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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In Their Own Words: Ryan

(Note: It's been awhile since I've posted an Admissions Committee Student Profile... but we have a new crew on-board and I hope to introduce them through the spring and summer. First up is Ryan. I remember Ryan as an applicant and he certainly has lived up to the person we saw on paper and met during the interview -- authentic and genuine. If you've been to any of our Preview Sessions, you've likely met him. He's quick to volunteer for our outreach events -- which speaks to his passion for helping students prepare to enter a PharmD program. Ryan approaches his work on the Admissions Committee with dedication, attention to detail, and thoughtfulness. It's amazing when a current student cares so much about those just starting out on this journey.)

Name: Ryan
Year: Class of 2014 
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Previous institution attended: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Undergraduate major: Biochemistry

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
I saw the admissions committee as a unique opportunity to collaborate with some of the faculty in a process that gives back to the school. I felt confident in my ability to review an applicant's materials and determine whether or not they were the right fit for our program here at UCSF. Understanding that it would be a significant time commitment, I knew I would enjoy participating in an activity that I am passionate about. I am interested in a career in academia and I thought that participating in this process would allow me to be more familiar with how the school operates an admission process. 

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
I was surprised at how holistic the approach is. I think the admissions team does an outstanding job of evaluating each individual's entire application from start to finish. There really isn't any priority given to any one part of the application which makes it such that applicants have the opportunity to stand out in a variety of different ways. I think this is a pivotal part of the process as applicants to UCSF come from different backgrounds with unique experiences. 

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
Lack of prioritizing their extracurricular activities.While we do like to see a breadth of different experiences, the quality of those experiences are far more important to me than the quantity. It makes it very difficult to know what you put your heart into if you have an extensive list of extracurricular activities. I often found that the stronger applicants had a few extracurricular activities, demonstrated sustained commitment to those activities, and often had letters of reference from those activities to vouch for their contributions.

What stands out to you on an application?
For me, I think quality PharmCAS and UCSF Supplemental essays really made some applicants stand out. For starters, it is very easy to determine whether or not an essay was edited simply from reading it over onetime. While a minor grammatical mistake certainly is not a deal-breaker, essays which are well written and lack any mistakes really stand out. I think there is a lot of variety in applicant writing styles as well as the quality of writing, but to have multiple grammatical and/or spelling mistakes, to me, indicates a lack of effort. A big piece of advice is to print each and every one of your essays you will submit, and give them to someone else to read. It is very difficult to catch all of your own mistakes, particularly if you are editing on a computer screen. 

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
When an applicant does not actually answer the prompt for the supplemental application. I would have thought this was obvious, but I had a variety of applications where the individual simply did not answer the prompt. This can be very frustrating, particularly if the essay is well-written. While the prompts do provide some flexibility in your possible responses, please make sure to take one last look at your essay and ask yourself "Did I answer the question they asked me?" 

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
I think the most important characteristic you can have is to be driven. Don't lose sight of the fact that getting into school is really the easy part. Once you become a student, it really is important that you are motivated to learn the material. Becoming a great pharmacist requires a lot of self-learning. Your professors will have high expectations of you and the best students are the ones who use that as a challenge to become great.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
One thing I wish I had done to better prepare myself was talking to pharmacy students. Applicants often have previous interactions with pharmacists about what the career entails, but you can actually learn a lot from current students who are well versed in what it takes to get into/succeed in a PharmD program. I suggest attending one of the Pharmacy Information Days and getting in touch with a current PharmD student.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Do something to make yourself stand out.  At UCSF, we are looking for individuals who have the capacity to be leaders in the future. The best way to determine this is to look at what an individual did when they weren't in the classroom. If it is early on in the process and you don't have anything on your application that makes you unique, I encourage you to get involved in a program that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership. It doesn't necessarily have to be pharmacy-related, but you should have something on your application that makes us pull it out of the pile and say "This is someone I want to be a part of our school."

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I am confident that I was admitted to UCSF because of my extracurricular involvement. Starting in the spring of my sophomore year, I obtained a job as a pharmacy technician at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. This gave me exposure to an important aspect of the field of pharmacy which enhanced my ability to talk about the field during my prepared materials, my on-site essay, as well as in my interview. In addition to that experience, I also worked as a research assistant in a pharmacology laboratory. While I wasn't a stellar researcher, it gave me exposure to a field which is tied to pharmacy. Lastly, I volunteered at a hospice facility. This was a very unique experience that exposed me to a field of healthcare that is often overlooked. I think the admissions committee was attracted to the depth of my experiences which were all related to health care but certainly different from one another. 

What do you do for fun?
I am the definition of a "sports nut" as I really enjoy both watching and playing basketball, baseball, hockey, and football. We have an intramural basketball team, named the Badgers, that has won the student championship 3 out of 8 quarters we have been here.  Additionally, I am also quite the cinephile. I am currently working on a list of the "Top 100 Must-See Movies of All Time" to be released in the spring of 2014. Since moving to San Francisco, I have picked up additional hobbies such as running, biking, and brewing beer. One thing that is challenging about living in San Francisco is that there really is so much to do and it is difficult to take advantage of (being a student.) 

(To read all previous "In Their Own Words" profiles, click the "committee profiles" label link below!)

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