3 Ways Pharmacy Schools Could Increase Applicant Pools

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016
The pharmacy profession seems to be decreasing in popularity among millennials—that is, Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s.

Millennials are increasingly aware of the problems of higher education and the risks they must weigh when considering it to prepare for a future career, especially one they plan to work in for the rest of their life. These are the kinds of things on millennials’ minds:
  • Is the cost of pharmacy school (well over $100,000) worth the investment?
  • Will this profession be something I can choose to do for the rest of my life?
  • Will pharmacy provide me with the means to achieve other life goals (eg, family, financial)?
These are the same questions every student has when they think about their future. Millennials, however, are an especially savvy bunch who’ve seen first-hand the havoc economic uncertainty can cause in the job market. They’ve also witnessed the crippling debt their parents have from their adventures in higher education.

Millennials are the most educated generation of all time, with about 61% attending some college and more than 47% holding a postsecondary degree, according to White House statistics. They’re 35% more likely to enroll in graduate school than the previous generation—and about half of all students are borrowing to finance their educational endeavors and taking longer than ever before to repay those loans.1
The increasing cost of higher education, uncertain job market, and financial burden of long-term student loans have caused many millennials to think long and hard about attending pharmacy school, leading to a decrease in admission numbers. The number of pharmacy schools has increased substantially during the past 15 years, jumping from 70 or 80 pharmacy schools to more than 150 today. It’s curious that this decrease in enrollment would happen at the same time as the increase in the number of pharmacy programs.

Students don’t just want a degree anymore—they want training that’ll free them to do a job they love. The idea of working behind a counter is truly unappealing to most millennials.

According to a Yahoo! Aabaco Small Business report, 50% of millennial college students say they don’t need a physical classroom. Eighty-nine percent would prefer to choose when and where they work, as opposed to being placed in a 9-to-5 job, and 45% would choose workplace flexibility over higher pay.2 As the report suggests, this virtual generation has little desire or need to work in a physical, traditional workplace (read: a pharmacy).

Currently, the American Association of the Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is working on a public relations campaign to increase student and public awareness of the profession. But, why should schools rely on AACP to sustain admissions? Rather, let’s return the power to the colleges to attract applicants so they’re picking from the best of the best.

Instead of being a victim of circumstance, let’s put pharmacy schools back in the position of power. Let’s give them the ability to draw students in, instead of hoping the reputation or whimsical decisions of young adults will dictate the profession’s future. Let’s give schools credibility and a strong reputation so they don’t have to lower their standards for the students they accept.

A team of college staffers could collaborate on creating ways to garner interest in their school. To start, I recommend these 3 tips:

1. Get active on social media.
The millennial who isn’t involved in social media in some way, shape, or form is now the exception.

Pharmacy schools need to follow the lead of major companies and create lively, active, engaging brands on social media to entice millennials. Here’s what companies know, and pharmacy schools need to learn: 63% of millennials stay updated about brands through social media, and 43% have “liked” more than 20 brands on Facebook, according to the Yahoo! study.2

Pharmacy schools should be among those social media-savvy brands. An increase in admissions isn’t going to happen by spending tens of thousands of dollars to create more billboard ads. Today’s millennial students won’t be convinced to invest more than $100,000 in their future by a billboard. These potential students have real questions that they’re asking online—and pharmacy schools need to be on social media so they can answer them. This is key to initiating vital relationships with your future students.

Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.