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An Inside Look at the Pharmacy School Admissions Process

An Inside Look at the Pharmacy School Admissions Process

When you’re just getting started, the pharmacy school admissions process can seem complicated. Luckily there are admissions experts at every pharmacy school to help you throughout the process.

Today, we’re excited to introduce you to one of these experts—Jessica Lang. Jessica works as the Director of Enrollment Services for the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Drake University.

Jessica answered a few questions about pharmacy school admissions and provided a few tips to navigate the sometimes intimidating process.

What does a day in your life as an admissions officer at a school of pharmacy look like?

At the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Drake University, our enrollment services department consists of myself and my colleague, Ali Harms. Together, we’re responsible for the admissions process for our professional healthcare programs, as well as student recruitment.

On any given day, we could be doing any number of admissions-related activities. The following are just a few examples: 

  • meeting with prospective students (in person or virtually) to discuss our programs and provide tours of our facilities
  • answering student questions via email and phone
  • planning travel or virtual recruitment activities with a variety of high school, college, and community groups and individuals
  • engaging our faculty and current students in the recruitment process by connecting them to prospective students in a variety of settings
  • planning group visit activities on our campus or virtually
  • managing projects for print and electronic recruitment materials
  • reviewing applications for admission and managing applicants in the admission process
  • managing our admission interview process
  • providing data to our admissions committees to aid in the admission decisioning process
  • reporting admission data to college leadership

In addition to managing admission and recruitment for our professional healthcare programs, Ali and I are also liaisons to Drake’s undergraduate admissions office.

In this role, we assist our undergraduate admissions counselors by answering academic-related questions from prospective high school students and families via email, phone, virtual meetings, and in-person visits. We also plan academic activities related to our healthcare programs for undergraduate visit days.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love days when I am able to interact with prospective students—especially in person or through virtual meetings!

In my conversations with prospective students, I like to learn what they’re most passionate about—what gets them up in the morning and what motivates them to pursue their education, career, and life goals. By doing this, I’m able to help future students make connections between the things they’re passionate about and how they can make their dreams a reality at Drake.  

I also really enjoy engaging with our faculty and current students to learn about their experiences. Our faculty and students have a lot of passion for pharmacy, learning, teaching, helping others, and making a difference in the lives of patients and in the community. When I listen to stories from faculty about their careers, or from students about their experiences in and out of the classroom, I am energized. It’s exciting to be able to then share these stories with others to get the word out about pharmacy and Drake! 

Please describe, in your own words, the pharmacy school admissions process.

The admissions process starts when a prospective student shows interest in our program. Sometimes this occurs over a year before they’re ready to apply and occasionally this isn’t until they submit their application. 

Most commonly, we might meet prospective students on their campuses, at recruitment events, or via email or social media. During this early phase of the process, we answer program questions, provide guidance regarding admissions requirements, and more.

When prospective students are ready to apply, the true admissions process begins. Here’s a breakdown of how the process works at Drake:

  1. The prospective student begins the process by completing their PharmCAS application
  2. The university reviews their materials to determine if the student will be invited for an admissions interview (a requirement for most pharmacy programs)
  3. The student interviews at the university
  4. The admissions committee at the university meets to discuss the prospective student’s file and determine if they’ll be admitted
  5. The student is notified of their admissions decision
  6. If the student chooses to attend the university, they are asked to submit a tuition deposit to hold their seat in the program

Once prospective students have deposited for the pharmacy program at Drake, our team begins communicating with them about next steps to help them prepare and get comfortable in their new program. This may include the following:

  • course registration
  • criminal background check
  • drug screen
  • immunization records
  • first-year student orientation

What education is involved in becoming a pharmacist?

The entry-level degree to practice as a licensed pharmacist in the U.S. is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. This degree will allow students to sit for their licensing exams after graduation.  

How long does it take to become a pharmacist?

If students are pursuing a traditional route to college directly after high school, it’ll take an average of 6-8 years to complete the necessary education to become a pharmacist.

At Drake, we’re proud to be a true 2+4 pharmacy program. This means students can spend their first two years of college completing their pre-pharmacy requirements to prepare for pharmacy school and then enter our PharmD program in their third year. Once they enter the doctorate program, it takes four years to complete their PharmD degree. 

However, not every student follows a traditional pathway! Sometimes future pharmacists find their calling a little later in life. Our team works with these non-traditional prospective students to build a timeline that fits their needs. 

What subjects should high school and college students focus on if they’re interested in attending pharmacy school in the future?

A well-rounded education is important for any healthcare professional. At Drake, we look favorably on students who have taken a variety of academic subjects in the sciences, math, language arts, and social sciences.  

When advising current high school students interested in pursuing pharmacy, we suggest they take at least one course every year in each of those four subjects. By doing this, they show that they’re able to handle a rigorous academic curriculum in all four years of high school (even senior year when many people take a bit of a “break”).

In college, it’s important for future pharmacy students to plan their course schedules wisely to ensure they complete all the prerequisite courses required by the pharmacy schools they’re interested in.

What are the requirements of a pharmacy school application?

Typically, pharmacy schools share their application requirements on their websites. So, they should be simple enough for prospective pharmacy students to access.

At Drake, we require the following application elements: 

  • An application through PharmCAS
  • Results from a graduate-level standardized admission test (PCAT, GRE, MCAT, GMAT, etc.)
  • At least two years of undergraduate pre-pharmacy coursework
  • A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Completed prerequisite coursework outlined on our PharmD admission website

What qualities do you look for when interviewing prospective pharmacy school students?

When interviewing prospective pharmacy students, admissions interviewers typically look for the following qualities:

  • A genuine personality – they want to get to know the interviewee as a person
  • A general understanding of pharmacy – they want to know that the prospective pharmacy student has done their research because a doctoral program is a big investment of time and money
  • Interest in their program and school – they want to know why the interviewee is interested in their program specifically

It’s important for future pharmacists to remember that pharmacy school interviews aren’t just for the school. They’re also a great opportunity for prospective students to determine if the school is a good fit for them. They can make themselves stand out in the process by asking thoughtful questions about the school, program, and curriculum in addition to answer questions.

What stands out most on a pharmacy school application?

One of the most important elements of a pharmacy school application is evidence of strong academic preparation. That said, admissions teams understand that some courses can be challenging, and are generally understanding when they see that prospective students have retaken certain courses to improve their grades. This effort and improvement shows perseverance that will likely lead to successful pharmacy students.   

Beyond academics, well-rounded experiences outside of the classroom can also help an application stand out. Over the years, our admissions team at Drake has found that some of our most successful students have had experiences that weren’t necessarily related to pharmacy— or even healthcare—that helped them to grow the skills necessary for a successful career in pharmacy, like problem solving, customer service, compassion, and more.

Ultimately, pharmacy school admissions teams want pharmacy students’ applications to show the whole picture—not just what makes them great applicants, but also what makes them great people!

What important questions should a prospective pharmacy school student ask when talking with a pharmacy school admission officer?

My advice for prospective pharmacy students is to figure out what things are most important to them when it comes to their education, and then craft their questions around that central theme.  

Additionally, pharmacy school interviewers will likely be  impressed if you ask them questions about their experience—both with the program and with the pharmacy profession.

Here are some more specific examples of questions that would be great to ask pharmacy school interviewers:

  • Why did you choose to pursue a career in pharmacy and how did you get to where you are today?
  • What makes this pharmacy program unique compared to others?  
  • Why do you love attending (or teaching in) this program? 
  • What is the best experience you’ve had in this program so far? 
  • What does this pharmacy program do better than anyone else? 
  • What is something you find surprising about this program—something you weren’t expecting, but are glad you experienced? 
  • What kinds of internships and experiential learning would I do in this program—what sites are available? 
  • Where do graduates of this program practice? 
  • How will this program prepare me to be a great pharmacist? 

How will a prospective pharmacy school student know if a pharmacy school is right for them?

Once prospective students feel confident that a career in pharmacy is right for them, it’s a good idea for them to connect with admissions and enrollment professionals at multiple different pharmacy schools. These conversations will help future students narrow down a list of schools that offer exactly what they’re looking for—academically and otherwise.

Once they have a list of schools they’re interested in, I highly suggest visiting the schools in person. These visits will allow them to tour the facilities and interact with admissions staff, faculty, and current students. Oftentimes, these visits help prospective students get a feeling for whether or not the pharmacy school will be a good fit for them.

How much does it cost to attend pharmacy school?

Like most college or graduate school programs, costs vary from school to school. The cost of a PharmD program typically includes tuition and various fees. But, based on the program and location, it’s also important to factor in living expenses like housing and food.

You can find the tuition and fees schedule for the programs we offer at Drake on our Student Financial Planning website.

What tips can you share for students beginning the pharmacy school application process?

My advice for students beginning the pharmacy school application process is: go for it! It’s never too early or too late to start looking into pharmacy school. 

While the process can seem intimidating at the start, there are a lot of people in admissions and academia that are eager to help. So, future students shouldn’t be afraid to utilize those resources to help them get started!

Want more pharmacy school admissions tips?

Thank you again to Jessica Lang for taking the time to share an inside look into the pharmacy school admissions process! If you’re interested in more pharmacy school admissions tips, check out some of our other blogs on the topic:

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