Choosing a Major

There is no formal “pre-pharmacy” major. Pharmacy schools are interested in broadly educated students who have developed excellent writing and speaking skills, possess analytic and synthetic thinking ability, and are enthusiastic, life-long learners. Understanding of the social aspects of medicine is just as important as understanding the science. Your major will not determine your success in applying to pharmacy school. Your interests should determine your choice of major. Majoring in an area that you enjoy is more likely to lead to academic success than pursuing a field for which you have little enthusiasm. Regardless of your major, it is necessary to demonstrate a mastery of science; proficiency in other areas will not compensate for lack of science ability.

The benefits of choosing to major in one of the sciences is that many of the courses required to prepare for clinical medical careers and the associated standardized tests, such as the PCAT, can be satisfied as part of the science degree requirements. Therefore, a student can prepare for pharmacy school, while also satisfying degree requirements, without taking too many additional courses.

Undergraduate Preparation  

Undergraduate Preparation

Preparing for Pharmacy School

Selecting a Major

 Students can also apply and enter Pharmacy school without completing an undergraduate degree. Even though this has been successful in the past, there are risks associated with it, and as competition increases, it is likely to affect your chances by comparison with other students.

IMPORTANT: Students are urged to plan their schedules with a specific major and general degree requirements at the College of Charleston in mind, in addition to meeting the allied health prerequisites. Students interested in all programs should select a major and work toward a degree at the College. If you are admitted into a program before you graduate, you have not "lost" anything, but if you stay here another year, you will be further along toward a degree. You should be aware that having a Baccalaureate degree weighs favorably in applying to many programs, even if it is not required. Plan your college curriculum as though you have two equal goals---(1st) meeting the allied health requirements and (2nd) earning a degree in a College of Charleston major. There is no "magic major" to insure admission into a program although some clearly provide a better academic preparation.Your major will not determine your success in applying to pharmacy school.

Pharmacy schools are interested in broadly educated students who have developed excellent writing and speaking skills, possess analytic and synthetic thinking ability, and are enthusiastic, life-long learners. Understanding of the social aspects of pharmacy is just as important as understanding the science.

Your interests should determine your choice of major. Majoring in an area that you enjoy is more likely to lead to academic success than pursuing a field for which you have little enthusiasm. Regardless of your major, it is necessary to demonstrate science ability; proficiency in other areas will not compensate for lack of science ability.


 Matriculation into pharmacy school requires completion of approximately 66 hours of prerequisites that may include microbiology, statistics, economics, psychology, and communications in addition to the basic science courses.  Information for the specific requirements for the South Carolina pharmacy program can be found below and also by going to

If you are planning to apply to other Pharmacy Schools, you should check their specific requirements sometime during your sophomore year and discuss with your advisor.

Requirements for South Carolina School of Pharmacy


Semester Hours

General Chemistry (Qualitative Analysis): Chem 111+ lab, Chem 112 + lab


Organic Chemistry: Chem 231 + lab, Chem 232 +lab


Physics: Phys 101+ lab, Phys 102+lab OR Phys 111 + lab, Phys 112 + lab


Biology: Biol 111 + lab, Biol 112 + lab




Mathematics (Calculus and Statistics): Math 120 and either 104 or 250


Verbal skills: Communications


Economics: Econ 200 or 201


Psychology: PSYCH 103 (or any 3 CH psychology class)


Human Anatomy and Physiology: Biol 221 and 222


Liberal Arts Electives


The sciences courses should be completed no later than the year before you are planning to enter Pharmacy school so that you will be prepared for the PCAT exam during that summer/fall.

Personal Preparation

Good grades and test scores are essential factors in determining admissions, but are not the only determinants of success. Students must demonstrate that they have a true interest in their chosen professions and the personal attributes that are highly desirable in a health professional. The applicant will need to articulate to an admissions committee why this career choice is right for them. Health professions schools expect applicants to have sought opportunities in the career in which they are interested.

Students should shadow a pharmacist and work or volunteer in health-related environments. Dierent types of pharmacy might add to the experience; privately-owned, chain and hospital pharmacies are all good choices. Since the health careers are service-related professions, students should also explore activities in people-oriented environments. Steady, long term involvement is preferable to short bursts of unrelated activities.

This type of experience not only demonstrates social responsibility, but also helps to builds communication skills and teaches how to deal with a diversity of people. The insight and experiences gained through these activities will help a student compose an application essay that will convince an admissions committee of the worthiness of the applicant. In addition, these activities provide opportunities to acquire meaningful letters of evaluation from non-academic sources that will strengthen the student's application.

Tests and Application  

Admission: Test and Application

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

The PCAT is required by approximately half of all pharmacy schools. The PCAT is offered each year beginning in January and ending in November. Registration for the PCAT is made through

Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)

Centralized application services are used to apply to most pharmacy programs. Students who apply to any of the professional programs utilizing a centralized service submit one application through the application service. The centralized service verifies the information provided on the application and submits the application to the professional schools designated by the applicant. The verification process may take up to 6 weeks and this time should be factored in when trying to meet application deadlines. Most professional schools require additional information, called a secondary or supplemental application, from the applicant once they receive the student's application from the centralized service. Specific information on deadlines, fees, and participating institutions can be found at the website listed above

NOTE: SC School of Pharmacy currently subscribes to PharmCAS. All applications are processed directly through the SC School of Pharmacy (Charleston campus).


Design an Academic Plan


Fall Semester

Declare a major and get an advisor. Make sure to identify that you are a pre-health profession student on the major declaration form Make an appointment with your advisor to discuss professional goals and determine an academic game plan to ensure you will have taken all courses needed to prepare for standardized admissions tests in your field of interest by the time you take the exam (usually the beginning of your Junior year). Make an appointment with Ms. Karen Eippert, Health Professions Advisor

Spring Semester

Discuss your academic progress with your advisor. Search for summer jobs and volunteer opportunities in your field of interest.

First Summer

Work/volunteer to gain insight of your career choice.


Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor to discuss your Spring schedule. Establish a list of potential schools to which you will apply and identify all prerequisite courses to discuss with your advisor. Continue volunteer work in your field to whatever degree manageable during the academic year.

Spring Semester

Discuss your academic progress with your advisor and adjust your academic plan, as needed. Explore career options and alternatives, if your GPA is not adequate or your career interests have changed. Pre-pharmacy students (if you are on the 2-year plan) register and take PCAT in over the summer. Pharmacy schools applications are due in January (if you are on the 2-year plan). You will want to apply as early as possible to enhance your chances for acceptance.

Second Summer

Take the PCAT. Work/volunteer to gain insight of your career choice. Get involved in the community.


Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor to discuss Spring schedule. Get organized, order review booklets and practice tests to prepare for standardized exams. Explore various professional schools and determine to which ones you will apply.

Spring Semester

Discuss your academic progress with your advisor.  Meet with the chair of the Health Professions Committee to determine if your GPA is competitive and whether or not this is the year you should apply to professional school. (Contact the chair of the Health Profession Committee, Karen Eippert). Establish a file with the College's Health Professions Committee (forms are available under Health Profession committee services). Start worksheets for on-line centralized application services and/or request applications from schools that do not participate in the centralized application process. Collect materials needed to fill in application and start working on application essay. Apply and study for standardized admissions tests.  Check the deadlines and do not miss them. Practice, practice, practice Take the standardized admissions test and request that scores be released to the College of Charleston, schools to which you are applying and the application service (if appropriate). Request letters of evaluation from faculty and health professionals who know you well. Make sure to provide each of them with a signed Faculty evaluation form.

Third Summer

Continue to work/volunteer in your field of interest and community outreach projects. Complete your applications and submit early.  Early decision program applications must be submitted to the schools by August 1st. Complete your file for the Health Professions Committee.  Supply the committee with a copy of your personal statement from your application. Retake standardized admissions tests, if necessary.


Fall Semester

Meet with your advisor.  Get a degree audit and apply for graduation. Make sure your Health Professions Committee File is complete and all your letters of evaluation have been submitted. Respond promptly to requests for secondary applications from each professional school. Prepare for interviews. Interview and wait. Search for sources of financial aid.

Spring Semester

Send updated transcripts directly to the professional schools to which you have applied. Wait for decisions.  Be sure to let the chair of the Health Professions Committee know the final outcome. Discuss alternatives with your advisor.  Meet with the chair of the Health Professions Committee to develop a strategy for reapplying, if necessary.

Letters of Recommendation  

As part of the application process to pharmacy programs, you will be required to provide letters of reference (usually 3). Different programs may ask for these letters to come from specific individuals, such as science professors and a licensed pharmacist. Some schools may prefer a composite reference that can be provided by the Health Professions Advisor. Check with the schools to which you will be applying to make sure that you are satisfying their criteria. If the application is done online, there are usually recommendation forms provided. You want to make sure the appropriate forms accompany any letters that are submitted on your behalf. Not using the recommended forms can delay processing of your application.

Online Resources  

Online Resources

Frequently Asked Questions  

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.