Want to know how to get straight A’s in pharmacy school? Learn 5 tips to help from a student who has been there and done it. These 5 things can help you get straight A’s in pharmacy school.
Authored By: Lilian Agu, Pharm.D. Candidate 2017
[Last updated: 29 January 2017]
Being accepted into pharmacy school is commendable and succeeding in pharmacy school is a great achievement, but getting straight A’s in pharmacy school is rare and distinguished. Of course some individuals can do this in their sleep, but if you are anything like me, it would require some serious dedication.
Whether “C is a Doctor” or “C’s get PharmD’s” is your ideal motto for pharmacy school success or not, you may find the following tips beneficial when striving to succeed in pharmacy school.
1. Identify Your Goals & Motivation Ahead of Time
My brother always teased me about being a college dropout since I had no bachelor or associate degree before getting into pharmacy school; subsequently, my main goal entering pharmacy school was to do whatever it took to graduate and not fail out of the program. I had no backup plans since I had no degree and “surviving pharmacy school” became my strongest motivation.
Everything has an opportunity cost so it is necessary to prioritize your life in order of importance. What is your definition of success? What are you willing to do to succeed in this program? Setting these goals ahead of time allows you to avoid being caught off guard by the demands of pharmacy school.
I remember when a class poll was taken on how many people think pharmacy school was harder than they expected, many hands went up. All schools are different, but set your expectations to a level that will lead to little or no disappointment.
Remember too that identifying your goals and motivations is a continuous process, so you will need to do this throughout your time in pharmacy school.
2. Know The Expectations
To make an A grade in a class, you only have to do what the professor requires; this means it is an attainable goal.
To learn the material, you have to study with the goal of (1) understanding the fundamentals and (2) applying the knowledge. These two concepts are commonly confused, but learning the material does not always mean you will make an A and making an A does not mean you completely understand the material to a level where it is applicable; finding the balance with these two is where the true success lies.
Every lecturer has different expectations (even for the same course) and your ability to excel in a class is heavily influenced by the professor; therefore, it is vital to identify their expectations of you. Most professors tell you what it takes to make an A in the course, but for those professors that do not clearly specify, ask.
I vividly remember my pharmaceutics professor saying, ‘when I asked some students how they managed to make an A in my class, they said they recorded, listened, and transcribed my lectures word for word then they studied their notes for my exams.’ This one statement led to 3 years of me transcribing lecture notes word for word.
3. Do The Work
Be willing to do what it takes!
People achieve the same goals utilizing different methods so once you identify what it takes to achieve the success you want, put it into action.
I never considered myself to be intelligent or smart, but I know myself to be very hard working and hard work, my friend, can take you places. Transcribing lecture notes for all my classes was never pleasant, but it worked for me. It was what I needed to do in order to get the grades I wanted, so I did it.
I am sure many students have straight A’s in undergraduate school and may decide to apply the same methods to attaining the same goals in pharmacy school, unfortunately, it does not work that way. If you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done; this means that getting all A’s in pharmacy school will require a different type of effort than undergrad.
4. Stay In Your Lane
People take different routes to arrive to the same destination so it is best to find your own route and stay in your lane.
I recommend learning your strengths and weakness and finding out ways to grow. Constant self-evaluation should be a habit in order to keep you focused. When you take your eyes off yourself to compare your distance with someone else, you will realize that you are always ahead and behind someone. Set your goal and focus on it, because imitating what people do with the hopes of achieving the same result does NOT work – just ask anyone that has ever tried to dance to Beyoncé in front of the mirror.
Also, try as much as possible to avoid negativity (e.g., jealousy, envy), because those are major distractions from your goals. A free and healthy mind allows room for efficient learning.
5. Be Nice and Share (ONLY within the limits of the honor code)
Being nice to people has absolutely nothing to do with pharmacotherapy or medicinal chemistry, but attitude can make or break you.
Pharmacy is a small world and no matter how smart you are, there is no way you can go through your whole pharmacy career without needing assistance at some point. Always help someone whenever you are in the position to help, because you just never know. Your efforts will not always be recognized, but it may come back to you later on down the road. When presented with the opportunity to help someone, help because when you leave the ‘bubble’ of pharmacy school, there is a bigger world out there and your reputation in school is guaranteed to follow you.
Kindness was my biggest networking tool in pharmacy school, I tutored fellow classmates and shared my transcribed notes with the entire class. I wanted my entire class to graduate and advance to succeed in their different areas of interest so I did what I could to help fellow students. ‘Being nice and sharing’ made it easier for people to share their study guides which were very helpful to my success; it allowed me to live in Miami (rent free) for my 3 months’ rotations. Additionally, it brought me my most treasured social achievement which was winning the 2016 “Most Committed to Helping Others” award.
Of course these tips will not work for everyone, but they are the things that worked for me. As of the latest grade update, my GPA remains a 4.0 and some of my professors still upload my notes for the newer students to study with. Again, people are different so find what works for you and put in the work.
You will be entrusted with people’s lives as a pharmacist, so I will encourage you to learn the fundamentals (and not just focus on the grade), because you need to know this information to be able to do your job as a pharmacist. Good luck!
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