What things were you looking for while searching for a graduate or professional school program?
When looking at prospective pharmacy schools, the key factors for me were location, cost of tuition, and how well I would be set up for the type of pharmacy career I desire.
What advice might you give to an undergraduate about their graduate or professional school search or application process?
First, I would encourage students to start their application process early; it is significantly less stressful when you aren’t scrambling towards the end. This includes taking advantage of the wonderful resources at Grand Valley such as the pre-professional clubs for general advice and the writing department for help with personal statements. Second, I would encourage students to start building their resumes early by getting some type of leadership position(s) at Grand Valley and volunteering.
What opportunities did you take advantage of to help prepare yourself for graduate or professional school?
I used the writing department, in addition to my pre-professional advisor, to proofread and make suggestions on my personal statement. By the time I submitted my application I was extremely confident in the quality of my personal statement. I also was a regular attendee to pre-pharmacy club meetings starting my sophomore year. Those meetings outlined the application process well, thereby allowing me to get through everything without any unexpected hitches when I went to apply.
How did you distinguish yourself from other candidates applying?
I believe the two things that set me apart from other candidates the most were my resume and my actual interview. As a sophomore I started volunteering at one of the free clinics in Grand Rapids and ended up staying there for almost three years. I would recommend volunteering at one of the three clinics in Grand Rapids to any prospective applicant. Besides the fact that it felt good to volunteer, it also gave me valuable experience directly communicating with patients, and presented a great subject to talk about during all of my interviews. Continuing on that, the other important aspect that set me apart was the strength of my interviews. Before my first interview I came up with solid answers to questions I knew I would be asked such as “Why pharmacy?” or “What do you think are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?”. I also did a mock interview that Grand Valley provides for students, which I found to be fairly similar to my actual interviews and helpful.
What were the main factors you considered important when comparing grad/professional schools?
One big factor for me was the reputation of the schools I was applying to. If at all possible I wanted to be in a pharmacy program at an established school that had been around for a while. This might be pretty intuitive, but I discovered early on in graduate school that the established programs seemed to set their students up for a lot better opportunities in terms of clinical experience while in school and rotations for 4th year students among other things. I also compared prospective schools in terms of tuition and quality of facilities.
Was there a process or strategy that you used to narrow down your top schools of choice?
Personally, I applied to seven schools. Five of the schools I could really see myself at and two were pretty much back-up options. After I got my first acceptance, I basically evaluated each interview offer after and determined whether I wanted to go based on the strength of the program vs. the strength of the program I was set to join. The process worked out well for me because I interviewed early on at a couple schools and kind of shook off my nerves, so by the time I got a chance to interview at my dream school I was extremely well prepared and confident. For that reason, I would suggest applying to at least a couple schools in order to better account for nervous or unexpected questions/situations.
What approaches and techniques did you use to prepare for a standardized test? How often? Did you find that successful?
I bought a Kaplan test prep book and basically went through the entire thing. It took me a solid two months off and on, but I felt that it prepared me really well. I also purchased around 5 full length practice tests through Kaplan. I didn’t think that it was necessary to purchase one of the Kaplan tutoring services and I don’t regret it. The only thing I wish I could have done was participating in the test prep offered by Grand Valley. I was unable to attend because of work but I heard it was definitely worth it for the price from some of my friends that took it.