GPA – GPA is one of the most important criteria for admission into pharmacy school. Most pharmacy schools do separate your GPA into “Overall GPA”, “Pre-Pharmacy GPA”, and “Science/Math GPA.” Calculating and knowing each of these GPAs will give you a better idea of what the admission staff sees. For example, you could have a low overall GPA from taking difficult classes in a difficult major at a top tier school, but with a high Pre-pharmacy GPA and a strong Science/Math GPA, you still have a good shot at being accepted to even the top pharmacy schools (assuming your other stats are stellar).
PCAT Scores – It is important to first note that NOT all schools even require that you take the PCAT. This would include California pharmacy schools as well as many others scattered throughout the United States. Check which school of pharmacy programs require the PCAT by checking the PharmCAS website or check out my other article on which schools do not require the PCAT.
Interview Performance – The interview process is an important aspect of the application process as the pharmacy school gets to see what kind of individual you are and how well you will fit into their pharmacy school. Check out real questions from applicants who were interviewed in the past application cycles by clicking the link at the bottom of this article.
Letter of Recommendations – Pharmacy schools have specific requirements on the types of recommendations that they accept. Generally speaking, recommendations from a pharmacist or a science professor who knows your ability on a personal level serve as the best type of recommendation. You will want to prepare and give ample time for whoever writes your letters to complete the necessary forms (either through PharmCAS or directly to the school) in a timely and un-rushed manner.
Pharmacy Experience – Although pharmacy experience is not a requirement, having pharmacy experience will definitely show an admission committee that you have experienced a pharmacy workplace, and a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree this is something you have no doubts about pursuing. Obtaining a pharmacy technician license (most states just require passing of the exam), will allow to garner more responsibilities in the pharmacy and further prepare yourself for pharmacy school.
Academic Rigor - Pharmacy admission committees tend to look at how heavy your course load was throughout your college career to see how you will be able to handle the extensive coursework required as a Pharm.D. student. Although you shouldn’t stress yourself out by constantly taking the maximum allowed units, it is wise to take a reasonable amount of units so that you challenge yourself yet perform well in your coursework.
Extracurricular Activities and Volunteer Work – On paper, many applicants may be very similar and what will set you apart is dedication to various different extracurricular activities and/or volunteer projects. Although it may not be a huge factor in admission, excellent volunteer or extracurricular activities will positively impact your topics on your personal statement as well as your answers during your interview.
Research Experience – Research in any field of biology, medicine, pharmacology, etc. will show an admission committee your passion and dedication to the advancement of science. Although research experience is not mandatory, it will be a strong plus for any pharmacy school applicant.
Recent Academic Performance and Improvement Trends - For students who have not performed well early in their careers, admission committees will want to generally see progression in one’s academic ability. Regression, although a red flag to the admission people, will not completely doom you from acceptance as long as you have other areas that will bolster your applicant profile. Student with under 3.0s have been accepted to the top Pharm.D. programs in the United States, so do not lose hope!
Motivation for pursuing pharmacy – It is important to know for yourself why you are dedicating 3 to 4 years of your life and a ton of loans to the field of pharmacy. Make it clear to yourself and the admission committee (through essays and the interview) your true passion and desire to become a pharmacist.