Journey to Pharmacy School: Getting the Basics Down

This week’s post is part one of a series of posts that will document my journey through the pharmacy school application process. Over the next couple of months, I’ll have a lot of exciting news for you regarding my admissions exam and my interviews, and ultimately regarding which school I choose. But before any of that happens, you’re probably going to want a little background and a few general facts about pharmacy school. So that’s what this week’s post is all about! Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about applying to pharmacy school.

  • What classes are required? Every school has a different set of pre-requisite courses. So if you want to apply to a certain school, it’s important to check on that school’s website for specific requirements to make sure you have everything you’ll need. Generally, though, most pharmacy schools require that students take courses like anatomy and physiology, calculus, statistics, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, economics, physics, English, and speech communications.
  • What should I major in as an undergraduate? You can actually major in anything at all that you want as long as you complete the pre-pharmacy courses. Some schools actually look favorably on applicants who are not science majors because it shows that they have a wide range of interests. However, the most helpful majors typically are biology and chemistry. The kinds of advanced science topics introduced in the third and fourth years can greatly help students once they get into pharmacy school and start studying in even greater depth. I’m glad I chose chemistry for my major because the topics and techniques I’ve covered in my upper-level courses like immunology and inorganic chemistry, as well as the courses for my math minor, have given me greater confidence to tackle the demanding course load of pharmacy.
  • Is there a test to take to get into pharmacy school? Much like the ACT or SAT was required  to apply to undergraduate school, pharmacy school has its own specialized test designed to determine applicants’ readiness for a career in pharmacy. The Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT, tests students in five different subject areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, biology, and chemistry. There are also two writing samples designed to test not only a student’s ability to write clearly, but also to come up with a solution to a problem that he or she is presented with.
  • What other materials do I need to send to pharmacy schools? In addition to your PCAT score, you’ll also need to submit your college transcript, which shows all of the courses you’ve taken and the grades you received in them. You’ll also need to fill out the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS), which will automatically submit electronic applications to each school you’re interested in. Some pharmacy schools are also interested in seeing students’ ACT or SAT scores and their Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores, so be sure and send that in as well if it’s needed.
  • How long does it take to get through pharmacy school? Most schools are three- or four-year programs. Some even offer dual degrees, such as a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) combined with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree or a Master of Medical Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies. These types of programs usually require an extra year or two in addition to the length of the pharmacy program, but you’ll have more job opportunities available to you, such as managing your own pharmacy or working in more specialized healthcare settings.

A few other words of advice are to keep up with your grades. Most schools don’t have a required minimum GPA, but the higher yours is, the more competitive you’ll be against applicants whose grades aren’t up to par. Also, be sure and get involved in clubs and organizations during your time as an undergraduate. Pharmacy as a career requires a lot of interaction with many different kinds of people, so admissions panels are going to look for candidates who have great people skills and are very outgoing. Your pharmacy school interview will also be a great showcase of your potential as a pharmacist, so start practicing your answers to typical interview questions.

That’s pretty much the basics of how to become a student of pharmacy! As I go into the next stages of the application process—the PCAT, the PharmCAS, and the interviews—I’ll be sure and share with you all the experiences that I’ve drawn from them. So keep checking back for updates on my progress! If you’d like to be automatically alerted when I post something new, go ahead and click on the “subscribe” button at the top of the page. If you have any comments or questions for me, you can reply below this post or you can email me.

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