I went to a Pre-Pharmacy college fair last week and learned a few things….
There are seven pharmacy schools in or very close to Illinois:
- Chicago State University (Chicago)
- Midwestern University (Downers Grove)
- Roosevelt University (Schaumburg)
- Rosalind Franklin University (Waukegan)
- Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (Edwardsville)
- St. Louis College of Pharmacy (St. Louis, Missouri)
- University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago and Rockford)
I thought all pharmacists worked at pharmacies, but pharmacy school prepares one for 170 different occupations. Check them out here and on the Occupational Outlook Handbook website. Some pharmacists specialize in working with asthma or diabetes education, smoking cessation and weight management.
If you think you’d like the job but are not sure, ask a pharmacist if you can job shadow them (spend time with them at their job to see what they do) or conduct an informational interview with one (asking questions about their work).
To get accepted to a pharmacy school, you need:
- Prerequisite courses such as calculus, biology, anatomy & physiology, microbiology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, etc.
- PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
The admission representatives from the schools listed above told me that pharmacy school is very competitive and it is a very rigorous program to go through, but you don’t need a degree to be admitted. In addition to your grades in the prerequisite courses and your PCAT scores, the schools also look at your community service, extra-curriculars (i.e. clubs, organizations), patient-related experiences, leadership, and your grades in any other science courses you’ve taken.
They all stressed that to succeed in pharmacy school you must have good time management skills and good study skills. One representative said, “Pharmacy school is like drinking knowledge from a fire hose.” It’s fast and furious so it’s hard to keep up unless you have good skills.
They also said math skills are just as important as science. Surprisingly, even though students have calculus before starting pharmacy school, they often struggle with fractions and lower math. This may be because students had the lower math several years before, so it’s a good idea to refresh math skills.
Important advice they gave regarding the PCAT:
- There are no negative connotations to retaking the PCAT.
- You can take it 5 times
- Prepare very well before taking it the first time.
- Schools only use the highest PCAT scores
One more piece of advice these pharmacy school representatives gave was to apply early to pharmacy school (once you’ve met the prerequisites). They said that better applicants that apply later in the process may not get in if all the spots have already filled.