Mar 26, 2010
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Hello. :) I'm (obviously) new here, but I am in serious need of advice.
Before I explain anything, let me first say that this is not for me. I am not in the medical field in any way, shape, or form, since I'm comp-sci major. Rather it's for my sister.
This is going to get long, so I apologize in advance for the length.

My sister is much older than me. She just turned 30 a few months ago. When she originally graduated from college, she did so with a degree that she didn't want, and wasn't interested in, to a point where it made her very unhappy; this was largely because of our parents (long story, and mostly irrelevant to the point at hand). Eventually, she felt miserable enough to do a complete career 360, from her original area of study, to what it was that she always wanted to do: pharmacy. She decided to go back to school to take the necessary courses to start working towards earning a Pharm.D. All of this happened almost 5 years ago.

While in school, my sister has maintained a 3.9 cumulative gpa. She has taken AP science and genetics classes at the local 4-year university, and has passed every one of them, with flying colors. She has been working for more than 3 years, as a pharm tech in one of the largest pharmacy drug stores in our area. She has good recommendations, and stellar reviews both from her professors, and the pharmacists she's worked with. In another few months, she will have earned her second BS degree, this time in biology. But none of this matters, because for the past two years, every single pharmacy school to which she has applied, she has been rejected from. Every. Single. One.

My sister has taken the PCAT test several times. Each time, her results are pitifully low. When she is relaxed and comfortable, she can explain, in full detail, complex concepts without blinking an eye. But as soon as the pressure sets in, it's like everything collapses and she completely shuts down.

This has made my sister terribly depressed. She is constantly crying, feels as though she has wasted her life, thinks everything she has done is worthless, and doesn't know what else to do. Another rejection letter came in the mail earlier today, as they have been doing for the past two years now. Needless to say, it did not help.

It should be apparent that I do not like to see my sister this way, especially since I know how much of her effort she has poured into this. But as I said earlier, I am not a med student, and know next to nothing about the pharmacy field.
So that is the gist of the situation I need help with.


My questions are this:

How much weight does the PCAT test have when determining who gets into a pharmacy school? Is it like the SAT? I did read the links at the top of the forum, but academically, the only thing that seems to be wrong/bad is the PCAT test score, and that seems to be the only thing taken into account.

Are there schools available that do not need the PCAT test? I did check the link stickied at the top of the forum page, but it is dead.

Does the time she is spending working in the pharmacy count for anything?

Does having a first degree automatically disqualify her from doing pharmacy? One of the schools that she contacted told her this once, but another said that it wasn't true. Also, the first degree she does have has absolutely nothing to do with pharmacy, or even the medical field in general.

What, if anything, can she do to raise her PCAT test score? My sister has read, studied, practiced practically every book there is. It doesn't work.

I know this was long, and I apologize for the length. I really, really need help or advice. If anyone has any information I can use to help her, please know that it will be very much and deeply appreciated.

Thank you.
 

By3Times1Minus1

7+ Year Member
Mar 16, 2010
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Having a degree will not hurt you. It is not required, so it will definitely give her an edge, especially if she'll have 2 degrees. It is becoming so competitive these days, that having a degree is almost an unwritten requirement. If it is something she truly wants to do (and it sounds like she does), encourage her to keep trying. There are schools that don't require the PCAT, and it seems like she's done well in all other areas of her credentials. I think all of the schools in CA and OR don't require it, but they are pretty expensive for out of state students. Check this list. Most schools that do require the PCAT do weight it pretty heavily. I know UGA for example has a 300 point system: Interview score is out of 100, GPA x 25 is out of 100, and PCAT composite is out of 100. How has she studied for the PCAT? It's a very difficult and stressful test to study for. She could very well be studying for it in the wrong manner. Not only do you have to learn the material, but you have to learn how to actually take the test and use that to your advantage. I know that sounds silly, but it's true. Unfortunately, there are not many good resources that are available for the PCAT. The Kaplan book seemed to be the best option, and I felt it was VERY incomplete after using it the first time I took the PCAT. It also had lots of misinformation, typos, and wrong answers in it due to very poor editing. I graduated in 2006, so it was difficult for me to relearn all my freshman and sophomore level classes like organic chem from 5-6 years ago. The second time I took it, I decided to take the Kaplan PCAT course online (it also had a lot of mistakes, but unfortunately, it was the best option I could find for a course in my area). It was fairly expensive, but this was my 3rd time applying to schools, and I was certain I wanted to do pharmacy. My composite score went from 86 (using the book) to 97 (online course). If she can afford it, I would recommend her to take some sort of prep course. These will not only review the material, but tips on taking the test/test time management as well and how to score better even if you don't know the answers. Getting rejected can be very discouraging, especially when you feel you really are cut out for pharmacy school. Hopefully she won't give up all hope and keeps on trying. (sorry for the long winded answer to your long winded question)
 
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Muangz

10+ Year Member
Feb 13, 2009
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If PCAT is the obstacle, then I suggest she applies to schools that don't require the PCAT. I am from CA, and CA schools do not require the PCAT. There are other schools in other states too. Check the school pages from PharmCAS.

Also, if she is determined enough, she shouldn't give up. Her grades sound stellar, but many competitive schools look for well-rounded individuals too (in many aspects!), not just grades. Get involved in more community service-based extracurriculars in addition to her pharmacy experience. She could also do something that she is passionate about while enhancing her leadership skills.

Lastly, her writing (the essay portion of any application). I used to hate writing and was too shy to share or to have anyone proofread it. Having a second or third opinion makes a huge difference! If admissions read it, will they get the message she wanted to show? Do her essay responses or personal statements answer the prompts? Do they show her character? Etc. The essay is her biggest opportunity to show them who she is on PAPER. Otherwise, all they see are grades and the GPA.

Hope this helps.
 

OldPharm

Accepted!
Jan 28, 2010
116
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Hmm... Something doesn't add up here. Your sister seems to be very determined to change her life around, but how come she didn't know about pharmacy schools in CA, OR, WA and IN that do not require PCAT score to apply? Simple google search or talking a pre-health advisor at her university would have given her the list of 12 or 13 schools where she could have applied without worrying about the PCAT score... :confused: I'm sorry about being skeptical, but I couldn't help but wonder... I wish her the best.
 
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Mar 26, 2010
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Hello. Thank you very much for the advice.
As for schools that don't require pharmacy, she did know. And she did apply. But even they are rejecting her. She applied to all of the schools in California, the one in Oregon, and the one in Massachusetts that didn't require the pcat test. Even they rejected her. In fact, the rejection letter she got earlier was from the school in Massachusetts. I proof read her essays. I try to make sure that her ideas are fresh, and come across as clear and precise. But it is never enough. Even the non-pcat schools are rejecting her. What is she doing wrong?
 
Mar 26, 2010
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And don't worry, I understand the skepticism. I don't have a copy of her transcripts, though I've seen them. I do have a copy of the letter she received today in the mail from Massachusetts, that does not take the pcat test. I can upload it if you want to see it.
 

AbbyNormal

Yes. No. Maybe.
7+ Year Member
Mar 11, 2010
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It seems to me that she should be asking the schools that have declined her what she could do to be a better candidate. (besides improving PCAT scores)
 

Muangz

10+ Year Member
Feb 13, 2009
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Also check out the WAMC sticky thread.

Apply early too. Many schools are on rolling admissions. For some schools that do not, submitting early shows preparation.
 

By3Times1Minus1

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Mar 16, 2010
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And don't worry, I understand the skepticism. I don't have a copy of her transcripts, though I've seen them. I do have a copy of the letter she received today in the mail from Massachusetts, that does not take the pcat test. I can upload it if you want to see it.
I don't think that's necessary. Did she even get an interview or did she get rejected even before that phase? She might be bombing her interviews and not knowing it. That's the only other thing I can think of if everything you said about her grades and experience is true. Does she have volunteer work and extracurriculars to put on her apps too? Something's not adding up from what you're telling us.
 

OCizzle

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Oct 18, 2008
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How low are we talking about here? PCAT is extremely important. I don't want to sound rude, but if she thoroughly studied everything there is to study about the PCAT and has taken it multiple times, but is still getting bad scores due to the pressure, then maybe it's time to consider something else? I'm fairly positive there's more stress and pressure in pharmacy school than while studying and taking the PCAT.

If you want to help her then maybe try to simulate the test day and get her used to performing under time and pressure. Timing is huge in these type of tests.
 

Muangz

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Feb 13, 2009
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Mar 26, 2010
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By3Times1Minus1: She's not even making it to the interview process. She just sends the information, and gets back a single rejection letter in return, each time.
She does have volunteer work, but I'm not sure about her extracurricular activities. I don't think she has any, but I'm not sure.

OCizzle: From what I know, she has taken it 3 times already. Her composite score is always very low. The first time it was bad. The second time she scored 60 percentile in chemistry, the reading portions, and the essay portions, but everything else was far below that. The third time, it was the mathematics that was around 57 percentile, but everything else dropped.

Muangz: Thank you. I'll show her that link.
 

Passion4Sci

LML
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Mar 18, 2009
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She should ask each one of the admissions councils from whom she received rejection letters why she was rejected so she can improve on whatever it was (probably the PCAT I'm guessing...).
 

OldPharm

Accepted!
Jan 28, 2010
116
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Hello. Thank you very much for the advice.
As for schools that don't require pharmacy, she did know. And she did apply. But even they are rejecting her. She applied to all of the schools in California, the one in Oregon, and the one in Massachusetts that didn't require the pcat test. Even they rejected her. In fact, the rejection letter she got earlier was from the school in Massachusetts. I proof read her essays. I try to make sure that her ideas are fresh, and come across as clear and precise. But it is never enough. Even the non-pcat schools are rejecting her. What is she doing wrong?
I see. Since you asked if such schools exist in your original post, I had to ask the obvious.

I agree with above members. In April or May, your sister should try to contact admission directors of the schools she applied to and ask them what she is lacking.

BTW, family members are not the best people to critique essays. They already know and "usually" have positive feelings toward the writer, so they are easy to overlook major flaws in an application essay.
 
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PharmOl

I do Math.
Oct 5, 2009
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Does she have a criminal record?
There must be a factor that dismisses her from every single school. Did she have a job after getting her first Bachelor's and second? All breaks in activity must be explained to the adcom.
Does she submit all forms on time?
Does she apply to any of her in-state schools?
Did she hold any leadership positions? As vague as they are, schools LOVE to see that on the app.

On another note, PCAT is not a single deal- maker, but it certainly the most common deal-breaker. If she doesn't make it over the "consideration" hump, she doesn't stand a chance. Something's gotta improve. Maybe she could go to the doctor for a one-time prescription to calm her down for those 4 hours?
 
May 22, 2009
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I will ask an official transcript to send home, open it and make sure nothing bad was marked in there. Maybe something "inside" the transcript you did not know. Let start from there.

My Pcat was low too but I've gotten several interviews already.
 

myska

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Dec 2, 2009
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After reading what the other commenters have said, I completely agree. However, I will add the following:

- Could it be that her recommendations aren't very flattering? Maybe there's something written in there that tells the adcoms something they don't like.
- Try to do PCAT tests under 'test' conditions. Go to the library and get a private room. Have only a bubble form and a photocopied test, and be strict about it. Maybe even have a friend of yours who she doesn't know give the test, to give a bit more pressure.
- Stay away from the KAPLAN tests. They are WAY too easy, especially the math portions. I would say that the english portion is about the right level though.
- Could it also be that she's bubbling in the wrong answers on the form or getting thing moved around? Or that she's not answering questions? On the PCAT you always want to answer questions- even if you don't know the right answer. There's no penalty for guessing!
- The non-PCAT schools tend to be really competitive. Some of the California schools get 23-25 applications for every seat they have. Look at this http://www.aacp.org/resources/student/pharmacyforyou/admissions/Documents/PSAR1011_Table8.pdf. It may help you find schools that admit many of their applicants, and to see how well in and out of state students fare.

Hope some of this helps, and good luck to your sister!
 
Feb 21, 2010
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Pharmacy Student
How low are we talking about here? PCAT is extremely important. I don't want to sound rude, but if she thoroughly studied everything there is to study about the PCAT and has taken it multiple times, but is still getting bad scores due to the pressure, then maybe it's time to consider something else? I'm fairly positive there's more stress and pressure in pharmacy school than while studying and taking the PCAT.

If you want to help her then maybe try to simulate the test day and get her used to performing under time and pressure. Timing is huge in these type of tests.

You are not rude, actually your posts are some of the more honest on this forum.

The PCAT is a psychological gauge as well as a quantitative test. There is a direct correlation between those who perform well on it and those who succeed in pharmacy school. The PCAT is the easy part, does your sister think it will get less demanding?

You (your sister) noted the highest PCAT scores at 60 and 57 with the rest lower? Unfortunately, pharmacy is very competitive and there are thousands of people applying each year for a limited number of seats. The scores are just not good enough and there is no nice way to say that.

At some point perhaps she will find something she can be happy doing that is more suited to her.
 

CarCrazy007

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Feb 8, 2010
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Something doesn't add up. If her GPA is above 3.0, she has extensive working experience, and 2 BS degrees then she should at least get interview offers.
She could try to do what suggusted above. Sending the transcript home, see if she could read the LORs, retake some classes and do more volunteer work. Spend time to polish the essays and practice, practice for the interview.
Maybe she should post directly, that way we could try to help her better.
 

rxlea

Almost a unicorn
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Aug 9, 2009
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My opinion: it has to be the essays or the LORs. Even with a low PCAT, things don't add up. I have read about numerous people in this forum getting in with low PCAT scores including someone with a composite of 30 and someone with a RC score of 9. Although my comp. was 87, I got a 30 in math. Have the essays/PS proofread when the new thread at the top of this forum opens for the new cycle. I can proofread it for you if you want. But, honestly, my hunch says it is the LORs. You might think you know someone well and that they are going to write a great LOR for you but they don't. This might sound weird or puzzling, but it happens. If she wants her PS read, just PM it to me. I will have my gf look at it too- She teaches at the University and CC level. She has written recommendations for students before, too. We will be able to give it an honest criticism...if you want. Just let me know.
 
Feb 21, 2010
78
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Pharmacy Student
Something doesn't add up. If her GPA is above 3.0, she has extensive working experience, and 2 BS degrees then she should at least get interview offers.
She could try to do what suggusted above. Sending the transcript home, see if she could read the LORs, retake some classes and do more volunteer work. Spend time to polish the essays and practice, practice for the interview.
Maybe she should post directly, that way we could try to help her better.
Someone that has an average 3.9 should be able to take an exam successfully, like the PCAT

Just a thought, many schools have minimum overall or subscores. If she is so low, her application will get thrown out without being looked at. Does she ever call a few weeks after the universities receive the application and ask them what her status is? If she is applying to a university that gets upwards of 1000 applications, they don't have time nor care to look at each one usually (always exceptions here)
 

aznsensazn3

Pharmacist
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Feb 10, 2010
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I think the thing holding your sister back are the pcat scores. But even those shouldn't be holding her back to much if she applies to the less competitive schools and those in the process of becoming accredited. I'm pretty sure the reason why so many schools take the pcat in high consideration because its the great equalizer. You can go to a community college and get a 4.0 easy, and someone else can go to a really competitive school and get a 3.5. Schools can't just compare raw scores of gpas because it can be so variable based on major and school type. I don't want to sound rude, but if she's having trouble with the pcat, what is she gonna do for the naplex? She needs to improve her test taking skills and she should definitely ask the schools what she needs to improve on. They will be more than happy doing so. I hope your sister luck getting into a school.