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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Fall 2022 Pharmacy School Virtual Fair - Sign up today (free!)


UCSF School of Pharmacy representatives will be available to answer ALL your questions.

Event:
 Pharmacy School Virtual Fair
Date: Thursday, September 22, 2022
Time: 7:00am - 4:00pm (PST)
Sign-up today (registration is free!)



In Their Own Words: Julia

(Note: Julia is so sharp. When she applied to be a member of the Admissions Committee, I was excited. I didn't know her well, but other colleagues had worked with her and had nothing but great things to say.  During her interview to be on the committee, she stated "as a team member, I always like to come prepared so I can contribute" -- and that's exactly what she did as a committee member. She was ALWAYS thoroughly prepared and ready to contribute to the conversation. The advice she offers below is spot-on. I couldn't have said it better myself!)

Name: Julia
Hometown: Oak Park, CA
Previous Institution: UC Davis
Undergraduate Major: Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
I applied to be a member of the Admissions Committee because of my passion and pride for the career of pharmacy and for UCSF. As a student, I feel that this is one of the most important ways that I can contribute to the future growth and success of our field. While being on the Admissions Committee, I enjoyed reading applications from such a wide variety of individuals with unique backgrounds.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
I was most surprised by the number of people who read a single application. For example, there are at least ten individuals involved in the initial screening, reading of the entire packet, interview portion, and final decisions on that application. It is incredible to see how holistic and multifaceted the UCSF admissions process is!

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
The most common mistakes that applicants make is not painting a clear picture of “why pharmacy”. Without this information, it becomes more challenging to fully understand the applicant and their goals. We want to know why this field is your passion, and how your story has led you here!

What stands out to you on an application?
A unique personal statement always stands out to me on an application. With so many applications received, an interesting and well written personal statement is such a joy to read! This also helps us to better remember you and your story. Remember: a personal statement should never be a repeat of your resume.

What impresses you about an application/applicant?
I am always impressed when an applicant has direct pharmacy experience. This can come in many different forms, including pharmacy technician, pharmacy clerk, pharmacist shadowing, hospital volunteer, and more. This shows me that you have explored the career and have a good understanding of the importance of our role in healthcare.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
My pet peeve when reviewing an applicant file is reading letters of recommendation that are clearly disingenuous. When a letter writer does not actually know you or your personal characteristics, the letter often comes off as being “cookie cutter.” Unfortunately, it is surprisingly obvious when this is the case. Please, pick your letter writers wisely as this is a key time to shine in your application file!

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
  1. Internal motivation: Pharmacy school is a big commitment of your time and energy. Especially in our lightening-speed curriculum, you have to take charge of your own learning. The students who are committed, motivated, and prepared often are the most successful!
  2. Life-long learner: By pursuing a career in healthcare, you are signing up to be a life-long learner. Medicine is constantly evolving, and the needs of our patients are always changing. To be successful in the PharmD program and in your career, a drive to continue learning far beyond the classroom is a must.
  3. Accepting of feedback: Being open to feedback is one thing but having a willingness to incorporate it is another. In UCSF’s PharmD program, we are surrounded by peers, professors, and preceptors who want to see us become the best version of ourselves. Part of this growing process is utilizing the great feedback received from others!

What type of student makes the best fit?
Students who make the best fit at UCSF are those who are leaders. UCSF is building individuals who will be the game-changers of our field! As we learn alongside trailblazers in healthcare, students who are prepared and excited to promote positive change fit seamlessly into our institution.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
As a prospective applicant, reaching out to current pharmacy students can offer great insight into what your life may be like as a future pharmacy student. In addition, shadowing or talking with pharmacists can help you to explore the field and all that it has to offer. When it comes to your application, undergraduate support offices such as pre-health advising or a writing center can help you stay on track, complete all requirements, and work your personal statement into its final, perfect form.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
My biggest piece of advice to prospective applicants is to think deeply about why you have chosen this career path and be able to articulate that honestly though your application. If you know your “why” and always keep that at the forefront of your efforts, you will succeed!

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
This is a great question and I’m not sure that I’ll ever know the answer! Perhaps, my strong academic background from UC Davis got me off on the right foot, and then my experiences in leadership and teamwork demonstrated my ability to work well alongside other UCSF students and faculty. I had some pharmacy experience and was, I think, able to clearly express why pharmacy is the career best fit for me and the big aspirations I have within the field!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

UCSF 2022-23 Pharmacy Post-Bac Program Application Now Open!

Considering a post-bac program? The application portal to UCSF's 2022-23 Pharmacy Post-Bac Program is now open! (Deadline: May 15, 2022)

Our unique 10-month pharmacy-focused program provides:

  • Two semesters of coursework in advanced science
  • Course lists tailored to enhance each student's academic profile
  • Opportunities for professional and personal development in a supportive environment
  • Preparation for professional school and the application process
  • Inter-professional engagement with medical and dental post-bac students
  • Small cohorts with individualized attention

For more information, visit our website!



In Their Own Words: Sam

(Note: I went back and looked at my notes from Sam's interview -- when he applied to be on the Admissions Committee. I wrote "Confident, engaging, and motivated!" These are probably the same characteristics his interviewers saw when he applied to our PharmD program.  These characteristics were certainly evident during his service on the Admissions Committee. As he mentions below, Sam took several gap years before applying. I feel like this period of time allowed him to see candidates in a different light -- particularly those candidates that didn't follow a traditional path to pharmacy school.)




Name:
Sam
Hometown: Westminster, California
Previous institutions attended: UC San Diego
Undergraduate Major: General Biology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
I applied to be on the admissions committee because I felt, as a “non-traditional” student, I would be able to provide a different perspective for future candidates. Also, I wanted to give back to UCSF because they chose me -- even though I didn’t have pharmacy experience, so I always felt that they looked at candidates holistically which I’m glad turned out to be true.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
I was surprised by how many people were involved in the admissions process. There’s staff, faculty of different fields of pharmacy (not just pharmacists) as well as students! It was great to see the collaboration and respect we all share when discussing candidates.

What stands out to you on an application?
Passion. It’s clear when reading the personal essays and during their interview how much a candidate did their due diligence to answer the big “why pharmacy” question. Pharmacy school is a big commitment, so when push comes to shove, I want to make sure they have that answer to rely on.

What impresses you about an application/applicant?
Gap years! As someone who took 4 gap years myself, I love learning how other candidates found their passion for pharmacy. However, on the flip side, I’m always impressed by students who apply during undergrad because I could never have done that.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?
My biggest pet peeves during an interview would be no eye contact or when they ask questions that can be found on a website. I always like to think of an interview as a two-way mirror or even better a casual conversation. We’re trying to get to know you, but at the same time, you should be getting to know us. Remember that you will be staying at least 3 years here so use this opportunity to ask those necessary questions.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
UCSF’s PharmD program brings out the best in us.  To succeed, you must get out of your comfort zone. There are going to be a lot of new experiences that you have never participated in. At times, it’s going to be difficult and uncomfortable but that’s where the biggest growth occurs. Stay curious, driven, and rely on your cohort that’s also going through it with you.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
The biggest resource is the people around you. Family, friends, mentors (including pharmacists!), counselors, literally anybody. Have them look at your personal statements or supplemental essays and give feedback. There is so much we can learn from others that we wouldn’t have ever thought about ourselves. Use their perspectives to help focus your own.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Take your time and don’t apply until you feel 100% ready. It’s understandable wanting to rush and complete everything as fast as possible but burnout is real. Take all the time you need to be the best applicant you can be.

What do you do for fun?
I love exploring! Whether it’s traveling to new countries, cities, or even new food places, I’m always looking for the next adventure. It’s also perfect because the Bay Area has so many options and new things popping up, there’s an endless number of things to do!  

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

3 or 4 Letters: The Dilemma

I'm often asked whether having four recommendation letters makes an applicant better than a applicant with only three letters.


First, stop comparing yourself to others.
Second, stop comparing yourself to others.
Third, stop comparing yourself to others.

Let's unpack this often-asked question....

The facts:
  • We require at least three recommendation letters be RECEIVED (by PharmCAS) by the application deadline.
  • We do not accept letters outside of the PharmCAS application. All letters must be submitted through PharmCAS. PharmCAS includes helpful information on their website.
  • PharmCAS allows up to four recommendation letters as part of an individual's application.
  • If four letters are included in your application by the deadline, we will include all four letters in your file.
  • We leave it up to the applicant to decide their three (or four) recommenders. This is a decision you must make.
  • We won't accept a recommendation letter from a "Friend" or "Family Member". 
  • Ultimately, it's the applicant's responsibility to make sure at least three letters are on file by the application deadline.  A complete application, including at least three letters of recommendation, is the responsibility of the applicant. Don't jeopardize your application by assuming your references will submit letters on your behalf. You must follow-up. You must constantly check your application status in PharmCAS. 
  • It would be helpful (but not required) to receive a letter from someone who could speak to your academic abilities. (After all, you are applying to an academic program.)
  • Recommendation letters are also called references. PharmCAS uses the term "Evaluators". It's all the same. I use these terms interchangeably. 

My thoughts:
  • Recommendation letters are one piece of a very large puzzle. It's a very important piece, don't get me wrong (as I discussed in a previous blog post), but it's not the deciding factor in being successful in an admissions process.
  • We don't have a system that awards points (or extra credit!) for an applicant that has four letters, instead of three.
  • If an applicant has four letters, is that automatically better than an applicant who has three? Absolutely not. Again, absolutely not. For those in the back row: ABSOLUTELY NOT!
  • The content of the letters is most important to us. What are the references saying about the applicant? How well do they know them? Are the letters consistent? Do the letters add value to the application? Do the references validate what the applicant has said about themselves?
  • I often encourage applicants to include four references with their application. Not because it gives an applicant an advantage, but because I believe in taking advantage of an opportunity. The opportunity here is the ability to submit four references. Why only take three cookies if someone is offering four? (Yes, I love cookies.)
  • Some schools require very specific references -- such as a letter from a pharmacist. Maybe you don't know a pharmacist well, but you must submit a pharmacist reference to satisfy another school's requirement. Knowing the pharmacist's letter won't add much value to your application for all schools you are applying to, it could be beneficial to get a fourth letter to help compensate for the pharmacist's letter. (Note: UCSF does not require a letter from a pharmacist.)
  • Obsessing over four letters, when you only have three, is a waste of your time. Move on. Let it go (let it goo, let it goo, let it goooo.

Closing argument:
I often use a courtroom example when explaining recommendation letters. Imagine you are a lawyer and arguing a case in a courtroom. You have the chance to call three (or four) witnesses to the stand to help support your case. Three very strong witnesses may be all you need. They provide detailed information. They are consistent in their testimony. They know the details of what happened. They add value to the case. They are credible witnesses.  On the flipside, maybe one witness (or two, or three) are "weak". They aren't very convincing. Their memory is hazy. They aren't convincing. They don't add much value to the case. They don't know you very well. In this case, calling a fourth witness to the stand could certainly help your case. 

Case dismissed!



Monday, October 4, 2021

Finishing Up Those Prereqs!

"Can students still apply to your school while having some prerequisites in progress? I still need to take some courses to meet the course requirements to apply for your school."

"I saw the deadline for UCSF pharmacy application is in November, but if I still plan to take some of the pre requisites (during fall quarter and/or winter quarter) would I still be able to apply?"

"I looked at the required academic pre-requisites. I realized that I don't have some of requirements satisfied when I submit the application.  Will missing these two requirements greatly effect my eligibility for being accepted?"


We get these types of questions a LOT. So I figured it was perfect for a blog entry.

So, first, it's totally typical that applicants apply to our program with prerequisite requirements either in-progress or planned. In many cases -- both! They are currently enrolled in courses, and have future plans to enroll in courses after they submit their application. In fact, it's quite rare to receive an application and all prerequisite courses have been completed.

Let me explain....

On your PharmCAS application, you'll list classes in three different ways:

  1. ALL college-level courses in your past. (So everything you have a grade in and appears on a college transcript.)

  2. ALL college courses you are currently enrolled in when you submit your application by the deadline of November 1. (So this will likely be fall term classes)

  3. ALL future/planned college courses you expect to take after you submit your application, but before you start our PharmD program the following summer. (So this is likely winter and/or spring courses.) These courses/plans can certainly change, but you'll still want to at least list courses that you think you'll be taking --  so we can see that you have a realistic plan. Listing a tentative course lets us know you have a plan to complete the requirement before starting our program. Otherwise if you leave it completely blank, we could assume that you haven’t completed the requirement with no future plans to complete it. Does that make sense? In other words, give us something to work with. 😊  If admitted, we'll provide you with instructions on how to update us on any changes you listed on your application.
Easy-breezy, right?

We do indicate this, in very general terms on our prerequisite webpage



In a nutshell:
  • Do prerequisite requirements have to be completed before I submit the application? No.

  • Can I take prerequisite classes after I submit the application? Yes.

  • Must I finish prerequisite requirements before I start UCSF's PharmD program? Yes.

  • I got admitted! Can I roll into UCSF's PharmD program and still be working on that last prereq class when the PharmD program starts... I promise I'll finish it while also juggling the PharmD curriculum... it's only a public speaking class... huh?  Nope. No. No. No.  

In Their Own Words: Winter

(Note: I remember reading Winter's opening line from one of her admissions essays: "At birth, uniqueness was thrust upon me. With a name like "Winter" in the arid desert of Arizona, how could I not stand out?"  I've always loved and appreciated bold opening statements. It just sets the reader up for a strong essay by a confident applicant. Winter joined the Admissions Committee during the pandemic -- so much of her work has been conducted remotely. Winter's confidence, and friendliness, was key in helping convey the UCSF culture through remote interviews. As an out-of-state student, Winter brings a unique -- and much welcomed -- perspective to our admissions process.)

Name: Winter
Hometown: Queen Creek, Arizona
Previous institutions attended: Arizona State University
Undergraduate Major: Biochemistry and Psychology


Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
Being a member of the Admissions Committee was an interest of mine ever since I went through the admissions process. One of my career interests is academia and a huge portion of higher education is admitting new students. I was interested in the entire process of admissions and even volunteered to give tours and host Interview Day Student Chat Rooms during my first year. Since becoming a member of the Admissions Committee, I have enjoyed working with other members of the committee and interviewing prospective students. This experience has given me a new perspective on the variety of students pursuing pharmacy as a career.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
The amount of time, and care, members of the Admissions Committee give to each applicant surprised me (in a good way!) UCSF truly values each applicant, and reviews them holistically and completely.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
I think applicants can try to be someone that they’re not. Applicants may have met different UCSF students at various pre-pharmacy events and perceive a specific student as the "UCSF model". There is no perfect pharmacy student and there is no perfect UCSF pharmacy student.

What stands out to you on an application?
To me, strong personal essays stand out on an application. When I can feel the emotion in these essays, an application builds in dimensionality. I no longer feel like I’m reading an application, but meeting a person.

What impresses you about an application/applicant?
I am impressed when I see growth on an application. Applicants that are willing to own up to mistakes they may have made during their undergraduate career, or in their personal lives, and discuss the steps they have taken to grow from this experience shows maturity.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
It drives me crazy when I feel like applicants haven’t fully prepared their application before submission -- or prepped for their interview. I don’t believe that there should be grammar and spelling mistakes in applicant’s personal essays -- there is plenty of time to prepare an application! Applicants should put their best foot forward by having many eyes on their essays before submission so these mistakes are caught. In interviews, applicants should know why they want to be a pharmacist or why they want to attend UCSF, in particular. If applicants are caught off-guard by questions like these, it makes me think they probably aren’t that passionate about being a pharmacist or attending this program.

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

Some characteristics necessary to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program are: curiosity, passion for the field, resiliency, and empathy. UCSF’s PharmD curriculum can be very challenging, at times, but with passion for pharmacy and resiliency, you can succeed in the curriculum.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
For one, I used Joel’s blog (and if you’re reading this, you are too!) to get background on UCSF and the admissions process as I was applying. I also used the UCSF website and other pharmacy students at different institutions who interviewed at various pharmacy schools to get a strong background on the process before I submitted my application and attended interviews. These are all great resources! I would also suggest using your mentors at your undergraduate institution or your current workplace to review your application materials and practice interview questions. If you are in a pre-pharmacy club with an advisor or work with a pharmacist, those individuals have gone through an interview and admissions process before, so they are fantastic resources in making sure you put your best foot forward during the application process.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Be yourself. UCSF is not looking for pharmacy robots that know how to answer questions with generic responses. We want to get to know you!

What do you do for fun?
Since I’m still new to the Bay Area, I am still exploring. I find fantastic new restaurants, coffee shops, and hiking trails every week! I have a dog so my ideal free day is a morning coffee (+ a puppachino for my pup!) and hike. In the evenings, I like to unwind by streaming TV shows or movies -- my favorites are thrillers!
 
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