What do Pharmacy Admissions Committees Look for in an Applicant?
- Can the student handle the academic rigors of medical school?
- Why does the student want to be a pharmacist? Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
- Do they have a diverse set of skills necessary to be a pharmacist?
How can Penn State Behrend help the student succeed?
There is no particular major required for pharmacy school, just the prerequisite science classes with some humanities. However, due to the advanced chemistry requirement at many pharmacy schools, a chemistry or chemistry-related major often is pursued. Prerequisite courses for most pharmacy programs include:
- General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
- Microbiology: BIOL 230W
- General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
- General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
- Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212
- Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213
- Biochemistry: CHEM 472
- Anatomy BIOL 421
- Physiology BIOL 472
- Physics: PHYS 250/251
- Calculus: MATH 140/141
- Psychology: PSYCH 100
- English (3 -6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C
- Humanities and social science classes: Various – sociology is a strong choice for pre-medical.
Our Pre-Health Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these pre-requisites. However other biology, chemistry and physics degree programs can easily be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated Pre-Health Advisor who will guide you through the process!
Statistics are available from American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy that document what the average GPA and PCAT scores are for an incoming pharmacy school class. Data is also available that compares the number of applications a program receives versus the number of acceptance letters sent.
From this data a strong candidate:
Applies to 4-7 schools with a mean GPA of 3.4 and a minimum PCAT score in the 50th percentile or better. The candidate also has 50+ hours of shadowing or work experience in a pharmacy setting.
The minimum GPA considered on average is 2.8. While a few programs will consider as low as 2.5, they also have the highest ratio of applicants to acceptance letters. In other words, they gladly let you apply (and pay the application fee), but reject most of the applicants.
Shadowing and Volunteering
To answer the question of “why do you want to be a pharmacist” it is necessary to observe a pharmacist at work for as many hours as you possibly can schedule. Most pharmacy programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and PCAT score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.
You should also try to shadow different pharmacists that work in the various specializations in pharmacy. Most schools are looking for at least 50 hours of shadowing experience.
Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people! Opportunities at local hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for special needs children require some research on your part, but can really set your application apart.
Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship
To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a pharmacist they look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations and participation in scholarly activities like research.
Penn State Behrend is one of the few schools that combine the small class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university. You will have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in his or her field of expertise. Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
Our campus has a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Scrub’s Club and the Behrend Chapter of the American Medical Students Association for students interested in health degrees. These and our other clubs and organizations organize and participate in may philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.
To start your journey to pharmacy school, you should visit the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) and PharmCAS websites. Here you will find free guides to the over 100 pharmacy programs, statistics on application rates and acceptances, and information on the many pharmacy career opportunities. PharmCAS is the application service for most pharmacy programs.
Pre-Health Advisor for Pharmacy: Tia Young, Behrend Pre-Health
Coordinator of Pre-Health Advising: Michael W. Justik, Behrend Pre-Health