It took months for me to courage up this post. I wanted to ensure I passed all my courses before writing about this process. For those of you who’ve followed me, the past three years, you’ll know it took me years to get to this point. I have been retaking expired science courses, have been taking prerequisite courses, and have been working full time. I did not decide on pharmacy school until the Fall of 2019 but originally could not decide between a PhD, PsyD, MD or PharmD. It took a few interviews with mentors for me to decide on Pharmacy school. I liked the possibility of specializing, especially in data informatics, should clinical pharmacy not be a viable option.
Preparing for pharmacy school interviews was a relatively easy but difficult process. First, it’s important to note that applications are expensive. It took me years to save up for my application fees and to save for interview lodging, gas, and travel. Many people have financial support from parents or family members. If you are in a similar situation as me, where you have bills, school loans, no savings, rent, car payments, and no fiscal support — be easy on yourself. It is really easy to beat yourself up because your journey will not mimic other applicants. My immediate family did not help me and chose not to fiscally support me because I have twelve other siblings. It took me longer to save up for a wedding, support my family, and save enough funds to apply and interview. Traveling for interviews cost approximately $200-$500 for each school and each application cost approximately $75.00 each; Remember that you will lose wages when interviewing and this may impact your ability to pay bills. I applied to nine schools: UCSF, USC, Anschutz (Denver), UOP, Loma Linda, Pacific University, Keck Graduate Institute, Western University of Health Sciences, and Touro. I was accepted into all schools. I only considered Denver and USC as viable options.
Second, remember that interviews are a two way street. The school wants to know how you will contribute to their program but you also need to ask how the school will benefit you. This is an expensive program and it’s important that you’re set up for a lucrative career with staff members who will support you in your journey. Come prepared with questions but don’t overthink it. For me – it was important that the school I chose had well established clinical programs and rapport with tier one level one trauma centers AND rotated in a Children’s Hospital. I wanted to know their match rates, their demographics, leadership opportunities, where I would rotate for my hours, and if they had the ability to grant me access to state of the art hospitals.
Third, be yourself. I actually interviewed alongside a friend I made while taking a prerequisite. We both happened to interview at the same school, on the same day. I prepped by not worrying, getting sleep, and making sure my clothes were ironed the day before. She prepped by rehearsing questions with her partner for a couple weeks. I did not. Everyone has a different process. I wore my nose piercings to all my interviews, let my hair down in big messy curls, hardly wore makeup, wore navy blue tailored clothing, and had a notepad/resume on hand. It was important that the school interviewers accepted me for who I am. I am well spoken, confident, I do not regurgitate and rehearse answers, and there’s a bit of a wild side to me that I did not want suppressed. They already knew my application was strong enough to make it to the interviews, so it was important they interviewed me knowing that my qualities were not as cookie cutter as their traditional applicant.
Fourth, are they going to offer you scholarships or waivers? Ask. It didn’t hurt me in any of my interviews and each school was able to offer me one or the other.
Fifth, are the students interviewing you happy? Observe and ask them questions. This will help you gage how well the school takes care of its students. Do they look tired? If so — write it down and make a note. Are they excited? Do they talk to their professors on a first name basis? This was important for me because wellness is a huge component of my every day life.
Sixth, write thank you letters. I wrote down each professor and interviewer’s name in my notepad. After each interview I waited one business day, then emailed or mailed hand written thank you letters. In my notes, next to their name, I would write a descriptor of something we spoke about. This helped me with my thank you notes. For example, “Thank you Dr. Diaz for meeting with me and informing me of the new direction of herbal medicine and research in treating depression. yadda yadda yadda.” Let them know you care about the time they took out of their day to talk to you! It matters.
Last but not least – try not to stress about the process. I know, easier said then done. The last thing you need is to be exhausted during your interview process. Stay well rested, exercise in between applications and interviews, meditate, and lean on friends for support. It’s taken a tribe to get me to this point and it will for you too. ❤