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Saturday, July 11, 2015

The PCAT: It's Happening!

So let's just get right to it...

Beginning in 2016 (for students applying for entry in 2017), we will require the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) as part of our admissions requirement.

I'm sure you have many questions.  Since this will be a new requirement for us, we are really interested in hearing what those questions are. (Please please please ask!)  In the meantime, this is a chance to do ANOTHER Q&A! I'll continue to add to the list as questions come in.

What is the PCAT?
From the PCAT website: "The PCAT is a specialized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy colleges. It measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for the commencement of pharmaceutical education. The PCAT is constructed specifically for colleges of pharmacy."

Why is UCSF now requiring this?
We believe it provides us with additional information to help us make admissions decisions. As we incorporate this new requirement, we are very clear that it simply is another piece of information that will guide our decision-making.  An applicant's PCAT score will not replace all other important aspects of a candidacy -- strong communication skills, passion for (and understanding of) the profession, supportive and detailed reference letters, academic preparation that indicates ability to handle rigorous doctoral program, demonstrated leadership, and most important "fit" for our program.  Like any selection process, the more information we have about a candidate, the more confident we are with making a decision. The PCAT provides us with that "more information" piece.

This seems like a sudden decision. Does UCSF always make decisions this quickly?
This was not a quick decision, nor was it an easy decision.  Our admissions committee has been discussing the PCAT for MANY MANY years. In fact, it's been an ongoing discussion for us as long as I can remember.

Will other California schools now require the PCAT as part of their requirement?
I'm not sure. In order to be a prepared applicant for all the programs you are considering, you should check each program's requirement. Approximately 85% of PharmD programs in the United States require the PCAT so this is not a unique or unusual requirement.

I'm applying in 2015 (for entry in 2016), do I have to take the PCAT?
No. Our requirement will begin for applicants who apply in 2016 (for entry in 2017).

Is there a minimum PCAT score UCSF will require/consider/accept?

What is the average PCAT score score for UCSF?
We do not have an average yet, as we have never required this.

What is the range of PCAT scores admitted to UCSF?
We don't have that information as we've never required it. In future years, we'll be able to share this information.

Will a strong PCAT score guarantee my admission to UCSF?
Absolutely not. There are many factors we review as part of admissions to ensure you are academically ready for our rigorous program.

Will a low PCAT score make me an uncompetitive applicant to UCSF?
Not necessarily.  Again, there are many factors we review as part of admissions to ensure you are academically ready for our rigorous program.

How do I send my PCAT scores to UCSF? 
All scores must be reported through Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS). All scores will be provided to us through the PharmCAS application. Please follow the instructions provided by PharmCAS.

Will UCSF accept scores outside of the PharmCAS application?

Can I waive this requirement?

I don't want to take the PCAT. Are there any other standardized exams (such as the GRE or TOEFL) that will take the place of the PCAT?

When do I have to take the PCAT?
Since our application deadline will be November 1, 2016, you will need to take the exam in time to have your scores reported to PharmCAS. We will not accept late or incomplete applications. For testing dates, please visit the PCAT website.

I took the PCAT five years ago. Do I have to retake it?
Yes. The PCAT exam has undergone many changes in the past several years (and continues to evolve annually).  These changes informed our decision to implement a PCAT requirement. We believe the exam has moved more towards assessing qualities we look for in successful applicants. Therefore, we expect our applicants to provide a recent/current PCAT exam score.

I'm taking the PCAT exam twice. Which score will you look at? The first? The last? The highest? An average of the two?
This is a good question. We don't have the answer. Since this is new territory for us, it will be something we continue to look at and perhaps develop a policy, should we need to. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, we encourage you to contact our office.

Are you excited that you no longer have to answer the question "Why doesn't UCSF require the PCAT?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In Their Own Words: Julia

(Note: It's so great having Julia on the admissions committee. Her current success is a testament to hard-work and determination. As she mentions below, she is a re-applicant to pharmacy school, after not being admitted the first time around. This experience, I believe, has really informed her work as a member of the committee. Julia's high-expectations, combined with her sincere desire to ensure applicants receive insightful reviews and evaluations, makes her work and contribution on the committee invaluable. Having Julia as a student in our program = WIN! Having Julia as a part of our admissions process = DOUBLE-WIN!)

Name: Julia
Year: Class of 2016
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Previous institutions attended: Ohlone College, California State University Sacramento
Undergraduate Major: Biology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
As a second time applicant, I was curious to find out what the admission committee looks for in a candidate. I wanted to learn what it takes to be a student here -- and use that knowledge to help others with a similar background to gain admission to a graduate program.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
It’s not just about the grades! The admissions committee really takes the time to evaluate a candidate as a whole. Therefore, if you choose to apply to UCSF, you can rest assured that the admissions committee will perform a thorough review of your application.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
If you are a second time applicant, please take time to write about new experiences and growth since your last application. Also, some candidates fail to articulate why they chose to pursue pharmacy as a profession. This is important information that I believe should be reflected in your essays. For those that do not have pharmacy experience, it is important to demonstrate what you have done to learn about pharmacy whether it’s through shadowing or informational interviews.

What stands out to you on an application?
I like to read a thoughtful, well-written, and genuine essay. Also, I like it when a candidate has taken the time to learn about our program and state in their application why UCSF is a good fit for them.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
When a candidate does not take the interview seriously. As I mentioned above, the admissions committee looks at an individual’s application as a whole and so the interview part does play a role in the final decisions. It also drives me crazy when a candidate fails to address the question/prompt asked on the on-site essay. I would rather read a short essay that is well written and precise, rather than one that just fills the space. Also, grammatical errors on the PharmCAS and/or UCSF Supplemental Application are just a no-no!

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
An individual that is willing to work hard, is resilient, goal-oriented and motivated.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
UCSF School of Pharmacy website -- to learn about our program and find out whether you would be a good fit here. It is important to have other people read/edit your essays but still make them your own. Speak to current students and attend informational sessions that our school offers. The informational sessions offer an opportunity to learn about UCSF and also to ask questions about the school.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
For those that believe their grades are mediocre, do not let the fact that UCSF is the #1 school in the nation prevent you from applying. Dare to apply and give it your best shot.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
Because I am resilient and hard-working.

What do you do for fun?
I love to travel! Since I started school I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and Dominican Republic. I also like to go hiking, spend time with family and friends, and trying out new restaurants.
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