Sample Essay And Personal Statement For Entering Pharmacy School

Writing the personal essay, as part of an application for a college pharmacy, can be a daunting task for some. As compared to very objective information like grade point average or PCAT score, the personal essay can seem like a very subjective exercise with no clear beginning and no clear end. The PharmCAS application states that: “Your Personal Essay should address why you selected pharmacy as a career and how the Doctor of Pharmacy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals.” What follows are a few tips for preparing and writing your essay.

There is no formula for the “perfect” personal statement. It is important to realize that different admission officers or committee members will look at the essay from varying vantage points.  Reading an applicant essay is a bit like looking at a painting.  Everyone’s interpretation will be a bit different. The statement above (from PharmCAS) is one that THEY have chosen to put on the front end of the application portal. That does not necessarily mean that it is what each admission reviewer is looking for.  As a result, it is best to approach the personal essay without a set formula. Applicants often make the mistake of asking a student who has gotten into pharmacy school about how they wrote their personal statement. The belief is that the successful student has the golden nugget and if they can mimic their format, they will achieve the same end. These formats get passed from applicant to applicant with posting on different student website forums (e.g. studentdoctor.net). As a result, many of the personal essays that I read look and sound alike.

Prepare a rough outline before you begin writing a personal statement. Jot down the things that you think are important to tell about yourself. Focus on telling YOUR story. By the time a reviewer gets to your personal essay, they have likely reviewed a number of other aspects of your application including your course history, grade transcripts, PCAT scores (if required), background, letters of recommendation, etc. This creates the beginnings of a painting in their mind of who you are. The personal statement should continue to fill out this canvas. The narrative that you write must be consistent with the story that the rest of your application tells.  For example, if a college transcript clearly appears “pre-med”, or marine biology, then it would ring inconsistent with a personal essay that states that the applicant has wanted to be pharmacist since they were very young. It is more important for a personal essay to be consistent and complementary to the application, than for it to have a “hook”, or interesting story that has to “set you apart”.

Why is it YOU decided to become a pharmacist? There are many different reasons that people decide to go into a healthcare profession (and pharmacy in particular). Before I was going to be a pharmacist, my college plans included being an architect, veterinarian, oceanographer, chemist, and park ranger. Hopefully your decision to go into pharmacy is a little more planned and thought out than mine. My point is that it is best to spend some thoughtful time about your choice and then translate that into some statements within your personal essay that are specific to you.  Not what you think (or someone has told you) the admission committee wishes to hear.

Be honest and sincere. Again, there’s no formula for the successful essay.  In reading many different personal essays, I get the impression that some applicants believe it is being graded like an essay question on a physiology exam with checks given to specific words, phrases and concepts.  As a result, their goal is to try to infuse the essay with a set of “talking points” rather than telling a personal story. This causes many personal essays to read as detached, impersonal and formulaic, to the detriment of the applicant.

Fill in gaps in your application.  Everyone’s path to pharmacy school can be a bit different.  For example some individuals may have gone to college for a few years, taken some time off and then returned.  Others might have started college as a first generation college student.  Still others might have had difficulty adjusting at first, or run into a semester where personal events occurred that took their attentions away from their studies.  The PharmCAS application includes a section that allows you to explain “Special Life Circumstances” (personal data section) that is separate from the personal essay. Be sure to use that section to explain gaps or lapses that might exist in your application. You may also use the personal statement to address how these events have refocused you on your goals and objectives. Don’t forget to use the essay to help fill-in or tie up loose ends that you feel may exist in your application.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important. The personal essay is a written communication and is being evaluated as such by the schools that are looking at your application. Just like the interview serves as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the applicant’s ability to verbally communicate, the personal essay serves as an opportunity see how the applicant communicates in writing.

Have someone read your personal essay before you send it. This isn’t just to “proof” it. Instead, it is to help you understand what it is saying about you. DON’T ask your proof reader if they liked it. A good friend will likely tell that they do. You want actual feedback!  Ask them to tell you the three important things that it says about you, including why you want to become a pharmacist.  Make them point to where these are articulated in your essay.  Sometimes we become too attached to the things we write. An external reader can give us a different view of what it is we are saying.

Avoid plagiarism! NEVER use personal essay websites, friend’s or acquaintance’s personal essays to write yours.  Use your own original words to tell YOUR story.  The PharmCAS portal states: “Please be aware that your admission essay may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to Turnitin for Admissions for the detection of plagiarism duplication and other potential violations of the applicant code of conduct. All submitted essays and other materials will be included as source documents in the Turnitin for Admissions reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such documents.” Plagiarism is taken seriously by PharmCAS and by individual colleges of pharmacy.

The interpretation of the personal essay is in the eye of the beholder. These tips represent my perspective on the personal essay as a pharmacist, pharmacy educator and admission officer. That being said, four different admission officers would likely give you four different sets of perspective on the essay, including what is important.  Be truthful and be genuine. Allow the reader the opportunity to learn about who YOU are and why YOU have chosen to become a pharmacist. A genuine story tells itself!

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Personal Statement of Purpose for entering into a quality Doctoral PharmD Program at an accredited U.S.-Based University

Applicant name: ***** *****

                                                                                                      

Being born in *****, as my homeland was recovering from a civil war that had literally shattered the country, I feel I am a child of hope.  Leaving my family and everything I ever knew behind, I came to alone, with a pocketful of dreams for a better life.  Indeed, I have seen here a country rich in opportunities, and rewards for those willing to work hard.

 

Complicating matters for me, though, five years ago I was diagnosed with lupus, an incurable chronic disease whose symptoms must be managed by a “cocktail” of medications.  Despite my condition, I have persevered.  Though there were days I could not walk or concentrate, I stayed on track, keeping my GPA high, forever focused on my goal, earning my PharmD.  Giving up was never an option for me.  I refused to let my family’s sacrifices for me to ever be in vain.  What many may see as being my weaknesses is in fact my strength.  I am stronger for all of my experiences.

 

For the past four years, I have maintained my focus on Pharmacy work.  From my beginnings as a volunteer pharmacy clerk for a local pharmacy, I have become all the more certain that my future is in Pharmacy.  Working with customers, doctors, insurance companies and the tools of the trade, I have been given an excellent primer of the professional work done by Pharmacists.  Moreover, I have seen how to manage a pharmacy practically and am able to quickly find the answers to my questions regarding any aspect of the business.  Additionally, inputting prescription information into our system computers has made me familiar with the latest medications on the market, their common uses, side effects, and interactions.  The education has simply been invaluable.

 

Earning a PharmD will enable me to enter into pharma research, finding cures for illnesses, or where they cannot be cured, find ways of sustaining quality of life.  The fire within me, the drive to find cures for diseases that are currently incurable is fueled by my own condition, and I aspire to aid in discovering new medications for many diseases, such as cancer and other chronic illnesses.  Additionally, I envision, upon building my exposure in the field, of working within my own pharmacy, and using my pharmacy as a jumping off point for serving the needs of developing nations through an NGO or non-profit supported by the United Nations, perhaps in the form of medical mission work.

 

In addition to my academic foundation in Biology, I bring with me to the student body and PharmD program, not only my professional pharmacy experiences, but also experiences from my observership at Sherman Oaks Hospital, where I was exposed to different protocols for treating patients with a variety of conditions.  Throughout my education, I have spent my co-curricular time immersed in a pre-pharmacy club and biology club, attending lectures, increasing my knowledge of the latest news and events in the pharma and medical worlds, as well as meeting with like-minded aspiring pharmacists.

 

As a pre-pharmacy student, I am aware that any pharmacist has a respected and trusted role in the community.  To this end, I have given back my time to the community, working with the mentally handicapped in their daily activities and field trips, as well as a youth soccer group, and have loved the interaction and rewards.

 

Not only have I walked more than a mile in the shoes of my patients, I am very sympathetic to the needs of our immigrant clients.  It is my belief that immigrant patients need to get medical care in their native tongue. I have firsthand experience of this and can appreciate the frustration and possible misinformation caused by a language barrier. Medical treatment in a patient’s first language puts them at ease, making them more involved in the treatment, and impresses the need to follow treatment regimens closely. With my ability to speak Arabic, French and English, I will be better equipped to aid patients from many backgrounds, meeting their medical needs in their mother tongue.

 

I find myself anticipating my future with great eagerness.  Allying myself with a quality and intensive PharmD program and interacting with like-minded classmates will be the first step for me on the road to an exciting future in Pharmacy.  I feel that my enthusiasm and dedication to my Pharmacy pursuit will be an asset to the program, and I thank you for your time and consideration.

                           

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