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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy Rumor-Free New Year!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2010. It just seemed like a few days ago it was 2009…. oh, wait… haha!

It was a good winter break. We had a crazy few months of reviewing files in preparation for notification letters going out before the holidays. Hopefully, we’ve had a chance to catch our breath in preparation for the frenzy of the new year. The “down time” has enabled me to catch up on some internet reading that I just don’t have time to do when reading files takes priority. When I do have some free time, I like to pop into a few online forums and I’m always shocked and humored at what I read. I often wonder how I would digest this information if I were a pre-pharmacy student or an applicant. While I can’t respond to every post (and certainly can’t do this on a regular basis), I thought it would be helpful to clarify a few items for the benefit of prospective students and future applicants.

It’s a totally mixed bag of stuff. Things. (How do you like that for categorizing?)

For some items, I’ve rephrased them into a question/statement so that I could provide a direct answer. For other items, I’ve included a quote and responded. I’ve reworded, too, just to make it easier to read.

“It seems like UCSF accepts a disproportionate number of women to the pharmacy program than men. Is this because pharmacy is more of a female type of a job or because fewer men want to do pharmacy or because men aren't wanted? Can someone give me an explanation? I'm bummed out because I'm a guy and UCSF is my dream pharmacy school.”
There’s no preference. We receive more applications from females than men, so naturally more females would be admitted than males. It’s the same for almost every other demographic category. By percentage, our admitted student body reflects the applicant pool we select from.

“The statistics are so because that year they had more applicants that they liked who happened to be women.”
Not true. We had more female applicants that year overall.

“If UCSF is your dream pharmacy school, good luck. You'll need to have some major things to get in. One being a state resident, second having a bachelors degree, etc.”
Not true. The majority of our applicants are from California. The vast majority of our applicants will have a bachelor’s degree prior to starting a PharmD program. It’s not fair to imply we have a preference when we are simply selecting from those who apply.

“Remember that programs in California, like UCSF and USC, require bachelor degrees in order to apply. Except USC is the only one that explicitly states this on their website.”
I can’t speak for USC, but it explicitly states on our website that a bachelor’s degree is not required.

“I went on UCSF's website and looked up the percentage of admitted students without a bachelor’s degree. GEEZ I didn't know it was that low accepting of non-degree people.”
Interesting observation. People make it sound like we receive HUNDREDS of applications from non-degree individuals and only admit one or two. In reality, we receive VERY FEW applications from students without a degree. So naturally, our admitted students will reflect this. Again, we select from those that apply.

“Are onsite essays important?”

“Could some of you post your stats?”
This always fascinates me. Really, it does. I guess people think we narrow an applicant down to a set of stats (GPA, pre-pharm GPA, length of time working in a pharmacy, number of extracurricular activities, etc.) Gosh! I wish it were THAT easy. Then we could just plug the info into a database, print a report, and admit students based on the report! I hope the complexity/length/depth of our supplemental application supports the argument that we look for well-rounded applicants who make the best fit for our program. A stellar set of stats means nothing if an applicant can’t articulate their ideas, display strong communications skills or distinguish themselves as a good fit for UCSF.

“This might be a dumb question, but has anyone gotten into UCSF with a C- in a prerequisite course without retaking it?”

“They HAD to send them (notification letters) out around Christmas.”
I hate the timing of our notification. But we want to let applicants know as soon as possible so we tried to get most of them out before our own winter break.

“From what I remember the last 2 years, if you dodged this round of rejections, you can start booking a roundtrip flight to SF.”
Not true. We sent out invite and denial letters in December. We sent out invite and denial letters in January. There is no meaning to when they were sent out. We simply ran out of time in December.

“Yeah, it appears that the letters are sent out in batches.”
Not true. Well, actually letters do get sent out in batches. But only because we have a small staff and we can only fold letters and stuff envelopes so fast. The mail picks up twice a day. But there is no method to the batches, if that is the implication. (Sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists!)

“I haven't heard anything from UCSF yet, but I have an interview invite from UCSD. I'm wondering if it's a good or a bad sign. Since from reading previous years' threads, it seems like some people get in either at UCSF or UCSD. Still hoping.”
We do not collaborate with UCSD in regards to the admissions/interview selection process. Some applicants may be invited by both to interview; some may not be invited to either; and some may be invited to one and not the other. We may admit someone who didn’t even get interview at UCSD, and vice-versa. We are different schools with different programs.

“I haven't heard from UCSD, but got an invite to UCSF. I read that a few people got invites to both schools last year, but it seems most got rejected by one but an invite from another. Who knows. All speculation.”
Yes, all speculation. We simply don’t compare notes with UCSD during the admissions selection process.

“I saw many dates. Any conflict with UCSD interview dates?”
If there are conflicts, lets work it out! Such a simple solution. =)

“As for people with the interviews, I would start reading the interview feedback section and re-read it a few times. I'd also read the last year and the one before that (threads.) You want to have a general idea of the process, so that there aren't any surprises - remember, fortune favors the prepared mind.”
Eeeks! Be careful. There’s a fine line between being prepared and being rehearsed. Everyone has a different experience and being so overly prepared may mask the authenticity that we look for during the interview. Just saying…

“Actually, they don't release interview dates to anyone but the interviewees (as in, they won't tell you if you call them, nor will they post it on the website). Interview dates get released to current students later, so that we may come out and meet the interviewees. Good luck!”
Not true. (Well, except the fact that we don’t put the interview dates on the web.) We aren’t trying to be sneaky, but why post the dates on the web? Everyone involved in the process (interviewees, interviewers, chat room participants, etc.) are informed of the dates. I think that’s enough, no? If someone were to call, we’d let them know the dates. But interviewees don’t get to choose dates so I’m not sure how that information could help them.

“For those who received interview invites, have you done research? It seems like this is a research based school and will only accept you if you did research or have some highly unique characteristic. I did not do research and was not invited to interview.”
First, your statement is what is considered a fallacy. Second, some applicants do bring research experience to the table. Some do not. Some with a research background make good fits for UCSF. Others do not. Sometimes having research experience can make an applicant more interesting and competitive. Other times it may not even matter. Some people are interested in research. Some people aren’t. Some people LOVE research so it’s natural that they conduct research prior to being pharmacy school applicants. Other applicants LOVE sports so they join intramural sports teams. Both could potentially be admitted to UCSF.

“I'm declining my interview, so good luck to whomever gets it!”
A declined interview spot does not make space for someone else.

“Are you out-of-state resident for UCSF? Do you know if they favor CA residents over out of state residents? You must have good stats since I think it is really difficult for out of states to get interviews/acceptance from UCSF. Anyone out there know how many out of state UCSF accepts each year?”
The number of out-of-state students we accept varies from year-to-year. Every year is a new year with a fresh and unique applicant pool. The majority of our applicants are from California. So it’s natural that the majority of our admitted students are Californians. Also, out-of-state tuition is not cheap. So many pre-pharmacy students opt to study in their home state. (This is not a UCSF thing, though. Look at ANY college – undergraduate or graduate.)

“I talked to someone at the office, and they told me they do not favor in-state students over out-of-state students. When they review the applications, they actually do not see the location of the applicant. The reason for the skew towards CA applicants is because there are that many CA people who want to stay in their sunny CA - or so the office told me.”
Partially true. We get a lot of applicants from California, so we admit a lot of applicants from California. We do see where applicants are from (otherwise it would make it difficult to see a lot of things – like academic background, any school/state references in their essays or reference letters, etc.) but it doesn’t dictate whether and applicant is interviewed or admitted. An outstanding applicant is an outstanding applicant – regardless if they are from California or Tennessee!

“For those who got interview letters (is it via snail mail or email, btw?)”
Always by snail mail. We fear those scenarios where thousands of e-mails go out to the wrong people.

“There are some people who will decline their interview dates so be patient as interview spots will open up! Good luck to you.”
Not true. As I said above, a declined interview doesn’t open a spot for another. Applicants are either invited to interview or not. One’s interview invitation is not dependent on whether another declines or accepts.

“Is there an opportunity for the prospective students to meet other prospective students before/during/after the interview day?”
Yes! We have a full-schedule of activities as part of the interview day – including meeting with other prospective students as well as current students. We get criticized for having a long day (there will be moaners, complainers and whiners) but we think it’s important for prospective students to really get a sense of our students (both future and current) and to thoroughly explore our program. Could someone technically just come and go for the required elements of the interview day? Yes. But that is not the type of student that makes a good fit for UCSF.

I hope that helps clarify and shed light on some of those postings.

I feel like MythBusters!


Anonymous said...

"We do not collaborate with UCSD in regards to the admissions/interview process". "We simply don’t compare notes with UCSD during the admissions process".
Joel, have you actually done YOUR homework? Please go to the pharmCAS page of UCSD: under the Accepted Candidates tab, read, or reread, the Acceptee's response to acceptance offer: Other information. WHAT is stated there?
For someone from a school who prides itself on accepting applicants who have done their homework on the whole application process and more, pretty please, do your homework before posting something.

Joel W. Gonzales said...

Dear Anonymous:

You seem really angry and bitter.

This statement:
"We do not collaborate with UCSD in regards to the admissions/interview process"
And this statement:
"We simply don’t compare notes with UCSD during the admissions process"
Is different than:
"UCSD and UCSF will attempt to coordinate a common date of acceptance."

Joel W. Gonzales said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joel W. Gonzales said...

Just to clarify, I added the word "selection" to the original blog posts. So the statements now read: "We do not collaborate with UCSD in regards to the admissions/interview selection process" and "We simply don’t compare notes with UCSD during the admissions selection process".

Anonymous said...

"But interviewees don’t get to choose dates so I’m not sure how that information could help them."

Joel, consider that UCSF is not the only school that we apply to, and while UCSF may not allow students to choose their interview date, other schools do.

It would be very helpful in coordinating our other interviews if we knew what dates to keep free for UCSF. Otherwise it puts us in a potentially embarrassing situation where we have to call another school and attempt to reschedule an interview which may have been on the books for weeks (or months).

Joel W. Gonzales said...

Excellent point! (Regarding publishing the interview dates.) I love smart logic.

While it doesn't serve a purpose this year (since we've already sent out interview invitations so all invitees are aware of their interview date), we will definitely keep this in mind next year and will likely post the dates on the web (or on the PharmCAS School Page!

Anonymous said...

Hi Joel,

I was wondering if you could touch upon how you think people can best prepare for their interviews - to be prepared, but not OVERprepared so that they sound recited and "unauthentic." I am worried about this.... thanks!

Anonymous said...

What I find fascinating (and thus leads me to believe that UCSF does not even bother looking at our applications beyond the numbers) is that they were able to send out rejection letters before any other school. I got my application in late (start of October), yet some how UCSF was able to mail our rejection letters 2 months later, while our applications are still in review at private schools. I received no notice of which courses were complete or missing, and I'm sure my essays didn't receive much more attention. Very frustrating because we put a lot of time into our applications and deserve to have them thoroughly looked at.

Joel W. Gonzales said...

Dear Anonymous (immediately above):

"I received no notice of which courses were complete or missing."

At this stage of the process, the decision to advance an applicant to the interview doesn't come down to an incomplete or missing course -- unless it's something glaring like you haven't completed ANY of the Organic Chemistry series, for instance. We are much more interested in whether we are an overall good match for you. Technical issues (like missing/incomplete coursework) comes much later in the process.

"I'm sure my essays didn't receive much more attention."

All applicants who meet our minimum qualifications receive a COMPLETE and TOTAL review. I'm not sure how much more I can convince you other than letting you come to our office and watch us reviewing files all day long -- for several months.

In your opinion, what would be an appropriate amount of time before we notify you -- to convince you that we've reviewed your file? Three months? Four months? Six months?

We are very upfront with our Admissions time-line.

We take the review process very seriously. If someone meets the requirements, they get a THOROUGH review.

Anonymous said...

Joel...thanks for your response (last Anonymous here). I just find it really hard to believe that the admissions committee reads every applicant's essays (even if it is just a skimming over). Time-wise it just does not seem feasible. If you say they do, what choice do I have but to trust you.

Joel W. Gonzales said...

Time wise, it's totally possible. For instance, here's a hypothetical scenario:

Lets assume a school receives 1500 applications. If there are 15 reviewers, that would mean 100 files per reviewer. If they had 8 weeks to review files, that would be about 12-13 files per week. If one commits 2 hours per file, that would be about 24 hours per week during the review period. It's totally possible.

I just read this morning that Stanford University received a little over 30,000 applications by it's January 1st deadline. Their notification date is April 1st -- just a mere four months to review 30,000 files! Yikes.

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