There are more pharmacy schools today than ever before. Picking the best college for pharmacy school can be hard. Here, a current student pharmacist reflects on his experiences and gives advice on picking a pharmacy school.
Authored By: Shaun Lasky, Pharm.D. Candidate 2017
There are approximately 130 colleges of pharmacy across the United States and in recent years it sometimes seems like a new one is opening every month . For those looking to attend pharmacy school, it can be a challenge to select the program that is right for you.
As a Student Ambassador at my college, I have spoken with many applicants and answered many inquiries about what students are looking for in a school. Below, I have compiled a list of five questions candidates should answer to the best of their ability as they seek to narrow down perspective schools.
Note that it is important candidates proceed through the selection process with their own interests in mind, as what is right for your friends may not be right for you. Every option is going to have pros and cons. I will try to point out some of these here, to help you on your path to becoming a pharmacist.
Number 1: What Are Your Goals?
As Stephen R. Covey said in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind” . If you know where you want to be in the end of your college career, it will be easier to choose the best school to help you attain your personal end point.
Are you interested in working in a hospital or a clinic? If so, you might want to look for schools that have a history of students being matched in post-graduate residencies. Do you want to work in a small town? Try to look for schools that offer rural health opportunities during school such as student run health fairs and educational talks.
If you don’t know what you want to do yet when you graduate, don’t worry; the best advice I can give you is to never close any doors. You might change your mind four or five times before you graduate!
Number 2: Are You Interested In An Accelerated Timeline?
Many people who receive a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D.) have attended three years of didactic (classroom) pharmacy education followed by a year of out-of-classroom experiential education (also called “rotations”) in various facets of the pharmacy field. Some schools, however, consolidate that three-year classroom experience into two years. This means you can get in and get out faster, but it is also a higher stakes experience. Classes are continual (no summer breaks) and some schools have a higher percentage of what constitutes a passing grade.
For instance, some schools focus on one class only for nine days and on the tenth day you have to get a 90% on the test to pass the class and move on. Accelerated schools also may not offer as much extra-curricular activities as the four year schools, as most nights and weekends are spent furiously studying to prepare for the upcoming test.
If you want to get your degree as soon as possible so you can move on to bigger and better things, an accelerated program might be for you.
Number 3: How Much Do You Want To Pay?
It is no secret that pharmacy school is expensive. Students often graduate with six figure student loan debt . That said, the cost of tuition is a major factor for many students.
Often times, in-state tuition is cheaper than out of state. Also, public schools are often cheaper than private or not-for-profit schools.
At the end of the day do not forget that we all graduate with the same degree regardless of the school you attended. Yes the financial component is important, but don’t overlook more expensive options, as they may offer a learning experience that is more in-line with your future goals.
Number 4: Do You Want Another Post-Graduate Degree As Well?
Are you interested in pharmacy law, health economics, internal medicine, or owning your own pharmacy? If so, some schools offer dual degree programs where you can earn your Pharm.D. as well as a Masters of Business Administration (MBA, business degree) or Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD, law degree). As you can probably imagine, dual degrees take a significant amount of extra time and money to complete, but opportunities at the end are greater than those of the sole Pharm.D. graduate.
My perception is that dual-degree programs are usually more competitive, so if you’re interested in a program like this, keep your grades up!
Number 5: What’s The Environment Like On Campus?
Many people say their time in pharmacy school was the most fun part of their lives, albeit some of the most challenging. That said, a most important consideration for your school is the campus environment. Are the class sizes large or small? Is it a close-knit group of students with a solid mentorship system from faculty, or is it self-directed? What student organizations exist on each campus? Are students competitive with one another, or is there a large focus on team based learning?
Every school is going to have a different vibe that you can only get from checking out the campus and asking questions of the admissions staff. You should ultimately check out each potential school’s website and contact anyone with questions that you might have. Pharmacy schools are reaching out more than ever to recruit new students, so don’t be afraid to ask what the school can offer you!
- Grabenstein JD. Trends in the Numbers of US Colleges of Pharmacy and Their Graduates, 1900 to 2014. AJPE. 2016; 80(2): article 25.
- Covey SR. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Cain J et al. Pharmacy Student Debt and Return on Investment of a Pharmacy Education. AJPE. 2014; 78(1): article 5.
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