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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Their Own Words: Caroline

(Editor's note:  I thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to members of our Admissions Committee via mini-profiles and Q&A sections. This is the first of a multi-part series I'm titling "In Their Own Words". I'll start by highlighting student committee members and then perhaps introduce you to faculty members as time and space allows. In addition to getting to know a little about them, this will also give you insight into the admissions process. Hopefully, this will also allow you to put real faces/names behind what is often characterized as a mysterious and secret process. Students play a huge role in our annual admissions cycle, serving as full-fledged members of our committee. Students serve a two-year term during their 3rd and 4th years of the program. Many of the same qualities that got them into pharmacy school -- leadership, commitment, maturity, etc. -- are what landed them a spot on the admissions committee. First up is Caroline. In admissions-talk, I would refer to her as the "total package." She possessed all the characteristics we look for in a successful applicant and was/is an ideal fit for UCSF. Caroline is a perfect representative of our community to help select future classes.)

Name: Caroline
Year: Class of 2012
Hometown: Pinole, CA
Previous institutions attended: UC San Diego (Bachelor’s degree); Mesa College (additional pre-requisite courses)
Undergraduate Major: molecular biology

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 committee so that I could have a chance to help choose the next generation of student pharmacists.  I hope to be a professor at UCSF someday, so I jumped at the chance to work with faculty and other students in this process.  I wanted to ensure that we are choosing top applicants who are a great fit for UCSF, not just because they got good grades in undergrad or want to attend because we’re ranked #1.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?  How much time and effort goes into picking those 122 students!  It takes months of work, and many hours by faculty and students, not to mention Joel and Sammie in the Office of Student & Curricular Affairs (OSACA). We are really looking at the whole picture of the student.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?  Saying what they think we want to hear in an interview.  Be yourself!  We want to know who YOU are, not who you are trying to be in an interview.  If you have an opinion that opposes what we are saying, we’re interested to hear your reasoning.  No one’s ever right 100% of the time, not even your interviewers!

What stands out to you on an application?  I love it when people have taken different classes in undergrad, besides the pharmacy pre-requisites.  I was a Molecular Biology major, which was probably the same as 99 other people in my class.  But I’ve met Graphic Design majors who are now in pharmacy school, and are doing really well academically!  There’s no need to follow the path that you think is “right.”  I think it’s great when students have interesting and diverse backgrounds.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)  Students who have great grades in English but then have typos or grammatical errors in their essays.  Or students who write really great essays in their application materials but bomb the on-site essay.  It’s really hard to know whether the student can communicate effectively in writing if there are so many inconsistencies.  And communication is key for pharmacists!

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program? Passion and drive.  This program is tough!  Some days you just want to crawl into bed and ignore all the leadership responsibilities you’ve taken on and studying that you have to do, because it’s overwhelming.  At the end of the day, if you’re not passionate about being a good pharmacist, it makes it really tough to get through this program. 

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?  Practice interviewing with people you trust, and people who will give you honest feedback.  I practiced with one of my former bosses, and she gave me some really good feedback about my performance.  I think practicing in front of a mirror, or even just saying your answer to a question out loud, helps as well.  But don’t over-rehearse!  We don’t want to hear just memorized answers, we want to see you think on your feet as well. 

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?  Be yourself, and make sure you are passionate about pharmacy before you apply here.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?  I feel like I was a very well rounded candidate.  I had worked as a pharmacy technician and I loved it, so I think that passion showed in my application essays.  I also had pretty decent grades (though nowhere near a 4.0!) and had worked in industry before being a pharmacy tech, so I had some research experience as well.  I had done my research on the pathways here, and was able to discuss my interest in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Pathway with my interviewers.

What do you do for fun?  I love exploring San Francisco.  Although I grew up in the East Bay, I had never spent much time in SF except for Union Square for holiday shopping excursions.  I really enjoy trying new restaurants, bars, and coffee shops with friends, or even just walking around a new neighborhood.  I once spent a whole afternoon walking around the Inner Richmond, and browsing through used books at Green Apple Books.  I also love walking through Golden Gate Park and going up in the DeYoung Museum tower for a great view of SF.  There is so much to do in this city!

Meet more students in our PharmD program by visiting our Student Profiles page! 

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