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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Their Own Words: Zachary

(Editor's note: This is another installment in the ongoing series I've titled "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. Zachary brings a very thoughtful perspective to the Admissions Committee. I've found Zachary to be very introspective and a "quiet leader" -- definitely a very valuable trait! If you ever get the chance to meet him, ask him about his immediate post-PharmD plans!)

Name:  Zachary
Hometown: San Diego, California
Previous institutions attended: UCSD, San Diego City College (I attended community college out of high school largely to save money. However, it turned out to be a wonderful experience that allowed me to mature as a person.)
Undergraduate major: Biochemistry

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
On a personal side, I was curious as to how an institution like UCSF School of Pharmacy goes about selecting its students. Interviewing and being interviewed is a part of life, and I found the idea of learning the ropes from UCSF's world class faculty to be an extremely enticing prospect. However, I also had altruistic motives. In addition to making sure the high standards of the UCSF School of Pharmacy were continued, I wanted to ensure that students with a unique spark were not overlooked. While our faculty members are excellent at their jobs, the process of reviewing potential students is bound to become routine. Further, while all faculty members have had the “student experience”, they have not all had the student experience at UCSF. Even the faculty members who did receive their education from UCSF may not be aware of the school's current environment and challenges. I felt that my involvement on the Admissions Committee would bring a fresh eye to the table -- so that students who can thrive within the school's current environment would be selected. 

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
Although I was informed of the fact ahead of time, I was still surprised by how much influence students have. It was a nice reminder of just how receptive the school is to to student input. I was also surprised at how much effort is put in to getting to know each individual person applying. Applicants aren't just numbers on a paper; real effort is made to get to know who they are as people.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
In my opinion the most common mistake applicants make is trying to be perfect. While it is always good to represent yourself in the best way possible, this should not come at the expense of showing who you really are. The more formulaic an application is, the more difficult it becomes to get a feel for the personality of the person writing it.

What stands out to you on an application?
For me, an essay that answers the prompt and tells a story at the same time stands out the most by far. I might sound like a math teacher, but when an answer is given, I want to get a feel for the underlying thought processes and experiences that went into that answer.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
Lack of focus. When given a prompt or question, I want to receive a definitive answer. Responses that don't go anywhere drive me up a wall. While I can appreciate an essay or interview response that gives a bit of background or takes an unexpected turn, I appreciate a definitive beginning and end far more. If both are achieved, then all the better.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
Adaptability is key. It is very rare for someone to be “prepared” to attend the UCSF School of Pharmacy. The ability to quickly adapt to new challenges is the key to success.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Whether it be on the essays or in the interview, be yourself and not who you think we want you to be.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I have an inquisitive eye. It's an intrinsic part of my personality. I tend to habitually break down and rework concepts just for fun. In addition to making me quite analytical, this trait allows me to see both sides of an issue and evaluate the merits of each. This trait, combined with my ability to express myself, allows me to present a unique perspective on the world that is both easy to understand and profoundly different from what many initially see. 

What do you do for fun?
I love working out and trail-running (however, the second one has some seasonal limitations here in the SF Bay Area.) When I get the time, I enjoy exploring the city and finding new places to eat, which is luckily something San Francisco has in abundance.

To read previous "In Their Own Words" postings, visit:

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