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Thursday, October 1, 2009

10 Characteristics of a Successful Applicant

We get LOTS of questions from prospective students and applicants to the effect of "What do you look for?" and "How can I make myself more competitive?" This summer JCB shared a document from ADEA (dental schools) that I thought summed up nicely a list of characteristics. I've adapted that original list to align more with UCSF's PharmD admissions process. Here goes...

10. Demonstrates a passion for the profession
Our most successful and competitive applicants are able to articulate their understanding of pharmacy and their reasons/passion for pursuing a PharmD degree.

9. Balances multiple priorities and responsibilities
We have a rigorous curriculum. But our current students are able to handle the coursework, along with holding leadership positions and volunteering in various settings. Some choose to work during the academic year as well. While it's not easy, they can balance all this. Applicants who have proven their ability to successfully balance multiple priorities/responsibilities can make make a good fit for our program.

8. Demonstrates strong ethical values and professionalism
As one of the most trusted health professions, we can expect this from our students and applicants. As a doctoral program, we expect our students to display a high degree of professionalism -- beginning with the admissions process.

7. Demonstrates leadership, initiative and motivation
Leadership, initiative and motivation are common threads amongst our students. It doesn't begin in pharmacy school, rather our students come to the program with a solid track-record of demonstrated experiences.

6. Submits a well-prepared, thought-provoking application

Our largest cut in the admissions process happens during the initial review of applications. We are limited in the number of interview spots available. An applicant that does not submit a well-prepared, thought-provoking application isn't likely to be advanced to the interview stage of the process. As I've said before: "This is a UC doctoral-level program, not summer camp. Your application should reflect this."

5. Submits strong letters of recommendation
For UCSF, letters of recommendation (LORs) are not "after thoughts". They are very much a part of an applicant's file and are taken very seriously. An amazing applicant/application with poor LORs does not make for a well-rounded applicant. Consider LORs as an extension of your application, not a simple requirement that completes your file. LORs provide at least three additional voices advocating for your admission into a PharmD program and your fit to be a pharmacist. Why would you take this lightly?

4. Is well-acquainted with the admissions process at the pharmacy schools being considered
Every school has different requirements. Every school has different policies. Some have different deadlines. Most have unique time-lines. The worst approach you can take to the admissions process is to assume that all schools operate the same way, at the same time. Be familiar with the process for all the schools you are applying to. Organize yourself in a way that allows you to keep track of all documents and correspondence. Make sure you are operating with the correct information, rather than snippets of information gathered from online forums -- which are full of "experts.”

3. Knows strengths and fit of institutions
Not every program is a good "fit" for every applicant. As a prospective student, it's your responsibility to know what every program offers and whether it's a good fit for you. Are you familiar with the strengths of each program? Are you familiar with each program's curriculum? Is this a good fit for you?

2. Demonstrates clear career goals
The PharmCAS essay specifically asks applicants to address this topic. Have you done that? Does your essay reflect convincing reasons why you chose pharmacy as a career? Have you articulated your goals?

1. Applies early and to more than one school
Let's face it -- it's competitive. Not just UCSF -- but all schools! It's smart advice to apply to multiple programs and to apply early. While UCSF does not have early admissions or rolling admissions, sending your application in early ensures there is enough time to make sure your application arrived. Applications submitted on the deadline date usually reflect the frantic nature of the applicant.

What do YOU think? Do these characteristics apply to you?

13 comments:

Elizabeth said...

great tips! Question: Will you be attending the UCI Grad fair next week?

Elizabeth said...

Correction, I meant October 26th?

Joel W. Gonzales said...

I'll be in San Diego next week. But the dynamic and amazing Shirin, our Outreach & Recruitment Coordinator, will attend the UCI Fair on the 26th. Please be sure to stop by the table and introduce yourself.

Jasmine said...

When will you be in San Diego?

Joel W. Gonzales said...

Visit our Grad Fairs page to see what schools we attend this Fall:
pharmacy.ucsf.edu/go/gradfairs

Anonymous said...

While I acknowledge that the admissions office may observe overall trends in the quality of applications submitted late in the cycle, I think it is rash to make the blanket statement that an application submitted later in the cycle makes one less competitive. For the applicant, time is a precious commodity to be rationed out to each school he applies to, and maximizing one's resources and is certainly a positive trait in a successful pharmacist (and pharmacy student).

As long as the application is well thought out, organized and completed properly (and the check goes to the correct address!) I see no reason why it should be indicative of anything other than evidence of the applicant's excellent time management skills.

Joel W. Gonzales said...

"As long as the application is well thought out, organized and completed properly (and the check goes to the correct address!) I see no reason why it should be indicative of anything other than evidence of the applicant's excellent time management skills." Beautifully worded and a perfect scenario. Clearly, this type of applicant isn't what I was referring to. This is rarely the case. I'd love to see 2,000 applicants lined up at our door on the deadline date, if we could guarantee they possessed all the traits you describe. =)

Elika said...

Thank you for the helpful information, I have really enjoyed reading through your website. It has made me smile and that's not common among Pharm-D websites.

I also have a question: Does attending a Preview Day increase one's chances of getting accepted?
I wold attend regardless, but there are many factors involved in traveling to UCSF for one day.

hannah said...

yes, it is :) haha~ Thank you so much!!!

Maya said...

You should add on a GPA greater than 3.6 - it's really not fair to list a 2.80 GPA on your site when clearly the admissions committee does not even look at the applications of applicants without extremely high GPAs. I met to a "T" every single one of these characteristics, yet was denied an interview. Not only is it a waste of our time completing UCSF's extensive supplemental application, but it's also a waste of our money.

Anonymous said...

@Maya, sorry to hear. To be honest with you, I screwed up big time in my undergrad. I barely met the 2.80 minimum GPA, but because I met those other qualities listed (evident from my supp essays and LORs), I was fortunate to get an interview. I am waiting for the decision letter, but regardless of the decision, I felt very privileged to have been invited for an interview. UCSF really values their applicants in every aspect and not just in grades.

Anonymous said...

I disagree completely with your assessment Maya. UCSF should allow students with 2.8 GPA's to apply. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. But for the most part, I've always seen a good GPA scores as a minimum. Meeting those ten characteristics and a high GPA shows not only you have the passion and non-academic skills related to pharmacy, but also have demonstrated potential to succeed academically in a demanding setting.

Anonymous said...

I disagree completely with your assessment Maya. UCSF should allow students with 2.8 GPA's to apply. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. But for the most part, I've always seen a good GPA scores as a minimum. Meeting those ten characteristics and a high GPA shows not only you have the passion and non-academic skills related to pharmacy, but also have demonstrated potential to succeed academically in a demanding setting.

 
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