15 Tips to Get into Top Pharmacy Schools
Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Are you interested in a career in the medical field but do not want a clinical role as a doctor or nurse? Do you have a strong academic background and enjoy studying biology, chemistry, or physics? If so, you may be interested in a career in pharmacy. You may have thought of becoming a pharmacist but wonder how to get into a top pharmacy school.
In this article, I will share 15 tips to get into top pharmacy schools. In addition to helpful tips, you will find some advice about avoiding things that could hinder your chance of getting into a top program.
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET INTO TOP PHARMACY SCHOOLS?
How hard is it to get into a top pharmacy school, anyway? PharmCAS
reports the acceptance rate for getting into top pharmacy schools in 2021-2022 in the United States was 87%. Although the acceptance rate is higher now than in years past, admission is quite competitive because of limited faculty and classroom size. If you know what a school looks for in candidates and work to exceed minimum admission criteria, you can improve your chance of getting into a top pharmacy school.
5 MAIN THINGS TOP PHARMACY SCHOOLS LOOK FOR IN POTENTIAL APPLICANTS
When it comes to getting into a top pharmacy school, there are a few things that make you look like a favorable candidate to the faculty. In the end, taking the time to review this relevant information will only help you prepare further.
1. A History of College-Level Academic Success:
It is no secret that pharmacy school is hard. Program and admission faculty know it takes someone committed to their studies to succeed in their programs, which means they look for candidates with a proven history of academic success. According to BeMo Academic Consulting
, most pharmacy schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0. Although some schools may accept a lower college GPA, the higher your average, the better your chance of getting into a top pharmacy school. In fact, the average GPA for most pharmacy school candidates is 3.32 on a 4.0 grading scale.
2. Volunteer or Paid Experience with Patients in a Pharmacy or Healthcare-Related Setting:
Pharmacy schools require applicants to have paid or volunteer experience working with patients in a healthcare or pharmacy-relevant setting. Gaining experience working with patients ahead of time is highly valuable, especially considering that the candidate pool for top pharmacy schools is highly competitive. If you need to gain pharmacy or healthcare experience, consider applying as a pharmacy clerk or gaining certification as a pharmacy technician.
3. Excellent Communication Skills:
Pharmacists communicate with physicians, patients, and staff daily. As a pharmacy student, you will do the same. Top pharmacy schools seek candidates who can communicate complex thoughts and ideas using written and verbal communication and interpersonal interactions. If you want to improve this skill and your chance of getting into a top pharmacy school, consider taking a Communications or Public Speaking class.
4. Proven Ability to Balance Multiple Responsibilities:
The curriculum in top pharmacy schools is rigorous. Schools look for candidates with a proven track record for balancing multiple responsibilities who understand the importance of prioritizing tasks. One way to demonstrate your ability to balance responsibilities is to discuss how you create a healthy work/life/school balance. For example, if you work and participate in volunteer activities, how do you balance that with your family and personal time?
5. Self-Motivated and Willing to Lead Others:
Another thing top pharmacy schools look for in prospective students is personal motivation and a willingness to lead others. As a pharmacist, you will work with a team of technicians, pharmacy clerks, and patients. The role requires you to stay focused, know what needs to be done, and be okay with leading others.
The best pharmacy schools look for applicants who spend time developing a servant leadership attitude. Even if you do not have pharmacy or healthcare experience, you can demonstrate these characteristics by participating in service organizations, religious organizations, or other extracurricular activities.
HOW TO GET INTO TOP PHARMACY SCHOOLS?
(The following 15 tips will help you in your pursuit of getting into one of the top pharmacy schools in the nation.)
TIP #1: Be a Good Student!
You must prove yourself academically if you genuinely want to get into a top pharmacy school. To prepare for the pharmacy school curriculum and strengthen your chances of being admitted to the school of your choice, work on getting and maintaining a good grade point average. If the school you hope to attend has a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0, do not settle. The higher your grade point average, the better your chances of acceptance.
TIP #2: Complete All Necessary Prerequisites
Candidates seeking admission into a top pharmacy school must complete several prerequisites. While the specific requirements vary from one program to the next, most of these courses pertain to math and science. Common prerequisite requirements include General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Physics, Calculus, and English Composition.
TIP #3: Get Familiar with the Schools and Programs You Hope to Attend
As you narrow down your search for top pharmacy schools, familiarize yourself with things specific to each one and choose schools where program goals and anticipated student and program outcomes align with your academic and professional goals.
Check out program faculty bios on the school site to learn about faculty credentials, experience, and goals. Doing this can be especially helpful when you answer questions about your school choice during your admission interview. If your answers align with program goals or show you did research about the school and faculty, it demonstrates a genuine interest in the program and school, which makes you a favorable candidate.
TIP #4: Study HARD and Take the PCAT
The Pharmacy College Admissions Test
, or PCAT, is a test that is required nationwide for admission to pharmacy school. This test is designed to examine if you have the abilities and skills needed to succeed in pharmacy school. The exam presents questions to test verbal ability and reasoning, chemistry, reading comprehension, biology, and quantitative ability.
TIP #5: Write an Excellent Personal Statement/Letter of Intent
One of the admission requirements to get into top pharmacy schools is to prepare a Personal Statement or Letter of Intent. Your statement should highlight your previous college preparation and provide an explanation of your interests and motivation to become a pharmacist. Be sure to discuss how the school's program can help you achieve your goals. To learn more about drafting a compelling personal statement, check out PharmCAS
TIP #6: Submit a Well-Prepared Application by the Priority Deadline
One of the most important things you can do to help improve your chance of getting into a top pharmacy school is to prepare your application and supplemental materials correctly and submit it before the priority deadline.
Keep in mind, although you may submit your application by the final deadline, admission is competitive, and you want an edge over other applicants. Review the application instructions and verify you have all supplemental documents and required materials gathered so you can submit everything together. This shows admissions that you pay attention to details and pride yourself on getting things right the first time. When you submit your complete application before the priority deadline, that means admission faculty review your information before applicants who wait until later to apply, increasing your chance to get into a top pharmacy school.
TIP #7: Prepare for Your Admissions Interview
An important step in getting into top pharmacy schools is participating in an admissions interview. The interview is your chance to make a great first impression on the program faculty. Prepare for your interview by researching possible interview questions
and practicing answering them with a friend or loved one. Be prepared to ask a few questions when admission faculty give you the opportunity, as this shows genuine interest in the program.
TIP #8: Stay Informed About Current Trends in the Industry
The pharmacy industry is ever-evolving. If you want to get into a top pharmacy school, show your dedication to the industry by following industry trends and being prepared to answer questions about current pharmaceutical news. There are several convenient ways to stay current with pharmacy industry trends, such as listening to pharmacy-related podcasts
, subscribing to pharmacy publications
, and attending conferences.
TIP #9: Take Some Relevant Elective Classes
If you want a better chance of getting into top pharmacy schools, consider taking some elective courses related to pharmacology. A few examples of electives include Fluids & Electrolytes, Infection Control & Prevention, History of Pharmacy, Current Topics in Professional Pharmacy, and Herbal Remedies.
TIP #10: Become a Pharmacy Technician
A great way to improve your chance of getting into top pharmacy schools is to become a certified pharmacy technician. In some cases, you can complete the program online and in a short time. When you weigh the pros and cons of becoming a pharmacy technician
, you will discover the certification and experience you gain can make you a more viable pharmacy school candidate is a huge plus.
TIP #11: Get Research Experience and Highlight It in Your Application
Getting into a top pharmacy school is much easier when your application stands out. One of the best ways to ensure your application stands out is by getting research experience, specifically in pharmaceutical sciences. Research skills help enhance a pharmacy student's ability to deal with changes in science and practice. There are several research opportunities
available to undergraduate and graduate students.
TIP #12: Get Strong Letters of Professional and Academic Recommendation
Many people underestimate the power of a strong recommendation from the right sources. Your recommendations should come from professionals who can speak of your strengths, abilities, and likelihood of success in pharmacy school.
Former college professors and supervisors, especially those in pharmacy or healthcare-related settings, are excellent choices for people to ask for recommendations. Make sure the writer's name, titles, and current contact information are included in the letter. Although most schools do not contact the source of recommendations, you should prepare as if it is possible.
TIP #13: Familiarize Yourself with PharmCAS and Use It
The Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
is a web service used by many pharmacy schools to collect applications and required documentation from applicants. The service is beneficial to you because it allows you to upload any relevant information in one central location. Once materials are verified, PharmCAS transmits the information to each program you wish to apply to. Using PharmCAS reduces the amount of time it takes to apply to multiple schools but also provides you with links and detailed information to each program's relevant website.
TIP #14: Apply to More than One Pharmacy School
Because the process of getting into top pharmacy schools is competitive, it is a good idea to apply to more than one school. Most admission experts recommend candidates apply to four or five schools. Be careful to check the admission criteria for each school that interests you and submit a complete application packet for each.
Another essential thing to remember when applying to more than one pharmacy school is to review each school's program goals and write a Statement of Intent for each school that aligns with their goals. Drafting more than one letter may feel like a waste of time, but remember, your goal is to be a viable candidate for each program. A great way to do that is to show your personal and professional goals align with the program's goals.
TIP #15: Shadow a Pharmacist
A great way to show your interest in pharmacy school is to shadow a licensed pharmacist. When you shadow pharmacists, you get an up-close look at what the job involves, the demands, the workload, and the skills you need. While shadowing a pharmacist before getting into a top pharmacy school may not be a requirement, admission faculty consider your willingness to do so a sign of your dedication to learning about the pharmacy role, which makes you a favorable candidate.
BONUS! 5 MUST AVOID COMMON MISTAKES THAT MIGHT RUIN YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING INTO TOP PHARMACY SCHOOLS
Following expert tips to get into top pharmacy schools is great, but you must also know about mistakes that could ruin your chance of admission. The following are five common mistakes pharmacy school applicants make that should avoid.
MISTAKE #1: Thinking “Okay” Grades are Okay
The curriculum in accredited pharmacy schools is rigorous, to say the least. Although top schools have a minimum GPA requirement, that does not mean you should aim to hit the minimum. Your previous college grade point average is a strong indication of whether you will succeed in pharmacy school. So, do not allow yourself to settle for less than you can accomplish. Remember, the candidate pool is full of qualified applicants. You want to stand out!
MISTAKE #2: Turning in a Late Application
The world is full of people who take their time gathering documents and end up submitting late applications for college. If you are one of those people, you put yourself in the position of being waitlisted or rejected. If you want to improve your chance of getting into top pharmacy schools, put forth the effort to apply early, not late.
MISTAKE #3: Not Being Honest
Pharmacists have a duty to be honest and act with conviction in practice, and top pharmacy schools expect the same character of pharmacy students. It is vital that you be honest throughout the application process.
If you had less than satisfactory grades in your previous college classes, explain why and how you plan to succeed in pharmacy school. Also, keep in mind that before participating in the program's clinical component, you must pass a criminal background check and drug screen. If something from your past could show up on a background check, address it with the program director. It is much easier to identify and address issues head-on instead of trying to cover them up. Even if it is uncomfortable if you want to get into a top pharmacy school, be honest!
MISTAKE #4: Not Realizing the Importance of the Admission Interview
Unfortunately, many candidates fail to realize the weight the admissions interview has in a school’s decision to offer admission. If your application makes it through the admissions office to the program director’s desk and you are invited to an admissions interview, take it seriously. You should treat your admissions interview like it is an interview for your dream job.
MISTAKE #5: Not Following Up After You Submit Your Application
Submitting your application is not the last step to follow if getting into top pharmacy schools is important to you. You must also follow up with the school. Most schools send an email confirmation within a few days of receiving your application. You should also have access to login to the student portal at each school to check the status of your application. If your application does not show a "complete" status within a few days, call the school and follow up.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
In this article, we discussed how to get into a top pharmacy school by sharing what pharmacy schools look for in candidates and providing insight on things to avoid that could hinder your chance of admission, as well as 15 tips to get into top pharmacy schools. If a career as a pharmacist is calling you, take the information from this article and use it to begin your journey. There is no time like the present to accomplish your personal and professional goals!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT
1. When Is The Application Deadline For Top Pharmacy Schools?
Deadlines to submit applications for admission into a top pharmacy school vary from one school to the next. Some schools accept applications and admit students once yearly. Others offer rolling admission, which means you may submit your application anytime and expect it to be considered for the next start date.
2. What Are The Admission Requirements For Top Pharmacy Schools?
Although admission requirements for top pharmacy schools may differ, the general requirements are similar. Applicants typically need at least a 3.0 college GPA and a bachelor's degree and must submit letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and PCAT scores.
3. What Is The Average GPA Of Students Who Get Into Top Pharmacy Schools?
The average GPA of students that get accepted into top pharmacy schools is 3.32.
4. Can I Get Into A Top Pharmacy School With a Low GPA?
Although pharmacy schools accept applications from candidates with low GPAs, because admission is so competitive, the chances of getting into a top pharmacy school with a low GPA are not favorable.
5. How Important Is Experience When Trying To Get Into A Top Pharmacy School?
Pharmacy or healthcare-related experience is very important if you want to get into a top pharmacy school. If you don't have paid experience, consider volunteering in one of these settings.
6. Can I Get Into A Top Pharmacy School Without Extracurriculars?
While you aren't likely to be rejected solely based on having no extracurriculars, having a strong extracurricular background could make you a favorable candidate and help you get into a top pharmacy school.
7. Is There An Interview For Admission Into Top Pharmacy Schools?
The process of getting into top pharmacy schools typically does include an interview with program faculty.
8. What Is The Admission Rate For Top Pharmacy Schools?
According to data from PharmCAS
, the acceptance rate for getting into top pharmacy schools in 2021-2022 in the United States was 87%.
9. Is There A Waiting List For Top Pharmacy Schools?
Because the applicant pool is typically large, there is often a waiting list to get into top pharmacy schools.
10. Will Applying Early Increase My Chances of Admission Into Top Pharmacy Schools?
Applying early can increase your chances of getting into a top pharmacy school. Be sure you check your application for completeness and accuracy before submitting it.
Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).