Doctor of Pharmacy

Friday, May 27, 2016

Oh, how applications suck the soul and life out of students. As if school and extracurriculars weren't enough, if one wishes to advance into graduate studies, another round of grueling applications awaits. That means writing a personal statement with the ability to jerk some tears out of the admissions committee or making yourself stand out with a unique voice, gathering glorious letters of recommendations from professors/mentors/employers etc., answering a gazillion questions such as "why do you want to be a student at this school" and/or "where do you see yourself in 10 years?", and possibly having to take standardized tests. Yay.

Trust me, it's not that bad.

I went through this entire process starting in July 2015.

I was fortunate to be accepted to every school I applied so I am now in the process of looking for housing near the Pharmacy School I will be attending this coming Fall. I decided that I will be detailing the most important (if not all) aspects of the application and interview process on my blog to help give insight to future applicants. When I applied, I did not receive any guidance since I did not know anyone applying to pharmacy school, let alone graduate school. I was in my own bubble but I kept myself in the loop by reading Student Doctor Network (otherwise known as SDN) religiously.

Do remember to take what you read on SDN with a grain of salt. Some information may be dated and requirements for acceptance into schools change yearly [G.P.A., prerequisite courses, required testing (PCAT)]. DO NOT let another members' comments or stats deter your decision to apply to any school. I sure didn't let anything get to me.

THE APPLICATION
how to get into pharmacy school_Pharmacy school blogger_UCSD Skaggs school of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences
When PharmCAS opened in July, I decided to get ahead of the curve by filling out everything I could. I went through two categories in a jiffy: Applicant Information and Additional Information. The one category that I found the most tiresome was Academic History. Like many of you, I took a ton of classes therefore, sitting in front of my laptop, typing everything from my transcript onto this program, was beyond tedious.

I attended the University of California, Irvine during my undergraduate years and we ran on a quarter and units system. In the PharmCAS manual, there was a fancy section about converting units to credits but I disregarded that little blurb. I entered my units, as printed on my transcript, under the credits section. I did not experience any problems with PharmCAS or the schools.  Mind you, as I was pounding away at my keyboard, I still had yet to complete my personal statement... Actually, I didn't even a working draft (ERROR #1).

THE PERSONAL STATEMENT

Though I finished all the "easy" things within two days, I stared blankly at my laptop for a couple hours before I managed to type up my personal statement. It took me about three days to have something I was content with, that fit the character requirement, but then I left it there for a week. I'm the type of person who likes looking at important things with a fresh set of eyes. If I were to continuously read and edit my essay, I would probably memorize it and skip over any grammatical errors. I waited a bit too long before I began editing my statement so you can imagine the panic that engulfed me when August came (ERROR #2).

With only 4500 characters (including spaces), I felt that it was difficult to tell my full story. But after seeking help from my mentor and a fellow colleague, I was able to develop an essay I believe was able to resonate with members of the admissions committee. I was fortunate enough to be able to draw upon past experiences though I know it may be difficult for some to come up with ideas. If you're stuck in a rut and don't know what to write, speak from the heart. If you REALLY need help, I'm pretty sure you could GOOGLE examples of personal statements but don't be tempted to plagiarize!

The broad question to answer in your own unique voice is:


"Why Pharmacy?"


 [ N O T E to future pharmacy students reading this, every school I interviewed at posed this question ] 

A lot of my classmates used to joke about how the personal statement was a competition - it's all about the essay that proves to be the most heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, relatable, compelling story. Roll your eyes and laugh all you want but I bet there's some truth to it. Do pour your heart into your essay and tell the admissions committee how you fell upon pharmacy but don't try to weasel your way into their hearts with a fake story. Think about all the essays they've read over the years - I'm sure they can pick out the fabricated statements. Don't give them a sob story. Make your voice unique. Make a bold statement. Make yourself memorable.


TAKE-HOME MESSAGE


      1. Start your personal statement E  A R L Y !
    • I would recommend brainstorming ideas in early June. This gives you ample time to write a draft and make multiple edits of your statement.
      2. Get a  S E C O N D   O P I N I O N !
    • Don't be shy! I asked my research mentor of 5 years, who happens also happens to be a Hepatobiliary and Pancreas Surgeon, to read over my statement. He gave it a quick read along with some suggestions however, since he is highly demanded in clinic/OR and time is of the essence to him, I got help from his Physician's Assistant. I ended up revising my statement a few times before sending it off.
      3. R E R E A D   your statement !
    • Make sure to re-read your statement at different times of the day over the course of a few weeks! I chose to fully edit my essay about 8 times until I was content. Although I still wanted to work on my essay, it was September and I wanted to be done.
    • Print out your personal statement - I'm an old school kind of girl. I love hard copies since it allows me to do some real color damage to my paper. I also like this method since you can keep track of what you're changing.
       4. S T A N D    O U T  !
    • Easier said than done, right? Out of thousands of essays the committee goes through, you want to be the one that sticks, the one they'll discuss with their colleagues, the one they choose to interview. I cannot give you advice here since everyone has their own story but make sure to have a powerful ending. Here's some wisdom from my PA friend that I'll be passing along to all you Pharm youngsters:
      • Instead of telling the admissions committee why you want to go to their school, tell them why the school needs you (i.e. what can you bring to the school, what unique attributes do you have?). Just don't sound too cocky!


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I will get back to you in a timely manner! Up next will be experiences, letters of recommendations, and a preview of what to expect on supplemental essays (especially to those applying to California Pharmacy Schools).

XO,
Adrienne

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11 Comments

  1. I can't believe I barely stumbled across this series of blog posts! I just completed the application process and this would have been so helpful, your seriously did an amazing job covering the entire application process from submitting the pharmCAS to the interviews. Great job :) I'm hoping I get into a program

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks for reading my blog, Alyssa! I'm sure you'll be fine! Let me know how everything goes!

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  6. Thanks a lot for such helpful tips! The importance of a good personal statement for pharmacy school quite often is underestimated. Applicants usually bet on their transcripts and grades and don’t spend too much time on writing a personal statement. That’s why they receive rejections. It is like a story about you: your motivations, ambitions, strengths, accomplishments, obstacles which made you a person you are now. It’s not about showing off. A personal statement is way to persuade the admissions committee that how passionate you’re about studying at this institution and how much this means to you and your future. So, good luck to all applicants!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! I'm glad I can help!

      XO

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    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! I'm glad I can help!

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