Most students considering a career in pharmacy wonder how to get into pharmacy school? Pharmacy school admissions can be daunting consisting of exams, letters and one really big interview day but with a few tips and attention to details; students can greatly increase their chances of getting into pharmacy school.
What to do in advance
- Shadow Pharmacists– Before applying to pharmacy school students should spend some time with practicing pharmacists to experience the profession. A common mistake some students make is shadowing just once, in one area of pharmacy. Limiting your exposure to just one pharmacy encounter doesn’t represent the diversity the field provides. Try shadowing at least three areas of pharmacy to get exposed to the various practice areas.
- Get a Pharmacy Job- Community pharmacies and hospitals like to hire prospective student pharmacists. The pay is attractive and typically increases as you move through pharmacy school. Securing a pharmacy technician job as a student also provides you mentorship and guidance through the application and schooling process. By starting early, students have the opportunity to experience the pharmacy–world first hand, which can help with decisions about school and a future career path.
- Community Service and Extracurricular Activities- These details are very important when thinking about how to get into pharmacy school. As an applicant, you will want to differentiate yourself from the other applicants. Extracurricular activities and community service are excellent ways to stand out on an application. To a pharmacy program, these details represent an engaging and well-rounded student who possesses time-management and leadership skills. Pharmacy schools are looking to admit students they believe will be successful in their programs so these skills are highly valued.
- Pre-requisites and PCAT- Students considering applying for pharmacy school should research the required pre-courses well in advance. Pre-requisites can vary widely among pharmacy school programs, so American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) recommends researching pre-requisites by program. It is important for students to look at what is required ahead of time to avoid delay in applying. Furthermore, not every school requires the Pharmacy College Acceptance Test or PCAT, but about 85% do according to ACCP. If a school you are interested in requires this entrance exam, students should consider study time and exam dates. This step is key when thinking about how to get into pharmacy school.
Preparing to Apply
- Apply Early– Many programs will have early deadlines for applications to be due; students should try to apply prior to this deadline. The reason is many programs will review applications as they role in. This means the earlier students apply, the sooner their application will be reviewed, and the sooner they could get an interview. The interview is a student’s chance to standout, so the sooner the better.
- Coach Your Letter Writers– When thinking about how to get into pharmacy school, few things are more important than solid letters of recommendation. These are letters from mentors, supervisors, managers, and peers, who are lobbying on a student’s behalf for acceptance into school. The pitfall most students fall into is not knowing who to ask or what to ask for.
Who to ask:
The number of letters schools require can vary, but generally it is somewhere around three. In this case, students should ask 1-2 professional contacts and 1 personal contact for letters of recommendation. Holding a pharmacy job and participating in volunteer activities helps students develop relationships with potential letter writers.
What to ask for:
Professional contacts should be able to speak to working skills, while personal contacts should be able to speak to personal characteristics that make the student a great pharmacy school candidate.
How to coach:
Letter writers outside of pharmacy often don’t understand how to get into pharmacy school. Therefore it is helpful to provide letter writers a brief summary of why you want to go to pharmacy school and key characteristics that support your candidacy. This gives letter writers some talking points, and students can be sure letter writers are highlighting their best attributes!
- Interview Skills and Personal Presentation– Interview skills and personal presentation are the most important details to master if you are wondering how to get into pharmacy school. Applications portray only what can be conveyed on paper; students secure their acceptance through execution of their interviews and crisp, professional personal presentation.
Mastering interviewing skills requires practice. Not just once, but multiple times. Programs want to see the person on paper come to life during this time. Most questions are open-ended, some are silly, some are hypothetical, and many fall somewhere in between. The best prep students can do involves practicing. Many Universities offer such practice through student services or local partner organizations. Here is a great list of interview questions: and here is some interview tips
Personal presentation is also essential when thinking about how to get into pharmacy school. Suits are the recommended attire for professional interviews. Many Universities have career development support where students can rent or borrow suits for such interviews. Looking professional with a tidy, business-like appearance conveys to the program you are serious and ready to join the pharmacy profession.
These are some general tips for how to get into pharmacy school but don’t forget to research your program and make sure it’s the right fit for you!