UCSF navigation

Friday, July 14, 2017

The PCAT -- Just Below The Surface

In the year and half since we announced the new PCAT requirement, I've had MANY conversations with prospective students and applicants about the exam.  It usually starts out like this:
Applicant:  What is the minimum score UCSF requires on the PCAT?
Me:  We don't have a minimum score requirement. It's simply an additional data point that is part of your file.
Applicant: Well then, what's the average score?
Me: We don't have an average score since this is our first year -- but don't ever compare yourself to someone else's "average" anything. 
It's true. I'll admit, it's frustrating when prospective students want to know the average and then immediately determine their own worth/value based on the number. Am I better than the average? Am I below the average? This happens for any number of categories: PCAT score, GPA, age, etc.  Instead, I wish more people would ask "What's the range? The high and the low?" And then determine whether they fall into that range. (And if they don't fall within the range, then perhaps ask follow up question about special circumstances, experiences, etc.)

I get it. I get it. Knowing the "average" is easy. But it's rarely ever the measuring tool WE use when assessing a candidate for our program.

Now that we've been through an admissions cycle with the PCAT results as part of the process, I can provide you with some insight: Having PCAT scores did not make the process any easier.  In fact, it was a bit more challenging with an additional piece of information.  We, in fact, advanced MANY candidates with very low PCAT scores to the interview stage of our process. Why? Because we employ a holistic approach to our review -- meaning we look at EVERYTHING. Some candidates had very low scores but something else in their application stood out -- perhaps it was their academic performance in classes, perhaps it was their passion for the profession, perhaps it was strong work ethic.

  • The PCAT is ONE piece of a very large puzzle.
  • Your PCAT score doesn't define WHO you are or WHAT you stand for. Right? (Hopefully.)
  • You're much MORE than a score or a GPA. Right? (Hopefully.)
While your PCAT score gives us a glimpse into how you might have peformed on the exam, there's SO MUCH it DOESN'T tell us, like your...
  • Ability to make a difference in the lives of future patients
  • Capacity to enrich the entering class
  • Desire and commitment to support individuals who are underserved, including vulnerable populations, in today's healthcare system 
  • Potential for leadership; interest in being a leader in pharmacy school and in the profession
  • Life experiences and perspectives you bring to patient care
  • Passion for the pharmacy profession
  • Ability to communicate with patients
  • Understanding of the changing needs in healthcare
  • Willingness to be a bold, innovative member of a healthcare team
  • Interests and hobbies outside of the pharmacy profession
  • Experiences that informed your decision to pursue a PharmD degree
  • Desire to be a life-long learner
  • Ability to carry yourself in a professional manner
  • Ability to separate yourself from the rest; what makes you unique
  • Integrity, honesty, and ability to uphold high ethical standards
  • Reliability and dependability
  • Enthusiasm for healthcare and patient care
  • Ability to overcome barriers, push through challenges, and persevere through difficulties
  • Desire to work with other individuals from differing backgrounds, opinions, and perspectives
  • Compassion for others
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Well-rounded-ness; your "balance"
  • Tenacity; your grit; your determination 
  • Unique life experiences
  • Interest in teaching and sharing
  • Meaningful extracurricular activities and involvement (your true investment in an organization, versus just being a member)
  • Vision for the future of pharmacy practice
Consider this the next time you dwell over the PCAT or your results:  it's ONE piece of a large puzzle and what it measure is fairly limited in that grand scheme of your candidacy.

Friday, March 24, 2017

In Their Own Words: Reeti

(Note: It's been awhile since I posted a profile from one of our Admissions Committee members -- so I was excited when Reeti jumped at the chance to provide advice to prospective students. First, she's very interested in the admissions process, which always makes for a great committee member. Second, has a background that's a little different than most applicants, which she briefly explains below. This nontraditional background really allowed her to look at applicants who've had varied and diverse experiences. As a result, our entering class is quite unique!) 

Name: Reeti
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Previous institutions attended: UC San Diego; University of Illinois-Chicago
Undergraduate Major: Biochemistry

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
I come from a nontraditional background compared to the majority of my classmates since I completed a master's degree before starting at UCSF. Those additional few years allowed me the time I needed to figure out what exactly in Pharmacy I wanted to do. I wanted to serve on the Admissions committee so that other nontraditional applications can get the same opportunity I have by coming here.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?

Thinking that they need to be anyone but themselves. I've always viewed graduate school like a relationship -- the application process being the initial "getting to know you" phase; orientation is like the first official day that you are together; the 3 years of didactic coursework representing the years spent building a strong foundation; the year of rotation is a bit like an engagement and then graduation and residency being like a marriage. If you are willing to put in all this work to end up in a lifelong relationship, then it is best to just be yourself so you know that this is the right fit for you.

What stands out to you on an application?

For me, it's the composition of the entire application. Everything matters and has equal weight. It's important for me to know that, while you can succeed at UCSF academically, you can also find a balance, enjoy your time here, and contribute something to the UCSF community.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
Using a filler word like "um". It's best to either take a breath or pause while you think of the right response as opposed to filling that word in. Also, presenting yourself appropriately. There have been very qualified candidates who have either dressed too casually or dressed well but not bothered to clear their hair away from their face so that interviewers can make eye contact with them. Lastly, when an applicant has chosen to apply here because of the ranking.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?

Patience, perseverance, flexibility, an ability to grow, being comfortable with the uncomfortable, and being capable of finding balance in your life with activities outside of the program.

What type of student makes the best fit?
Someone willing to learn, who doesn't come in with a completely locked in idea of what they want to do without at least giving all the opportunities that the program has to offer a chance. Regardless of how old you are in the real world, when you enter the pharmacy world, every applicant is a newborn and has the most chances presented to them. If you are completely closed off to all new innovations and career choices, you might regret not trying things out before deciding it's not the best fit for you.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
I found a great list of potential interview questions on several online blogs. It's also important to research the school you are applying to in order to answer that ever important question -- Why here? What do we have that interests you as an applicant? Also, using an online recommendation letter holder (with a small subscription fee) was one of the best things I did.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Again, BE YOURSELF. You are awesome and if you are any version other than yourself, admissions committees will see through it. The worst feeling is pretending to be what you think the program wants you to be and realizing too late that you would have been happier being the true you.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I believe our program is unique in that grades and extracurricular activities are not the sole factors in an excellent applicant. After 3 years here, I can safely say that I learn as much from my colleagues and fellow students as I do from my professors, and it is their life experiences that make our program what it is. I believe that my time spent in doing my MPH in Epidemiology in the Midwest allowed me to work in a completely different setting and population than I had been accustomed to in undergrad and helped me realize my niche. I think the committee saw that I would be able to bring a public health perspective into our program which is something different and unique, much like our program.

What do you do for fun?
I love working out to get some time away from the stress of school and to practice what we preach as healthcare professionals. I am an avid fan of food and love to cook and experiment, while also expressing my foodie love by trying a new restaurant in San Francisco every week. I have also recently been bit by the travel bug and, inspired by my fellow classmate's amazing travels, have started a Wanderlust List of places to visit.

(To read all previous "In Their Own Words" profiles, click the "committee profiles" label link below!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Prerequisite Requirements - Moving Forward

A proposal that was in the pipeline for several years can finally be announced.  With the transition to a new curriculum beginning in 2018, our prerequisite requirements have also changed. (Note: This is effective for applicants applying in 2017, for entry in 2018 -- and beyond.)  We've shared these changes with many prospective students already during recent presentations and events. It's always been "proposed" but now it's official! I think you'll like the changes....

I've always believed that sharing the "why" is as important as the "what" so in addition to outlining the changes, I also want to share background information that helped inform our decision to makes these changes.

Physics: (Eliminated)
Eliminated. Zilch. Zero. Nothing. No. More. Physics.  I know many are happy to hear this. It seems to be the one subject that causes much rumbling. Not surprisingly, even the strongest of science students tend to struggle a bit with physics.

Background: The specific concepts of physics are not anticipated for future curriculum content. When and should these concepts arise, they can be addressed within the curriculum as part of introductory or preparation sessions.

Microbiology: (Added)
We now require microbiology with lab.  This shouldn't cause too much alarm since many schools require this -- and MOST of our applicants and admitted students complete this subject anyway.

Background:  Infectious disease therapeutics has become an educational cornerstone to all practicing pharmacists. Whether in the retail, institutional, industry, or research arena, a mastery of the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases by pharmacists remains paramount. Given the extraordinary role that pharmacists play within the discipline of infectious diseases, students should now enter the PharmD program with prior exposure to basic microbiological principles. The ACPE standards also highly encourage this biomedical science subject be addressed in the pre-professional curriculum as a requirement for admission into a PharmD program.

Math: (Changed)
Previously, we required Calculus I and Calculus II.  We now require only Calculus I but have replaced Calculus II with Statistics.  This should be welcome relief for those who aren't to fond of calculus.

Background:  Pharmacists are amongst the many health professionals and scientists expected to evaluate issues in medical and biological sciences that are addressed by collecting and exploring relevant data. The application of this population-based information to decision making regarding individual patient care requires biostatistics, a content area consistently taught throughout the PharmD program and required by ACPE as an element of the core curriculum. Therefore, a fundamental understanding of basic statistics is required so that successful competency of biostatistics can be achieved by our students.

Our current brochure has been updated to reflect these prerequisite changes but we're aware many previous documents (and Course Prerequisite Agreements) don't reflect the updates.

For more information on all our subject area requirements, please visit our Academic Prerequisites page.

As always, if you have prerequisite questions, contact us via email at admissions@pharmacy.ucsf.edu

Pharmacy Info Days -- Coming At You - Spring 2017!

It's that time of year again -- we go on the road to share important information about our PharmD program! This is particularly helpful for prospective students who are interested in learning more about our program as well as gaining a better understanding of what it takes to submit a competitive application.

Although we'd love to meet you in person, we realize this is not possible for everyone -- particularly those located out-of-state. No worries. We now have an ON-LINE option.  We will be streaming live from the Fresno location on March 4, 2017.

Attendance is free for all four events -- but preregistration IS required.

2017 Dates & Locations & Dates are:
  • Online:  Saturday, March 4
  • Fresno: Saturday, March 4
  • Long Beach: Saturday, April 29
  • San Francisco: Saturday, May 13
Of course, the typical areas will be covered:
  • Career opportunities in pharmacy: pharmacist panel
  • Overview of the doctor of pharmacy curriculum
  • Why pharmacy? a student pharmacist panel
  • Preparing a competitive application
However, what these events ALSO provide are opportunities to meet with (and ask specific questions of) admissions representatives, current students, pharmacists, and other students who are also applying to pharmacy school. 

For more information and to register to attend, please visit our Pharmacy Information Day website.

We look forward to seeing you!

UCSF UCSF About UCSF Search UCSF UCSF Medical Center