmacy school in the nation. Also, it was my first and only MMI I have experienced. My fears slowly slipped away as each part of the MMI progressed. By the end of the day, I realized I shouldn't have been so afraid because the MMI allows you to show more of yourself even more so than any other interview I experienced.

What surprised you most about the UCSF interview day experience?
I was surprised that the MMI wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. The MMI allows you to show who you are in different situations, which allows the committee to evaluate you several times. I thought I didn't do as well in one of the portions, but I still ended up getting accepted! 

What piece of advice do you have for someone who is interviewing at UCSF?
The best piece of advice I can give is to be yourself. I know that's cheesy but its true. Be honest, enthusiastic, and communicate clearly. Always be positive and SMILE! 

What did you enjoy most about your UCSF interview experience?
Compared to other interviews, I believe UCSF allowed me to express more of myself, which is why it was my favorite pharmacy school interview experience.  After the interview, I realized I shouldn't have been so stressed about the MMI because there were four opportunities or mini interviews where the committee could see who I am and how I communicate. Also, I definitely enjoyed the diverse scenarios that were included as part of the MMI! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hey, I applied. Now what?


(I posted a similar explanation several years ago, but I thought it would be helpful to re-visit this, update it to reflect current practice, and share with applicants....)

 As the application deadline approaches (and passes), we're bound to get lots of questions like:

"Can you tell me whether or not you've received my Supplemental Application?"
"Am I missing anything?"
"I'm worried that my application didn't make it to your office. Can you confirm if it arrived?"
"Did you get it? DID you get it? DID YOU get it? DID YOU GET it? DID YOU GET IT? DID YOU GET IT?"


(I picture someone sitting next to a phone, completely stressed out, because they've submitted their application yesterday and still haven't been notified whether it's been received or not. Oh, my imagined scenario takes place on a Sunday -- with the application being submitted on Saturday morning.)


So I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain the notification process a bit.

Let me see... where do I start...hmm....

There are two parts to our application:
      1.  PharmCAS Application
      2.  Supplemental Application

We have one database. (But it's a big one!) The database content is supplied by PharmCAS. We receive electronic data/applications via PharmCAS.

We do not send notifications out until we've received a PharmCAS application AND a Supplemental Application AND are ready to process both..

Keep in mind:

  1. Every university admissions process is unique. Because you receive immediate notification from one school does not mean you'll receive immediate notification from another school. It just depends on their process and system.
  2. We do not manually enter data into our database. We wait to receive information electronically from PharmCAS -- this allows us to send electronic mail (email!) to applicants through the database system, notifying them that we've received an application (and indicating whether any items are missing.)
  3. If we receive a Supplemental Application BEFORE we receive your PharmCAS application, we do nothing except file that Supplemental Application away. We wait to receive your PharmCAS application and then retrieve your Supplemental Application  and process your application -- including sending you an email.
  4. If you turned in your Supplemental Application a LONG TIME AGO but just now completed your PharmCAS, we wait to receive your PharmCAS application, then retrieve your Supplemental Application  and process your application.
  5. Just because you submitted your PharmCAS application yesterday, it does not mean they will deliver it to us today. It takes them several weeks to verify your grades once they have received your transcripts. Nothing in admissions is instantaneous.
  6. The closer it is to the deadline (November 3) -- before AND after -- the longer it takes us to process applications -- because of the shear volume of applications. Your application is not the only application that we are processing. =)

In short:
We send an email notification confirming we have received your Supplemental Application only after we've received your PharmCAS application and we are prepared to process both. (But remember, just because you've submitted your PharmCAS application, it doesn't mean that PharmCAS has submitted it to us.)

(Another reason it's stress-relieving to get your application in early!)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don't Be Afraid

With Halloween fast approaching, it makes sense that we've received several very scary questions lately regarding our PharmCAS deadline. I'm in total fear that applicant's aren't reading the PharmCAS manual/instructions, which include so many VERY IMPORTANT DETAILS as it relates to being a pharmacy school applicant. Failure to know and understand policies are what nightmares are made of.


Beware (be aware) of the details. Boo!

If I had a magic sorcerer's wand that I could waive at every ghost and goblin applying to ANY pharmacy school, I would require they read the instruction manual before, during, AND after submitting their application. (Third times a charm, they say.)  The 70-page manual is very-well organized and can really answer any question an applicant may have. No tricks here, folks, just treats. Do not send this document to the graveyard without reviewing it!

There are two items that, if ignored, can be particularly scary (explained below.) Both can be found on page 13 of the manual:


The first addresses the issue of email accounts. It's imperative that you check your spam/junk email folders on a VERY REGULAR BASIS. Many email services will read "pharmacy" and automatically label it as spam. (Hello, on-line pharmacies! Viagra, anyone?) PharmCAS suggests you add several email addresses to your contacts or "safe-sender" list. This is a step you can take to improve the chances that important emails make it to your inbox. Again, always check spam/junk folders. There can be a spooky silence if emails are being directed to an un-checked spam folder. Yikes!


The second issue focuses on the PharmCAS deadline date. This is such an important piece of information, you don't even have to read the manual, as it's featured prominently on the landing page.


But for those obsessed with the superstitious numbers, the information appears again on page 13:


UCSF's application deadline for 2014 is 11:59pm EASTERN time (one minute before the witching hour) on November 3. As long as you submit your application by the deadline, no ghosts will haunt you. It may take several weeks for PharmCAS to verify your coursework and allow us to access your application -- but that has nothing to do with the application deadline. (Note: The UCSF Supplemental Application is also due on November 3, 2014.)

Have a wicked, safe, and Happy Halloween, you little devil!

*evil laughter*

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Magic 28

So we thought we had solved the issue of applicants listing TOO many electives (beyond our minimum requirement) by providing a pop-up "warning" once 28 quarter units were reached. Well, it seems that many applicants have been frightened (BOO!) by that warning. Let me explain...

We ask applicants to list 28-quarter units in elective courses. (I won't get into the details as the form is self-explanatory.) The form is designed to count the units as you enter courses. Once the form notices you've reached 28 units, a pop-up warning appears.


 Here's a closer look at the box from an example (above) where 30 units were listed:


This is perfectly fine. In order for this applicant to include 28 quarter-units, they needed to list 30. Our goal with the warning is just to remind you that you've reached the 28-unit requirement and you can stop now (even if it means having to list slightly more than 28 units.) Chances are, there will be blank spaces. We don't want you to keep listing courses beyond the course that will get you to the 28-unit requirement.

As a reminder, a previous blog post could help you identify what courses to include in this section.

If we could, we would have opted for a friendly kitten to pop-up and warn you in a soothing voice. Instead, our only choice was a grey box with an alarming red-x accompanied by an intimidating "ding" noise. So here's the kitten...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reading instructions: It can make all the difference!

As our Supplemental Application deadline approaches, we are starting to receive many phone calls and emails from applicants who are experiencing "technical problems" with the application prerequisite page.

To date, we've been able to resolve every problem by reminding applicants to read (and follow) the detailed instructions we've provided.  It's not enough to simply download the form and start working on it, without making sure HOW you are downloading it -- in order to get the results we are both looking for (problem-free and readable!)


As an added "warning", we've included two questions to (hopefully) guard against applicant's completing the form in the wrong program/format. But, of course, we are finding some will simply check the boxes without reading. Yikes! 


Pharmacy is a profession where both following instructions and paying attention to details are highly-valued -- particularly as it relates to medicine. We believe that training starts at the point of  application to a PharmD program.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Entering Students Offer Advice to Applicants & Prospective Students: 2014 Edition

As we move into September, I know many applicants are starting to really focus on their UCSF Supplemental Application.  I can certainly provide many nuggets of advice and pointers as you approach this task -- but what better group to ask than those who most recently were in this position.

Last week, I asked members of the Class of 2018 "If you could offer a single piece of advice to an applicant who is applying to UCSF School of Pharmacy, what would it be? What would you say?"  Do you see a common theme in their responses?


"
Complete and submit everything that's required in advance. Don't wait for last-minute adrenaline rushes to submit material. UCSF expects you to be responsible and attentive.
" -M.

"UCSF has one of the most unique supplemental applications. Use the many essays as a chance to really dig deep and express yourself! Be genuine and show them who you really are.
"  -R.

"
Make lists! The process of applying can be tedious. There are many aspects to a complete application, each with its own deadline. I found it very helpful to add anything that is required to a checklist, add a due date, and cross things off when complete!
" -H.

"
Articulate yourself well in the application. If invited for an interview, do not panic. Just be yourself! The more comfortable, confident, and thoughtful you are, the easier your genuine passion for pharmacy will shine through during interview day.
" -P.

"
Follow your heart, be honest and authentic when you answer the questions. Plus, just think about it as a fun way to explore yourself.
" -P.

"
Stay true to yourself and your goals when writing the essays! This helps your true passion shine through and allows the admissions committee to see a picture of who you are that you can reinforce during the interview process
".  -S.

"
Be confident, be prepared, and be yourself.
" -W.

"
Start the application process early. You never know what life will throw at you, and you don't want your chances to be hindered due to a lack of organization.
" -T.

"
Take a deep breath, relax and simply remember why you want to become a pharmacist. Compose a list of experiences you've had that define who you are as a person, integrate them into your essays and let your personality shine through your words.
" -R.

"
Take a deep breath and tell yourself that this is going to be a long race, but one worth running. This is the first step to show UCSF who you are and what you have to offer, so do just that. Don't overcompensate or undervalue yourself!
" -R.

"
The essays intimidate many applicants, but don't fall for the hype! It's not about writing the essays you think they want to read. Just be 100% honest with yourself, bare your soul without fear, and tell YOUR story. Start early, and revise often.
" -B.

"
Don't mold yourself into what you think makes a "good" applicant. Be confident in your abilities and you'll find your application will tell your unique story on its own. Stay authentic and take advantage of each essay prompt. Every word counts!
" -R.

"
This process is about getting accepted to a university, however it is also about finding a university that fits you. For the next 4 years you will have to study, learn and grow there, make sure it is a place you want to call home.
" -K.

"
Be genuine! Paint a picture of who you are and how your experiences have led you to pursue pharmacy. Also, explain how UCSF is a good fit for you both academically and personally. Most importantly, the supplemental application WILL take time to complete.
" -D.

"
Preparing for the MMI interviews can be very difficult but not impossible. I found that preparing for a normal one-on-one interview and reflecting on my overall pharmacy experienced helped a lot. Don't forget to just be yourself and be honest!
" -N.

"
Think about what makes the UCSF different from other pharmacy schools. Is it the diversity? Areas of specialization? Research? If something specific draws you to the school, highlite it in your supplemental application... that's what it's there for!
" -J.

"
Show what each experience that you've been involved in means to you through vivid stories and examples. You know that you're done with your essays when you feel proud of them and you feel like you've learned something new about yourself through them.
" -L.

"
Be confident! The supplement application may seem long and intimidating, but just remember everyone else is also in the same boat. Showing clear and thoughtful responses about why you chose this profession (or why it chose you!) is important!
" -H.

"
Don't let fear or preconceived notions about what the admissions committee wants keep you from writing what you truly think and feel. Others will have similar experiences to yours, but they won't have thought and felt the same way about these experiences.
" -S.

"B
elieve in yourself and don't let the demeanor of others fool you. Everyone is learning through one confused, effort-filled step at a time.
" -D.

"
I learned what it meant when someone told me to "be yourself" on an application. Rather than trying to write something that I thought the admission panel would like, I focused on telling my story and sharing my passions through my application.
" -J.

"
Always be honest and genuine throughout your application and interview process. If you pretend to be who you think will impress the committee, odds are they will know. Let your unique qualities shine and be yourself.
" -M.

"
Really dig deep down inside of yourself and write from your heart.
" -M.

"
Be confident in yourself and the things that you have done to prepare for pharmacy school. I can't even count how many times I almost talked myself out of applying, because I felt I wasn't the "right" candidate.
" -J.

"
I would say just be yourself. From your application essays to the MMIs on interview day, the best way to truly shine is by demonstrating your own personal talents and unique personality. In my opinion, there really is no substitute for sincerity.
" -M.

"
The required and optional essays on the secondary application are not there to merely make the admission process difficult, but to give you the opportunity to elaborate on your unique strengths.  The same is true regarding the interview process.
" -A.

"
Find a way to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants and don't be afraid to think outside the box. Your application will be much more stimulating if you portray your individuality through unique experiences and interesting perspectives.
" -W.

"
Be truthful and sincere when filling out the application and answering the essays -- just be yourself! You cannot "game the game" or try to write what you think they want to hear; say what you genuinely believe.
" -R.

"
Work on essay/supplemental application responses early. Both require in-depth responses and take time to complete. Take pride in your responses. Don't be afraid to show who you are. Think outside the box. Be creative. Most importantly, be yourself.
"  -L.

"
My advice is to really know and understand why you want to apply to pharmacy school, particularly UCSF.
" -A.

"
Be comfortable with your truest self, and let your story come THROUGH you! Reflect on and be happy with the experiences that have shaped the incredible person YOU have become, and your application will bask in the glory of your awesomeness.
" -E.

"
Don't compromise yourself in telling a story you think others want to hear. It's hard to sell something that isn't real.
" -E.

"
Don't give up before you even try. By focusing on my flaws throughout the application process, I felt defeated and questioned whether it was worth it to continue. Imperfections can give you authenticity, and authenticity is key to your application.
" -J.

"
For essays, start early and reflect on what you want to convey about yourself. At first it may be difficult to step back and analyze your goals and what makes you unique, but if you allow yourself time you can learn a lot from this process!
" -D.

"
Pay special attention to the supplemental application.  1.) great writing, like great thinking, takes TIME- give yourself enough time to develop your ideas. 2.) They ask because they want to know- use the essay responses to take a risk and share yourself- dig deeper.
" -N.

"
As cheesy as it might sound, be yourself. Let UCSF see who the real YOU is. As someone once told me, "To hide yourself from the world would be a shame. Everyone has a story to tell." So go ahead, share yours! :)
" -A.

"
Take time to reflect! Before writing my essays or my interviews, I always took time to really reflect upon my experiences. It enriches what you have to say, making your story come across much more sincere and interesting. This helps you stand out.
" -R.

"
Your application is more than your GPA and accumulation of pharmacy experience and volunteer hours -- I know this from personal experience. Don't let any of that hold you back. Convey what drives you to be a pharmacist, and do it passionately.
" -B.

"H
ow your passions through your essay or interviews. Be honest and write from the heart! Take time to reflect upon the experiences that pushed you to become a pharmacist! You can do it!
"  -A.
 
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