This post is 100% dedicated to my 2011-2012 UCSF interview experience (please read the disclaimer before proceeding!). That being said, congratulations to those of you who have been invited to interview! And to those who received a different email, there is still a world of endless possibilities waiting for you.
I received my interview offer on December 23, 2012, but every year is different (2012-2013 applicants heard back in late December/early January). In my email, they listed:
Date: Thursday, February 2, 2012 (UCSF works with UCSD to avoid scheduling conflicts by alternating Saturday interview dates. However, UCSF has one Thursday interview date for Bay Area applicants.)
Time: 11:30 AM (I believe they hold 3 interview blocks in one day: morning, noon, afternoon)
Location: Medical Sciences Building Lobby at UCSF Parnassus Heights Campus (513 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94131)
How to get to UCSF’s campus is a bit confusing, especially for those who have never visited before. Please reference my above post for demystification.
As Joel mentioned on his blog, the interview will be changing from the typical 2-on-1 interview style to the Multiple Mini Interview, otherwise known as the MMI. More information can be found here: http://pharmacy.ucsf.edu/pharmd/admissions/steps/3/details/prepare/
Since 2013 is the first application cycle to go through MMI, my interview experience won’t be incredibly useful in helping you prepare for your interview. As such, I won’t be delving into the nitty-gritty of the logistics but rather providing tips on what helped me through the process.
As with any interview, make sure to know facts about the university and your reason for wanting to attend that university. UCSF is renowned for its innovative clinically-geared curriculum, which benefits most students but not all (I’m hoping to touch upon this in another post). The best source for all of this information is http://pharmacy.ucsf.edu/.
I would also stay updated on current news in pharmacy, especially with Obamacare and the recent fungal meningitis outbreak due to contaminated steroids from a compounding facility in Massachusetts (http://emergency.cdc.gov/HAN/han00328.asp). I personally read up on two blogs: one from a retail pharmacist (www.theredheadedpharmacist.com) and the other from a pharm-tech-turned-pharm-student (www.iwanttobeapharmacist.com). Backlogging through their older posts helped me to better paint the world of pharmacy in my head.
Now, on to interview day! My interview was scheduled in the order of essay, chat room, and interview.
Please do not underestimate the importance of the on-site essay. Compared to UCSD’s very casual essay-writing atmosphere, UCSF takes care to place your interview group in a quiet classroom. 45 minutes is allotted for the entire endeavor. I started by choosing the prompt that I had the most evidence for (this is sounding a lot like the SAT essay, isn’t it). I then jotted a short outline of my thesis and my examples before proceeding to write the essay. Plan ahead and watch the clock!
What’s the best way to prepare? Read. Read a lot. Read novels. Read blogs. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, read pharmacy blogs (mentioned above).
Just a note: the prompts change for each interview day. It’s challenging but doable. Simply remember to stay calm, stay in the box, and stay true to the prompt.
My chat room had 3 current students: 2 P1s and 1 P2. It also had a bunch of awesome snacks and refreshments, including fruit (yum). This segment of the interview day is informal, so ask as many questions as you would like without dominating the chat room.
Last but not least is the interview itself. Interviews conducted my year were around 45 minutes in length, and my two interviewers were a faculty member and a P3. My interview started off with the typical questions of “tell me about yourself” and “why pharmacy.” Naturally, “why UCSF” came up, and they also asked what other pharmacy schools I had applied to. My faculty interviewer asked me a few questions about my chemistry coursework and research experience at Berkeley. Thinking back on it, I was fortunate to be paired with such a kind and congenial faculty interviewer. My student interviewer was more intense, asking me questions from my supplemental application like how I would apply my undergrad interests to future pursuits in pharmacy school and in my career. I was also asked a difficult behavioral situation. The interview ended with a few questions from my end, which concluded the most anxious 45 minutes of my life.
I want to reemphasize that you should end the interview with questions for the interviewers. Ask the faculty member about his/her research, the student about his/her interests in school, how they enjoy the city life, etc. The happier you end the interview, the happier you leave the interview, and the happier they feel the interview went. I would also recommend that you ask for their emails at the end of the interview so that when you get home, you can shoot your interviewers a personal thank you. However, with the MMI, I’m not sure if you will have enough time to grab that information without cutting into your interview time.
After the interview day is over, you will have the opportunity to go on a short campus tour led by some upperclassmen. I would recommend you go so that you can interact with current students and gauge your level of comfortability. And, who knows, maybe you’ll meet me in person ;)
My last piece of advice: be genuine. You hear this all the time because it’s true. You want UCSF to accept you based on who you are, not based on who you think they want you to be. Although I love this school to death, it’s not a perfect fit for everyone, and the interview is the best time for both parties to figure out if this is a match meant to be. Keep in mind that your pharmacy school somewhat dictates the rotations you’re exposed to (UCSF has dominantly NorCal rotations since SoCal is USC and UCSD territory. If you’re itching to stay in SoCal after graduation, consider where you want to construct your network while at pharmacy school). Think about tuition costs, living expenses (the city ain’t cheap), and the surrounding neighborhoods and community opportunities. You’re here for 4 years, and you’ll want these to be the best 4 years of your life.
UCSF will hopefully stick to the same timeline as last year and begin sending out offers of admission near mid-March. Around 40% of you will be invited to be part of the UCSF School of Pharmacy Class of 2017. I wish you all the best of luck, and I hope to meet some of you come these next few weeks!