How to get into pharmacy school
Pharmacy schools are competitive. We mean, really competitive.
Choosing to become a pharmacist is a big decision that requires a substantial amount of time, energy, and preparation. Before deciding to apply to pharmacy school, you should conduct as much research as you can to ensure this profession is a great fit for you.
Currently, UCI is the #1 feeder program for pharmacy schools nationwide, so we know a thing or two about training our students to get into pharmacy school.
Here are some tips to help get you started. Remember, there is far more work and preparation involved than simply following our advice; however, this guide will help you get on the right track.
Tip #1 Get good grades
One of the simplest ways you can ensure you have a great chance of getting into pharmacy school is to get good grades. Most PharmD programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, which means you must achieve above a C grade in required courses. If you can, take pharmaceutical science related courses and try your best to do really well in those courses.
CLICK HERE for UCI tutoring resources.
Tip #2 Work or volunteer in the field of pharmacy
Actively seek out volunteer work, internships, or jobs in the field of pharmacy. Any relevant hands-on experience you can get will strengthen your application and help you gain insider insight, skills, and knowledge that you will later use when you become a pharmacist.
UCI has several student organizations in the pharmaceutical sciences field that provide access to volunteer, internship, and professional opportunities. We recommend you join one of these clubs to gain access to their connections and resources. CLICK HERE to get involved
Tip #3 Get research experience
Research experience in the pharmaceutical sciences field will help your application stand out. Showcasing any publications, patents, or research projects will showcase your suitability for pharmacy school, as well as make a positive impression on the admissions committee.
CLICK HERE to learn more about research opportunities at UCI.
Tip #4 Get a good PCAT score
As part of your pharmacy school application, applicants take the Pharmacy College Admission Test, also known as the PCAT. The exam is administered in a computer-based test format and includes questions in:
- Quantitative analysis
- Reading comprehension
- Verbal skills
The PCAT is scored on a scale ranging from 200-600 with the median being 400. The 90th percentile is typically a score of 430. Pharmacy schools usually require a minimum score on the PCAT as part of their admissions requirements. You should check with the specific admissions requirements for each school you plan on applying to.
We recommend you sign up to take the PCAT in March of your sophomore year and take the test in January of your junior year. This will give you ample time to study and prepare for the exam.
If you take the test and are dissatisfied with your score, you should prepare to retake the test (just be sure to give yourself ample time to study!). You should take your last PCAT no later than December of your senior year.
Tip #5 Write a strong personal statement
We recommend you start writing your personal statement early junior year. Get a good sense of the topic as provided by the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS), the centralized application service to apply to PharmD programs.
Request assistance from your faculty, mentors, and family to gain insight and feedback on your personal statement, and be prepared to go through multiple iterations of your draft. The UCI Career Center can also provide assistance to help you write a strong personal statement.
Tip #6 Obtain strong letters of recommendation
Most PharmD programs require at least two letters of recommendation; one from a science based faculty member, the other from a health care provider. During your freshmen and sophomore years, think about who would serve as a great letter writers and start developing a connection with these individuals. Developing relationships takes time and effort so start early! Make sure to check with the specific admissions requirements for each school to learn more about their letter of recommendation guidelines.
Tip #7 Consider enrolling in a post-bac program
A post-bac program is designed to support the transition to professional school and is reserved for individuals who have already earned an undergraduate degree. Typically, a post-bac program is one to two years long and includes prerequisite classes to professional school, such as pharmacy school or medical school. A post-bac program is ideal for career changers or for students who are taking a gap year.
UCI’s Post-Baccalaureate Program in Pharmaceutical Sciences is a great option to help strengthen your application to competitive graduate programs in pharmacy or other health fields. This program is intended for career changers, or for those who do not have an undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical sciences or pharmacology.
The program equips students with a solid understanding of pharmaceutical sciences through upper-division academic coursework and provides access to faculty mentors. Students have the opportunity to participate in laboratory research and attend seminars that cover a variety of topics including PCAT preparation, graduate school applications, and interviewing skills.