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Friday, October 30, 2009

Did you get it?

As the application deadline approaches (and passes), we're bound to get lots of questions like:
"Can you tell me whether or not you've received my Supplemental Application?"

"Am I missing anything?"

"I'm worried that my application didn't make it to your office. Can you confirm if it arrived?"

"Did you get it? DID you get it? DID YOU get it? DID YOU GET it? DID YOU GET IT? DID YOU GET IT?"
(I picture someone sitting next to a phone, completely stressed out, because they've submitted their application yesterday and still haven't been notified whether it's been received or not. Oh, my scenario takes place on a Sunday -- with the application being submitted on Saturday morning.)

So I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain the notification process a bit.

Let me see... where do I start...hmm....

There are two parts to our application:
  1. PharmCAS Application
  2. Supplemental Application
We have one database. (But it's a big one!) The database content is supplied by PharmCAS. We receive electronic data/applications from PharmCAS.

We do not send notifications out until we've received a PharmCAS application AND a Supplemental Application.

Keep in mind:
  1. Every university admissions process is unique. Because you receive immediate notification from one school does not mean you'll receive immediate notification from another school. It just depends on their process and system.
  2. We do not manually enter data into our database. We wait to receive information electronically from PharmCAS -- this allows us to send electronic mail (email!) to applicants, notifying them that we've received an application (and indicating whether any items are missing.)
  3. If we receive a Supplemental Application BEFORE we receive your PharmCAS application, we do nothing except file that Supplemental Application away. We wait to receive your PharmCAS application and then retrieve your Supplemental Application (from the file) and process your application -- including sending you an email.
  4. If you turned in your Supplemental Application a LONG TIME AGO but just now completed your PharmCAS, we wait to receive your PharmCAS application and then retrieve your Supplemental Application (from the file) and process your application.
  5. Just because you submitted your PharmCAS application yesterday, it does not mean they will deliver it to us today. It takes them several weeks to verify your grades once they have received your transcripts. We receive electronic mailings from PharmCAS on a weekly basis -- so if your application is finally completed and verified by PharmCAS on a Tuesday (for instance), it may have to wait until the following Monday to be sent to us. Nothing in admissions is instantaneous.
  6. The closer it is to the deadline (November 2) -- before AND after -- the longer it takes us to process applications -- because of the shear volume of mail. Your application is not the only application that we are processing. =)
In short:
We send an email notification confirming we have received your Supplemental Application only after we've received your PharmCAS application. (But remember, just because you've submitted your PharmCAS application, it doesn't mean that PharmCAS has submitted it to us.)

(Another reason it's stress-relieving to get your application in early!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Article: Student Leaders Share Insights into Rewards and Challenges of UCSF Education

From UCSF Today (news service)....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Student Leaders Share Insights into Rewards and Challenges of UCSF Education

By Robin Hindery

Joseph Castro, right, vice provost of Student Academic Affairs, talks to UCSF students, from left, Marnie Noel, Daniel Hardy, Julie Hunkapiller, Hugo Torres, and Alyssa Abraham about their personal experiences and challenges as aspiring scientists and health professionals.

Five of UCSF’s most accomplished student leaders gathered at Mission Bay recently to discuss what drew them to the University, the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, and how they are coping with rising tuition and looming debt.

The Oct. 13 event, “Developing the Next Generation of Leaders in the Health Professions,” was hosted by the UCSF Alumni Association and sponsored by the Office of Gift and Endowment Planning. The theme alluded to a key objective of the UCSF Strategic Plan: fostering “the world’s future leaders in health care delivery, research and education.”

The panelists represented each of UCSF’s four professional schools and the Graduate Division, and the discussion was led by Joseph Castro, PhD, vice provost of Student Academic Affairs.
All of the students said UCSF’s reputation as a world-class academic institution played a role in their decision to apply, but many other factors contributed as well.

“UCSF is a really rare combination of an excellent, highly regarded school with a real commitment to serving the underserved,” said third-year medical student Hugo Torres, who hopes to return to his native Los Angeles after graduation to practice primary care and work to improve public health.

Julie Hunkapiller, a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, said she was both “surprised and impressed” by the UCSF faculty’s willingness to mentor students and the amount of one-on-one attention that is available.

Second-year pharmacy student Marnie Noel was introduced to UCSF not as a prospective student, but as the daughter of a patient. Her mother received treatment for Parkinson’s disease at UCSF in 2005 and Noel recalls being “completely blown away” by the care her mother received and the expertise of the team of health professionals, which included clinical pharmacists.

“I had never seen pharmacists in a clinical setting before,” said Noel, who studied psychology in college and only started considering pharmacy as a career a couple of years ago. “UCSF seemed like this impossible dream. I put it on a pedestal.”

Now that the dream has become reality for Noel and the four other student panelists, they have all worked hard to improve both the campus environment and the surrounding community. Many of those efforts have involved students from multiple schools. The panelists said they hoped to see inter-professional collaboration become an increasingly routine part of the UCSF experience.

“We’re all used to our own way of doing things and looking at things, so it’s really interesting and helpful to hear other perspectives,” said Alyssa Abraham, who is pursuing her PhD in the School of Nursing’s Department of Family Health Care Nursing.

Challenging Financial Times

In addition to eye-opening experiences and a top-quality education, UCSF has also served up its share of challenges to the students — most notably in the form of steadily increasing professional student fees and debt.

For the first time in the University’s history, the 2009 graduates of the School of Medicine incurred a higher average educational loan debt than Stanford University’s 2009 School of Medicine graduates, according to the Office of Student Academic Affairs. Loan indebtedness among UCSF graduates has nearly doubled in the schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy between 2001 and 2009.

“I will graduate with a huge, huge amount of debt,” said Torres, whose tuition is being paid for through a combination of scholarship support and loans.

What’s more, Torres noted, his preferred field, primary care, pays significantly less than most other specialties — a reality that has led to a nationwide shortage in primary care physicians.

Not only has the debt crisis in medical education harmed current students and recent graduates, but it threatens to exclude promising future students from entering the health professions, said Daniel Hardy, a third-year dental student who relies on loans, a small scholarship and his wife’s salary to cover his education.

“In order to attract the best to UC, we really need to provide some sort of compensation for them,” he said.

UCSF has received some good news lately on the financial front, Castro said. In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that UCSF would receive $159,000 in federal economic stimulus funds for student financial aid in the 2009-2010 academic year. The scholarships were divided among incoming students in the schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.

In addition, in July the Graduate Division received nearly $300,000 in stimulus funds for an existing fellowship program that provides intensive research and teaching experience to postdoctoral scholars from underrepresented backgrounds.

Photos by Noah Berger

Monday, October 5, 2009

UCSF's Blackburn Receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

It was exciting to wake up this morning and find that UCSF's Elizabeth Blackburn was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Although not directly "pharmacy-admissions-related", I think it speaks to the high caliber of research and people affiliated with UCSF.


For a comprehensive story on Blackburn's award (along with profiles of other UCSF Nobel Laureate winners), visit the following website: http://www.ucsf.edu/nobel/2009/blackburn/

Molecular biologist Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, 60, of the
University of California, San Francisco, today was named
to receive the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Blackburn shares the award with Carol W. Greider of Johns
Hopkins University School of Medicine and Jack W. Szostak
of Harvard Medical School.

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?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's on!

The 2010 UCSF Supplemental Application has launched!

It's on!



Friday, January 30, 2009

Early-early-early-early-Super-early-early bird.

A quick reminder to those interviewing...

As per our interview instructions:
"Because our interview process includes several components (interview, on-site essay, prerequisite review, campus tour, etc.) you should expect to be on the UCSF campus approximately five hours beyond your scheduled time. Please plan your travel accordingly."

What this means:
Check in at your assigned time and expect to remain on campus for approximately 5 hours after that.

What this does not mean:
Check in 5 hours early! =) [Yep, I really can't make this stuff up -- even if I tried.]

Remember: Read your instructions (see previous post), pay attention to details (see previous post), and most of all -- get a good night's rest (see previous post!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Successful Interview Day: Expectation Meets Preparation

With UCSF Admission Interviews around the corner, I know (well, I hope) many of you are preparing for this phase of the process. [Or will you show up having given no thought or dedicated no preparation time to it? Hmmmm..... scary. I think back on past interview days and remember some applicants that were so unprepared for the day, I wonder if they ever were admitted to any pharmacy program. ]

To help you get started, I've created a list of what you can expect (Expectation) along with what YOU can do to prepare (Preparation)!

Here goes....

Expectation: We've assigned you a specific check-in time.
Preparation: You shouldn't plan on checking in earlier than the time indicated on your invitation letter. We have built in some extra time for you to relax a bit before the Welcome Session. Don't be the person who tries to check in two hours early, only to have to sit there for two hours waiting.... Use extra time to visit the campus, walk through the library, get a snack, etc.

Expectation: It will be a long day.
Preparation: Get a good night's sleep. You will have 364 other days of the year to stay up late. Make sure you are well rested.

Expectation: Your interview "day" should last about 7 hours (welcome session, essay, interview, chat room, financial aid session, tour).
Preparation: Make travel arrangements to accommodate the time frame you've been provided. Expect to be on campus for the entire period of time. Rushing in for your interview and rushing out says a lot about your desire to be a part of our community.

Expectation: Some applicants will be completely and totally nervous. Some will be so frazzled, they won't even be able to see straight.
Preparation: Get in your own zone -- so that that nerves and lack-of-preparation by others doesn't negatively impact your experience.

Expectation: San Francisco is a crazy place and the traffic is sometimes messy.
Preparation: Visit the campus the day before your interview and map out a plan to ensure you have plenty of time to get to campus on the day of your interview.

Expectation: This is a professional interview.
Preparation: Dress for success. You won't get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Expectation: Nothing has changed in the instructions you were provided in your interview invitation.
Preparation: Review those instructions again. In fact, print out and bring with you! (Just in case you need to refer to it.)

Expectation: There may be a last-minute change that will impact you.
Preparation: Be flexible -- it's an important characteristic in a pharmacist!

Expectation: We have assigned you a specific check-in time.
Preparation: Plan to check in at the designated time. If you are early, visit the library, or head to the food court and grab some coffee. Checking in earlier doesn't speed-up-your interview.

Expectation: You will be required to show proof-of-identity at check-in.
Preparation: Bring official photo ID with you (driver's license or passport!). Or will you be the person that forgets to bring it this year?

Expectation: The Admissions Staff will be on-site all day.
Preparation: Introduce yourself! We'd like to put a face to a name.

Expectation: You will be required to complete an on-site essay.
Preparation: Bring several writing tools (pens) that you are comfortable with.

Expectation: You might be asked questions about your experiences and background.
Preparation: Spend quality time thinking about potential questions and possible responses. Don't be rehearsed, be prepared.

Expectation: Although it's technically an "interview" -- we'd really like to consider it a "conversation" and an "experience."
Preparation: Be prepared to engage in a conversation and learn from the experience. That means asking questions, too!

Expectation: We will provide a light lunch.
Preparation: If you require a specific food item, it might be best to bring it with you. We will have a variety of snacks in the chat room in addition to a light lunch.

Expectation: You will be in various rooms throughout the day.
Preparation: Bring a small bottle of water to keep you hydrated as you move through the day, although we will have water available.

Expectation: You will have the opportunity to meet with current student pharmacists.
Preparation: Be prepared to ask them questions and get to know them. This is just as much a chance for you to get to know us as it is for us to get to know you!

Expectation: You may want to jot down some notes or important information throughout the day.
Preparation: We will provide you with a folder and some materials. You will be able to take this home with you. You do not need to bring a folder or portfolio with you.

That's all I can think of now. If something else comes to mind, I'll add to the list.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My new favorite saying...

"The best way to become a competitive applicant is to follow directions."

Can also be re-phrased to:

"To become a competitive applicant, you must first follow directions."


"Following directions is your first step to being a competitive applicant."


"Being a competitive applicant requires that you follow directions."


"Competitive applicants will have followed directions."

Key phrases:
  • competitive applicant
  • follow directions
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