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Frequently Asked Questions

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Pre-Requisites, Courses and Your Major

Do I have to be a science major to go to pharmacy school?

No. Your major is not important as long as you complete the pre-requisite course work to satisfy the admissions requirements and prepare for the standardized admissions test in your field of interest.

Will majoring in science give me an advantage in applying to pharmacy school?

Not necessarily. Most pharmacy schools are looking for well rounded students who have an aptitude for science. They do not give preference to science majors. Taking additional science courses may be beneficial in preparing for standardized exams, but the questions in standardized exams are based on knowledge found in introductory level science courses.

Should I minor or take a double major?

Only if you are truly interested in another field of study. There is no evidence that those students who have a second major or minor have a better chance of acceptance into pharmacy school than those who do not.

Should I take a commercial prep course before taking the PCAT?

There is no hard evidence that commercial courses produce significant gains in test scores. These courses may benefit students who need the extra motivation to buckle down and study. They do provide the opportunity to take multiple full length practice test in real time situations. However, motivated students can do the same on their own or in a study group.

Can I take required courses in the summer and/or at another institution?

In general, it is best to take your required courses at your primary academic institution and during the regular school session. Professional schools want to know that a student can handle science courses while taking a normal academic load. If you have a compelling reason, for taking a course during the summer, for example to be able to get the proper course sequence, then do so. You should try, at least, to take the course at your primary institution or one with equivalent academic rigor. Taking your science courses in a piecemeal fashion and at a two-year institution may be looked on with suspicion by health professions schools. You should also check with the appropriate department to see that the credits from another institution will transfer.

Can I get into pharmacy school in less than 4 years?

Yes, you can apply to the SC School of Pharmacy after having completed 66 SH of course work and completed the PCAT. The two medical schools in South Carolina require a minimum of three years of undergraduate work or 90 hours to matriculate into their programs. However, this requires students to squeeze all their required courses and take the MCAT exam by the end of their sophomore year. Four years of undergraduate preparation allows time for students to explore, grow, mature, and have experiences that enrich their lives and make them better medical school candidates.

Grades and Standardized Test Scores

If I didn't do well my freshman year, have I ruined my chances for medical school?

Not necessarily. Medical schools often look at trends in grades. If you can show a turn around in subsequent years, a poor showing in your first year may not have a significant impact on your candidacy. Professional schools may put more importance on your science GPA and MCAT scores in your overall academic evaluation.

If I drop a class will it look bad?

Not if it is an isolated incident. However, routinely dropping classes may evoke suspicion that you are not able to handle a rigorous academic load.

If I got a "C" in a required class, should I repeat it?

In some programs, the minimum acceptable grade for a required course is a "C". An isolated "C" isn't the end of your medical school career, but consistent "C" work will result in a GPA that is not competitive. If your overall knowledge in the subject is satisfactory, then you may be better off taking and earning a better grade in another science class to show you are capable of handling upper division science courses.

What grades (GPA) and MCAT scores do I need to get into medical school?

Your grades and MCAT scores are often used to assess your academic potential. There is no magic cut-off for either score. The two may offset each other, that is, a high GPA can somewhat compensate for a lower MCAT and visa versa. To be competitive your scores should be about the same as the average scores of those of the last years entering medical school class. In general, a combination of a GPA of 3.5 (or above) and a total MCAT score of 29 (or above) is competitive. For South Carolina medical schools, candidates with a total MCAT score of less than 20 or an individual section score below 7 are not ordinarily viable.

Can I take the MCAT multiple times?

Yes. However, since 2003, all MCAT scores are reported to the medical schools to which you apply. Medical schools have different policies on which scores they will use in calculating your academic profile score (a mathematical calculation involving your GPA and MCAT scores). Some schools will use your highest score or most recent score, while others will average all your scores. You should not take the MCAT lightly. You should go in fully prepared the first time and hope that it is the only time your will have to take it.

The Application Process

When should I take my MCATs and apply to medical school?

Students who want to enter medical school immediately after undergraduate school, should take their MCATs in the spring of their junior year and apply to medical school in the fall of their senior year. Medical schools start accepting applications in June, and the earlier you apply the better your chances are. Many schools have rolling admissions, meaning that medical schools start accepting students as soon as the interview process starts and continues accepting until the class is full. This means the later you apply, the fewer the number available seats there will be. If you do not take the MCAT until August your scores will not be available until October. Medical schools will not evaluate your application until they have your MCAT scores. Therefore, depending on your August MCAT scores can diminish your chances of acceptance.

Who should I get to write letters of recommendation?

Most professional schools will ask for at least 3 letters of recommendation. Some programs, specify from whom the letters should come. It is a good idea to have 2 letters from science faculty. You want to ask for recommendations from people who know you well and can express with concrete example your intelligence, academic ability, character and potential as a health professional. Obviously, to get such recommendations you must first establish a strong relationship with your evaluator. Early in your academic career it is important to get to know your professors and maintain contact with those who may be potential letter writers. Also, when exploring career possibilities, you want to establish at least one long-term quality experience. It is far better to have one or two quality experiences then to have a long list of superficial exposures to the health profession.