If you feel like you’re not sure yet if you even want to do pharmacy school, check out my article discussing the things to consider before you commit to pharmacy school. Also, this is not a guide on how to apply to pharmacy school, nor is it interview questions for students. This is a guide to what you need to know/do to get accepted and understand how difficult it is to get into pharmacy school.
First off I want to explain why I’m qualified to talk on this matter. I graduated with my 2 Associate degrees and a Bachelors in Biology as well as got accepted into pharmacy school WITHOUT a bachelors. I was also accepted into pharmacy school 4 times and interviewed at 5 different schools.
Then I spent many hours calling and talking to pharmacy school advisors as well as I asked the pharmacy schools what kind of points system or system they went by to accept me.
It was a long tough journey and after attending one program for a bit, life circumstances outside of school made it to where I had to leave the program. I now embrace mommy life and just felt that I had some valuable tips and information to help anyone wanting to get into pharmacy school.
Any professional program can seem daunting to get accepted into, at first. But if you stay on the right path and do what you need to do, you shouldn’t have any problem getting accepted. I think these tips will make it less intimidating and more of a reality. How difficult is it to get into pharmacy school? Actually, not as difficult as you may think.
Acceptance Rate Chart
I wanted to first show you this chart taken directly from Pharmcas and the AACP, who compiled the data (the website where you apply to pharmacy school is Pharmcas)
This chart gives you an idea of the amount of students over time that have been accepted compared to those who haven’t been accepted. Its absolutely mind blowing that as time has gone on we are at 83% acceptance for all applicants that applied! Only 17% of applicants do not get accepted! WOW! This gives you an idea of how difficult it is to get into pharmacy school.
The first thing I want to say here is STRAIGHT A’s AREN’T EVERTHING!
People get very hung up on making perfect grades and don’t realize that isn’t the only thing the schools are looking for. I have heard from numerous pharmacy school advisors that the straight A students often lack social skills. Also, they said they struggle in the program more. This may sound weird but its because they aren’t as use to the sacrifice as A/B students are.
Being an A/B student is looked at favorably, aim for A’s but a few B’s are really not that bad at all.
Average GPA’S Of Accepted Students
As you can see from the chart above (take from Pharmcas), the average GPA of an ACCEPTED student is 3.30!!!
For someone who is a health care professional earning a doctorate, you would expect at least somewhere in the magna cum laude or cum laude range. This shows you that you do not have to have a 4.0 or even near a 4.0 to be accepted.
Many A/B students give up events, family or friend time, and time for themselves so that they may study. It’s true that some people work very hard for straight A’s, but for others, this material somehow comes very easy to them. If you are easily making straight A’s in these prereqs, you definitely have a gift.
I wont pretend these courses are cake. But the sacrifice that comes in pharmacy school is unlike anything straight A students may be used to. So what I am trying to say is that many many many times advisors have said they are actually looking for a more well-rounded individual with A’s and B’s, even a C or two may be okay.
Don’t faint if you get a C, it’ll be okay and wont ruin your chances, just Aim for the highest grade possible and have mostly A’s and B’s.
Here is a tool from Pharmcas where you can see the prerequisites to each program. I would list them but each school is different slightly and there are over 100 schools!
It may seem obvious that you need prereqs to get into the program, duh…however, these can be sort of tricky. Don’t be discouraged if you have to start at remedial math or English and it takes you quite a while to get up to the level you need to be for chemistry or college algebra. Trust me I have been there. I started at remedial math and it was awfully hard to believe that I could one day get into several programs. Remedial courses are normal and many people have to take them! I had a professor tell me to consider changing my major, and I went farther in school than I ever thought!
Where To Take Prereqs
Consider taking some of your prereqs at a university rather than a community college. If you can handle the difficulty starting out, go for it. Though schools will accept many credits from a community college, if you want to be more competitive, try to take the more difficult courses at a University.
That being said, there are still many courses that you can save money with by taking at a community college. I will say that this information you’re learning though, it isn’t going away, so make sure you aren’t just trying to always take the easiest teacher.
A bit of a challenge is not the worst thing, its going to get a lot tougher, but you can do it!
Please do not forget you need to shadow. Getting into pharmacy school is not actually difficult if you stay determined and have longevity in the field. I spent 3 years working in the pharmacy behind the counter as a cashier (alongside the pharmacist in the actual pharmacy).
This was great because I was getting paid and I got to shadow at the same time. I was taking my prereqs and shadowing, two birds with one stone here. This is something you want to look into early.
You can also shadow a pharmacist without being an employee, but, with covid and privacy laws, it may be difficult.
Shadowing early in your college career is vital! I would recommend at least a year.
Show that you have been interested in pharmacy for a while, then you have a better chance of getting accepted. If you were actually interested in this field I would think you would want to shadow anyway. The key here is to do it early. If you do this, then getting into pharmacy school is not difficult.
Show some personality! Don’t be like one of those cyborg or robot students that appears to eat, drink, and breath pharmacy. If you are that way then you will probably not do good in the interview.
You have to remember you are a health care professional. You have to talk to humans and nurture them for a living.
Volunteering shows that you actually have a life and interests. It shows that you are happy to be a pharmacist but that you have genuine interests and can relate to people. This makes you different than other candidates. I volunteered at 2 animal shelter’s for 6 months. I felt this was good enough and I really cared about the organizations.
Outshine the other candidates and stand out by having interests that make you look favorable.
I would try to at least volunteer for 6 months, I found this amount of time gave me “points” on my profile when they were looking at me as a candidate. Yes, I asked how exactly they accessed me and they gave me some top secret info!
Really, the info was just that you get points in many different areas. The more you do that wasn’t required for the application, the more you get kudos! Of course do well in the areas that were required to get full “credit”. This amount of “points” can push you over to getting acceptance or at the very least, put you higher on a waiting list.
You get points added to your profile for doing extra things not required, this will help you get accepted!
The bottom line here is to seem human, show your interests, and spend time doing these extracurricular activities when you get a break from studies. If you have a low GPA or low PCAT, volunteer work will be in your favor because it isn’t a requirement.
The figure above displays the recommended PCAT scores a student should try to attain, provided by Kaplan. Kaplan works closely with Pearson (the PCAT administrators) to make content to prepare students for the PCAT.
Now knowing what you should aim for when taking the PCAT, lets talk about some tips you may need. The PCAT is definitely not easy peasy. I will say that if you have really been studying for your courses, you may just need a refresher.
As someone who had the Kaplan book, I can tell you that its not everything you are going to need if you want to get a great score.
That being said, I can say this was my low point. I never bought a study program. I should’ve. It would’ve made things easier. If you want to bypass the struggle and make your life less difficult, heavily consider these
Dr. Collins This was used by many of my fellow pharmacy students and it proved to be extremely helpful. Before it was a self study guide full of practice tests but now there may be courses as well.
Kaplan Course Anyone who could afford this, had great results! It’s the more expensive option but you have a course that demands homework and gives you instruction. If you can afford it, this would be your best bet. Kaplan works closely with Pearson (test makers) to make the PCAT.
While these are pricey, I have heard from many friends and well as read on forums that these provide the best results. I know they will ensure you get a fantastic score, they even have some guarantees. I think someone should give themselves at least a few months maybe 1-3 to study for this exam and take many practice tests.
If you’ve made it this far in my article/guide then know that you have gotten to the portion where you are doing the actual application.
Essays are a big deal, according to the pharmacy schools. This is your chance to shine, explain any discrepancies in grades or time off school, and tell them who you are!
Make sure to go over your grammar, fully answer the questions, and USE ALL THE SPACE! Advisors and professors have said to me that many students don’t fully answer the questions and they leave a huge portion blank. You are paying so much for this, make the essay count.
There are several prompts but give them a heartfelt story. Imagine yourself as a future practitioner and how you would want to make the field of pharmacy better.
If you have made it to the interview congrats! This part may get you full of nerves. For my first interview I was so nervous and just wanting to do everything perfect. You start gaining more confidence as you get more interviews. But I will say, it isn’t as scary as you may anticipate.
As far as how the interview goes, schools will do it different. I did virtual (skype or zoom), 3 on 1 (a professor, pharmacist, and pharmacy student vs me), and MMI (multiple mini interviews).
The easiest is probably zoom because you only have to introduce yourself to one person.
*Nowadays with covid, you will probably have a video call for your interview so that’s even less nerve wrecking.
Just in case you don’t have a video call interview though, there are a couple things to note. You may be asked to do a math assessment, another essay, and some kind of skill demonstrating activity.
Be prepared for an on the spot essay and math assessment!
As far as the interview questions, I will be writing a post on how to practice for the interview questions. I am also going to be making a “potential questions” list for you all, from my experience.
Just know I prepared for probably about a month and practiced over 100 plus questions.
I just wanted to be super prepared. So when I went into the interview, the questions seemed so easy! And lastly, they will ask if YOU have any questions, and I suggest having a good one. I asked about residencies, Naplex (licensing exam) pass rates, accreditation if its a new school, etc..
Research the school so you can ask them a question about it!
Earlier I mentioned a point system. Basically, after you apply they will keep a file of you and decide whether they want to interview you. If so, when deciding to accept you, the school will have your file full of points distributed in various places (PCAT score, essay, GPA, etc…). Most of the schools I talked to did it this way. Just wanted to mention kind of how that works.
So are they letting just anybody in? Well it seems as though there are many ways now to cut corners and seem favorable to a program even if you’re not a super stellar candidate. That being said though, there are a lot of steps and the harder you work on them the better chance you have of getting in.
I think it is getting too easy to get in but you have to remember, you use to only need a bachelors degree to be a practicing pharmacist. Maybe it should’ve never been a doctorate to begin with? So how difficult is it to get into pharmacy school? I would say with a good amount of effort, not too difficult. Let me know in the comments what you think about pharmacy school nowadays!