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Saturday, December 20, 2008

We've made a list and we've checked it twice...

We did it!

We've made a list and we've checked it twice!

With the exception of (about) five pending files, we have made our final decisions on which applicants we would like to interview. ("Is this your final answer?" -- "Yes, final answer!")

Our initial goal was to notify applicants by late-December/early-January regarding their admission status. We are right on track.

I'll admit, this is a bittersweet time of year. There will be many excited applicants who will receive interview invitation letters in the coming weeks. (Please please please accept our invitation! Please!). But there will be many more whose journey in the UCSF 2009 application cycle will come to an end. In an ideal world, we would interview EVERYONE who applied in order to see who will make the best "fit" for our program. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to make that happen. So we were forced to select a limited number of applicants from a huge applicant pool and ultimately invited those we think have the potential to be great partners with UCSF.

Now that says absolutely nothing about those who weren't invited to interview with our program -- except that we believed it wasn't a good match this year. We believe that 99.9990% (there's always a few exceptions) of all applicants will someday become outstanding pharmacists -- somewhere! But in considering our program, curriculum, values, mission and culture -- and considering each applicant -- not everyone who applied is a good match for UCSF. That's our goal in the admissions process -- finding students with the best fit who will partner with us to move the profession forward. We always encourage applicants to cast their net wide in applying to pharmacy schools. The admissions process for every school is extremely competitive and it simply isn't smart to place all your eggs in one basket. We certainly aren't the be-all-end-all in PharmD programs. Finding the right fit is the most important aspect in ensuring you will thrive as a pharmacy student.

So what am I really saying? Well, in a nutshell, every PharmD program is different. Each has a unique culture that may be a better fit for applicants who bring different experiences and qualities to the table. We believe we have invited those applicants who match best with UCSF's program.

Below are a few questions related to our notification process:

When are you sending out notification letters?
Letters started going out this past week -- as fast as we could print them and package them. We will be sending out more this coming Monday and Tuesday. We hope to have all letters sent out by Tuesday, December 23rd.

What strategy do you use to send out notification letters?
No strategy. We are feverishly stuffing envelopes and getting them to the mailroom as soon as humanly possible. Theories ("they send out denial letters first and then acceptance letters"; "they send out CA letters first and then out-of-state"; "they wait until the day before Christmas to send out denial letters") are super-super fun to read, but they don't hold up. Even re-applicants aren't privy to our process -- despite having applied previously. (At last count, there were only about 3 -- maybe 4 -- experts at our admissions process.)

Where do you send the letters? To my current address or permanent address?
We send them to the "preferred" address you indicated on your PharmCAS application. We are honoring YOUR wishes to have correspondence sent to the address YOU preferred - whether that be "current" or "permanent".

Are the Interview letters in big envelopes and Denied letters in small envelopes?
One size fits all. Really.

If I contact you now, can you let me know what my letter says and what my admissions status is?
No.

What if I don't receive a letter?
Be patient. The mail system takes time. Be patient. We will not field "what's my status" inquiries until January 12th. Be patient. If you have not received a letter by January 12th, please contact our office. Be patient.

***

As for those five pending files -- odds are that none of them have YOUR name on it. But if it's any comfort, they are a priority for Monday morning. =)

[I can't go without mentioning the true "awesome-ness" of our office staff. We are a small unit so everyone pitched in -- in some way, at some point -- to help us get through this Initial Review period. Whether it was fielding phone calls, stuffing envelopes, or makin' copies -- everyone stepped up to the plate when we needed it. Big Ups to all of you -- SE, EV, LP, FF, CW, CBW, ED! Let the interviews begin!]

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thoughts on theories....

Over the past few months of reviewing files, I've kept my eyes and ears open regarding a few theories that have been bandied about for several years.

(Let's just say I've been informally "testing" them to see if they are valid.)
  • Applicants who turn their application in early submit stronger, more detailed, applications.
  • Applications that are submitted many weeks before the deadline reflect the detailed planning and attention to detail of the applicant.
  • Applications that are submitted at the very last minute (barely meeting the deadline) tend to reflect the chaotic nature of actually getting the application in on time.
  • Applications submitted on the day of the deadline include Letters of Recommendations that aren't as detailed or insightful (or supportive) as those submitted weeks before the deadline.
  • Applicants who submitted their applications early in the process tend to be relaxed, confident, patient and optimistic.
  • Applicants who submitted their applications at the last minute tend to be the most critical of the admissions process and want immediate confirmation/answers as to the status of their application. And they are stressed out.
Things that make you go "Hmmm..."

The jury is still out on whether the theories have validity. But it certainly has me thinking...

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just my 2 cents....(multiplied by 36) = 72 cents!

When this application envelope arrived, I was actually speechless (which is rare!). So I'll have to just sing this post:
Happy Stamp Day to you!
Happy Stamp Day to you!
Happy Stamp Day, dear Admissions Office!
Happy Stamp Day to you!

Thirty-six 2¢ stamps on a mailing!
Thirty-six 2¢ stamps!
You take one down, and pass it around
Thirty-five 2¢ stamps on the mailing!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Save the Drama....

Since Desperate Housewives has lost its suspense (at least since the pharmacist overdosed on sleeping pills in the hotel room) and The Hills is a big fake (c'mon, you KNOW it is!) we've had to find alternative drama to talk about around the admissions office. I think we've found it in the form of applicants in panic mode over whether or not their applications have arrived in our office. We've received so many emails and phone calls recently that I thought I could use this space to clarify a few details -- in hopes that it would give you a better understanding of how things operate on our end.

It might be easily understood if I explained it in the form of scenario questions (like little dramatic conversations from Desperate Housewives and The Hills). Here goes....

"I submitted my Supplemental Application in the same envelope as my Fee Payment and sent it to the Fee Payment address. Ooopsie! I didn't follow directions. The Fee Payment people will forward my application to your office, right?"
Nope. They won't.

"I submitted my Supplemental Application and Fee Payment at the same time. I received a tracking notice from United States Postal Service (USPS) that my fee payment has arrived, but I've heard nothing from USPS regarding my Supplemental Application. What gives, people?"
The Supplemental Application and Fee Payment are sent to different addresses. Our office does not sign for either. The Fee Payment is sent to a Box # that allows the UCSF Registrar to directly access and deposit the payment. The Supplemental Application, like all mail sent to our office, is actually sent to a UCSF mail processing center. The USPS delivery person doesn't actually walk into our office, rather the mail is delivered by a UCSF mail center employee. In other words, mail is not delivered directly to our office, but is routed to and distributed from a campus mail room. I can't speak on behalf of the USPS or the UCSF mail center on why particular pieces of mail aren't signed for or confirmed. I've heard that sometimes a tracking number hasn't shown up as being delivered even though we received the package. That's why we encourage you to keep copies of all documents sent, along with proof that you met the mailing deadline. If there's an issue, we can work together to solve the problem. If you have no proof/copies, it makes it difficult to solve the problem.

"I submitted my Supplemental Application and Fee Payment at the same time. I know they both arrived, but I haven't received any notification from your office regarding my Supplemental Application. I'm stressing out!"
This is typical! Our notification system is based on PharmCAS Applications. We do not notify you of whether we have received your Supplemental Application until we receive your PharmCAS Application.

"Oh, jeeze, but I submitted my PharmCAS Application by the deadline and I still haven't heard from your office about my Supplemental Application!
"
This may be true but, as you know, it takes PharmCAS several weeks to process your application and verify your academic coursework -- and then send it to us. So while you may have submitted your PharmCAS Application, we may not have received it from PharmCAS yet. Have you checked to see whether PharmCAS has sent your application to UCSF?

"My Fee Payment check has been cashed but I haven't heard from your office about my Supplemental Application! What's up with that?"
Remember the Fee Payment is sent to a different address than the application -- so one is not dependent on the other. And if you haven't heard from us abut the Supplemental Application, perhaps it's because we haven't received your PharmCAS Application yet. Have you checked to see whether PharmCAS has sent your application to UCSF?

"I'm so confused -- I mailed my stuff in September, why haven't I heard from you yet?"
Again, perhaps it's because we haven't received your PharmCAS Application yet. Have you checked to see whether PharmCAS has sent your application to UCSF?

"Seriously, why can't you just email me to let me know that you've received my Supplemental Application?"
Well, because our email notification is based on an electronic system that is compatible with PharmCAS. Once your PharmCAS application is sent to us, we receive electronic information from them that enables us to enter you into a complex database. Once we have you entered, we are able to match your Supplemental Application with your PharmCAS Application and send you an electronic notification (email) that we've received your Supplemental Application. Until then, your Supplemental Application is in a BIG file drawer, waiting to be matched up with your PharmCAS Application.

"Why have some applicants been notified that their materials have been received by your office but I haven't? Is it because I kept calling your office all summer?"
We've received their PharmCAS application from PharmCAS, we matched it up with their Supplemental Application that was received by our office and we confirmed the payment was received by the Registrar's office. That applicant's file is now complete. Is it all starting to make sense now? I hope so...

"Okay, I submitted my PharmCAS application on November 3rd. I know that PharmCAS sent my application to schools recently. How long will it take you to notify me of my Supplemental Application? Immediately?"
We try to notify you by email as soon as we receive the hard copy of your application from PharmCAS -- which is usually about 3 days after we receive electronic notification from PharmCAS that it's being delivered -- meaning, it's in the mail!

Phew! I hope all that made sense.

Perhaps that clarifies how we process applications. As we always recommend, submitting your application early can potentially relieve stress (by having your application processed by PharmCAS and submitted to UCSF) as most of the drama comes from applicants who waited until the very last minute to submit their application -- both PharmCAS Application and the UCSF Supplemental Application.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Attention to detail....

Although we have dozens and dozens of examples of "paying attention to detail" (or lack thereof), these are two funny ones that provided a good laugh for our office.

As you know, we are the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs. Although we do utilize a circular file in our office (commonly called a "trashcan") and all our staff members are well versed on current events!

[To save the embarrassment of the applicant, we've blurred out any identifying information.]


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Off and running.... in search of authenticity!

We've officially admitted the class of 2012, closed the waiting list, relocated files and moved on -- to the class of 2013! The application deadline is around the corner. On one hand it's refreshing to be able to work with a whole new group of applicants. On the other hand, it's daunting to think we will receive a record number of applications again this year. Yikes!

Our Initial Review Team met in early October to begin the process of file review (no we don't have early or rolling admissions -- our application deadline is November 3rd). In order for us to get through all the files by the end of the year, we need to start the file review before the actual deadline.

We were lucky to have Mary Anne join us.

["Mary Anne?" you ask. If you are an applicant asking this question, you haven't done your homework. Let's take a moment and get you up to speed. Mary Anne Koda-Kimble is the Dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy. I could go on-and-on-and-on, telling you how great she is -- but in a nutshell, she's a dynamic leader that provides the direction and leadership necessary for our school and program to remain top-rated in the country. For a more thorough bio, visit our website. In addition to all the scholarly and fancy pharmacy stuff, she's just a fun person to work with and for. ]

So, let's get back to the point... Mary Anne joined us for the meeting -- which was cool to have her input in terms of what we should be looking for, from her perspective, in our applicants.

Her input was not surprising -- but still refreshing to hear. I've had many conversations with her over the past few years regarding what types of students we should look for -- meaning "what students will make the best fit for UCSF." Mary Anne believes we should take a very close and serious look at applicants that share the same characteristics that describe UCSF and the faculty/staff/students that make up our community -- bold thinking, innovative, hard-working, passionate, cutting edge, committed to excellence, unique, and values teamwork yet is not afraid to step out on their own. These are all characteristics of the staff and faculty so it's no surprise she expects this in the students as well.

During our meeting, one word surfaced MANY times -- authentic. In a nutshell, we are looking for authentic applicants. Authentic in all aspects -- in their experiences, in their written applications, in their on-site interviews -- you know, "the real deal". Not some made-up and make-believe applicant with a phony application. (Haha! I haven't used the word "phony" in a long time!)

Those characteristics that we are looking for can really only be found in authentic applicants.

As you can imagine, we review LOTS of applications. When you've read hundreds and hundreds of files, it becomes very easy to separate the authentic applicants from the... from the... from the... well, the PHONY ones! The fake ones.

When we talk about "authentic", what do we mean? We want to read and meet (and ultimately admit) applicants who are *honest and real* -- both on paper and in person. We don't want applicants engaged in altruistic activities in order to make themselves stronger applicants; instead, we are interested in applicants that help others because that's really who they are and what they are about. We don't want applicants who attend a certain university because they think they will have a better chance to be admitted to pharmacy school; instead, we are interested in applicants that chose to attend a specific school that was a great fit for them -- a place where they could learn and thrive. We don't want applicants who respond with answers they *think* we want to hear; instead, we are interested in hearing real voices. Real authentic voices.

I'm always amused at reading questions on forums that ask "What do you think they are looking for when they ask about ____________?" [Usually in reference to the "human condition"!].

What we are really looking for is how authentic and inspired your answers are; the degree of introspection and intellect you display in your responses; the level of maturity and insight evidenced in your approach to the questions. This can only happen with a certain degree of authenticity. Attempting to *give us what you think we want* will likely end up sounding like hundreds of other applicants that are taking the same approach.

Completing our application not only takes a lot of time physically (typing can be very time-consuming) but also mentally -- if you really want to impress the admissions committee.

Be authentic.

Be real.

It will show on your application.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's All In The Name...

Okay... so this is a subject area that needs addressing (and is long overdue!) But it was brought up again in the office last week when an applicant's email was revealed. Frank, our Web Wonder Boy, suggested it would make a good blog post.

As you can imagine, we get dozens and dozens of emails a day from prospective students -- sometimes even hundreds a day (between our entire staff) during the busiest times of the year. We communicate a great deal through email. Sometimes it's the easiest and quickest way to provide students with information.

I subscribe to the school of thought that "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression." So you can imagine my horror when we receive emails from prospective students who use inappropriate email addresses.

Let's get right to it. Here's a sampling of some of my favorites:
  • BigBootyQT4U@...
  • Vodkagirl@...
  • HottieDoc@...
  • greysanatomy33@...
  • SixtyEightPlus1@...
And a few others I can't print here.

Yes, I've actually kept a list of some of these -- with the thought that I'd someday use them as an example! =)

This summer was the first time I actually let a student know that their email address was inappropriate. I think they were pretty embarrassed when it was pointed out to them but I was in a teachable mood and felt that the student should know.

Your email reflects who you are, in many ways. If you are still using a "cute" or "sexy" email address you created in high school, it may be time to update it.

You are entering a professional setting and now dealing with admissions representatives. Your email address is included on your application and your application is reviewed by members of Admissions Committees. Don't you want to present your best self? Wouldn't you want to be perceived as being professional and mature? Or do you still want to be known as ClowningNthaOC@....?

A quick Google search on "inappropriate email addresses" brought up the following article that gets right to the point! Professionalism and the email address (It's not specifically pharmacy-school related, but that's not the point. The point is you are now about to enter a professional school and are attempting to make a good first impression with your interactions with others.)

An email address is free! Get one that best reflects the seriousness in which you are approaching the application process. Your maturity can be seen not only in the content of your correspondence but also in the email address you use to send it. It's simple. Use a variation of your name. Keep it simple.

Inappropriate email addresses make for a good laugh in the office (yes, we sometimes share them with each other), but ultimately reflects poorly on the sender/applicant.

So here's hoping that my next email from YourMomsRxDr@.... has updated his email address to reflect the seriousness to which he wants to be taken. After all, it is all in the name.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

SEO: Statements of Educational Opportunity

Being in the midst of the application season, our office is inundated with calls from applicants. Just last week, I had several questions regarding the Statements of Educational Opportunity section on the Supplemental Application.

According to our instructions: "We believe that students of diverse backgrounds will positively contribute to the intellectual, social, and cultural enrichment of the School's academic programs and student body. Although not required, this section provides you with the opportunity to tell us how you may have overcome economic, social, cultural, or educational barriers while pursuing your academic goals."

The 4 areas that are included on this section of the application are:

SOCIAL/CULTURAL FACTORS. Tell us about any unique circumstances involving your family and/or the community in which you were raised, and how these social and/or cultural factors might have adversely affected the pursuit of your education.

ECONOMIC FACTORS. Economic factors, such as the need to work, dependent care, family resources, etc., can often seriously impede an individual’s academic progress. Use the space below to elaborate on any economic issues that affected your schooling.

EDUCATIONAL DISADVANTAGES. The availability and types of schooling offered, as well as the history of education in one’s family and/or community might vary significantly. Comment below on any educational disadvantages you feel you might have had to overcome.

OTHER FACTORS/DISADVANTAGES. Are there now, or have there been in the past, any other factors or barriers that might have adversely affected your academic performance? If so, please feel free to elaborate.

So.... the questions we always seem to get (and my responses):
  • Do I have to fill this section out? No. It is totally optional!
  • Should I complete this section? Sure -- but only if you feel we should know about a particular situation or issue that fits into one of the four areas.
  • If I do not fill out this section, will my application be less competitive? Absolutely not. This section is optional!
  • Why do you include this section anyway? Well, we believe that it's important to provide applicants with the opportunity to comment or provide us with any information that puts their application into context. If we talk about a "holistic review" of an applicant, these areas are important for us to know about.
  • Do I have to complete all four categories of this section? No, it's all optional! If you think you may have something in one or two categories, then just complete those categories. If it's only one category that you feel is appropriate, then just complete that one category. Did I mention that this section is optional?
  • If I complete this section, will I be a more competitive applicant? No. But it could help explain a particular situation. Sometimes, an application may have a "red flag" somewhere. By explaining a situation on this part of the application, the "red flag" can be appropriately addressed.
So there you have it... everything you wanted to know about the Statements of Educational Opportunity (but were afraid to ask!)

We receive many applications with this section completed -- and many applications where this section is left blank.

We've admitted many applicants who completed it (or parts of it) -- and many applicants who did not.

We've denied many applicants who completed it (or parts of it) -- and denied many applicants who did not.

It's optional. Complete only the categories that are appropriate for you to do so. Don't include it if you don't feel compelled to address any issues in the four areas.

I did mention that this section is optional, right? I think I did. I hope I did.

(It's kind of like going to a "black-tie optional" party. If you feel compelled to wear a black tie, great! Rock it! If not, no big deal -- because it's optional!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alternate/Wait List

We closed the Alternate List today (also known as the Wait List). I must admit, this is one of the hardest parts of this job. There will always be one person who is #1 on the wait list when the list eventually closes -- and it's usually the case that the individual held out hope that they'd get a last minute call inviting them to be a part of the incoming class.

We keep the wait list active until New Student Orientation begins. If an admitted student doesn't show up for the required Orientation, we contact the next person on the list. It doesn't happen often but there have been instances in the past where an Alternate was contacted the day before classes started.

As many of you know, UCSF does have a wait list that is developed during the final Admissions process in March. It always seems to generate lots of questions. Some of which are listed below:

How do spaces in the entering class become available?
Admitted applicants decline, usually for personal reasons; or, we withdraw the offer for not fulfilling all of the requirements for admission. For example: financial issues, personal issues, or medical issues sometimes prevent an applicant from accepting an offer. Every year some applicants are also administratively canceled. This could be for failing a prerequisite, not completing all the prerequisites, or not submitting documents or other verification materials required by us.

Is the list ranked? How/when are wait-listers notified?
The list is indeed ranked. We contact all alternates (by letter/email) on a regular basis to let them know their exact position on the list. We contact the next person on the list as soon as a place opens up in the entering class.

What are the chances of being admitted from the wait list?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict how many accepted applicants will decline their admission offer or be canceled each year.

How soon will wait-listed applicants know?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict when accepted applicants will decline our offer or be canceled. The waiting list remains open until the first day of Orientation.

How many alternates are accepted each year?
Since the reasons for declining an admission offer or for being canceled are often related to personal or unexpected situations, it is impossible to predict the number of alternates that will be offered admission in any given year. In the past, we have offered acceptance to as few as 3 and as many as 48 people on the waiting list.

Occasionally, we receive correspondence from wait-listed applicants in an attempt to move up on the wait list. Unfortunately, the only way to move up on the wait list is if another person (ranked higher) is admitted or decides to remove their name from the list. It's the fairest way to administer a wait list! And we always let wait-listed applicants know EXACTLY where they stand.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are Letters of Recommendation really THAT important?

I hear this question a lot. And it still puzzles me.

I have heard prospective students say that some schools only look at letters of recommendation (let's call them LORs for short) if the applicant is "borderline". Huh? What? Borderline?

Let me put it clearly: LORs are critical in the UCSF PharmD application review process.

LORs are an extension of your application -- not an addition! They are used to evaluate your file, along with your essay answers and academic background/preparation. LORs can often "make or break" an application.

Letter writers are asked to assess many of the characteristics we look for in applicants themselves: written and oral communication skills; leadership; intellectual ability; critical thinking skills; your ability to get along with peers; adaptability; and motivation. Having at least three individuals comment on these areas helps us paint a better picture of you as an applicant. You bet we take LORs into consideration.

Lets consider a few scenarios:
  1. Jonathon Q. Applicant: Submits a very strong application. He didn't think the letters mattered much so he didn't care who wrote them. Three letters were submitted on his behalf but they weren't very insightful and the writers didn't really know him well. As a result, the letters were "very average."
  2. Maureen Q. Applicant: Submits an above average application that demonstrates strong potential to be a leader in the field of pharmacy. Four letters were submitted on her behalf. These letters were all consistent and detailed in the information they provided: the applicant has the skills necessary to be an outstanding pharmacy student. It was clear the writers knew the applicant extremely well and could provide detailed information about the applicant and her potential to succeed.
  3. Terrance Q. Applicant: Submits a strong application. Terrance knew that the LORs were a VERY IMPORTANT component to his application so he took this aspect of the application very seriously. He selected four individuals that knew him very well and could validate much of what he expressed himself in the application. It was important for Terrance to provide a diverse perspective to the Admissions Committee. He selected letter writers that could speak to many different areas (work, academics, personality, passion for the profession, etc.) He knew that he was limited in the amount of space he could write on the application himself -- so he considered the LORs as a way for others to speak about him, in hopes it would make him a more competitive applicant.
If you were on an Admissions Committee, how would you rank the above applicants? 1-2-3? 2-3-1? 3-1-2? Or.................3-2-1!

Consider your application to be like a job interview. Instead of us calling your "references", we ask for letters. Of course you want these letters to be insightful, detailed, specific, thorough, honest and supportive. The references should know you well! After all, if you were applying for a job, you wouldn't provide references who barely know you. So why would you do that with your LORs?

PharmCAS provides applicants with a general outline of what letter writers receive. Utilize the resources on the PharmCAS website to help you decide who should write your letters:
  • http://www.pharmcas.org/preparing-to-apply/what-youll-need-to-apply/letters-of-reference/
  • http://www.pharmcas.org/preparing-to-apply/what-youll-need-to-apply/letters-of-reference/list-of-pharmcas-questions-for-evaluators/
UCSF requires at least three LORs but will accept a fourth letter, if submitted. So that's four people speaking on your behalf!

Are you taking LORs as serious as we are? We hope so!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Coming to a campus near you...

We're on the road again! The UCSF PharmD statewide tour kicks off on Monday, September 22nd! This year's touring company includes:
  • Joel - Admissions Director
  • Scott - Admissions Assistant
  • Cindy - Associate Dean
Our tour takes us to 24 universities throughout the state of California. For a complete list of tour dates/times/locations, please visit our website:
pharmacy.ucsf.edu/go/gradfairs


This is an excellent chance for you to stop by our table, pick up information and ask questions!

Most commonly asked questions:
  • What are the requirements to apply?
  • Can you tell me about your program?
  • When is the application deadline?
The best questions:
  • What are the most common errors you see on applications?
  • What does the term "detailed biographical statements" mean?
  • Are letters of recommendation really that important?
Taking advantage of your school's Graduate School Fair is a great time to ask questions of representatives closely associated with the admissions process.

Stop by and visit us!

Pre-Pharmacy Club: Join one (or start one!)

I always find it a bit curious when reading an application from a student -- who attends a college/university that has a strong pre-pharmacy organization -- and the applicant isn't a member or involved. I ask myself, "Why didn't they take advantage of that?" Being involved in a campus-based pre-pharmacy club can potentially provide applicants with many opportunities:
  • Networking with other students interested in applying to pharmacy school
  • Meeting representatives from PharmD programs, including admissions officers
  • Hearing from guest speakers like current PharmD students, local pharmacists and other health professionals
  • Participating in community outreach activities with other club members
  • Developing leadership skills and teamwork experience
I realize not everyone is the "get involved in school" type... but it really is a terrific opportunity to expose yourself to opportunities that could potentially make you a more competitive applicant. I mean, what applicant wouldn't want all those opportunities? Many pre-pharmacy organizations coordinate visits to the various pharmacy schools in their state. Developing a network of friends who are faced with the same challenges as you (applying to graduate schools) can also serve to help you navigate the application process.

It's for you! Join it!

Wait! But your campus doesn't have a pre-pharmacy club. Perfect! Start one. What a way to demonstrate your initiative and leadership! And it should be fairly easy to get it off the ground.
  • Visit your campus Student Activities or Associated Students office (ask if a pre-pharmacy club ever existed on your campus -- if so, they will likely have a file with helpful information to get you started)
  • Inquire about starting a new organization on campus (you'll likely have to complete paperwork, submit names of officers, and develop a constitution/bylaws)
  • Ask the Student Activities advisor for a sample constitution (or better yet, ask to see the constitution of a similar organization -- like pre-med or pre-dentistry)
  • Work with the activities office to reserve a room for your first/informational meeting; post announcements/posters in key areas that likely will draw prospective members (i.e. science department building) to the meeting; develop an agenda
  • Recruit your favorite professor to serve as the club's advisor
Well, maybe it's not THAT easy -- but it's certainly do-able! Think about the experience you would get, the challenges that you would face, the connections you would make (hmmm... letters of recommendation!), and the legacy that you would leave. Besides, all the opportunities that a pre-pharmacy club can provide are experiences that could potentially make you a stronger applicant.

Build it! They will come!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Seriousness of the Supplemental!

Our Supplemental Application is tough. Really tough. Really really tough. We know it. But how else would we really get to know applicants (via the written application) if we didn't ask so many questions or challenge applicants to really think?

I was at UCLA's Graduate School Fair last year on Halloween (which was the day before our November 1st deadline) and a gentleman stopped by our table to express his frustration at the complexity and length of our Supplemental Application. I could tell that he was panicked in an effort to finish the application by the deadline. (And who wants to be working on applications on Halloween?) I was quite taken aback as he began to create a scene at the table -- while other prospective students looked on. It was the first time that I had been faced with that type of explicit anger as it relates to our supplemental application -- but hey, it was Halloween so I wasn't about to let anything scare me. I challenged him to think about the alternative -- a PharmD application with NO supplemental application required. In that scenario, an invitation to interview would be based solely on 3 primary factors -- academic background, one essay, and letters of recommendation (assuming that the program takes those into consideration). These are the contents collected by PharmCAS. It just seems so limited, don't you think? While all aspects of the PharmCAS are critical to an applicants file, UCSF's supplemental application provides so much more. It provides the Admissions Committee with the ability to assess communication skills, passion for the profession, leadership experiences, commitment to serving underserved populations as a health care provider, intellectual ability, and maturity -- all important aspects in future pharmacists! As the discussion unfolded, a small group had gathered to hear me explain to the angry student why the supplemental application was so important and critical in getting to know applicants on paper. They needed to know, too. We take it seriously. They should, too.

We take it so serious that we actually offer free Supplemental Application workshops -- simply to help applicants navigate their way through the application itself:
pharmacy.ucsf.edu/go/workshop

Although I was never able to calm his nerves, I think he walked away with (I hope) a greater understanding of the importance of the supplemental application and how it's percieved on our end. I never asked for his name so I wasn't able to track his application/progress through the admissions process. But I'm willing to bet his approach to the supplemental application was reflected in the quality of materials he submitted. Perhaps he was admitted into a program that doesn't require a supplemental application.

The beginning...

So this is the beginning. A blog for UCSF's PharmD Admissions by the Admissions Director. Our Associate Dean came across an admissions blog for an undergraduate campus and we thought it would be a good idea -- well, at least an "interesting" idea -- to create a blog for our program. I'm not sure what I'll talk about or what type of information we'll include. But we'll see where it goes. The challenge will certainly be finding the time to post entries -- especially as the admission cycle rolls into high gear. It seems natural to begin an on-line conversation about our admissions process. We certainly have many formal outreach programs combined with the best pharmacy school website in the nation -- but we don't have an opportunity to share aspects about the process with the general public. Perhaps this will allow for that extension. We pride ourselves on the fact that prospective students can contact our office and get immediate answers. This blog may provide the insight that isn't readily available online or by attending one of our events. So here goes....
 
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