Which Pharmacy Schools Should I Apply to This Year?
A 3-step process to compare pharmacy schools' prerequisites and set an application timeline.
Ideally, a student finds the best pharmacy school at the lowest tuition and plans well in advance for their college career. However, many students coming to pharmacy as a potential applicant already have credits and want to know which pharmacy school is best for their situation. Comparing pharmacy schools apples to apples is extremely difficult, but solving this puzzle is one of the most rewarding jobs I have as a pre-pharmacy advisor.
The first step in determining which pharmacy school might be a good fit for a student who already has college credits, is to compare their progress to the local school's requirements. The average pre-pharmacy student only applies to about 4 colleges of pharmacy. Here in central Iowa, students often choose between the state’s only private college, Drake University, the state college, The University of Iowa, and often the distance program at Creighton and maybe one other college in Illinois, Kansas, or Nebraska. To keep this article straightforward, I’m going to go through the 3-step process I now use to help my pre-pharmacy students get the best information.
1. Open an Excel spreadsheet that lists prerequisite classes vertically and schools horizontally.
You can find the spreadsheet I use for my college students here at https://www.memorizingpharmacology.com/prepharmacy
2. Open the PharmCAS listing for that school, the pharmacy requirements for a student that is doing undergraduate at that college, and a third page that lists pharmacy requirements for students transferring into the program from outside the school. The current PharmCAS link is here:
3. Compare the requirements to the student’s current coursework and develop a plan to satisfy coursework in a waterfall method e.g., sometimes one college will require so many different classes than a student has, it will delay the application to that school by a year or more.
Step 1. Build the apples to apples spreadsheet.
While many pharmacy schools have similar entrance requirements, the way they submit them to PharmCAS and display them on their own websites differ greatly. To create organization from this relatively random class ordering, I recommend this order:
1. Chemistry including inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry
2. Biology including advanced or junior level classes such as biochemistry
3. Math including statistics and calculus
4. Communication Written/Oral including introductory composition and speech
5. Social Sciences such as economics and psychology
6. Humanities classes, if any
7. Other classes that don’t fit into any of these common categories
Step 2. Open the PharmCAS listing for that school and the school’s own prerequisites webpage(s).
Currently medical students need to pay $28 to see the up-to-date database of medical schools and requirements, PharmCAS doesn’t charge for this listing. There are 2 ways to look at this. Prepharmacy students have open access to the college’s information in one place. However, these listings are somewhat unreliable with omissions and columns that simply don’t match arithmetically. Sometimes the math is impossible to calculate, as the pharmacy school requires “1 or 2 courses” without an associated number of credit hours.
Step 3. Compare the school’s prerequisites.
Take the information from the PharmCAS first and put it into your own spreadsheet. Then use the college’s website(s) to verify this information and look for exceptions, incongruities and other asterisks. A local pre-pharmacy adviser likely knows many of the idiosyncrasies for each college and would be a good resource. Often, the best school answer narrows readily because the student simply can't complete some schools prerequisites by the end of the year's application cycle.
As our profession looks to improve our attractiveness to potential applicants and ease the application process, we can make ready strides by simply aligning our prerequisites in the same order for all schools of pharmacy so they look more similar than different.