One of the most important assets when applying to pharmacy school is the pharmacy reference letter. Pharmacy school decision committees face a difficult challenge when deciding which applicants to invite for interviews.
The members of these committees must thoroughly evaluate prospective students without ever meeting the applicants.
For this reason, it is imperative for students to provide a pharmacy school with several influential pharmacy reference letters.
Who Should I Ask To Write A Letter Of Recommendation?
There are a few things to consider when selecting who you will ask to write your pharmacy reference letter. The letter of recommendation is meant to provide schools with the best representation of the applicant.
Likewise, it is a strong idea to have a letter of recommendation written by someone who knows you well.
Furthermore, the letter should come from a professor, academic advisor, supervisor, and/or a respected professional that has evaluated you.
Apologies, but your childhood best friend does not need to be writing a letter of recommendation.
Many schools require three letters of recommendation, but there isn’t an across the board standard. Be sure to check schools’ requirements at the beginning of the process.
It is also a good idea to reach out to professionals you know with a connection to the school(s) to which you will be applying.
If you are familiar with a pharmacist that graduated from, or works with, one of your potential schools, ask if they would be interested.
More times than not, schools value the opinions of those they are familiar with.
Most importantly, ensure the writer of your pharmacy reference letter represents you well. Students are relying on these letters to separate them from the other applicants. Seek out someone with experience writing reference letters.
Lastly, you want to make the writing process easy for the writer. Choose someone who is familiar with your best attributes that is qualified to boast your success.
How Do Schools Obtain The Letters Of Recommendation?
All pharmacy reference letters are to be submitted to PHARMCAS electronically.
Students should add the email addresses of their writers in the “evaluator portal” of PHARMCAS. PHARMCAS sends an email with instructions for the writer. Students can access the evaluator portal to check the status of each letter of recommendation.
What Needs To Be Included In The Letter?
PharmCAS has a template for the pharmacy reference letter that is emailed to each evaluator. There is a set of questions that the evaluator is asked to answer:
- How long have you known the applicant?
- How well do you know the applicant?
- In what capacity do you know the applicant?
After addressing these questions, the writer is asked to provide evaluation ratings based on the following:
- Written/Oral communication
- Intellectual ability
- Interpersonal relations
- Professional appearance
Students can access the PharmCAS criteria here.
Template For A Letter Of Recommendation
A strong letter of recommendation usually includes at least three paragraphs. The first paragraph is an introduction outlining the relationship with the applicant.
The second paragraph (or more if needed) should provide a detailed assessment of the applicant’s abilities. The last paragraph is a summary of the strength of recommendation for the applicant.
The length of the pharmacy reference letter can be indicative of the strength of recommendation. A strong letter of recommendation will extend to a second page (a one-page letter usually spells trouble).
The letter needs to be truthful and descriptive. An evaluator must avoid, both, vague and hyperbolic tone when writing a letter of recommendation.
Whenever possible, an evaluator should quantify an applicants success.
If there was an academic/professional project that produced tangible outcomes, these figures should be noted in the letter. If an evaluator chooses to address areas of concern for an applicant, make sure these are framed positively.
An evaluator may also include a brief description illustrating his/her qualifications to effectively assess the applicant. The stronger the evaluator appears, the stronger the recommendation appears for the applicant.
The pharmacy reference letter is a great way to set yourself apart from all the other applicants. After reading this if you feel that you don’t have three to four strong evaluators, that’s alright! It’s never too late to forge a new relationship with a professor or professional.
Find someone who does work that interests you and ask them if they’d be willing to share insight with you.
Many times, this strategy will lead to you finding a great person to write a letter of recommendation.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some students will even ask mentors what is necessary to earn a strong letter of recommendation.
Take the advice and do the work. It will pay off. Use the full range of your resources and make sure that your pharmacy reference letter shows off what makes you a qualified applicant!