7 Tips for Pre-Pharmacy Students

Here are some tips for pre-pharmacy students who are considering a 3-year pharmacy program.

I’m about three-quarters of the way through the didactics portion of the pharmacy program at Midwestern University’s Glendale campus.

Here are some things I have learned along the way that I would like to share with pre-pharmacy students who are considering a 3-year pharmacy program.

1. Plan Ahead.

I find it useful to have a calendar or planner where I can record upcoming tests or assignments that are due. That way, I can know when to anticipate a busier week and put more hours into studying or working on an assignment, and fewer hours into being involved in extracurricular activities.

2. Remember to Breathe.

Pharmacy school can be stressful and overwhelming at times, especially when you’re faced with multiple exams all in 1 week. I have found it helpful to give myself short breaks to take deep breaths in between studying.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

If you’re having trouble understanding the material for one of your classes, send your instructor an e-mail and make an appointment to go over it. If you’re more comfortable speaking with your peers, ask a classmate who knows the material for help, or request an upperclassman tutor through student services.

I used to believe I did not benefit from learning from others and would be better off learning on my own at my own pace, but I was proven wrong. When I finally attended tutoring or small group sessions to prepare or preview the material for some classes, I gained a lot from my tutors and classmates.

I learned different perspectives that I never would have knew if I were learning the material on my own instead. For example, the stories or analogies that my tutors and classmates thought of were memorable, and for that reason, I had an easier time remembering them during exams.

4. Be Prepared for Large Class Loads.

Be ready to take more than 12 class units per quarter. I currently take at least 16 per quarter.

Although some pharmacy school classes provide opportunities for re-examination, you don’t want to be in a situation where passing a class is dependent on a cumulative final.

If you have some room in your schedule prior to attending pharmacy school, take biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, or even some pharmacy technician classes. Even though these classes are not prerequisites for some pharmacy schools, you will be encountering them once you’re there.

I took biochemistry and microbiology prior to pharmacy school, and even though I forgot most of what I learned in those 2 classes, I was mentally prepared when I revisited them. I also had an easier time learning drug names, medical terms, abbreviations, and calculations in pharmacy school because I had some prior knowledge from taking pharmacy technician classes ahead of time.

5. Learn a New Language.

If you’re not bilingual, take a class to learn a foreign language. Knowing a foreign language enabled me to counsel more patients during my introductory ambulatory rotation.

6. Find a Balance.

At times, it may be difficult to balance school and personal life. Learn to say “no” to work and extracurricular activities.

Focus on your studies and see what you can handle, especially when you’re just starting pharmacy school. I know a few classmates who came close to failing or failed and had to get on the extended tract because they didn’t put enough hours into studying during the first quarter of pharmacy school.

If you can, aim to do at least 1 extracurricular activity per quarter or over the school break.

7. Take Advantage of Extracurricular Opportunities.

You will graduate from pharmacy school before you know it, which is truer for those considering 3-year programs. Once you are familiarized with your pharmacy school program’s pace and know how much you can handle, consider some extracurricular activities such as volunteering for an organization or doing a special project with a professor.

Pharmacy career options are not limited to hospital and retail settings, so this is the time to explore what you are interested in. Being involved in extracurricular activities will enable you to build skills that you can’t learn in a classroom setting.