Although you spend hours, even weeks, composing your pharmacy school personal statement, the admissions committee members only review it for a period of 3 to 10 minutes. This is why it is vital to make an impact right from the start. Your personal statement is like a first impression, although your personal achievements and grades are also taken into consideration. Remember, you only get one shot to make an inspiring first impression. The committee needs to see that you stand out from the rest of the pharmacist wannabes. Find out how to write a personal statement that will assure your placement in pharmacy school.
Understand Why the Personal Statement is Important
Over 50% of pharmacy school applicants do not get accepted into the programs of their choice. Most of these applicants have excellent scores on entrance exams, as well as an admirable undergraduate grade point average. However, grades are not all there is to the application process. Recommendations from professors and practicing pharmacists play a large part in the overall picture. In the end, however, it is the personal statement that makes you or breaks you. Pharmacy school admission committee members do not want to fill precious spots with mediocre candidates. Instead, they want to place candidates that will excel in this profession, and that success involves perseverance and dedication.
Consider Your Reason to Attend
Although those who major in one of the physical sciences have an equal chance of acceptance when compared with “pre-pharmacy” students, pharmacy schools want to see evidence of a real interest in pharmaceuticals and the practice of the profession. A real interest is often due to a real interest in people, as pharmacists are in positions to education and influence patients. There is always the consideration of job security, but no one really goes to pharmacy school these days to become rich. There are easier ways to do that, like the entertainment industry or business administration. Make sure your reason for attending is the right reason.
Convey What Led You to Pursue Pharmacy
Before you start writing your personal statement, understand that you are conveying to your audience why a pharmacy career is your life’s pursuit. This significant question should provoke you to make notes of every single reason that pops in your head. Often, the decision to pursue pharmacy is due to a combination of things, and your essay can show these unique factors. Your personal statement creates an impact if you explain the multiple factors fully, emphasizing exact life experiences and incidents that brought you here. You want the reader to have total comprehension of these factors.
Make Sure You Want to Do This
If you do not know what led you to pursue pharmacy, or you find that studying pharmaceuticals is not that captivating, you should stop here. Pharmacy school, along with post-graduate courses, is a laborious path, and if you are applying to this program just to please your parents or to deal with some external pressure, you will find yourself unhappy later down the road. Make sure your choice to attend is your own and not the decision of someone else. Hopefully, after reading this far, you now acknowledge the upsides and the downsides of this profession.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before you Begin
There are a few questions you need to answer before you compose your personal statement. These questions will give insight about your personal choices and decisions. Some questions to ask include:
– Why pharmacy?
– Why a pharmacist and not a medical doctor?
– What inspires me to work toward this difficult goal?
– What experiences have prepared me for a career focused upon helping others?
– What experiences have I had that will allow me to put my patients first?
– Who is my role model as a pharmacist and what qualities in him or her do I admire?
– Who is my role model in life in general, and why do I look up to that person?
– What people do I admire, and what qualities do they share with me?
– Why do I stand out as a candidate?
- Do start early – Be sure you begin writing a month or so before you plan to submit your application. You don’t want to be pressed for time. Whatever you do, don’t rush!
- Do use proper grammar and punctuation – You may want to brush up on the basics of writing to gain knowledge of correct use of the English language. You don’t want to turn in a statement that is full of grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes.
- Do structure it correctly –You should format your personal statement in a way that catches your reader’s attention immediately. How can you capture their interest in your first paragraph? This may be your only opportunity.
- Do allow your reader know who you are –If this means revealing personal stories or emotions, then don’t be afraid to do so. The personal statement is your monologue to the admission committee. Tell them who you are and what you are all about.
- Do show your commitment –You know how difficult the path is that lies ahead. The admissions committee needs to know that you realize years of struggles are ahead, with the actual practice of pharmacy being your only reward. This unique profession is reserved for people who are committed to excellence. Let the committee know that you realize the path ahead is sometimes demanding and toilsome, but also let them know that pharmacy will be rewarding for you. If you find this not to be true, reconsider your application.
- Do relate to your reader –Take innovative life experiences and relate them to how you hope to progress in this profession, and your reasons for doing so. Many pre-pharmacy students tend to do certain activities, either volunteering at a pharmacy or working in the local hospital during the summers. Perhaps you even shadowed a pharmacist during your college career. While that is admiral, don’t talk in simplifications about your experience. Pick one unique story, and tell it well.
- Do organize your essay –Introduce yourself in the first paragraph, and decide what theme (or themes) you plan to cover. Cover each topic concisely, and conclude each theme paragraph with a strong conclusion. Your statement should flow easily from topic to topic. Your ending should tie the entire essay together, and do so in a smooth manner. If you are unable to summarize, you may have included too much content and should refocus on a few main ideas.
- Do proofread –Five times is not too much. Read through the statement a couple of times for content and structure. Have friends and family read your essay, and ask them to offer comments. Have your college English professor, or someone who is knowledgeable about writing, review it for grammar and punctuation. Before you send your statement to the admissions committee, look at your use of the English language. This sounds easy enough, I know, but remember, inadequate proofreading can be disastrous.
- Don’t regurgitate your transcript – Remember, they have already looked at it. Also, they can look at it again at any time.
- Don’t stray from your topic – Be specific, concise, and direct. You have a subject in mind, so don’t stray from telling your story precisely.
- Don’t add filler and unnecessary information –You may feel that you need to add content to your statement to make it appear longer. This is what writers call “filler”. So, when you are tempted to add filler – DON’T.
- Don’t rush – Give yourself several months, and revisit your essay after completion. Put it in your drawer, and read it again a week or so, when you are rested and have a block of time to sit down and relax while reading it. Then, read it as though you are learning about someone else, and judge the essay from that viewpoint. Are you interested in getting to know the person who wrote this? If not, start again.
- Don’t include academic successes that do not pertain to pharmacy – If you have achieved some unusual academic success that is relevant to your aptitude and desire to attend pharmacy school, be sure to include that. However, if you won the fifth grade spelling bee, by all means, leave that out.
- Don’t embellish or use others’ work – Avoid hyperbole or plagiarism. The admissions committee members can see through this, and they always put your essay through a plagiarism program to check for use of others’ work.
- Don’t talk about controversial topics – The personal statement is no place for topics that are of questionable nature. You do not want to alienate someone who has a different perspective than you.
- Don’t discuss emotional experiences – If you relate an emotional experience, assure that you do so in a professional manner. Also, if you do not feel that you can rehash this during your interview, don’t write about that experience.
- Don’t make excuses for anything – Committee statement reviewers will not be impressed with your excuses, as your excuses do not excuse you.
- Don’t apologize for past mistakes or underachievement – The personal statement is your chance to shine and present your positive aspects. Don’t make the mistake of appearing regretful.
- Don’t use clichés – The reader will view this as a poor attempt to appear entertaining. Clichés are so cliché.
- Don’t talk about money – If that’s why you are entering the pharmaceutical profession, realize that this will make you look bad overall. Pharmacy is not that lucrative, and that should not be the reason for your quest for entry into this line of work.
- Don’t underestimate or overestimate the pharmaceutical profession– Pharmacy is stressful. Dealing with patients is frustrating. A pharmacist is NOT a doctor. The leaders in this field pride themselves on discipline, dedication, ability, and humanity. Don’t go into pharmacy looking for an easy career – you will be in for a real shock!
Now that you understand the components and steps to writing an effective personal statement, you should have no trouble getting into pharmacy school. As always, the pharmacy profession is prestigious and honorable – those with a poor work ethic need not apply. Good luck as you embark upon this new endeavor!
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 2013. Derived from http://www.aacp.org/resources/student/pharmacyforyou/admissions/Pages/default.aspx
Pharmacy School Admissions – The Truth, 2013. Derived from http://pharmacyschooladmissions.blogspot.com/2009/07/personal-statement-words-of-advice-part.html
Writing a Personal Statement?
Ben Frederick M.D.
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The editors of Pharmacy Times would like to keep the positive energy flowing by sharing more stories from readers who told us how truly happy they are to have found their calling. With the hectic holiday season in full swing, it's easy to lose sight of why you chose to become a pharmacist in the first place. As you tackle day-to-day challenges behind the counter, we hope reading these pharmacists' stories will help you remember what drives you.
Be sure to tell us your own story in the comments!
"Why I Love Being a Pharmacist" Contest: Honorable Mentions
Kathleen Jane Cross, PharmD
I was a young mother with 2 small children when I decided to change from an art to a pharmacy degree. Maybe it was because I spent a lot of time at the pharmacy picking up asthma medication for my older son, Michael, or seizure medication for my younger son, Matthew. In my heart I believe it is because that pharmacist was compassionate and caring to a young mother of children with asthma and epilepsy, and it was my turn to give back.
I love being a pharmacist because of a young man whose pain medication I refused to continue to refill as I told him I was concerned for his health with long-term use. I told him to get a second opinion and suggested some options for him. He came back 2 years later to thank me and to tell me that he was off medications and able to work again.
I love being a pharmacist because of the burly old man whom I talked into having his feet checked at one of my diabetes days. His father had a history of lower extremity amputations. He told me later that I saved his life.
I love being a pharmacist because of the young woman whom I convinced to stop her laxative abuse because electrolyte abnormalities could lead to major health issues. She was so thankful to find someone who cared.
I love being a pharmacist because my education taught me to recognize that the old man in the deli was having a stroke, and I was able to get immediate attention for him. When I visited him in the hospital, he was doing well.
I love being a pharmacist because of the young woman who brought her new antidepressant prescription to me and told me she was scared to take it because of what others would think. We talked about social stigma and counseling. She left with her prescription filled and a smile.
I love being a pharmacist because of the woman with anxiety issues who was comfortable enough to bring her dog’s ashes to the pharmacy because she couldn’t stand to leave them at home. Although I admit I really didn’t want to see how the shingles on her “backside” were healing when she lifted my gate and came into my pharmacy to show them to me.
I love being a pharmacist because of the woman whose husband had Parkinson’s disease, who thanked me for writing down a number off the radio about a new study for patients like him. She wrote a very nice letter in my honor which helped boost my morale.
For me, being a pharmacist is about neither salary nor prestige; it is about giving back, but in doing so I have received so many rewards. I love being a pharmacist because of the lives I have touched, but most importantly, because of the lives that have touched me.
Erin Smith, RPh
I think the pharmacy profession chose me as much as I chose to be a pharmacist. I would love to say that it was a decision that was given the amount of time that it truly deserved but rather it was my fascination with seeing the neatly arranged bottles in pharmacies as a child and my desire to help others that led me to believe, “Hey, I could do that”. Not necessarily the way that most might fall into their profession, but it has never been a decision that I have regretted for one day (not even during the worst of biochemistry or at the beginning of the year when all patients are starting over with new insurance).
It is cliché, but I love being a pharmacist because of the impact that I can play in my patients’ lives. I have been blessed to work in community pharmacy and have been given the opportunity to become so much more than just one that “licks, sticks, counts, and pours.” I have attended baby showers and funerals. I have been invited to high school graduations and seen pictures of new grandbabies. I have discussed vacation plans and hospice care and everything in between. I have made home deliveries not because it was expected but because it was the right thing to do for that patient at that time. I have worked with patients to determine what medication therapy will not only be most effective for them but will also fit their pocketbook. I have been given the opportunity to become directly involved in my patients’ lives, not just in their health care but in every part of their lives and I believe that makes me not only a better pharmacist but a better person.
I think it would be difficult to find a different profession that garners the immediate respect from the community that a health care profession offers. However, community pharmacy is unique among healthcare professions as our accessibility naturally allows us the opportunity to do more than just counsel on the proper use of amoxicillin. It allows us to become a problem-solver, a confidant, and a friend, and in that it allows us to do the rest of our job so much more effectively. We are the front-line of health care and that is a responsibility that I take very seriously. Our interactions with patients can truly change and save lives.
I am grateful not only for the opportunity to indulge my obsessive-compulsive side and neatly arrange bottles on the shelf but also for the opportunity to touch patients in a way that is so much more meaningful than I ever would have imagined. What a great live, to spend every day making a difference for people. Whether it is just a hello as they walk by the counter or a lengthy discussion about the proper use of inhalers to manage their child’s asthma, what is not to love?
I can sum up my love of being a pharmacist in one word really: opportunity. I am not just talking about the financial or career path opportunities. I am talking about the social, cultural, educational, and enriching opportunities that can otherwise be easy to miss in everyday life.
I am fortunate enough to work with a multidisciplinary team that teaches me something new each day. Pharmacists are a trusted link between patients and their doctors. This position affords us a unique perspective into many facets of healthcare. I, literally, learn something new every day and I am so appreciative of that.
I work with patients from any background imaginable which allows me, and forces me, to learn and practice cultural sensitivity. The population is becoming more and more diverse. Healthcare needs to adapt to this by embracing and responding to differences in patients’ expectations based on their culture. As a pharmacist, I am in the perfect position to strengthen the healthcare message by tailoring my recommendations to patients.
I also have to make decisions in my work each day that can have a real impact on patients’ lives. I evaluate drug interactions to avoid patient harm. I evaluate lab results and blood pressure readings, an extra safety net for clinicians at my organization, which allows me to recommend therapy changes to improve patient health.
Sometimes the patients are aware and thank me, sometimes they are not and don’t, but it is always a satisfying feeling when I have an impact.
The extraordinary thing, all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. I work in one segment of one organization where I get to have all of these experiences. I can only imagine what I could learn. There is so much more out there to explore, and as a pharmacist, I will always have that opportunity.
Carrie Burke, PharmD
When I first read the question "What do you love about your job," I thought this would be easy. I would list off all the things that I liked about being a pharmacist, put my name on the top, and cross my fingers. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Later that evening I sat down at my kitchen table with a college-ruled notebook and a green pen that I had borrowed from my daughter and started to write. I got as far as my name.
“Why do I love my job?” I asked myself. Was it because they pay me? That wasn’t a good enough reason. There were other jobs. Because I like my boss? That wasn’t a good reason either. After an hour of sitting there, staring blankly at that lined page, I realized I wasn’t going to come up with anything. I put the notebook away, and decided that I just wouldn’t do the essay.
But the question kept bothering me. I would spend the day just thinking about it, trying to come up with just one good reason. I would wake up at three in the morning, saddened that I may have wasted my life on a job I would never love, that I would look back on my life in thirty or forty years and think “God, what have I done with my life?”
I thought about what I wanted to be when I was ten. More than anything else I wanted to be a hero, like Captain Kirk or Nancy Drew. But that realization didn’t help at all. Now instead of being enthusiastic about my future, I was scared of my past. I was so scared of having betrayed my ten year old self, settling for something she wouldn’t have wanted. The TV didn't perform its magic of lulling me to sleep that night.
Two days (of an existential crisis) later, I was sitting in one of my nursing homes when a doctor came up to me. He started arguing with me over a recommendation I had written in regard to one of his patients. I had wanted him to consider lowering the dosage on a patient’s medication, and he didn’t want to. How infuriated he was that I kept solid in my recommendation. Sometimes it crosses my mind whether feeling passionate about something is worth the cost. But I believe in the impact my insight has on the medical team, and more importantly, my patients. I believe that every benefit has a cost and sometimes that means standing firmly in my conviction. He stormed off. An elderly woman sitting nearby wheeled herself over to the nurses’ station where I was sitting. She had been a patient of this nursing home for almost as long as I had been coming there, and we had talked a few times over the years.
Clearly she had been making note of the exchange between the physician and me. “Carrie,” she said, and I came over to her chair. “What was the doctor yelling about?” I told her it was nothing. Then she handed me a red paper flower. She had made it as a thank you. "For what?” I asked, but she was already wheeling down the hallway and I had work to finish.
That night my youngest daughter, who will be going to college next year, asked me how hard pharmacy school was; I wanted to know why. She just looked at me like I was stupid, and said “Because you help people, and I want to be like you.” She smiled, and went back to making a sandwich as though nothing had happened.
So I’m sitting at the kitchen table again, with a green pen and a notebook I borrowed from my daughter, writing this after all. Because now I know what I love about being a pharmacist. I love helping people, I love keeping them safe, being their advocate and improving their quality of living. And most of all, I love knowing that in my own way, I am the hero that my ten year old self always knew I would be. I am a consultant pharmacist, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Ed Pitz, RPh
Sorry mom, I can’t make it to the wedding. We are short staffed this weekend and I have to help out, and oh by the way, remind dad to take his medication tonight at least an hour before dinner.
Honey, I’ll be late for our get together tonight. There’s been an emergency trauma admitted and I’m helping out in their ICU. Please give Bill and Ann my best and remind Ann to see her doctor, I think the fever may be drug related.
Hey Tammy, dad won’t be at the cheer competition today, the computer at work has crashed and it’ll take quite a while to catch up, and tell mom to try adding Tim’s medicine tonight to some ice cream so it will taste better and not hurt his tummy.
There are two common threads in the tale above. One is that the pharmacist in this story misses out on a lot of family activities. The second is that through the disappointment, that same pharmacist is not languishing in a pity party, but rather thinking of the well-being of family and friends.
In my nearly 40 years of service I have had the extreme pleasure and the equally extreme disappointment of experiencing the highest highs and roughest lows this life can pass out. Missing out on those family and social moments has occasionally left me with doubt about my chosen profession. But seeing the results of my efforts in a room full of family and friends who have overcome a variety of illnesses due in some small way to my help and intervention refills my spirit and casts out those doubts.
Pharmacy has been a unique blessing to me. The missed life events have made me more acutely aware of the value of family and friends. The often overlooked role my colleagues and I have played in the world of healing and care is a constant source of immeasurable peace and comfort to me in times of internal turmoil. Every time I see a grandchild born, or I see a friend undergoing the ravages of chemotherapy, I know in my heart that at some point the intervention of a caring pharmacist will ensure their safety and security, and I am comforted by that thought. I have laughed, I have cried, and I have lived with my patients. As deeply as I have touched their lives with my pharmaceutical skills, they have touched my life with their stories and their battles.
So I guess that if you ask me why I love being a pharmacist my best answer is that pharmacy is not just a job or a profession, it is an all-encompassing lifestyle. It is for the strong of will and conviction and for the soul tender enough to appreciate the deep-rooted pain of human suffering. Pharmacy has nourished my mind and my soul. It has made me a more caring, considerate, and tougher person. Pharmacy has not been my chosen career, pharmacy has been my life.
Matthew Bledsoe, PharmD
When I graduated pharmacy school in 2008 I stood with my classmates as we recited the “Oath of a Pharmacist” in unison. There is one particular vow that stood out to me as we recited the Oath and I embrace this vow, “I will apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients.” I love being a pharmacist because it allows me to use my knowledge, abilities, and talents to improve patient outcomes in the community hospital in which I am employed as the pharmacy clinical coordinator.
Being a pharmacist is more than dispensing medications to the ultimate user. Being a pharmacist means that I can ensure medications are being used appropriately to achieve optimal patient outcomes. I am heavily involved in the improvement of the medication-use system in the facility at which I work. In the few years I have worked as a pharmacist I have developed a pharmacy residency program, pharmacy technician based medication reconciliation program, and a medication safety team. I have worked hard to develop these programs since they greatly impact patient outcomes and improve the safety of the healthcare we deliver as pharmacists.
The profession of pharmacy gives me the knowledge and ability to discuss medications with patients and their families. I enjoy the one-on-one conversations I have with patients in their rooms on a daily basis, not only the talks about medications but the important debates like ‘Krispy Kreme’ or ‘Dunkin Donuts’. The admission into the hospital is a very stressful time for patients and their family members. A lot of the stress comes from not understanding the treatment they are receiving. As a pharmacist, I can help decrease some of the stress of the hospitalization by explaining the treatment regimens, potential side effects, desired outcomes, and what to expect throughout the hospitalization in terms of medication therapy.
I am also able to utilize my knowledge, skills, experiences, and values to prepare the next generation of pharmacists. I enjoy training future pharmacists and pharmacy residents at Bristol Regional Medical Center and watching them deliver compassionate care to our patients. The students and pharmacy residents bring new perspectives and talents while continuing the honored tradition of providing high-quality care of the professionals they follow. Mentoring students and pharmacy residents at Bristol Regional Medical Center has given me further opportunities to demonstrate the importance the profession of pharmacy has on improving patient outcomes.
My lifelong goal was to find a career that would allow me to work directly with the public and make a difference. I enjoy seeing the impact that I have, as a pharmacist, on the quality of care our patients receive. I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor and how my work pays off in achieving optimal patient outcomes. I love being a pharmacist!
Michael Ostrowsky, RPh
My love affair with pharmacy began over 40 years ago when I volunteered for a three-year enlistment in the United States Army. I was sent for an intensive 20 week course in pharmacy. I loved watching soldiers, their wives and their children coming in sick and walking by a short time later, well. It gave quite a rush to think that we in the pharmacy had a part in this transformation!
Later, I applied to and was accepted at the then Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. Six years later after marriage and a child, I got my first license and was finally a registered pharmacist!
Now, after many years practicing as a community pharmacist, I feel I can finally verbalize why so many of us so love our profession. We make a real difference in people's lives. We literally save lives by warning physicians about potential problems and outright mistakes.
We are the entry point into the healthcare system for the innumerable people who can't afford or don't trust ERs or walk in clinics.
We perform triage on a daily basis, taking histories and recommending OTC products where appropriate, insisting on physician visits when indicated.
We routinely assist physicians in recognizing potential cost/compliance issues in seniors and uninsured patients by contacting them and letting them know about less expensive, therapeutically equivalent drugs.
We help 'doctor shoppers' avoid serious problems by alerting their physicians to overuse or inappropriate combinations of drugs.
We are trusted. We are respected. People are grateful for the drug information we supply. We help fight drug abuse. We make a difference in people's lives and are a force for good in our communities. Despite the frustrations of insurance problems, out-of-sorts patients, and all the other things which may come our way, its nice to leave after our shift knowing we have practiced our profession and in all ways, lived up to the Hippocratic Oath to which we all swore.
Space does not allow the mention of all the reasons I love the practice of pharmacy. These are just a few that come to mind. See what you can add!
My name is Michelle Gualtieri, maiden name Nerch for all of my college buddies from Duquesne University's class of 1991. I grew up in a small town in PA and was exposed to illness at a very young age. My father had a stroke when I was eight years old. I felt helpless as I watched him learn to walk, talk, and feed himself all over again. I felt even more helpless when I was the unfortunate one to find him having seizures on two separate occasions. The reason for the stroke was untreated hypertension. The reason for the seizure was an improper discontinuation of one of his medications.
I realized that I needed to help my dad and my family as I was deciding on a career. Pharmacy seemed a good choice because given the knowledge I would learn in this profession, I could inevetibly help my family and possibly help others from going through the same medical nightmare my family went through. This is why I chose the pharmacy profession. I get to meet new people every day who may be on the road to the destruction of their health because of their lack of knowledge about their medical conditions and the uncertainty of why they are being prescribed medications and the proper way to take them.
It is not just the material we learned in school that makes a good pharmacist. It is having the compassion to listen with a caring and concerned ear to let a person know that how they feel matters to someone. Being in the middle of the medical triangle of doctors, insurance companies and pharmacies enables the pharmacist to utilize the "middle man" position to the benefit of the patient. It gives me the opportunity on a daily basis to intervene for the patient where they may have otherwise fallen through the cracks unnoticed. In this instance I enjoy being the middle man (girl) and take the opportunities to help people very seriously. I find that this is one of the aspects of the profession that makes my job enjoyable and rewarding. I, as a pharmacist, learn so much more from listening to people and sharing the stories of their lives.
Although the profession may change as the years go by, the reason I became a pharmacist remains the same. I will always do my best to make a difference in the lives of the people I encounter every day.
My dad has been deceased for almost 5 years but he helps me every day in my profession. He always said you can learn more with your ears open and your mouth closed. It holds true in the profession I enjoy so much. I took his advice as this: Always listen with an open mind and heart to what someone has to say and if you can offer them anything that can make a positive difference in their life then by all means, tell them. This is how I practice as a pharmacist!