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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hey, I applied. Now what?

(I posted a similar explanation several years ago, but I thought it would be helpful to re-visit this, update it to reflect current practice, and share with applicants....)

 As the application deadline approaches (and passes), we're bound to get lots of questions like:

"Can you tell me whether or not you've received my Supplemental Application?"

"Am I missing anything?"

"I'm worried that my application didn't make it to your office. Can you confirm if it arrived?"

"Did you get it? DID you get it? DID YOU get it? DID YOU GET it? DID YOU GET IT? DID YOU GET IT?"

(I picture someone sitting next to a phone, completely stressed out, because they've submitted their application yesterday and still haven't been notified whether it's been received or not. Oh, my imagined scenario takes place on a Sunday -- with the application being submitted on Saturday morning.)

So I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain the notification process a bit.

Let me see... where do I start...hmm....

There are two parts to our application:
      1.  PharmCAS Application
      2.  Supplemental Application

We have one database. (But it's a big one!) The database content is supplied by PharmCAS. We receive electronic data/applications via PharmCAS.

We do not send notifications out until we've received a PharmCAS application AND a Supplemental Application AND are ready to process both..

Keep in mind:

  1. Every university admissions process is unique. Because you receive immediate notification from one school does not mean you'll receive immediate notification from another school. It just depends on their process and system.
  2. We do not manually enter data into our database. We wait to receive information electronically from PharmCAS -- this allows us to send electronic mail (email!) to applicants through the database system, notifying them that we've received an application (and indicating whether any items are missing.)
  3. If we receive a Supplemental Application BEFORE we receive your PharmCAS application, we do nothing except file that Supplemental Application away. We wait to receive your PharmCAS application and then retrieve your Supplemental Application  and process your application -- including sending you an email.
  4. If you turned in your Supplemental Application a LONG TIME AGO but just now completed your PharmCAS, we wait to receive your PharmCAS application, then retrieve your Supplemental Application  and process your application.
  5. Just because you submitted your PharmCAS application yesterday, it does not mean they will deliver it to us today. It takes them several weeks to verify your grades once they have received your transcripts. Nothing in admissions is instantaneous.
  6. The closer it is to the deadline -- before AND after -- the longer it takes us to process applications -- because of the shear volume of applications. Your application is not the only application that we are processing. =)

In short:
We send an email notification confirming we have received your Supplemental Application only after we've received your PharmCAS application and we are prepared to process both. (But remember, just because you've submitted your PharmCAS application, it doesn't mean that PharmCAS has submitted it to us.)

(Another reason it's stress-relieving to get your application in early!)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don't Be Afraid

With Halloween fast approaching, it makes sense that we've received several very scary questions lately regarding our PharmCAS deadline. I'm in total fear that applicant's aren't reading the PharmCAS manual/instructions, which include so many VERY IMPORTANT DETAILS as it relates to being a pharmacy school applicant. Failure to know and understand policies are what nightmares are made of.

Beware (be aware) of the details. Boo!

If I had a magic sorcerer's wand that I could waive at every ghost and goblin applying to ANY pharmacy school, I would require they read the instruction manual before, during, AND after submitting their application. (Third times a charm, they say.)  The 70-page manual is very-well organized and can really answer any question an applicant may have. No tricks here, folks, just treats. Do not send this document to the graveyard without reviewing it!

There are two items that, if ignored, can be particularly scary (explained below.) Both can be found on page 13 of the manual:

The first addresses the issue of email accounts. It's imperative that you check your spam/junk email folders on a VERY REGULAR BASIS. Many email services will read "pharmacy" and automatically label it as spam. (Hello, on-line pharmacies! Viagra, anyone?) PharmCAS suggests you add several email addresses to your contacts or "safe-sender" list. This is a step you can take to improve the chances that important emails make it to your inbox. Again, always check spam/junk folders. There can be a spooky silence if emails are being directed to an un-checked spam folder. Yikes!

The second issue focuses on the PharmCAS deadline date. This is such an important piece of information, you don't even have to read the manual, as it's featured prominently on the landing page.

But for those obsessed with the superstitious numbers, the information appears again on page 13:

UCSF's application deadline for 2014 is 11:59pm EASTERN time (one minute before the witching hour) on November 3. As long as you submit your application by the deadline, no ghosts will haunt you. It may take several weeks for PharmCAS to verify your coursework and allow us to access your application -- but that has nothing to do with the application deadline. (Note: The UCSF Supplemental Application is also due on November 3, 2014.)

Have a wicked, safe, and Happy Halloween, you little devil!

*evil laughter*

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Magic 28

So we thought we had solved the issue of applicants listing TOO many electives (beyond our minimum requirement) by providing a pop-up "warning" once 28 quarter units were reached. Well, it seems that many applicants have been frightened (BOO!) by that warning. Let me explain...

We ask applicants to list 28-quarter units in elective courses. (I won't get into the details as the form is self-explanatory.) The form is designed to count the units as you enter courses. Once the form notices you've reached 28 units, a pop-up warning appears.

 Here's a closer look at the box from an example (above) where 30 units were listed:

This is perfectly fine. In order for this applicant to include 28 quarter-units, they needed to list 30. Our goal with the warning is just to remind you that you've reached the 28-unit requirement and you can stop now (even if it means having to list slightly more than 28 units.) Chances are, there will be blank spaces. We don't want you to keep listing courses beyond the course that will get you to the 28-unit requirement.

As a reminder, a previous blog post could help you identify what courses to include in this section.

If we could, we would have opted for a friendly kitten to pop-up and warn you in a soothing voice. Instead, our only choice was a grey box with an alarming red-x accompanied by an intimidating "ding" noise. So here's the kitten...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reading instructions: It can make all the difference!

As our Supplemental Application deadline approaches, we are starting to receive many phone calls and emails from applicants who are experiencing "technical problems" with the application prerequisite page.

To date, we've been able to resolve every problem by reminding applicants to read (and follow) the detailed instructions we've provided.  It's not enough to simply download the form and start working on it, without making sure HOW you are downloading it -- in order to get the results we are both looking for (problem-free and readable!)

As an added "warning", we've included two questions to (hopefully) guard against applicant's completing the form in the wrong program/format. But, of course, we are finding some will simply check the boxes without reading. Yikes! 

Pharmacy is a profession where both following instructions and paying attention to details are highly-valued -- particularly as it relates to medicine. We believe that training starts at the point of  application to a PharmD program.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Entering Students Offer Advice to Applicants & Prospective Students: 2014 Edition

As we move into September, I know many applicants are starting to really focus on their UCSF Supplemental Application.  I can certainly provide many nuggets of advice and pointers as you approach this task -- but what better group to ask than those who most recently were in this position.

Last week, I asked members of the Class of 2018 "If you could offer a single piece of advice to an applicant who is applying to UCSF School of Pharmacy, what would it be? What would you say?"  Do you see a common theme in their responses?

Complete and submit everything that's required in advance. Don't wait for last-minute adrenaline rushes to submit material. UCSF expects you to be responsible and attentive.
" -M.

"UCSF has one of the most unique supplemental applications. Use the many essays as a chance to really dig deep and express yourself! Be genuine and show them who you really are.
"  -R.

Make lists! The process of applying can be tedious. There are many aspects to a complete application, each with its own deadline. I found it very helpful to add anything that is required to a checklist, add a due date, and cross things off when complete!
" -H.

Articulate yourself well in the application. If invited for an interview, do not panic. Just be yourself! The more comfortable, confident, and thoughtful you are, the easier your genuine passion for pharmacy will shine through during interview day.
" -P.

Follow your heart, be honest and authentic when you answer the questions. Plus, just think about it as a fun way to explore yourself.
" -P.

Stay true to yourself and your goals when writing the essays! This helps your true passion shine through and allows the admissions committee to see a picture of who you are that you can reinforce during the interview process
".  -S.

Be confident, be prepared, and be yourself.
" -W.

Start the application process early. You never know what life will throw at you, and you don't want your chances to be hindered due to a lack of organization.
" -T.

Take a deep breath, relax and simply remember why you want to become a pharmacist. Compose a list of experiences you've had that define who you are as a person, integrate them into your essays and let your personality shine through your words.
" -R.

Take a deep breath and tell yourself that this is going to be a long race, but one worth running. This is the first step to show UCSF who you are and what you have to offer, so do just that. Don't overcompensate or undervalue yourself!
" -R.

The essays intimidate many applicants, but don't fall for the hype! It's not about writing the essays you think they want to read. Just be 100% honest with yourself, bare your soul without fear, and tell YOUR story. Start early, and revise often.
" -B.

Don't mold yourself into what you think makes a "good" applicant. Be confident in your abilities and you'll find your application will tell your unique story on its own. Stay authentic and take advantage of each essay prompt. Every word counts!
" -R.

This process is about getting accepted to a university, however it is also about finding a university that fits you. For the next 4 years you will have to study, learn and grow there, make sure it is a place you want to call home.
" -K.

Be genuine! Paint a picture of who you are and how your experiences have led you to pursue pharmacy. Also, explain how UCSF is a good fit for you both academically and personally. Most importantly, the supplemental application WILL take time to complete.
" -D.

Preparing for the MMI interviews can be very difficult but not impossible. I found that preparing for a normal one-on-one interview and reflecting on my overall pharmacy experienced helped a lot. Don't forget to just be yourself and be honest!
" -N.

Think about what makes the UCSF different from other pharmacy schools. Is it the diversity? Areas of specialization? Research? If something specific draws you to the school, highlite it in your supplemental application... that's what it's there for!
" -J.

Show what each experience that you've been involved in means to you through vivid stories and examples. You know that you're done with your essays when you feel proud of them and you feel like you've learned something new about yourself through them.
" -L.

Be confident! The supplement application may seem long and intimidating, but just remember everyone else is also in the same boat. Showing clear and thoughtful responses about why you chose this profession (or why it chose you!) is important!
" -H.

Don't let fear or preconceived notions about what the admissions committee wants keep you from writing what you truly think and feel. Others will have similar experiences to yours, but they won't have thought and felt the same way about these experiences.
" -S.

elieve in yourself and don't let the demeanor of others fool you. Everyone is learning through one confused, effort-filled step at a time.
" -D.

I learned what it meant when someone told me to "be yourself" on an application. Rather than trying to write something that I thought the admission panel would like, I focused on telling my story and sharing my passions through my application.
" -J.

Always be honest and genuine throughout your application and interview process. If you pretend to be who you think will impress the committee, odds are they will know. Let your unique qualities shine and be yourself.
" -M.

Really dig deep down inside of yourself and write from your heart.
" -M.

Be confident in yourself and the things that you have done to prepare for pharmacy school. I can't even count how many times I almost talked myself out of applying, because I felt I wasn't the "right" candidate.
" -J.

I would say just be yourself. From your application essays to the MMIs on interview day, the best way to truly shine is by demonstrating your own personal talents and unique personality. In my opinion, there really is no substitute for sincerity.
" -M.

The required and optional essays on the secondary application are not there to merely make the admission process difficult, but to give you the opportunity to elaborate on your unique strengths.  The same is true regarding the interview process.
" -A.

Find a way to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants and don't be afraid to think outside the box. Your application will be much more stimulating if you portray your individuality through unique experiences and interesting perspectives.
" -W.

Be truthful and sincere when filling out the application and answering the essays -- just be yourself! You cannot "game the game" or try to write what you think they want to hear; say what you genuinely believe.
" -R.

Work on essay/supplemental application responses early. Both require in-depth responses and take time to complete. Take pride in your responses. Don't be afraid to show who you are. Think outside the box. Be creative. Most importantly, be yourself.
"  -L.

My advice is to really know and understand why you want to apply to pharmacy school, particularly UCSF.
" -A.

Be comfortable with your truest self, and let your story come THROUGH you! Reflect on and be happy with the experiences that have shaped the incredible person YOU have become, and your application will bask in the glory of your awesomeness.
" -E.

Don't compromise yourself in telling a story you think others want to hear. It's hard to sell something that isn't real.
" -E.

Don't give up before you even try. By focusing on my flaws throughout the application process, I felt defeated and questioned whether it was worth it to continue. Imperfections can give you authenticity, and authenticity is key to your application.
" -J.

For essays, start early and reflect on what you want to convey about yourself. At first it may be difficult to step back and analyze your goals and what makes you unique, but if you allow yourself time you can learn a lot from this process!
" -D.

Pay special attention to the supplemental application.  1.) great writing, like great thinking, takes TIME- give yourself enough time to develop your ideas. 2.) They ask because they want to know- use the essay responses to take a risk and share yourself- dig deeper.
" -N.

As cheesy as it might sound, be yourself. Let UCSF see who the real YOU is. As someone once told me, "To hide yourself from the world would be a shame. Everyone has a story to tell." So go ahead, share yours! :)
" -A.

Take time to reflect! Before writing my essays or my interviews, I always took time to really reflect upon my experiences. It enriches what you have to say, making your story come across much more sincere and interesting. This helps you stand out.
" -R.

Your application is more than your GPA and accumulation of pharmacy experience and volunteer hours -- I know this from personal experience. Don't let any of that hold you back. Convey what drives you to be a pharmacist, and do it passionately.
" -B.

ow your passions through your essay or interviews. Be honest and write from the heart! Take time to reflect upon the experiences that pushed you to become a pharmacist! You can do it!
"  -A.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Virtual Pharmacy School Fair: Meet us in space!

This is sooo 2014, right? A Virtual Pharmacy School Fair.

We are excited to have our outreach and admissions team participating in the two-day fair this year! I'm not totally sure how it works (yet) but I've heard great things from other schools and students who found "attending" the event to be quite helpful and worthwhile.

The best part -- you can show up in your pajamas. For free. Meet us there!

Event details are available online.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fall Preview Sessions: Register to attend now!

We've scheduled and posted our fall 2014 Preview Session schedule!

These presentations are designed to introduce prospective students/applicants to UCSF's PharmD program. Although I'm pretty biased, I think this is an excellent event. While we are careful not to provide information that is not readily available on our website, attending a preview session can provide prospective students with a chance to hear from current students (via a panel discussion) as well as take a tour of the Parnassus campus. Preview sessions include:
  • Overview of UCSF's PharmD curriculum
  • Admissions process and timeline
  • Current student panel
  • Parnassus campus tour
While there is no fee to attend, registration is required.

Please visit our website for more information and registration instructions.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Application Presentations Scheduled!

We get it. We get it. UCSF's Supplemental Application can be challenging. But it's only challenging if you aren't willing to put forth three things: time, effort and thought.

We started offering Supplemental Application Presentations many years ago as a way to "walk you through the supplemental application." Do we give away secrets? There are no secrets to give away. Can you be a successful applicant without attending a presentation? Absolutely. Do you help applicants develop their essay responses? No, no, no.  But attending a presentation can sometimes provide the motivation for applicants to get started on the application.  (Don't tell anyone this... but it also gets us in the mind-frame to gear up for the next admissions cycle.)

We are offering seven presentations this year:

It's possible that we will be adding additional presentations (Southern California? Webinars?) If so, we will announce those on our website and here on this blog. 

Visit our webpage for more information about attending a Supplemental Application Presentation.

In the meantime, I trust that you have already started working on that application!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In Their Own Words: Timothy

(Note: I remember meeting Timmy when he was an undergrad student. He was in San Francisco one summer as part of UCSF's Summer Research Training Program and asked to meet with me to discuss the PharmD program. The pre-pharmacy student I met back then is the exact same 4th-year PharmD student I know today. Let me explain. As you can imagine, I meet a lot of pre-pharmacy students. Some end up entering our program. It can be both fascinating and frustrating how some present themselves as applicants versus how they carry themselves as students. Not so with Tim. His inquisitiveness, compassion, passion for social justice, and gratefulness for the opportunities that have been provided to him -- all characteristics I saw when he sat across the table and asked me thoughtful questions as a pre-pharmacy student -- are evident to this day. There are no illusions. There are no pretenses. With Timmy, every person who comes in contact with him gets the benefit of the doubt. Really. It was a no-brainer to have Timothy serve on the Admissions Committee.)

Name: Timothy
Year: Class of 2015
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Previous institutions attended: University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
Undergraduate Major: General Biology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
My motivation to be a member of the Admission Committee comes from being inspired by my classmates. Each person comes with experiences that have shaped him or her into a conscientious individual with a goal to advance care through pharmacy. Being an Admission Committee member allows me to participate in the process of selecting change-agents, while gaining a glimpse of future leaders in healthcare.

Reading applicant stories was exhilarating. It allowed me to learn about the world through the eyes of others. I gained perspectives that I would never have the opportunity to experience because of our unique differences. I am grateful to be a member of the Admissions Committee because it has expanded my horizons surrounding struggles and challenges that others face, and how pharmacy can contribute to improving them.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
The amount of care that each applicant receives! For an applicant that is admitted, there are many individuals from the Admission Committee who review either the application or the interview. Since each spot in the entering class is highly valuable, we look at every detail of an applicant to build a community of the best and the brightest.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
The most common mistakes are grammatical errors and impassionate essays. Part of being trained as a pharmacist is to have an eye for detail. Misspelled words (especially if it’s your own name) hints at carelessness. Essay contents tell us about your ambition to become a leader in pharmacy. After reading many applications, it’s easy to determine which set of essays was given tremendous thought versus those written on a whim.

What stands out to you on an application?
Applications that leave me with a great impression are those that catch me off guard. They are bold in their academic preparation and involvement in organizations, creating experiences that allow them to expand their minds beyond the sciences. They take risks with their essays and bring them to life. Every word is meticulously chosen to convey their thoughts. At the end of reviewing their application, I feel as though I know them AND gained a unique perspective of the world.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
My pet peeve during an interview is when an applicant replies with answers they think I want to hear. It’s incredibly easy to detect insincerity. Just be yourself and speak with your own voice! We just want to get to know you.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
A zest for knowledge is important! The PharmD program is rigorous and the addition of extracurricular activities can be trying for many students. Amidst the challenging classes, especially non-clinical ones, it’s important to realize that building a strong foundation is important to understanding the complexities of medications. Having a love for what’s taught will make your pharmacy journey exciting and memorable.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
Joel’s blog!! It was a great source of inspiration, information, and, at times, comic relief! I would also speak with pharmacy students at programs you’re interested in. We always enjoy speaking with prospective students. Students are really honest about the program, so you can get good insight on whether you think a program is a good fit for you.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Getting admitted into UCSF doesn’t mean you’ll only interact with UCSF affiliates. We are inherently part of San Francisco, and there are amazing individuals out there. The city attracts the best and the brightest in every field, so imagine all the wonderful people you’ll meet! So include researching the city on your to-do list

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
Of all questions, I think this one is on par with the human condition question. Perhaps it’s because I took risks on my application and wrote bold statements. Or maybe it’s because I made sure my essays reflected the real me: my past, personality, and ambitions. Only Joel knows

What do you do for fun?
I really like noodles, especially ramen. I’ve been trying to find some of the best Bay Area ramen restaurants! I also enjoy going to the gym. It’s my sanctuary where I can think, reflect, and tune out of the world for an hour. Also, I work out daily so I can eat whatever I want! 

(Note: Timothy is also profiled on our website.)

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Helpful tip: Always save the course syllabus!

You may not always want to save textbooks or class notes from every college course you've ever completed -- but it's a good idea to save the syllabus! (And super-easy.) Just get a binder and as each course is completed, file the syllabus away!

On many occasions, prospective (and admitted students) have questions about a particular course and whether we will accept it towards fulfilling one of our prerequisite requirements. While a course description is readily available in your college's online course catalog, often times the brief description doesn't provide enough information. If needed, a detailed course syllabus will allow us to review specific course content -- thus being able to provide you with a quicker response.

Trust me, this will make your life that much easier! Rather than tracking down a syllabus from your past instructor, the academic department, or the university -- you can simply refer to your syllabus binder.  You can thank me later!

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