How to get into pharmacy school
Prospective pharmacy students should be prepared to undergo a selective competitive admission process.
Choosing a career as a pharmacist is a big decision that requires a substantial time commitment, energy, and preparation. Before deciding to apply to pharmacy school, invest time to research, observe, and immerse yourself into the profession in any capacity possible, to evaluate if this profession is a great fit for you.
PharmCAS is a centralized application service for a pharmacy schools and colleges within the United States. In the 2020-2021 application cycle, there were 153 participating pharmacy schools and colleges in PharmCAS.
The Pharmaceutical Sciences Student Affairs counselors are well versed in advising pre-pharmacy students.
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
To prepare for the pharmacy curriculum and strengthen your admission consideration is by achieving strong grades. Most pharmacy programs prefer a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and commonly require a minimum “C” letter grade in required pre-requisite courses. If accessible, take pharmaceutical science related courses and try your best to do well.
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 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
Some pharmacy schools require the Pharmacy College Admission Test, also known as the PCAT. This test is a common admission requirement for pharmacy programs outside the state of California.
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.
Undergraduate students that wish to admit into pharmacy schools without gap years, we recommend registering for the PCAT in March of their sophomore year with a test date in January of their junior year. This will give the applicant ample time to complete prerequisite courses applicable to studying and prepare for the exam.
This timeline also allows applicants time to study and retake their exam if needed. We would advise taking the PCAT no later than December of their senior year for matriculation without a gap year.
Tip #5 Write a strong personal statement
It could never hurt to begin working on a personal statement early and let the draft evolve with time as you accumulate more life experiences and had time to thoughtfully present yourself on paper. It is recommended to have a near final draft by early junior year. Get a good sense of the topic as provided by the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS).
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 pharmacy programs require at minimum of 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 Research PharmD programs through PharmCAS
Visit the PharmCAS directory, https://www.pharmcas.org/school-directory/pharmd-directory, to learn more about participating programs. Each pharmacy program has its own page with important deadlines, requirements, and descriptions of programs, which will help prospective applicants plan their application strategy.
Want to check out UC Irvine’s PharmD program and apply?
Visit https://pharmsci.uci.edu/pharm-d. The UCI PharmD program prepares graduates to be practice-ready pharmacists who are problem solvers, independent lifelong learners, team players, and leaders who will drive transformative changes in the healthcare system. The curriculum is taught by faculty from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice and delivered using innovative instructional methods and applying evidence-based practices.