Pharmacy School Admissions | The Application

If you are reading this post (after reading the disclaimer), you preferably have made the conscious decision to pursue pharmacy, as this post contains a lot of nitty-gritty details about the application process. Hopefully you have made this choice out of your genuine love for the profession and not solely for the money, lifestyle, or because you do not think you have what it takes to get into medical school (you would be surprised at the number of applicants who have this reasoning). Although I am no authority figure, I would like to relay my insights into pharmacy school admissions. Thank you for reading!

Pharmacy school admissions are run-of-the-mill: you submit a common application to an organization called PharmCAS, along with any supplementary applications to your schools of interest. It should be noted that most pharmacy schools require submission of both the primary and secondary applications before commencing review, so do not hesitate to jump into your secondaries while working on your PharmCAS. After some waiting, you may be invited to interview on-site at the pharmacy school, and after more waiting, you will be accepted, rejected, or placed on a waitlist. Some rolling schools may opt to place you on hold, which means that, for one reason or another, they will return to review your application at a later time.

PharmCAS application opens on June 1 and requires standard information: colleges attended, completed and intended coursework, extracurricular activities, work experience, letters of recommendation, essays, and a final payment. Most of it is self-explanatory, but the entire process is very time-intensive and detail-oriented. Make sure to complete all fields and triple-check them for accuracy! The PharmCAS staff will double-check your coursework with the official transcripts you send in (fortunately, UC Berkeley no longer charges for these), but it is easier for them to process your application if everything is correct from the get-go.

PharmCAS takes about 2 – 4 weeks to process your application before they send it out to the schools you have selected. For me, it took about 16 days; if you are trying to beat the clock, especially for rolling admissions, submit PharmCAS early! Start working on your personal statement a few months before June so that you can spend the first few weeks of June filling out the application and compiling necessary documents while continually editing your essays.

There is only one PharmCAS essay prompt, and I believe it is the same year after year. Here is your chance to get a head start!

“Your Personal Essay should address why you selected pharmacy as a career and how the Doctor of Pharmacy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals. The personal essay is an important part of your application for admission and provides you with an opportunity for you to clearly and effectively express your ideas. 4500 characters/1 page, including spaces”

And yes, make sure to touch upon all three components: personal, educational, and professional. I struggled for a month to successfully incorporate my educational experiences into my essay, and at some point I even contemplated omitting that completely (I thought my essay would be stronger without it since the word count WILL serve as an obstacle). But, word to the wise: if it is in the prompt, it is an expectation. Do not cut corners if you encounter writer’s block; rather, seek assistance from people who you trust to chat about literary inspirations and life experiences.

Save a version of every draft you make. I may have excessively saved drafts, as I had 35 drafts alone for my PharmCAS essay. But it came in handy for my supplemental essays when I wanted to use a paragraph I had omitted from my PharmCAS essay—I simply spent a few minutes hunting through all of my old drafts until I found what I was looking for. Also, I would back up your essays to a cloud storage program, such as or This not only allows you to keep a copy in case your hard drive fails, but it also allows you to access your essay wherever you have access to a typing device. I have also saved my essays on Google documents for migratory editing, although the formatting of Google documents irks me a little.

I highly recommend having a plethora of editors for each essay. For the planners, draft a list all of the people you trust to edit your essays objectively and thoroughly, and for the overachieving planners, divvy up your editors among your various essays. Try to find a good balance of editors who know you well and editors who barely know you (for example, I asked one of my closest friends to ask his older sister if she could edit my essay, and her advice was invaluable). Editors who know you well may suggest that you focus on different components of your undergraduate career for that prompt, while editors who barely know you will be able to better evaluate the overall theme and flow of your essay in an unbiased manner. And welcome constructive criticism with hugs and kisses! Some of my best revisions have been from the friends I trusted to be blunt and straightforward with me. Oh, please remember to be gracious and say thank you a million times over. Your editors are doing you a huge favor, and a gesture of appreciation goes a long way (I baked cookies for the editors who were around to eat them haha)!

UCSF’s supplementary essays are the most challenging and thought-provoking, so I highly recommend that you dedicate almost all of your time to these to finish these first. You will find that the diversity of the prompts will usually allow you to borrow segments for other schools’ essays. They have four prompts, shown below:

Candidate’s statement:

In a class of 122 highly qualified students, which of your personal characteristics will make you stand out as an individual? In contrast to the PharmCAS application and statement, which asks you to describe your skills, accomplishments, and future goals, we ask that you discuss your personal uniqueness.

Extracurricular, leadership, volunteer, community activities & work experience:

UCSF prepares students to be leaders in pharmacy. Expand upon one of the outside activities you listed in your PharmCAS application by discussing how your participation demonstrates your motivation and ability to be a leader in the pharmacy profession.

Personal perspective:

How have your personal experiences informed your understanding of the human condition?

For this question you should summarize what you believe you have learned about the nature of humanity and how that will impact your tenure as a student at UCSF and your future as a pharmacist.

Professional acumen and cultural awareness:

Explain how your educational, employment or other extracurricular experiences have provided you an opportunity to actively address issues of diversity and/or health disparities. How will these experiences help you to succeed in our Doctor of Pharmacy program and in the pharmacy profession?

A word of warning: these prompts may change from year to year, as my friend in UCSF told me that there were not as many restrictions on the essays back when he applied in 2010.

Even if you are not ready to tackle a specific prompt, I would suggest keeping a notebook to jot down all of the experiences that you have had. Start with your professional experiences: leadership, work, volunteering, internships, research, etc. Then add on hobbies, travels, unique skills, childhood memories, and inspirational people in your life. The application process delves deep into who you are as a person–it all starts with the essays.

Letters of recommendation (LoR) are a vital component to your application, as it allows others to boast about you in a way that you directly cannot. You should have a minimum of two letters, a maximum of four. Different schools require different numbers of letters from different types of people, so make sure to do your research. PharmCAS has a directory of school profiles that cuts out a lot of the legwork.

To be safe, ask for a LoR from a pharmacist and a professor, ideally a science professor who you are researching under or that you have taken a class with. Make sure that your LoR writers know you well and can say good things about you! Start establishing strong relationships early on (or as soon as you can), and follow up with them, especially if you took a past class with them and do not have an easy way to see them on a regular basis. When ready for contact, you should ask if they would be willing to write a LoR, and if they say yes, provide them with your most recent transcript, your personal statement (or your most recent draft), your resume, and the list of schools you are applying to and their application deadlines. Do not be afraid to give your writers deadlines, as they too are susceptible to procrastination, but make sure not to be too pushy. Remember, they are doing you a huge favor, and sometimes they need to find that perfect block of time in their week to write you a great letter.

As always, it is wise to relay your immense appreciation to your writers once all is submitted and done. Once spring rolls around, it would be nice to send them a follow-up email or two about the status of your application process (and maybe some spring rolls, haha!). If they spent a few hours slaving away at your letter, then it is a very simple gesture on your end to let them know the fruition of your (and their) labors.

This concludes my post on pharmacy school admissions, the application! I will be following up with a second part on pharmacy school interviews, so stay tuned! And feel free to contact me at if you have any questions. I’m more than happy to answer them c:

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Bon Appétit,


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