How to Write a Pharmacy School Personal Statement
by Ben Frederick MD
on July 30, 2013
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 https://www.aacp.org/resources/student/pharmacyforyou/admissions/Pages/default.aspx
Pharmacy School Admissions – The Truth, 2013. Derived from https://pharmacyschooladmissions.blogspot.com/2009/07/personal-statement-words-of-advice-part.html