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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In Their Own Words: Chad

(Note: Chad just finished his first year on the Admissions Committee so I was really curious as to how he would reflect on his experiences. True to form, he was just simply honest. With Chad, there just isn't any pretense -- from his own pharmacy school application to his approach reviewing applicant files -- his authenticity and thoughtfulness are totally apparent. Last year when we were interviewing students to be members of the Admissions Committee, one of the student selectors said of Chad "Oh, he can work with ANYBODY!" The others agreed without hesitation. It's that characteristic that makes Chad a pleasant and invaluable addition to our PharmD program and to our committee.)

Name: Chad
Year: Class of 2014
Hometown: Davis, CA (now San Leandro, CA)
Previous institutions attended: Stanford University, CSU East Bay (post-bac)
Undergraduate Majors: Communication and Sociology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
A big part of the reason why I applied was to see how the whole system works. I remember when I applied to pharmacy school I was so fascinated by the admissions process, and I wondered how the Committee made such tough decisions. But more than that, I felt like I had a lot to offer in terms of my background as a non-traditional (read: older) student and as a career-changer. One of UCSF’s strengths is its ability to attract diverse and dynamic students, and serving on the Admissions Committee gave me the opportunity to play a role in the process of selecting those students.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
How vehemently the members of the Admissions Committee argue for the files they’ve reviewed. During our committee meetings, we talk about the applicants in a group panel format. If one member of the committee feels very strongly about a particular student, she or he will make those views very clear. A discussion ensues, and it can be very, uh, lively!

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
Failing to see an easy solution to a potential shortcoming. For example, not retaking a class in which you got a D or an F and thereby showing us that you have mastered the material. Don’t give us reasons to doubt your commitment and drive; instead, give us reasons to want to admit you without reservation!

What stands out to you on an application?
Passion! It is easy to spot it in an application when it’s there, and it is equally obvious when it’s not. If you have the drive and determination to become a pharmacist, let it show in your essays and in the care you put towards assembling your application. Too often applicants will tell us what they think we want to hear, and in doing so will fail to let their own individuality and passion shine through. If you are truly passionate about this path you have chosen, tell us your story and really OWN it!

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
Using flippant or jocular language to the point of being unprofessional. When you are interviewing for pharmacy school (or any professional program, for that matter), you need to drop those “Yeah, like, totally, and stuff…” phrases from your vocabulary. Nerves are understandable, and we all have those idiosyncrasies that come out when we are nervous. But remember that you are being evaluated on communication skills, and it is important to show us that you understand how to communicate professionally. The same goes for written materials. By all means, use humor to make your essays quirky and unique, but don’t cross that line between funny/quirky and inappropriate/unprofessional. Have someone, who can remain objective, review your application before you submit it (i.e., NOT a family member or significant other).

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
Commitment, focus, and time management skills – in no particular order! All of those characteristics are essential to succeed. This is a very demanding program, and if you drop your focus or are not completely invested in the final outcome, you will struggle. You also need to be able to choose your activities and extracurricular commitments wisely. Over-committing causes a LOT of stress and can negatively impact your academic performance. It’s important to know when to say no!

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
Make FULL use of all the resources that UCSF provides, from Preview Sessions to campus tours to the Supplemental Application presentations. Also, talk to as many UCSF alums or current students as you can to get a sense of the curriculum and the school as a whole. You need to know if UCSF is a good fit for you (and vice versa). On a side note, take everything you read on public forums with a grain of salt. You’ll hear a lot of conspiracy theories etc., so keep an open, yet objective, mind.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Get to know everything you can about the school(s) on your list. You will be spending a huge chunk of the next 3-4 years at your school of choice, so be sure it’s the right one for you. Don’t rely on rankings, reputation, NAPLEX pass rate, etc.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I was a fairly unusual applicant, since I decided to change careers in my late 30s (my previous career was in journalism/media). I think my winding road to pharmacy and previous work experience gave me the insight to compose a unique and thoughtful application. I also had a solid academic background (but I was nowhere near a 4.0 GPA). In addition, I wrote my essays from the heart. A big part of the reason why I decided to change careers was my own experience as a patient, so that background made it very easy for me to tell my story and connect it to the broader goal of becoming a pharmacist.

What do you do for fun?
I like to read, travel with my husband John, see movies, and just relax. When I finish pharmacy school, I’m hoping to get my pilot’s license (which I started several years ago but had to put on hold as I went back to school).

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