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Writing the Personal Statement for Pharmacy School: A 5 Step Checklist

Published on: Nov 6, 2022
By: Hong Chen, PharmD
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You’ve likely written a personal statement at some point in your life. Perhaps while applying to your undergraduate program, some of your schools required you to include an essay describing your achievements, yourself, and what you hope to accomplish in your time at their university. Similarly, many pharmacy programs will require you to write a personal statement for their application. 

This, however, is different. You will be able to highlight your relevant accomplishments and address why you want to become a pharmacist to stand out truly. With so many applicants during each cycle, admissions officers use this personal statement to gauge whom they wish to speak with for an in-person interview.

At this phase of the application journey, you've narrowed down the pharmacy schools you’re applying to. Your transcripts are in, letters of recommendation are ready, and it’s time for your pharmacy personal statement. The good news is that, unlike undergraduate applications that sometimes have different prompts, you must answer for various schools; your one pharmacy school personal statement will be sent to every program through your PharmCAS application. That also leaves an exciting challenge: Even if you have a favorite, you must consider how you want to write this personal statement, as it shouldn’t be tailored toward one specific school. 

1) Determining the Narrative

When writing a pharmacy school personal statement, the most common pitfall students experience is the need for more effort placed into their writing. While your grades may be exceptional, and your letters of recommendation prove that your student-teacher relationships are healthy and you are a pleasure to have in class, having a generic pharmacy personal statement doesn’t differentiate you from other qualified applicants. If all applicants have already covered the first two things, the personal statement may be the shining piece of the application. For most students, writing this statement will be the most challenging part of the application process. 

Begin to formulate your narrative. Lay out the structure and the different sections. There’s no specific format that pharmacy schools are looking for, so make this personal statement unique to yourself. As mentioned, the “cookie cutter” approach to this part of the application is where most students stumble. Use your time wisely and start early. Additionally, you can easily find a sample personal statement on various websites to help structure your thoughts. However, remember that these should be used only as samples and that you shouldn’t rely on them to format your statement.

2)Crafting a Unique Story

Each pharmacy school program wants students who demonstrate tenacity, which will help them succeed in their respective programs. One way to approach writing your pharmacy school personal statement is from the point of view of the admissions committee. Anyone charged with reading thousands of applications will focus on specific questions that signal a level of quality about the rest of the personal statement.

First, what's the reason that this student is choosing pharmacy as their career? Are they doing this for income or a genuine interest in providing the best care for patients? Does the applicant demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of their strengths and weaknesses? Do their ideals align with the mission statement of the school of pharmacy? Each reviewer may concentrate on different questions, but they want to see you feel a personal drive for a career as a pharmacist. Place yourself into the seat of an application reviewer and formulate different questions you could ask students. Try answering these questions and see how genuine your answers are. How you answer may decide if you want to continue to pursue this pharmacy school path.

3) Focus on Your Opening

One universal method many writing courses teach you is always to have a solid opening statement. I'd like you to please use this as an opportunity, to begin with a personal story about why you decided that pharmacy is the right career for you or maybe an inspiring quote that has always resonated with you. The reviewer may have reviewed several applications, so your first few sentences should stand out. You want to be able to make an impression from the beginning while showing an earnest drive to spend a career as a pharmacist.

Once you’ve effectively engaged the reviewer, it’s time for the “meat” of the personal statement. What do pharmacy application committees genuinely want to hear? 

4) Getting to Know You

They want to learn more about you before meeting in a live interview. Tell your own story succinctly but without cutting corners. Briefly describe how you learned to overcome obstacles like that to better yourself and those around you. Sure, you can write about your most relevant academic accomplishments. But go beyond that.

Discuss how certain clubs and organizations have helped you progress through your undergraduate experience and how those organizations may have led you to pursue the path of pharmacy school. Highlight the leadership positions you may have held in college that have helped mold you into the leader you see yourself as today. After setting those up, discuss the skills you’ve acquired to help you in pharmacy school and how they’d make you a better pharmacist.

When you mention your relevant academic studies, please keep repeating the pharmacy college admission test (PCAT) scores or the 4.0 GPA you achieved. The committee has this information before them as they read; they don’t need to be reminded.

Talk in detail about your relevant work experiences, such as research or a part-time job in a pharmacy. Discuss how these different work experiences furthered your commitment to the profession. Identify what aspects of the pharmacy setting may have attracted you and what you have learned from these experiences. Some students come into this part of the application process without work experience. That’s okay. You can highlight any volunteer work related to healthcare or pharmacy. 

5) Close with Confidence

Finally—and we can’t stress this enough—keep your writing professional. You’re making an impression on a professional committee, and as much as you want to make your statement sound lighthearted, remember that the reviewers’ time is at a premium for reviewing the essays and interviews in the next round.

Be succinct, direct, and human.

Remember to keep our advice top of mind:

  • The goal of your personal statement is to showcase why you would be the ideal pharmacy student and why your traits/qualities reflect those of a pharmacist.

  • Be as authentic as possible when detailing why you want to be part of the PharmD program. 

  • GPA and PCAT scores can only get you so far. Your personal statement is a chance for you to stand out in front of the other applicants who apply to the same pharmacy program as you. 

  • Remember, perfecting the personal statement takes time and your admission may depend on how much effort you ultimately put into your writing.

portrait of Hong Chen

My name is Hong Kui Chen and I am a graduate of The Ohio State University Pharmacy Class of 2022. I am currently working as a clinical research associate at Medpace, Inc, a contract research organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio. My work mainly consists of traveling to various sites around the country and providing protocol training on new clinical trials or monitoring data. While I enjoyed the traditional pharmacy role of working in retail or hospital, I wanted to expand and pursue this non-traditional role to see how clinical trials operate. I have a passion for being able to impact patients in a grand scale and even though I don’t have the 1-on-1 patient interaction, the work that I do can have long lasting contributions to overall patient health. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Clinical Pharmacy, Digital Health