The latest stop on my Journey to Pharmacy School is filling out the Pharmacy College Application Service, or PharmCAS. I’ve made the grades and taken the PCAT, and now it’s time to compile my course history and all of my achievements into one final document that pharmacy schools will use to decide if they want to interview me. I’ve been working on my application since the new submission cycle began in July, and I’m almost ready to send it in to my chosen pharmacy schools. At the time of this writing, the only thing I’m lacking is my personal statement, and that’s something that will eventually get an entire blog post for itself. For now, let’s talk about the other sections of the application.
The first few sections are related to your personal information. Schools will need to know things like your mailing address and your phone number so they can contact you for interviews or to give you additional information about the admissions process. They’ll also be interested in your personal history, such as your criminal background or any military service you may have served. Many of the application’s parts are purely optional, such as your ethnic background or any special circumstances in your life. You don’t have to fill these out if you don’t want to, but they could end up boosting your application if you do include them.
The most extensive part of the application will be the section on your academic history. Once you enter the names of all the schools you’ve attended, you’ll then have to enter the headings and titles of every course you’ve taken, as well as the grades you received in them. Because PharmCAS also requires a manual copy of your transcript to be mailed in to them as well, it’s important to make sure all of this information is entered correctly. Any discrepancies between the electronic transcript on the PharmCAS application and the one on paper would result in your application being held until the problem is fixed. And because most pharmacy schools accept students on a rolling basis, it could prevent you from getting a seat in the entering class at your favorite school. To make sure this doesn’t happen, I recommend visiting your school’s registrar and getting them to print an unofficial copy for you to go by when filling this part out.
After academic history comes extracurricular experiences. There will be sections for you to talk about the different clubs you may have been involved in, as well as any jobs you may have held while you were in school. If you have any special licenses, such as the certification to administer CPR or status as a certified pharmacy technician, there will be a special place for you to enter those as well. You’ll also have a place here to brag about any special scholarships or honors you may have been awarded as a student. Be sure to include everything you did outside of class that was especially meaningful or important to you as it will help you to stand out when admissions officers are viewing your file.
Last but not least are your reference letters. As good as you will–no doubt–make yourself look in your application, you will need the recommendation of esteemed authority figures in your life to help boost your image even further. Every school has different specifications for these references. Each one will almost certainly want an academic reference from one of your professors, but some may even want work references from healthcare professionals or even a personal one from someone who is not related to you that can talk purely about you as a person. Take some time to really think about who best can affirm your abilities as a future pharmacist. It may be your favorite chemistry professor or your boss at your old job. Whoever they are, make sure to ask them in person if they would be willing to assist you, and be sure also to let them know how much you appreciate their help.
Once you’ve got all of these parts completed, you’ll be just one last step away from being ready to submit your application: the personal essay. This will be your chance to explain in your own words just what it is that has motivated you to want to become a pharmacist. While every section of the PharmCAS is vitally important, the personal statement is especially crucial. You’ll want to take extra time and pay extra attention to this part so that it will be your absolute best work. I’m actually still working on mine, but I will have some more detailed information for you on writing a killer essay next time. For now, make sure that your personal and academic history sections are up to par, and start narrowing down professors and colleagues who might be interested in recommending you for your chosen pharmacy schools.
Want to know more about filling out the PharmCAS? Feel free to drop a comment below or email me with any questions you may have. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to receive automatic alerts when I post something new!