Pharmacy School Applications Guide

By familiarizing yourself with pharmacy school cycle deadlines, requirements, and best practices ahead of time, you will ease the pressure of your upcoming application process and better your chances at admission.

Getting into pharmacy school can be one of the most frustrating, exhausting, and if you get in, exhilarating experiences of your life. Applications, recommendations, clinical experience… all of these disparate pieces and more have to be expertly packaged to create the best possible case for yourself before the admissions committees.

And that’s not your only problem. You’ll have to decide whether to apply for a Pharm.D. a Ph.D., or an M.S. degree. You’ll need to research various target schools and make sure you have the minimum requirements. And even once you have them, competition for seats in the top pharmacy programs is tough. But there are tremendous payoffs for your efforts. Pharmacists are a crucial link in the health-care industry, working on everything from patient care to researching and developing new and improved drugs. The fact is, you’ll be helping patients in an immediately tangible way.

So where do you begin? How do you make yourself more competitive? Well, start by taking a business-like approach to pharmacy school admissions. Even with all the various options and programs, there still are basic, key elements to an application package. Doing a little homework can help you organize and build a stellar application package—one that gets you noticed and gets you in.

Let’s take a deeper look into the Pharmacy School Admissions Process.

Should I Go To Pharmacy School?

The decision to become a pharmacist is not one to be taken lightly. You’ll have to commit to a minimum of six years of university, you’ll have a heavy course load, and once you graduate, you’ll literally be responsible for people’s lives. And you’ll most likely be taking on a considerable financial burden until you graduate.

On the other hand, pharmacy can be incredibly rewarding. If you go into clinical pharmacy, you’ll get to interact with a tremendous variety of people. You’ll be dealing with patients, colleagues, and other health professionals. You’ll be responsible for making sure your patients are getting the optimal drug treatment possible. And if you decide to go into research, you’ll be interacting with highly intelligent colleagues from a wide range of scientific fields. In either case, pharmacists tend to be both well-paid and well-respected—a rare combination.

To be effective and successful, pharmacists must have certain traits that help them with their position. First, and most crucial, they definitely need have the ability to pay attention to detail. Prescriptions can be mistaken, calculations might have crucial mistakes, and Mrs. Smith might be coming in for prescription refills just a little too often… these are just some of the details that you need to notice.

Judgment and dependability are essential for this job as well. Since you’ll have access to potentially dangerous substances, you must have high ethical standards and maintain reliable records. Finally, you’ll have to be knowledgeable about and keep up with the constant stream of new products and medications on the market.

So is it right for you? Ultimately, that’s a decision you have to make. Pharmacy school is a serious time and financial commitment. But if you have specific career goals and apply yourself, the payoff can be extraordinary

Pharmacy School Requirements

With advances in science, technology, and medicine growing by leaps and bounds, it’s a great time to join this growing profession. Most pharmacy programs accept students for their Pharm.D. degree once they’ve completed at least 2 years of undergraduate study, but in reality, you’ll probably have to finish 3, or even have your bachelor’s degree before you can get in to most programs. There are some colleges, on the other hand, that accept students to their pre-pharmacy or pharmacy programs directly from high school.

Pharmacy School Prerequisites

The requirements you need vary from program to program, but there will obviously be common prerequisites throughout. Math, biology, physics, and chemistry are some of the basics you should be taking if you’re even thinking of applying. The fact is, you’ll probably need to take these courses to do well on the PCAT exam. This exam will be a critical part of your application package, and, since the PCAT covers biology, chemistry, and math, make sure you know the material before you take the test.

Why do you need the courses mentioned above to become a pharmacist? It’s really quite intuitive. A good pharmacist will need math to measure out prescriptions and calculate dosage strength for individuals of different height and weight, and might also need business math to manage his or her own pharmacy. Biology is necessary to know how drugs will react within the body, and to know what’s wrong in the first place! Chemistry and physics, meanwhile, are needed to understand the behavior of drugs, the ingredients included, and why they react differently under various conditions. Of course, these subjects will be given in pharmacy school itself, but you must understand the basics before you start.

There are some more courses that might be helpful before you start your degree program. Social science courses like English, sociology, psychology, and more can prove helpful in relating to your patients, your co-workers, and other health professionals that you’ll come in contact with throughout your career. In addition, your English classes will no doubt help you score higher on the verbal ability and reading comprehension sections of the PCAT! Doing well in these courses can help you stand out from the crowd of applicants and get into the school of your choice!

Pharmacy School GPA Requirements and Averages

The most standard minimum GPA requirement is a 3.0 GPA, though this can vary between programs. Average GPAs for pharmacy school admission is closer in the 3.2-3.4 GPA range, but your admissions options will grow if your GPA is toward/above the 3.6 range.

If GPA is a concern for you, the best way to balance out a less-than-ideal GPA is by submitting an impressive PCAT score.

[ RELATED: What’s a good PCAT score? ]

Pharmacy School Requirements: The PSAR

There are currently 130 pharmacy schools in the United States. Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (the PSAR), published every year by the Association of American of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), provides comprehensive information on all of these schools.

You can order the PSAR by contacting:

Association of American of Colleges of Pharmacy
1426 Prince Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314-2814
703-836-8982 (fax)

When it comes to pharmacy school admissions, “doing it by the book” refers to the PSAR. The information provided in this book comes from the schools themselves. The first part of the PSAR includes profiles of all the pharmacy schools in the U.S. The second section includes tables detailing applicant profiles, requirements, programs offered, and more. Every school profiled in the PSAR contains the following entries:

  • General Information
  • Curriculum
  • Requirements
  • Deadlines
  • Tuition
  • Contact
  • Information

The Pharmacy School Application Process

Krystal has attended the West Virginia School of Pharmacy. This was written after she had been accepted, while she was finishing up her undergraduate curriculum while remaining active in a research lab on campus. Krystal hopes to one day specialize in pharmaceutical drug design research.

As soon as I decided that I wanted to attend pharmacy school, I knew that some research was in order. I decided to approach the admissions process as if it were a job interview. Just as I would present myself in a competitive way to showcase that I was the best potential employee possible, my goal for applying to pharmacy school was to figure out how to put my best foot forward. Here’s what I learned.

About the Pharmacy School Application

The standard admissions portal for pharmacy schools is PharmCas, and most schools use this for preliminary applications. I decided to launch the previous year’s application to see what categories were on it and what supplemental materials were required. At first, I thought that applying to pharmacy school would be very similar to applying to college for my undergraduate education, but that was not the case.

Applying to college is fairly broad—with upwards of 5,000 students being accepted in a single class. Undergraduate admissions committees typically ask questions about why their college is the right place for you. College applicants also may not know what they want to major in or which career path they ultimately want to take. When applying to pharmacy school, your application must be more focused. You have one degree option and you are vying for a very limited number of seats. It is important to be confident in your decision and to know why you are applying to that particular program.

Before writing the personal statement section of my application, I sat down, got introspective, and examined my goals and passions so that I could speak from a place of honesty.

Starting the Pharmacy School Application Process

I decided to apply to pharmacy school as an early admissions candidate, so my timeline from the application launch to the due date was smaller than if I would have applied regular decision. Applying early admissions means that I only applied to one school, and if I got accepted then that school is the one I was committed to attend.

The decision to apply early shouldn’t be taken lightly. I looked at multiple schools and was confident in my top choice before submitting the application. I found the application process to be a relatively easy one, but that is because I prepared with ample time. Throughout college, I made sure to update my resume every few months so that all of the information was in one place: I had my extracurriculars, job experiences, and references all lined up and ready to be plugged into the application.

Since I had most of the information needed already complete, I had more time to focus on writing my personal statement. I found my purpose for applying to pharmacy school and tried to write a very personal and reflective essay to show that I was serious and committed to the pharmacy profession. Once the application had launched for the current admissions cycle, I had everything submitted within 48 hours. The school I applied to was on a rolling admissions schedule, so I knew the sooner I submitted my application the sooner I would hopefully receive a secondary application and an interview. Thankfully, I received both.

Waiting for Pharmacy School Admission Decisions

After submitting the preliminary application, I received a secondary application and an invitation for an interview at my prospective pharmacy school. The secondary application was tailored not just to why I wanted to go into pharmacy, but to why that particular school interested me.

Because I submitted my applications so early on, I had an interview date within two weeks. The entire process happened so quickly that I barely had time to process everything. A week after applying, I got my acceptance letter. The short timeline from applying, to getting an interview, to being accepted made me very thankful that I had been so organized and prepared for the process.

In short, what I found most helpful in applying to pharmacy school was to have my ducks in a row before beginning the process. I knew that this was the first major step to starting my career, so I approached the process with seriousness and commitment.