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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pharmacy Information Days 2015: It must be Spring!

(Note: When plans begin to materialize for our annual Pharmacy Information Days, it's a reminder that, while the current admissions cycle is in full effect and will be winding down in late-March, a new one is about to launch. I've asked Leslie to be a guest blogger and share this terrific event with you! ~Joel)

"Hi there pharmers! My name is Leslie and I am the Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator for UCSF School of Pharmacy. You may recognize me If you've recently attended a Preview Session or stopped by our table at a professional school fair. I wanted to pop in to announce a series of outreach events called Pharmacy Information Day. We'll be hosting the event in three locations throughout California: Fresno, Long Beach, and San Francisco. The event is a great way for those interested in the field of pharmacy. Participants will have the opportunity to interact with practicing pharmacists from different areas of expertise as well as current UCSF student pharmacists. In addition, the day includes presentations on our unique curriculum and our admissions process (that hopefully answers that popular question "What does it takes to be a competitive applicant?" (New this year will be an optional presentation highlighting our Interprofessional Health Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program.) If you want to learn more about the diverse roles of a pharmacist or why choosing a career in pharmacy is right for you, join us at one of our Pharmacy Information Days."

For more information and to register for this event, visit our Pharmacy Information Day page.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wanted: Eager Pre-Pharmacy Students!

We are now accepting applications for the annual Inside UCSF program. Inside UCSF is an annual outreach program geared towards students at two- and four-year degree schools who are interested in pursuing careers in health and science. The two-day program, April 24-25, 2015, consists of UCSF student panels, interactive workshops and an opportunity to meet with University faculty and staff.

Please visit the Inside UCSF website for more information, videos, and application instructions! (Application deadline is Monday, March 3, 2015.)

In addition (and because you know I like photos), read what several former Inside UCSF participants (and NOW current PharmD students) had to say:

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...
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