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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.
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