Back to Pharmacy School: Hitting the Bell and the Books

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Summer 2018
Volume 12
Issue 3

Based upon my experience mentoring, teaching, and precepting many best-in-class students over the past decade, here are some suggestions for starting the semester off right.

My pharmacy school had a bell that would ring ceremoniously every year to herald the first day of class. Even if your institution lacks a physical bell, it will soon be time to ring in a new school year! Based upon my experience mentoring, teaching, and precepting many best-in-class students over the past decade, here are some suggestions for starting the semester off right.

1. Don’t procrastinate. Hit the books on day 1, get into a schedule of studying as quickly as possible, and don’t let your schoolwork fall far behind. The faster you develop a routine of class and studying, the smoother your semester will run. Many successful and career-focused individuals, including Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett, have almost boringly predictable routines; try to get yours down as early as possible, and adopt healthy habits that will set you up for success throughout the rest of the year.

2. Get involved. Being a leader in any profession takes more than just straight A’s in the classroom. Leadership happens outside the classroom, too, and 1 way to develop your leadership strengths is to join clubs and organizations. During the first part of the fall semester, all clubs and organizations have call-outs and meetings with information about how to get involved. Make this year the year that you develop your leadership and professional skills outside the classroom by attending these events, asking questions, and finding an aspect of pharmacy or leadership that you are passionate about.

Several national pharmacy organizations have student chapters, and there are fraternities and sororities at many pharmacy schools. If there’s an aspect of pharmacy you want to explore but your school doesn’t have a chapter of an organization that supports it, meet with your dean of student services and ask them if you can start a chapter. You can also explore organizations outside of the pharmacy, such as student government, mentoring, and community service.

3. Find a job. Being a broke pharmacy student is hard. If you have the means, get a job in or around pharmacy so you can practice your soon-to-be-profession while earning some extra money. Working in a pharmacy can help with studying, as well, so why not get paid to learn?

4. Give yourself breaks. Great writers go for walks when they need to brainstorm or clear their head. If you’re studying, make sure to take a break; when everything starts melting together in my head during a study sessions, I know that it’s time for a breather.

5. Take a class outside of pharmacy. Most universities offer core courses in liberal arts and sciences that are available to pharmacy students. Cam you take a class in an area such as art, history, or literature to help you think about life in a different way? If so, consider the challenge of pushing your brain in a different direction. I took a philosophy course one semester during pharmacy school, and I found that thinking about Kant or why we exist helped me keep the rest of my life in perspective.

6. Make use of office hours. When I was a student, I often thought I was taking up my professors’ precious time when I met with them. But now that I’ve been on the other side of the desk, I know that the best and brightest students maximize office hours with their professors. Not only is it good to ask questions about the curriculum, but meeting one-on-one with professors also can provide you with a chance to learn about their career paths and professional interests, as well as extra projects or assignments that could enhance your own career path. If you like a particular professor’s vibe, go visit during office hours— you never know where a conversation can lead.

7. Seek advice. Most schools of pharmacy assign you an academic advisor. Have you met with yours to discuss your strengths, your goals after pharmacy school, and your passions within pharmacy? If not, schedule a time to talk early in the semester. Academic advisors are paid to mentor and support you, so take advantage of the opportunity to gain more knowledge from yours outside the classroom. If you’re thinking about graduate school, is there a certification you can earn instead? Maybe your professor knows about a brand-new program for graduates that offers exactly what you want. You won’t find out unless you ask.

If you heed the advice above, you’re bound for another successful semester in pharmacy school. Good luck, and have a great year!

Erin Albert, PharmD, JD, MBA, PAHM, is a writer, pharmacist, attorney, and former professor. Follow her on Twitter (@ErinLAlbert) or at her website (

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