Here are the basics you need to know about pharmacy school, and reasons why the PCAT is so important.
Pharmacy school, in the US, consists of a 4-year program, which is after one completes her undergraduate degree. This 4-year program results in a Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD). There are a few programs that are only 3 years long, but involve a very grueling curriculum with year-around school.
In the pharmacy school curriculum, students start off with an introduction to the sciences, which serves as a bridge between undergraduate courses and pharmacy classes. Introduction pharmacy classes include: microbiology, human physiology, and biochemistry.
The difference between these courses and the ones taken in undergrad is that the courses in pharmacy school have a strong focus on drug metabolism, structure, distribution, and absorption through the body.
Later in the curriculum, students get to dive into actual drugs, disease states, and how to apply the knowledge they learn in real life situations, not just in the classroom, but also on rotations.
In order to be admitted into pharmacy school, admissions committees look for students that have more than just good grades, but are well-rounded and have an obvious passion for pharmacy.
They look for experience in a pharmacy as a volunteer or as a technician. Schools want to make sure that you know what pharmacy school is all about before they let you in the door. They want to make sure that you have this experience and thus know exactly what is in store.
Another aspect of admissions is a letter of recommendation. These can be from school or work, as long as it is from someone who can attest to your experiences and skills.
Other things that committee members look for are extracurricular activities and what positions you held in them. Did you have leadership roles in these organizations and if you did, what did you accomplish? Finally, the last thing that pharmacy schools look at are your PCAT results.
The PCAT is an important part of your application because it shows how good you are at problem solving, how you work under pressure, and how much information you can store and retrieve in a timely manner; it is more than just learning how to read a paragraph and answer some questions.
A good score on the PCAT is more of a reflection of how you work and think and not the actual material being tested. Although there is not a score that is considered a “good score," most pharmacy schools look for scores above the 75th percentile with highly competitive schools looking above the 90th percentile range.
This isn’t saying that you don't have a chance if you get a 72. The whole application is a balance between various criteria. Some applicants have really high PCAT scores with low GPAs, while others have low PCAT scores and high GPAs.
Overall, you want to have a well-rounded application that shows that you are a good student, a good person, and an overall good future pharmacist.