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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.

Remember:
  • 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.


 
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