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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's meet -- VIRTUALLY!

UCSF School of Pharmacy representatives will, once again, "attend" the Virtual Pharmacy School Fair on October 21 & 22. Last year we "met" many terrific prospective students. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions, get information, or just lounge in our "room" -- all in the comfort of your own home!  We expect to staff our room from 8am - 5pm PST.

Register now to attend this free event.

(Note: Dress-code will not be enforced for this event.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Their Own Words: Daniel

(Note: Daniel wrote in his own admissions application: "If there is one quality about myself that I take pride in, it is my industriousness."  I couldn't agree more. He's a workhorse -- constantly willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In many ways, Daniel embodies the idea of "work-life balance" as a student. He plays hard and works even harder. In that respect, his insight and contributions as a member of the Admissions Committee have been incredibly generous and welcomed.)

Name: Daniel
Year: Class of 2016
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
Previous institutions attended: UC Berkeley
Undergraduate Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
Like most prospective students, I was extremely curious as to how the whole admissions process worked -- behind the scenes. Applying to be on the committee had always been an interest of mine ever since starting pharmacy school, and my resolve only strengthened over time. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCSF and I looked forward to not only giving back to the school but also to helping select the next generation of UCSF student pharmacists. What I have enjoyed most about being on the Admissions Committee is learning about why each applicant chose to pursue pharmacy. There are as many reasons for choosing pharmacy as there are applicants, and I have been interested in what drives and motivates each applicant.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
I was slightly surprised by how much influence the students on the admissions committee had with selecting which applicants to admit. I heard from previous committee members that this was the case, but was nonetheless pleasantly surprised to see how much value the faculty placed in the students’ opinions.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
Not getting somebody to proofread their supplemental essays. It’s frustrating to read an otherwise impressive essay that is full of spelling and grammatical errors. Having a reviewer who will give you an honest opinion is important because not only can they catch any errors that you may have missed, but they can also bring in a perspective other than your own, and let you know the strengths and weaknesses of your essays.

What stands out to you on an application?
Well rounded applications stand out to me. A solid application includes all of the following: strong letters of recommendation written by individuals who know the applicant well, thoughtful essays that clearly answer the prompts, and a demonstrated passion for the profession (which is often evidenced by work and/or volunteer experience.) It’s easy to see when an applicant has done a thorough job putting together an application (and, on the flip side, it’s easy to see when an applicant hasn’t done this.)

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
Applicants who give clichéd/unoriginal answers. As committee members, we interview/review several applicants, and I often hear/read the same clichéd answers over and over again.

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
There are several, but I’ll highlight a few:
  • Industriousness: Pharmacy school is doable, but it requires a lot of work.
  • Dedication: Pharmacy school is a long road, so it’s important that you be invested in the program to help avoid burn-out.
  • Teamwork: Many projects are done in collaboration with your classmates. Classmates are also an excellent resource; we are all going through the same program, so we help each other out all the time.
What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
Well you’re reading Joel’s blog, so I’ll assume that you’re already using that as a resource. I would also recommend talking to as many people as you can (from pharmacists, to professors, to students) to better learn what to expect from school and to make sure that the profession is right for you. (See below.) The UCSF website is also a great resource.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
Make sure that pharmacy is the right profession for you before applying. Pharmacy school is a huge monetary and time commitment, and you don’t want to begin school only to find out after that you don’t want to be there. In addition, if you’ve done your research and know exactly why you want to attend pharmacy school, you will be able to convey this both with your written application and during interviews. It’s always a red flag when I read through an application and then have to ask myself, “Why is this person even applying to pharmacy school in the first place?” That question should be clearly answered throughout the application.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
I believe that I was able to communicate through my written application and interview why I wanted to attend pharmacy school and, specifically, UCSF. I backed up this desire with an application that I spent a lot of time and effort trying to make well-rounded.

I was also a re-applicant to the program, which I think demonstrated perseverance. My first application was, shall we say, not so good, so I took great care to shore up its weak points upon reapplying. For example, I actually had someone proofread my essays the second time around. (See above.) I spent the year between college and pharmacy school working as a pharmacy technician, which helped me gain pharmacy experience and only strengthened my application.

What do you do for fun?
I enjoy doing anything sports-related from wrestling to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to playing on an intramural basketball team with my classmates (go TC1s!) I also enjoy exploring the city (oftentimes on foot, as I recently completed the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon.) To replenish some of the calories burned from working out, I’ve also taken up dessert making. I just bought an ice cream maker, and have been experimenting with finding the perfect flavor.

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

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The PCAT: It's Happening!

(Note: The Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) was retired on January 10, 2024, NO PCAT testing dates will be offered during the 2024-25 admissions cycle or beyond.)

So let's just get right to it...

Beginning in 2016 (for students applying for entry in 2017), we will require the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) as part of our admissions requirement.

I'm sure you have many questions.  Since this will be a new requirement for us, we are really interested in hearing what those questions are. (Please please please ask!)  In the meantime, this is a chance to do ANOTHER Q&A! I'll continue to add to the list as questions come in.

What is the PCAT?
From the PCAT website: "The PCAT is a specialized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy colleges. It measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for the commencement of pharmaceutical education. The PCAT is constructed specifically for colleges of pharmacy."

Why is UCSF now requiring this?
We believe it provides us with additional information to help us make admissions decisions. As we incorporate this new requirement, we are very clear that it simply is another piece of information that will guide our decision-making.  An applicant's PCAT score will not replace all other important aspects of a candidacy -- strong communication skills, passion for (and understanding of) the profession, supportive and detailed reference letters, academic preparation that indicates ability to handle a rigorous doctoral program, demonstrated leadership, and most important "fit" for our program.  Like any selection process, the more information we have about a candidate, the more confident we are with making a decision. The PCAT provides us with that "more information" piece.

This seems like a sudden decision. Does UCSF always make decisions this quickly?
This was not a quick decision, nor was it an easy decision.  Our admissions committee has been discussing the PCAT for MANY MANY years. In fact, it's been an ongoing discussion for us as long as I can remember.

Will other California schools now require the PCAT as part of their requirement?
I'm not sure. In order to be a prepared applicant for all the programs you are considering, you should check each program's requirement. Approximately 85% of PharmD programs in the United States require the PCAT so this is not a unique or unusual requirement.

I'm applying in 2015 (for entry in 2016), do I have to take the PCAT?
No. Our requirement will begin for applicants who apply in 2016 (for entry in 2017).

Is there a minimum PCAT score UCSF will require/consider/accept?

What is the average PCAT score score for UCSF?
We do not have an average yet, as we have never required this.

What is the range of PCAT scores admitted to UCSF?
We don't have that information as we've never required it. In future years, we'll be able to share this information.

Will a strong PCAT score guarantee my admission to UCSF?
Absolutely not. There are many factors we review as part of admissions to ensure you are academically ready for our rigorous program.

Will a low PCAT score make me an uncompetitive applicant to UCSF?
Not necessarily.  Again, there are many factors we review as part of admissions to ensure you are academically ready for our rigorous program.

When do I take the PCAT?
Testing dates occur throughout the year. You must take the exam in time for your scores to be delivered from PCAT to the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) by our November 1 application deadline. NOTE: It can take 4-6 weeks for your scores to be provided to PharmCAS. For instance, taking the PCAT by mid-September would provide enough time for your scores to be provided to PharmCAS by our November 1 deadline. PCAT exams taken in late-October would result in test scores not being submitted to PharmCAS by our November 1 application deadline. YOU MUST PLAN AHEAD!  We will not accept late or incomplete applications. For testing dates, please visit the PCAT website. 

How do I send my PCAT scores to UCSF? 
All scores must be reported through PharmCAS. All scores will be provided to us through the PharmCAS application. Please follow the instructions provided by PCAT and PharmCAS. In other words, you don't send the scores to us. Instead your scores will be sent to PharmCAS and will be included in your PharmCAS application.

Will UCSF accept scores outside of the PharmCAS application?

Can I waive this requirement?

I don't want to take the PCAT. Are there any other standardized exams (such as the GRE or TOEFL) that will take the place of the PCAT?

I took the PCAT five years ago. Do I have to retake it?
Yes. The PCAT exam has undergone many changes in the past several years (and continues to evolve annually).  These changes informed our decision to implement a PCAT requirement. We believe the exam has moved more towards assessing qualities we look for in successful applicants. Therefore, we expect our applicants to provide a recent/current PCAT exam score.

I'm taking the PCAT exam twice. Which score will you look at? The first? The last? The highest? An average of the two?
This is a good question. We don't have the answer. Since this is new territory for us, it will be something we continue to look at and perhaps develop a policy, should we need to. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, we encourage you to contact our office.

Are you excited that you no longer have to answer the question "Why doesn't UCSF require the PCAT?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In Their Own Words: Julia

(Note: It's so great having Julia on the admissions committee. Her current success is a testament to hard-work and determination. As she mentions below, she is a re-applicant to pharmacy school, after not being admitted the first time around. This experience, I believe, has really informed her work as a member of the committee. Julia's high-expectations, combined with her sincere desire to ensure applicants receive insightful reviews and evaluations, makes her work and contribution on the committee invaluable. Having Julia as a student in our program = WIN! Having Julia as a part of our admissions process = DOUBLE-WIN!)

Name: Julia
Year: Class of 2016
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Previous institutions attended: Ohlone College, California State University Sacramento
Undergraduate Major: Biology

Why did you apply to be a member of the Admissions Committee and what have you enjoyed the most?
As a second time applicant, I was curious to find out what the admission committee looks for in a candidate. I wanted to learn what it takes to be a student here -- and use that knowledge to help others with a similar background to gain admission to a graduate program.

What surprised you most about UCSF’s admissions process?
It’s not just about the grades! The admissions committee really takes the time to evaluate a candidate as a whole. Therefore, if you choose to apply to UCSF, you can rest assured that the admissions committee will perform a thorough review of your application.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes applicants make?
If you are a second time applicant, please take time to write about new experiences and growth since your last application. Also, some candidates fail to articulate why they chose to pursue pharmacy as a profession. This is important information that I believe should be reflected in your essays. For those that do not have pharmacy experience, it is important to demonstrate what you have done to learn about pharmacy whether it’s through shadowing or informational interviews.

What stands out to you on an application?
I like to read a thoughtful, well-written, and genuine essay. Also, I like it when a candidate has taken the time to learn about our program and state in their application why UCSF is a good fit for them.

What are your pet peeve(s) when interviewing an applicant or reviewing a file? (What drives you crazy?)
When a candidate does not take the interview seriously. As I mentioned above, the admissions committee looks at an individual’s application as a whole and so the interview part does play a role in the final decisions. It also drives me crazy when a candidate fails to address the question/prompt asked on the on-site essay. I would rather read a short essay that is well written and precise, rather than one that just fills the space. Also, grammatical errors on the PharmCAS and/or UCSF Supplemental Application are just a no-no!

What characteristics are necessary in order to succeed in UCSF’s PharmD program?
An individual that is willing to work hard, is resilient, goal-oriented and motivated.

What tools or resources would you recommend to prospective applicants?
UCSF School of Pharmacy website -- to learn about our program and find out whether you would be a good fit here. It is important to have other people read/edit your essays but still make them your own. Speak to current students and attend informational sessions that our school offers. The informational sessions offer an opportunity to learn about UCSF and also to ask questions about the school.

What single piece of advice would you give to a prospective applicant?
For those that believe their grades are mediocre, do not let the fact that UCSF is the #1 school in the nation prevent you from applying. Dare to apply and give it your best shot.

Why do you think you were admitted into UCSF’s PharmD program?
Because I am resilient and hard-working.

What do you do for fun?
I love to travel! Since I started school I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and Dominican Republic. I also like to go hiking, spend time with family and friends, and trying out new restaurants.

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