Which of these three schools would you choose to attend this fall?

  • UCSD

    Votes: 5 12.2%
  • USC

    Votes: 13 31.7%
  • UCSF

    Votes: 23 56.1%

  • Total voters
    41
  • Poll closed .
Nov 1, 2012
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I'm reviving this age-old (ok, maybe 7-ish year-old) debate between the three most competitive CA schools. I've read through countless threads (see links below), but am looking for updated perspectives, especially now that UCSD is maturing. This is what I've gathered so far:

UCSD

Pros:
-more personalized attention (small class size)
-newer facilities (young school)
-beautiful area
-cheaper tuition
-clinical focus and preparation for the future of pharmacy
-pass/fail system

Cons:
-arguably too small (small class size)
-school and alumni network not quite as established yet (young school)
-particularly/unnecessarily rigorous curriculum??
-volatile nature of public education budget crisis

USC

Pros:
-plenty of activities/leadership opportunities (large class size)
-established/well-connected throughout SoCal and beyond
-plenty to do in the city
-balanced focus (clinical, community, managed care, etc)
-plethora of dual degree programs, if interested

Cons:
-expensive tuition
-politics within class and unfair/questionable advantages (large class size)
-not-so-great surrounding area

UCSF

Pros:
-arguably the most respected pharmacy school in the country
-amazing city (in my opinion)
-happy medium of class sizes
-strong clinical focus
-cheaper tuition

Cons:
-expensive city
-volatile nature of public education budget crisis



As you probably noticed, there are some aspects that can be viewed as a pro or a con, depending on the person. The school I am most uncertain about is UCSD. Currently this is my only acceptance out of these three, but in case I have to make a difficult decision in the near future, I want to start thinking about this now. Although UCSD did not leave a great impression during the interview, I still need to consider it carefully.

My most pressing questions about UCSD are:

1) Is the curriculum really that much more difficult than other schools, like some people suggest? I'm sure classes with med students must be TOUGH, but I wonder if the pass/fail system helps. I also heard that some of the curriculum is unnecessary, though the school claims that they are preparing students for the "future" of pharmacy.
2) On that subject, is the pass/fail/honors system a good thing or a bad thing? To fill everyone in, apparently at UCSD, all classes are pass/fail, and some have an added "honors" distinction for the top students. Sure, it must be less stressful if you want to just pass, but isn't it more difficult to distinguish yourself when you apply for residencies later? The only way to do that academically is to secure as many "honors" designations as you can, which sounds even MORE stressful than the letter grade system.

My thoughts on USC:

-the alumni network really is amazing (yes, it does make a difference). my friend who's currently in pharmacy school says that it really comes down to whom you know. But I also know UCSF has a great network, as well.
-it is expensive, and the school seems like it has to worst financial aid available to students. However, given the present budget crisis with public education, tuition is becoming increasingly comparable to the UC's.
-I actually don't mind the area as much as other people do, and I do love LA. But it's still not that nice compared to these other two...
-Because the class size is so big, there are bound to be some unfair advantages given to people who are better connected and have access to past exams (through an organization or fraternity). Unfortunately, I know this happens for a fact. I'm just curious how true it is at other schools

My thoughts on UCSF:

-it's hard to turn down this school as long as you like the city and the student vibe. It's extremely well respected and provides excellent clinical preparation in a city with several distinct, diverse communities.
-the only other thing I can think of, besides the budget/tuition issue noted above, is that the city itself is expensive to live in. Lots of taxes everywhere, and pricey, albeit delicious, restaurants

I also understand that where you go to school has enormous implications for career opportunities later. But I would be completely happy working in any of these areas, so that doesn't factor into my decision as much. While cost definitely does matter, and I will have to pay for everything myself, I also want to have a good experience IN pharmacy school and think about the opportunities available when I get OUT. Any and all input from pre-/current pharmacy students and alumni is welcome. Thank you SO much in advance!!! :)

Some useful references/reading:
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=878726
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=797229
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=260212

P.S. Also, just for fun, feel free to take the poll and comment below with YOUR choice! ;)
 
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JohnFe

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Dec 2, 2012
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I voted for USC because it has everything I'm looking for:
-Vast network after you graduate. The director and most of the pharmacists at the hospital I am working at graduated from USC.
-Dual degree programs
-Residency and fellowship programs
-Ranked best (top 10 I think?)
-Organizations and clubs
-Located at LA (very near my house)
-I want to practice in SoCal ;o
-Awesome weather

I know the cost is 10k+ higher than other schools but I would love to live with my family.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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living at home would definitely help offset the higher tuition. unfortunately for me, wherever I go I will need to find housing :/

technically UCSF is ranked #1 and USC #10, but I try not to put too much stock into these things. I think all pharmacists in California know USC and UCSF graduates to be excellent, and UCSD's name recognition is rising.
 
Jul 20, 2012
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Personally, I think UCSD and UCSF are the top two schools in CA. The whole "new" thing for UCSD isn't really a factor at all. Everyone already knows that UCSD is legit.
 

DoomMan

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May 3, 2009
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Personally, I think UCSD and UCSF are the top two schools in CA. The whole "new" thing for UCSD isn't really a factor at all. Everyone already knows that UCSD is legit.
not to mention UCSD was founded by some of the top members of UCSF. UCSF basically sent top members to start/run the school
 

Soheila

Member
Jan 5, 2013
40
1
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Pre-Pharmacy
Thanks for doing this! It's nice to see all the info laid out in one place.

A con of UCSF is that it is very difficult to get an internship during school because the Bay Area is so saturated. Or is that a con of every pharmacy school?
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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Thanks so much for everyone's responses so far! :)

Personally, I think UCSD and UCSF are the top two schools in CA. The whole "new" thing for UCSD isn't really a factor at all. Everyone already knows that UCSD is legit.
not to mention UCSD was founded by some of the top members of UCSF. UCSF basically sent top members to start/run the school
That is interesting. I knew UCSD got some amazing faculty from other schools; I didn't know they were from UCSF.

Thanks for doing this! It's nice to see all the info laid out in one place.

A con of UCSF is that it is very difficult to get an internship during school because the Bay Area is so saturated. Or is that a con of every pharmacy school?
That's a good question. From the interview at UCSF, I don't remember the students saying that it was too difficult. I think if you have work study (which USC doesn't offer; not sure about UCSD), you can work in a pharmacy and get some decent pay, but I'm not sure if that counts as an internship. A friend at USC said some people there were struggling to get an internship if they didn't have connections through a frat or other means. So I think it might be true at most places.


If anyone (particularly current students or people familiar with UCSD) can help answer these questions, I'd really appreciate it! :)

1) Is the curriculum really that much more difficult than other schools, like some people suggest? I'm sure classes with med students must be TOUGH, but I wonder if the pass/fail system helps. I also heard that some of the curriculum is unnecessary, though the school claims that they are preparing students for the "future" of pharmacy.
2) On that subject, is the pass/fail/honors system a good thing or a bad thing? To fill everyone in, apparently at UCSD, all classes are pass/fail, and some have an added "honors" distinction for the top students. Sure, it must be less stressful if you want to just pass, but isn't it more difficult to distinguish yourself when you apply for residencies later? The only way to do that academically is to secure as many "honors" designations as you can, which sounds even MORE stressful than the letter grade system."
 

JohnFe

Paranoid Member
Dec 2, 2012
458
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Status
Pre-Medical
@PharmD177

This is very insightful thread :oops:
Where are you leaning to?

I just did a quick search through indeed/google/simplyhired. There are a bunch of positions for intern pharmacists in LA/Orange County areas. These are like a week old positions.
 
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OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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@PharmD177

This is very insightful thread :oops:
Where are you leaning to?

I just did a quick search through indeed/google/simplyhired. There are a bunch of positions for intern pharmacists in LA/Orange County areas. These are like a week old positions.
If you had asked me just a few weeks ago, I would have said UCSF and USC tied for first, then UCSD. But now that I got into UCSD and looked into it more, I have no idea lol.

It would be really tough to turn down UCSF, because it has everything I'm looking for and then some. But I do love SoCal, so USC is appealing with its alumni network, and UCSD because it's rapidly growing. Like everyone has been telling me, any of these three would be a great choice, and I think I would be happy regardless.

It's good to hear that there are intern positions. I think if people looked hard enough, they would find something, especially in a city as large as LA. The difficult part is finding one that isn't too far away while balancing work and school.
 

JohnFe

Paranoid Member
Dec 2, 2012
458
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Yea, it really depends on the person's preferences. I'm pretty sure you are all set :p Good luck!
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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does anyone else have any input?? :)
 

714

Dec 12, 2012
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At the UCSD interview they said their alumni network isn't too numerous just yet so that's something to consider about the school when talking about it's "age".

The students I spoke to liked the pass/fail system if that's any help. They said it makes things a lot easier.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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That's a great point about their alumni network. I just edited the cons to include that. I've also determined that the pass/fail system is a good thing.

The only thing that I'm still not certain about is the difficulty of the program when compared to other schools, what exactly makes it difficult, and if that will actually be beneficial later on.
 

714

Dec 12, 2012
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That's a great point about their alumni network. I just edited the cons to include that. I've also determined that the pass/fail system is a good thing.

The only thing that I'm still not certain about is the difficulty of the program when compared to other schools, what exactly makes it difficult, and if that will actually be beneficial later on.
I don't know anything about it being like a lot more difficult than other curriculum. I'm sure it's difficult like any other pharmacy school.
 

BobbyK

7+ Year Member
Dec 4, 2011
158
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I don't know anything about it being like a lot more difficult than other curriculum. I'm sure it's difficult like any other pharmacy school.
From talking to people at both UCSD and UCSF, UCSD is believed to have the harder curriculum. This is usually attributed to the second year "med-school" classes.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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I talked to some UCSD pharmacy students today, and they basically confirmed many of things stated above. They did note, however, that there is a LOT of activities to do for being such a small school, and it is very easy to take advantage of leadership opportunities.

The curriculum, while difficult, isn't impossible, and will be good for people who like to understand the bigger picture behind the drugs, and to help us "connect the dots." Since I personally understand and remember things better when I know "why," this is actually beginning to sound appealing to me.

They did say that you need at least some honors designations to be competitive for a residency, but it's more important to show a balance between school and extracurriculars (i.e., leadership). I feel like if you choose which classes you're going to really focus on, you can get those honors distinctions. They said that since UCSD is a respected school, the residency locations know that the caliber of students is high, so they don't need letter grades. Schools that are not as well know and use the pass/fail system may have more difficulty placing students.

Also, the alumni network isn't that great, as expected, which is why you will need to make connections through your internship, clerkships, and other people you know. This is probably the biggest con, in my opinion, and where UCSD is weakest when compared to the other two.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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anyone else deciding between USC and UCSD?? Just got in to USC and I now have 2 weeks to decide. I feel torn between the two :/
 

elesen

5+ Year Member
Jan 3, 2012
15
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I might get flamed by current USC students, but here is my major gripe with USC. I'm not into the whole fraternity thing that USC has, where being in a certain fraternity kind of determines the types of internships you get. Based on what my cousin says, if you want to work at Kaiser, you have to get into this one specific frat, otherwise you'll end up at a CVS. I kind of hate that idea. I know fraternities are good for networking, but really, it's not like everyone can get into the same fraternity and work at Kaiser . . . if you get into the wrong frat, you might end up with a bad experience at USC, which I've also heard from others before.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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I might get flamed by current USC students, but here is my major gripe with USC. I'm not into the whole fraternity thing that USC has, where being in a certain fraternity kind of determines the types of internships you get. Based on what my cousin says, if you want to work at Kaiser, you have to get into this one specific frat, otherwise you'll end up at a CVS. I kind of hate that idea. I know fraternities are good for networking, but really, it's not like everyone can get into the same fraternity and work at Kaiser . . . if you get into the wrong frat, you might end up with a bad experience at USC, which I've also heard from others before.
omg i know EXACTLY which fraternity you're referring to. They have all the kaiser spots in the area. Since I'm not very inclined to pledge a fraternity (they take a huuuge amount of time away from other activites/studying), that is a bit of a turn off.
 

elesen

5+ Year Member
Jan 3, 2012
15
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omg i know EXACTLY which fraternity you're referring to. They have all the kaiser spots in the area. Since I'm not very inclined to pledge a fraternity (they take a huuuge amount of time away from other activites/studying), that is a bit of a turn off.
I have the same sentiments as you do towards fraternities. That, and I would rather be in a school where merits determine your experiences, rather than which fraternity you are in.
 

JohnFe

Paranoid Member
Dec 2, 2012
458
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Wow this sucks. If going to USC, are we really obligated to join a frat?

Oh also, I saw it in one of the links you provided. In order to graduate, USCF = 2.0 GPA, UCSD = pass/fail while USC is 3.0.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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Wow this sucks. If going to USC, are we really obligated to join a frat?

Oh also, I saw it in one of the links you provided. In order to graduate, USCF = 2.0 GPA, UCSD = pass/fail while USC is 3.0.
well, nobody is going to make you. And there's plenty of people that aren't. But to have access to the test banks and the job opportunities they offer, you do need to pledge. And that's what kinda bothers me. Because it puts everyone else not in a frat at an unfair disadvantage. You can study or job hunt just as hard, but if you don't have that connection, they're probably going to get the higher grade or the job over you.
 
Jul 18, 2012
24
1
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Pre-Pharmacy
I talked to some UCSD pharmacy students today, and they basically confirmed many of things stated above. They did note, however, that there is a LOT of activities to do for being such a small school, and it is very easy to take advantage of leadership opportunities.

The curriculum, while difficult, isn't impossible, and will be good for people who like to understand the bigger picture behind the drugs, and to help us "connect the dots." Since I personally understand and remember things better when I know "why," this is actually beginning to sound appealing to me.

They did say that you need at least some honors designations to be competitive for a residency, but it's more important to show a balance between school and extracurriculars (i.e., leadership). I feel like if you choose which classes you're going to really focus on, you can get those honors distinctions. They said that since UCSD is a respected school, the residency locations know that the caliber of students is high, so they don't need letter grades. Schools that are not as well know and use the pass/fail system may have more difficulty placing students.

Also, the alumni network isn't that great, as expected, which is why you will need to make connections through your internship, clerkships, and other people you know. This is probably the biggest con, in my opinion, and where UCSD is weakest when compared to the other two.
Did you happen to get any statistics from the UCSD students on the percentage of students who apply to residencies get placed? I've been searching their website, but can't seem to find anything.
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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My bf goes to UCSD/Skaggs, and he said that ~80% of students match with a residency.
yeah that seems about right. From what I've heard, they prepare you well. The statistic they showed us was the percentage of graduating students who do residencies/fellowships each year. I don't remember the exact number, but it was a majority :)
 
Jul 18, 2012
24
1
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yeah that seems about right. From what I've heard, they prepare you well. The statistic they showed us was the percentage of graduating students who do residencies/fellowships each year. I don't remember the exact number, but it was a majority :)
Wow, that's a great number. I remember hearing something about how honors grades increase your competitiveness in getting residencies. Do you know what it takes to get an honors grade? Is it based on if you're say in the top 10% of a particular class or by a predetermined score? Still trying to wrap my head around the pass/fail and no gpa system :confused:
 

TeRRaNoXiC

7+ Year Member
Dec 27, 2009
77
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Wow, that's a great number. I remember hearing something about how honors grades increase your competitiveness in getting residencies. Do you know what it takes to get an honors grade? Is it based on if you're say in the top 10% of a particular class or by a predetermined score? Still trying to wrap my head around the pass/fail and no gpa system :confused:
It's by top 10 or 15%, not if you achieve a certain score
 
OP
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Nov 1, 2012
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Now that I've heard back from all three schools, my final rankings came out to be: UCSF > UCSD > USC. A little different from my earlier perspective, but I really learned a lot more about each school since my interviews. Some of the initial cons for UCSD were products of uncertainty and later became negligible once I dug a little deeper (i.e., talked to the school and current students). But I'll leave the list as it is, so later applicants who have the same uncertainties can follow my progression.

And on that note, to the future cycles: ANY of these schools will provide you with a quality education though, as many people have said before, it all depends on what YOU are looking to get out of pharmacy school - location, cost, size, and reputation are just a few factors to consider. You'll have to look at this list, move things around, take things out, and add things based on your own research and situation, but I hope it will serve as a useful starting point as you make your decisions. Good luck!